Category Archives: Memorials

17 March, Tuesday – Forgive, even when it’s the hardest

17 Mar – Memorial for St. Patrick, bishop

St. Patrick (387-390 – 461-464) was kidnapped from the British mainland when he was about 16, and shipped to Ireland as a slave. He was sent to the mountains as a shepherd, and spent his time in prayer. After six years of this life, he had a dream in which he was commanded to return to Britain. Seeing it as a sign, he escaped.

He studied in several monasteries in Europe. He was a priest, then a bishop. He was sent by Pope St. Celestine to evangelize England, then Ireland, during which his chariot driver was St. Odran, and St. Jarlath was one of his spiritual students.

In 33 years, he effectively converted Ireland. In the Middle Ages, Ireland become known as the “Land of Saints”, and during the Dark Ages, its monasteries were the great repositories of learning in Europe, all a consequence of Patrick’s ministry.

Christ shield me this day:
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me

– Saint Patrick, from his breastplate

  • Patron Saint Index

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Daniel 3:25,34-43

Azariah stood in the heart of the fire, and he began to pray:

Oh! Do not abandon us for ever,
for the sake of your name;
do not repudiate your covenant,
do not withdraw your favour from us,
for the sake of Abraham, your friend,
of Isaac your servant,
and of Israel your holy one,
to whom you promised descendants as countless as the stars of heaven
and as the grains of sand on the seashore.
Lord, now we are the least of all the nations,
now we are despised throughout the world, today, because of our sins.
We have at this time no leader, no prophet, no prince,
no holocaust, no sacrifice, no oblation, no incense,
no place where we can offer you the first-fruits
and win your favour.
But may the contrite soul, the humbled spirit be as acceptable to you
as holocausts of rams and bullocks,
as thousands of fattened lambs:
such let our sacrifice be to you today,
and may it be your will that we follow you wholeheartedly,
since those who put their trust in you will not be disappointed.
And now we put our whole heart into following you,
into fearing you and seeking your face once more.
Do not disappoint us;
treat us gently, as you yourself are gentle
and very merciful.
Grant us deliverance worthy of your wonderful deeds,
let your name win glory, Lord.

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Matthew 18:21-35

Peter went up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.

‘And so the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants. When the reckoning began, they brought him a man who owed ten thousand talents; but he had no means of paying, so his master gave orders that he should be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, to meet the debt. At this, the servant threw himself down at his master’s feet. “Give me time” he said “and I will pay the whole sum.” And the servant’s master felt so sorry for him that he let him go and cancelled the debt. Now as this servant went out, he happened to meet a fellow servant who owed him one hundred denarii; and he seized him by the throat and began to throttle him. “Pay what you owe me” he said. His fellow servant fell at his feet and implored him, saying, “Give me time and I will pay you.” But the other would not agree; on the contrary, he had him thrown into prison till he should pay the debt. His fellow servants were deeply distressed when they saw what had happened, and they went to their master and reported the whole affair to him. Then the master sent for him. “You wicked servant,” he said “I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?” And in his anger the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt. And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.’

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“… forgive your brother from your heart.”

Is it possible to forgive someone who has stepped on your toes for the umpteenth time and never apologised, even though you try to explain to him or her what he or she did wrong to you? Even when he or she apologises, you know that it may not be a sincere apology because he or she may do it again in the future.

Today’s world will tell us that it is important to love ourselves, and since people who are unapologetic are regarded as ‘toxic’ or ‘negative’, therefore, to avoid such ‘negative’ people, we should cut them out of our life. This way, we can protect ourselves and make ourselves happy. After all, there would be no more people stepping on our toes, right?

But, I don’t think that was what Jesus meant when he talked about forgiveness. When the soldiers crucified Him, He did not banish them from sight. Nor did he entirely ignore Pontius Pilate when He was being sentenced to death. I think He was silently praying for their forgiveness from our Father and their conversion from sin as well. This would probably explain why his last words were, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

So, forgiving does not necessarily mean avoiding people who have hurt us. It does not mean that we retaliate against people who have wounded us. Instead, forgiveness is when we continue treating people who have hurt us the same way we treat our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who have not hurt us. Forgiveness also means that we pray for them and bless them.

For Paul said in Romans 12:14, “Bless those who hurt you.”

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Lord, please pray for us to be able to forgive those who have hurt us from the bottom of our hearts. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for granting us the ability to forgive others even when we are hurt by them.  Amen.

21 February, Friday – The Lost

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.

  • Patron Saint Index

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James 2:14-24,26

Take the case, my brothers, of someone who has never done a single good act but claims that he has faith. Will that faith save him? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty’, without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead.

This is the way to talk to people of that kind: ‘You say you have faith and I have good deeds; I will prove to you that I have faith by showing you my good deeds – now you prove to me that you have faith without any good deeds to show. You believe in the one God – that is creditable enough, but the demons have the same belief, and they tremble with fear. Do realise, you senseless man, that faith without good deeds is useless. You surely know that Abraham our father was justified by his deed, because he offered his son Isaac on the altar? There you see it: faith and deeds were working together; his faith became perfect by what he did. This is what scripture really means when it says: Abraham put his faith in God, and this was counted as making him justified; and that is why he was called ‘the friend of God.’

You see now that it is by doing something good, and not only by believing, that a man is justified. A body dies when it is separated from the spirit, and in the same way faith is dead if it is separated from good deeds.

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Mark 8:34-9:1

Jesus called the people and his disciples to him and said:
‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to win the whole world and ruin his life? And indeed what can a man offer in exchange for his life? For if anyone in this adulterous and sinful generation is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’ And he said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.’

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“Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it”

As we approach the end of the week, the readings provide us with a timely reminder of the purpose of our lives, why we live and who are we living for.

In the readings today, we read of “as a body without a spirit is dead, so is faith without deeds” and also how “anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, will save it”.

We are invited to reflect upon our purpose and calling in this life. Especially facing such situations where there is panic and uncertainty, we are called to be witnesses, not to lose our lives or lose our opportunity for survival, but instead, to be a gift, to be an example to the lost.

Many have lost their purpose and are lost in terms of their direction, that self-preservation seems like the way to go. Instead, our lives are not about how long we live but how we have lived out this life.

For fear of missing out, most have been influenced by society and have failed to speak out and to take action — whether it’s speaking the truth, providing truthful information regarding the virus and its spreading, whether we have provided truthful information on our healthcare and its resources.

When there is a lack of voices and action, the people become lost, and we become controlled by our instincts instead of being able to think clearly and with empathy to respond to the situation.

Let the battle against the virus and be human versus the virus because at the moment, it seems to be that we are merely defending ourselves, leaving the minority to battle the viruses for us alone. Let us not just talk and pray behind the scenes, but truly take an active role in being a gift to the lost around us. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that many more will come to know you and your love, to know that our lives are so much more, that we are able to contribute, be a gift, make a difference, to start a ripple and see how it can transform a culture. Dear Lord, help us to rely on you especially when we seem to want to rely on our own strength. We pray for wisdom and courage especially during this difficult time.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we lift up our own personal intentions of thanks for _______________________________ (feel free to vocalise your thanks)

20 February, Thursday – The Poor

20 February

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James 2:1-9

My brothers, do not try to combine faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord, with the making of distinctions between classes of people. Now suppose a man comes into your synagogue, beautifully dressed and with a gold ring on, and at the same time a poor man comes in, in shabby clothes, and you take notice of the well-dressed man, and say, ‘Come this way to the best seats’; then you tell the poor man, ‘Stand over there’ or ‘You can sit on the floor by my foot-rest.’ Can’t you see that you have used two different standards in your mind, and turned yourselves into judges, and corrupt judges at that?

Listen, my dear brothers: it was those who are poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom which he promised to those who love him. In spite of this, you have no respect for anybody who is poor. Isn’t it always the rich who are against you? Isn’t it always their doing when you are dragged before the court? Aren’t they the ones who insult the honourable name to which you have been dedicated? Well, the right thing to do is to keep the supreme law of scripture: you must love your neighbour as yourself; but as soon as you make distinctions between classes of people, you are committing sin, and under condemnation for breaking the Law.

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Mark 8:27-33

Jesus and his disciples left for the villages round Caesarea Philippi. On the way he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say I am?’ And they told him. ‘John the Baptist,’ they said ‘others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he asked ‘who do you say I am?’ Peter spoke up and said to him, ‘You are the Christ.’ And he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him.

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again; and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. But, turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to him, ‘Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

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“Whoever acts without mercy will be judged without mercy but mercy can afford to laugh at judgement.”

In today’s readings we read of a familiar sight, the difference between the rich and the poor. Today I will share about rich and poor in terms of pride and humility.

It is important to be proud of who you are but desiring others to be proud of you is where sin and condemnation enters.

When we want to become ‘rich’, we make distinctions and have more expectations of situations and of people. When we desire recognition, power, wealth or fame, that’s when we want something in return and we measure what we receive based on the effort we have put in. This will then result in frustrations and sin when we do not get what we want.

Christ, on the other hand, is  the model of humility and love. Like the ‘poor’, it is not about what we can receive but what we can give. We focus on the mission, om the purpose of our lives. We focus on the people around us, we focus on family, friends and loved ones and not want them to focus on us. It is that selfless giving for we can only give because we have already received.

Our judgements will become that of compassion, where we are grateful for all that happens to us for even in bad, there is good, in suffering, joy, in death, life.

As we continue to battle this virus, may we open our eyes to see all the good that is being done, to support others who truly need our support, even in the midst of risk. To risk our lives just as others are risking theirs. To be responsible, having good hygiene, to trust in our leaders, to take care of ourselves and others. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to be compassionate, kind and caring brothers and sisters during this period of uncertainty. May we learn to look out for each other instead of looking out for masks and sanitizers. May we learn to touch the lives of those around us despite us not exactly being in contact with others. May we not be influenced by fake news but be inspired by Your Word. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for showing us the way. Thank you Lord for leading by example. Thank you Lord for being with the ‘poor’, for it is in our ‘poorness’ that we are rich in you.

17 February, Monday – Trusting in God’s little miracles

17 Feb – Memorial for Seven Holy Founders of the Order of Servites

The Order of the Servants of Mary (Servites) was named the fifth mendicant order by Pope Martin V. It was founded in 1233 by Sts. Alexis Falconieri, Bartholomew degli Amidei, Benedict dell’Antella, Buonfiglio Monaldi, Gherardino Sostegni, Hugh dei Lippi-Uguccioni, and John Buonagiunta Monetti.

They were beatified on 1 December 1717, and canonized on 1887 as The Seven Holy Founders. On the Feast of the Assumption in 1240, the Founders received a vision of Our Lady. She held in her hand a black habit, and a nearby angel bore a scroll reading “Servants of Mary”. Mary told them:

“You will found a new order, and you will be my witnesses throughout the world. This is your name: Servants of Mary. This is your rule: that of St. Augustine. And here is your distinctive sign: the black scapular, in memory of my sufferings.”

From their first establishment at La Camarzia, near Florence, they moved to the more secluded Monte Senario where the Blessed Virgin herself conferred on them their habit, instructing them to follow the Rule of St. Augustine and to admit associates. The official approval for the order was obtained in 1249, confirmed in 1256, suppressed in 1276, definitely approved in 1304, and again by Brief in 1928. The order was so rapidly diffused that by 1285, there were 10,000 members with houses in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, and early in the 14th century, it numbered 100 convents, besides missions in Crete and India.

The Reformation reduced the order in Germany, but it flourished elsewhere. Again meeting with political reverses in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it nevertheless prospered, being established in England in 1867, and in America in 1870.

The Servites take solemn vows and venerate in a special manner the “Seven Dolours of Our Lady”. They cultivate both the interior and the active life, giving missions and teaching. An affiliation, professing exclusively the contemplative life is that of the “Hermits of Monte Senario”. It was reinstated in France in 1922.

Cloistered nuns, forming a Second Order, have been affiliated with the Servites since 1619 when Blessed Benedicta di Rossi called the nuns of her community “Servite Hermitesses”. They have been established in England, Spain, Italy, the Tyrol, and Germany.

A Third Order, the Mantellate, founded by St. Juliana Falconieri under St. Philip Benizi (c. 1284) has houses in Italy, France, Spain, England, Canada, and the United States. Secular tertiaries and a confraternity of the Seven Dolours are other branches.

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James 1:1-11

From James, servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Greetings to the twelve tribes of the Dispersion.

My brothers, you will always have your trials but, when they come, try to treat them as a happy privilege; you understand that your faith is only put to the test to make you patient, but patience too is to have its practical results so that you will become fully-developed, complete, with nothing missing.

If there is any one of you who needs wisdom, he must ask God, who gives to all freely and ungrudgingly; it will be given to him. But he must ask with faith, and no trace of doubt, because a person who has doubts is like the waves thrown up in the sea when the wind drives. That sort of person, in two minds, wavering between going different ways, must not expect that the Lord will give him anything.

It is right for the poor brother to be proud of his high rank, and the rich one to be thankful that he has been humbled, because riches last no longer than the flowers in the grass; the scorching sun comes up, and the grass withers, the flower falls; what looked so beautiful now disappears. It is the same with the rich man: his business goes on; he himself perishes.

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Mark 8:11-13

The Pharisees came up and started a discussion with Jesus; they demanded of him a sign from heaven, to test him. And with a sigh that came straight from the heart he said, ‘Why does this generation demand a sign? I tell you solemnly, no sign shall be given to this generation.’ And leaving them again and re-embarking, he went away to the opposite shore.

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Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation”

How often have we been like the Pharisees, asking Jesus (or even God Himself!) for some sign of His love or faithfulness? Perhaps even more so than the Pharisees, we in this modern age seek ever greater signs and symbols of the divine, having been raised on a media diet of computer generated imagery (CGI) and movies. In this media saturated world of superheroes and Hollywood magic, it is easy to forget that God continues to weave His presence and work within the humdrum of our daily lives.

I did my RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) at a Jesuit parish, and the spiritual director of the RCIA taught us Ignatian spirituality. I remember how each time before we ‘enter the scene’ of our Ignatian contemplation, the priest would ask us to sit in silence and feel the presence of God in the air around us, and in the air that we are breathing in. That in itself is the miracle. God does not need to give us any signs, because the very air that we breathe is a gift from Him.

Perhaps this is why Jesus said that ‘no sign will be given to this generation’. Because God has already given us ample signs of His love and providence. It is also striking that James in the first reading says “consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”.

Indeed, that very perseverance and faith in God is itself a grace and sign from our Father in heaven. This also means that we need to play our part, in order to see these signs and receives these graces that are freely given to us. And what exactly is this part that we need to do? We simply need to trust Him and to persevere in times of hardship, suffering and persecution.

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for Your love and grace, and above all, for the wisdom to see how You have always given these to us.

Thanksgiving: We are thankful, O Lord, for the daily gifts and graces that You have bestowed upon us. We are grateful for Your gift of life, and the chance that You have given us to continue loving, serving and praising You through our lives.  

11 February, Tuesday – Clinging on

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 fradulent 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.”

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1 Kings 8:22-23,27-30

In the presence of the whole assembly of Israel, Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord and, stretching out his hands towards heaven, said, ‘O Lord, God of Israel, not in heaven above nor on earth beneath is there such a God as you, true to your covenant and your kindness towards your servants when they walk wholeheartedly in your way. Yet will God really live with men on the earth? Why, the heavens and their own heavens cannot contain you. How much less this house that I have built! Listen to the prayer and entreaty of your servant, O Lord my God; listen to the cry and to the prayer your servant makes to you today. Day and night let your eyes watch over this house, over this place of which you have said, “My name shall be there.” Listen to the prayer that your servant will offer in this place.

‘Hear the entreaty of your servant and of Israel your people as they pray in this place. From heaven where your dwelling is, hear; and, as you hear, forgive.’

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Mark 7:1-13

The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus, and they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and the Jews in general, follow the tradition of the elders and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow; and on returning from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves. There are also many other observances which have been handed down to them concerning the washing of cups and pots and bronze dishes. So these Pharisees and scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?’ He answered, ‘It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture:

This people honours me only with lip-service,
while their hearts are far from me.
The worship they offer me is worthless,
the doctrines they teach are only human regulations.

You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.’ And he said to them, ‘How ingeniously you get round the commandment of God in order to preserve your own tradition! For Moses said: Do your duty to your father and your mother, and, Anyone who curses father or mother must be put to death. But you say, “If a man says to his father or mother: Anything I have that I might have used to help you is Corban (that is, dedicated to God), then he is forbidden from that moment to do anything for his father or mother.” In this way you make God’s word null and void for the sake of your tradition which you have handed down. And you do many other things like this.’

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In this way you make God’s Word null and void for the sake of your tradition…

Change — an almost universally dreaded word and state of affairs/mind. Interestingly, I am now heavily involved in it at work, and in my ministry (not this one). In one, I am the lead agent, responsible for succession planning over the next three years to groom a team that can take us forward once we move to our new campus. In the other, I am also a lead agent but on the other side of the fence — waiting to take over the reins.

It is interesting how I am learning so much about myself (especially having to be more patient) and as well, others who are directly impacted by what I am doing (at work) and what I will be asked to do (in ministry). And while there are similarities, there are also marked differences, especially in how the change is being perceived. In one instance, it is being welcomed and people around are looking forward to it, knowing that it will spark something new. In the other, it seems to have left a very cynical taste in the mouth of some, who are skeptical that things will change.

In both cases, I have discerned one emotion that I have strangely been immune to — fear. I shared with my SD that I was not concerned at all and was happy to step forward and up to carry the crosses associated with the changes. And, in both situations, I know that there are the handful of people I can rely on to help effect the much-needed changes. I am able to see the light at the end of these long tunnels and am looking forward to learning more about myself and preparing to deal with all sorts of emotions, people, circumstances that will inevitably come my way.

Where I am at now has certainly not been through any effort on my part. Well, perhaps more at work. But in ministry, I had always viewed it as a place for me to exercise my other gifts. Somehow, God has designed it such that I am in a position where I can grow even more — or wither under the ‘pressure’, wilt and fade away. At work, I am fully supported with senior management who are already walking the talk and starting to relinquish their positions. This is a behaviour that I have learnt to mirror and portray to my team, reminding them that one day, I will not be their HOD. And I would never wish to cast a long shadow on any successor that comes in my place because it would be too stifling and unfair.

For now, I continue to pray for His guidance, wisdom and providence. That He will provide for me in my hour of need, when I am unable to find solutions. Brothers and sisters, I am pretty sure that each of us is fighting a ‘change battle’ in some aspect of our life right now. I encourage you to surrender your seemingly hopeless situation to the Lord and let Him minister to you. Let Him speak to you and guide you to those who will want you to succeed. Because the path to change is a never-ending one. It always leads to more change, hopefully, for the better.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, we call upon you to help us discern your true plan for us in our time of struggle; that You will lead us out of the darkness and into the light.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for your providence and wisdom. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

8 February, Saturday – The discipline of rest

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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1 Kings 3:4-13

King Solomon went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, since that was the greatest of the high places – Solomon offered a thousand holocausts on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared in a dream to Solomon during the night. God said, ‘Ask what you would like me to give you.’ Solomon replied, ‘You showed great kindness to your servant David, my father, when he lived his life before you in faithfulness and justice and integrity of heart; you have continued this great kindness to him by allowing a son of his to sit on his throne today. Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in succession to David my father. But I am a very young man, unskilled in leadership. Your servant finds himself in the midst of this people of yours that you have chosen, a people so many its number cannot be counted or reckoned. Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil, for who could govern this people of yours that is so great?’ It pleased the Lord that Solomon should have asked for this. ‘Since you have asked for this’ the Lord said ‘and not asked for long life for yourself or riches or the lives of your enemies, but have asked for a discerning judgement for yourself, here and now I do what you ask. I give you a heart wise and shrewd as none before you has had and none will have after you. What you have not asked I shall give you too: such riches and glory as no other king ever had.’

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Mark 6:30-34

The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.

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‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while.’ For there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat.

In Asia, the concept of 24/7 is very pervasive. We want 24/7 customer support, we want stores from where we can buy anything round the clock. When I went to Europe, the siestas frustrated me. When I went to America and Australia, the stores closing at 6pm (6pm!) drove me nuts. When I went to some place in Japan, not being able to call a cab at 10pm was a culture shock for me. So the busyness in Singapore has really pervaded my life. I honestly experience withdrawal symptoms if I suddenly have nothing to do.

And because of this, I have forgotten that I need rest. I feel guilty if I am not doing anything. Eventually, I realized that I had applied the same attitude to my ministry and my spiritual life. And even my ‘rest’ days have become days where I busy myself with other things (like touring, watching a movie). The things that I do have become a list of to-do’s.

I think there are many reasons why we choose to busy ourselves instead of taking time to rest. For me, I feel that if I were to rest, nothing would happen. I forget that after I have planted a seed and watered it for the day, I should just rest and leave it be. Or if I were to rest, I am wasting the talent that God has given to me when I could be accomplishing more for God.

For some people, they don’t truly rest because they are not comfortable being alone with themselves and God. I remember a fellow catechist who asked our youths if they were afraid to rest in God because God will reveal to them who they really are.

We should remember that it was Jesus who asked his disciples to rest after their mission. There’s work and there’s rest. Both have to be enjoyed. I was also told that it is our duty to rest.

One of my favorite saints, St Josemaria Escriva writes about rest — “I have always seen rest as time set aside from daily tasks, never as days of idleness. Rest means recuperation: to gain strength, form ideals and make plans. In other words it means a change of occupation, so that you can come back later with a new impetus to your daily job.” (The Furrow, 514)

Imagine how busy the apostles must be to have missed their meals at the time when there were no e-mails, handphones, etc. They deserved the rest Christ was inviting them to.

Perhaps, we should look at our schedule. Are we really too busy to rest?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, you taught us that there is a time for everything, even for rest. Teach us how to really rest.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for showing us that rest is as important as work.   

6 February, Thursday – Fathers and Sons

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.

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1 Kings 2:1-4,10-12

As David’s life drew to its close he laid this charge on his son Solomon, ‘I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong and show yourself a man. Observe the injunctions of the Lord your God, following his ways and keeping his laws, his commandments, his customs and his decrees, as it stands written in the Law of Moses, that so you may be successful in all you do and undertake, so that the Lord may fulfil the promise he made me, “If your sons are careful how they behave, and walk loyally before me with all their heart and soul, you shall never lack for a man on the throne of Israel.”’
So David slept with his ancestors and was buried in the Citadel of David. David’s reign over Israel lasted forty years: he reigned in Hebron for seven years, and in Jerusalem for thirty-three.
Solomon was seated upon the throne of David, and his sovereignty was securely established.
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Mark 6:7-13
Jesus made a tour round the villages, teaching. Then he summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses. They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Do not take a spare tunic.’ And he said to them, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set off to preach repentance; and they cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.
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Be strong and show yourself a man.

These days, it’s difficult to be a man. I’m not talking about a high achieving, career successful man. I am talking about a man of integrity, a man who upholds values, a man who is secure in God and himself that he is able to become the cornerstone of a family, a man who will bravely rise up to the responsibilities of heading a family as God envisioned a Catholic family to be.

Today’s reading shares with us the conversation between David and Solomon as David instructs Solomon how to go about his responsibilities as the next king. I would imagine that Solomon received a lifetime of instruction from David to prepare him for his new role. He would have received lessons, and would have learned, not just from talking with his father, but with seeing how a leader is like. This is how a man learns. He learns by observing other men.

Unfortunately, with the breakdown of marriage, or with many failed marriages, many men have grown up without a father figure. We now have grown men who have the sense of responsibility and commitment of teens, or even younger. Our cultural set-up also leads to emasculating men. The ‘feminist’ movements have undermined gentlemanliness by scoffing at men who offer seats or who open doors for the ladies. Helicopter parenting doesn’t allow them to learn to face unpleasant situations and rise up and be better. They are denied of the challenges they need to develop and strengthen their character.

And it’s a scary place to be. After all, the key tasks of men in our society are to lead and to protect, and these also map onto our spiritual lives. Without well-formed men, we can’t have well-formed fathers. Without well-formed fathers, it makes it difficult for us to understand our Father’s love for us. We end up struggling to understand how we can depend on God, how God is our provider, how God is our protector.

So what can we do? I think, firstly, we have to pray for God’s guidance, and we have to pray for the men in our lives. We also have to pray for wisdom so that our actions, words, and thoughts help build up men. We also have to be discerning when we enter marriage and include in our decision how the husband will be like as a father. For the gentlemen, may they be role models all their lives even if the interaction is only in the corporate setting – men catch things. For women to step back and let the men grow up, to hold our standards so men can be challenged to rise up.

We need to stop and reflect on how we are helping our gentlemen become the men God wanted them to be. We need to pray and act, because from these men, God will raise priests and fathers.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, help us recognize the beauty of masculinity and help us, as a society, raise up men who are ready to become who you want them to be. 

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for the gift of manhood for it reflects your protective and providing nature. It allows us to feel secure.  

28 January, Tuesday – Obedience to God

28 January – Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest, Doctor

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was the son of the Count of Aquino. He was born in the family castle in Lombardy near Naples, Italy. He was educated by Benedictine monks at Monte Cassino, and at the University of Naples. He secretly joined the mendicant Dominican friars in 1244. His family kidnapped and imprisoned him for a year to keep him out of sight and deprogram him, but they failed to sway him,and he rejoined his order in 1245.

He studied in Paris, France, from 1245-1248 under St. Albert the Great, then accompanied Albertus to Cologne, Germany. He was ordained in 1250, then returned to Paris to teach. He taught theology at the University of Paris. He wrote defenses of the mendicant orders, commentaries on Aristotle and Lombard’s Sentences, and some bible-related works, usually by dictating to secretaries. He won his doctorate, and taught at several Italian cities. He was recalled by the king and the University of Paris in 1269, then recalled to Naples in 1272 where he was appointed regent of studies while working on the Summa Theologica.

On 6 December 1273, he experienced a divine revelation which so enraptured him that he abandoned the Summa, saying that it and his other writing were so much straw in the wind compared to the reality of the divine glory. He died four months later while en route to the Council of Lyons, overweight and with his health broken by overwork.

His works have been seminal to the thinking of the Church ever since. They systematized her great thoughts and teaching, and combined Greek wisdom and scholarship methods with the truth of Christianity. Pope Leo VIII commanded that his teachings be studied by all theology students. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1567.

-Patron Saint Index

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2 Samuel 6:12-15,17-19

David went and brought the ark of God up from Obed-edom’s house to the Citadel of David with great rejoicing. When the bearers of the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fat sheep. And David danced whirling round before the Lord with all his might, wearing a linen loincloth round him. Thus David and all the House of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with acclaim and the sound of the horn. They brought the ark of the Lord in and put it in position inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered holocausts before the Lord, and communion sacrifices. And when David had finished offering holocausts and communion sacrifices, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of Hosts. He then distributed among all the people, among the whole multitude of Israelites, men and women, a roll of bread to each, a portion of dates, and a raisin cake. Then they all went away, each to his own house.

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Mark 3:31-35

The mother and brothers of Jesus arrived and, standing outside, sent in a message asking for him. A crowd was sitting round him at the time the message was passed to him, ‘Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you.’ He replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking round at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.’

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Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.’

Discerning the will of God is a very difficult task to do. I do not think it is because God is not calling but rather I am not listening. I believe it is because I am too distracted by the daily noise of the world which prevents me from discovering what God’s plan is for me. The use of mobile phones, the daily struggles at home and at work and also the challenges in trying to make ends meet means there is often very little time for God. Jesus reminds us in the Gospel of today that it is in the doing of the will of God that we are considered his sibling.

Why is it difficult for us to listen to the will of God? I have found that it is because it requires me to continue in a route which is not what I desire for myself. It is something which tugs me in the opposite direction and which forces me to renounce the ways of the world. It certainly is difficult to give up my own challenges but with daily prayer, it helps me to be focused on the crucified Christ. It is in the emptying of myself where I discover what it means to listen to God’s word.

As we continue with our journey in life, we will always face different challenges. What we can choose to do is to allow God to work within us to enable us to accept our own failings and trust in Him to use these weaknesses within us to glorify his name.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I surrender my will to you. Let me trust in you.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who have given up their possessions in life for God’s service.

21 January, Tuesday – Man’s junk, God’s treasure

21 Jan – Memorial for St. Agnes, virgin and martyr

At the age of 12 or 13, Agnes was ordered to sacrifice to pagan gods and lose her virginity by rape. She was taken to a Roman temple to Minerva (Athena), and when led to the altar, she made the Sign of the Cross. She was threatened, then tortured when she refused to turn against God. Several young men presented themselves, offering to marry her, whether from lust or pity is not known.

She said that to do so would be an insult to her heavenly Spouse, that she would keep her consecrated virginity intact, accept death, and see Christ. She was martyred for her faith.

St. Agnes is mentioned in the first Eucharistic prayer. On her feast day, two lambs are blessed at her church in Rome, and then their wool is woven into the palliumns (bands of white wool) which the pope confers on archbishops as symbol of their jurisdiction.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Samuel 16:1-13

The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you go on mourning over Saul when I have rejected him as king of Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen myself a king among his sons.’ Samuel replied, ‘How can I go? When Saul hears of it he will kill me.’ Then the Lord said, ‘Take a heifer with you and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.” Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and then I myself will tell you what you must do; you must anoint to me the one I point out to you.’

  Samuel did what the Lord ordered and went to Bethlehem. The elders of the town came trembling to meet him and asked, ‘Seer, have you come with good intentions towards us?’ ‘Yes,’ he replied ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.’ He purified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

  When they arrived, he caught sight of Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed one stands there before him’, but the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Take no notice of his appearance or his height for I have rejected him; God does not see as man sees; man looks at appearances but the Lord looks at the heart.’ Jesse then called Abinadab and presented him to Samuel, who said, ‘The Lord has not chosen this one either.’ Jesse then presented Shammah, but Samuel said, ‘The Lord has not chosen this one either.’ Jesse presented his seven sons to Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen these.’ He then asked Jesse, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’ He answered, ‘There is still one left, the youngest; he is out looking after the sheep.’ Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send for him; we will not sit down to eat until he comes.’ Jesse had him sent for, a boy of fresh complexion, with fine eyes and pleasant bearing. The Lord said, ‘Come, anoint him, for this is the one.’ At this, Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him where he stood with his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord seized on David and stayed with him from that day on. As for Samuel, he rose and went to Ramah.

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Mark 2:23-28

One sabbath day, Jesus happened to be taking a walk through the cornfields, and his disciples began to pick ears of corn as they went along. And the Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing something on the sabbath day that is forbidden?’ And he replied, ‘Did you never read what David did in his time of need when he and his followers were hungry – how he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the loaves of offering which only the priests are allowed to eat, and how he also gave some to the men with him?’
  And he said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; the Son of Man is master even of the sabbath.’

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God does not see as man sees; man looks at appearances, but the Lord looks at the heart

There is a lady who ‘hangs out’ at our Lady’s grotto in the front of Church of the Nativity. By all appearances, she seems a homeless destitute for she literally makes her ‘home’ there. She is there practically every day, the whole day, come rain or tropical sun. She has all her belongings with her — her entire material comforts packed up in 2 pieces of luggage and several plastic bags. Some parishioners have remarked, quite insensitively that she is such an eyesore and that having her presence there gives a bad impression of the Church. Several have insisted she should be put into a home. This is “for her own good”. My question back to these ‘Christians’ is a simple one — Really? Are you guys for real?

In this reflection, let me share my own experience and observations of Aileen (her real name – yes, she does have a name! And she is a real person!

Aileen’s presence every day at the shrine has come to mean something very special to me. I make it a point to drop by each day, just to check on her if she is ok. She is one of the most selfless ‘beggars’ I know. Despite her condition and hardship, whenever someone wants to offer her some money, she would politely decline or even suggest a smaller amount (enough for her next meal) and that the person should keep the rest for themselves or their children. I have even witnessed how she took what was offered to her and gave that to another person who happened to be begging for a hand-out that evening (after the initial donor had already left the premises). On another occasion, she showed me a small toy she bought from a nearby shop which she said she was wanted to give to a small child who frequents the shrine with her grandmother every evening. Talk about the pricelessness of the widow’s mite. A ‘beggar’ using what little she has, to buy a toy so that she could bring joy to a child.

I was and still am, deeply moved by such selflessness from Aileen.

Slowly, I made friends with Aileen and now get to converse with her whenever I am at the shrine. She is reserved about sharing her story but I got hints of rejection by family and some trauma in a relationship which caused her to take this path in her life. Out of respect for her, I did not pursue this. Suffice it to say, that after knowing her better, Aileen is in fact, a highly educated person, who is very articulate, is very knowledgeable about a wide array of topics, has a child-like trust in God and a deep love for our Blessed Mother. Aileen, by the way, is/was a medical doctor.

I am reminded of the story of St Lawrence, an Archdeacon of Rome, who, at the time of the persecution of the Church by Emperor Valerian in 258 A.D, was responsible for the treasury of the Church and also of taking care of the poor. Emperor Valerian commanded Lawrence to surrender all the riches of the Church to him. Lawrence complied. However, Lawrence, sold all the material treasure and gave it to the poor. When summoned in front of Emperor Valerian, behind him streamed crowds of poor, crippled, blind and suffering people. “These are the true treasures of the Church’, he boldly proclaimed. St Lawrence, needless too say, paid the ultimate price of discipleship – martyrdom by being grilled on a rack. Just as we also honor another martyr, St Agnes today.

With a heart that is so tender and thoughtful for the poor, I wonder if Aileen is really such an ‘eyesore’ or if she is in fact, a hidden gem, that sits right in front of our eyes. The message of today’s reading and Gospel is simple and direct – what God sees is not what man sees. What God wills is not what man wills. What is thrown aside by the foolishness, arrogance and ingratitude of man, God picks up, embraces and holds dear to Him as precious treasure and brilliant shining gems. Perhaps, like Valerian, we too only cherish what is valued in this world but fail to be like St Lawrence, to know where true treasure lies.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father, help us. Lift us out of the smallness of our hearts and the narrowness of our vision from which we are so quick to condemn others and to inflict suffering upon others. Help us, for our spirits are often in bondage to the spirit of this world instead of to your Holy Spirit. Set us free. Only but by your merciful grace.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you. For the light that your grace keeps bringing to us – the light that leads us out of darkness of sin and of the darkness of our hearts, minds and spirits. Thank you for seeing us as precious in Your eyes, especially when everyone else thinks we are eyesores.

13 January, Monday – Fishers of New Sheep!

13 Jan – Memorial for St. Hilary, bishop and doctor of the Church

St. Hilary of Poitiers (315-368) was known as Athanasius of the West. He was born to wealthy polytheistic, pagan nobility. His early life was uneventful as he married, had children (one of whom was St. Abra), and studied on his own. Through his studies he came to believe in salvation through good works, and then monotheism. As he studied the Bible for the first time, he literally read himself into the faith, and was converted by the end of the New Testament.

Hilary lived the faith so well that he was made Bishop of Poitiers from 353-368. He opposed the emperor’s attempt to run Church matters and was exiled; he used the time to write works explaining the faith. His teaching and writings converted many and, in an attempt to reduce his notoriety, he was returned to the small town of Poitiers where his enemies hoped he would fade into obscurity. His writings nonetheless continued to convert pagans.

Hilary introduced Eastern theology to the Western Church, fought Arianism with the help of St. Viventius, and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1851.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Samuel 1:1-8

There was a man of Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the highlands of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives, one called Hannah, the other Peninnah; Peninnah had children but Hannah had none. Every year this man used to go up from his town to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of Hosts in Shiloh. The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there as priests of the Lord.

One day Elkanah offered sacrifice. He used to give portions to Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; to Hannah, however, he would give only one portion, although he loved her more, since the Lord had made her barren. Her rival would taunt her to annoy her, because the Lord had made her barren. And this went on year after year; every time they went up to the temple of the Lord she used to taunt her. And so Hannah wept and would not eat. Then Elkanah her husband said to her, ‘Hannah, why are you crying and why are you not eating? Why so sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?’

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Mark 1:14-20

After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.’

As he was walking along by the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net in the lake – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men.’ And at once they left their nets and followed him.
  
Going on a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they too were in their boat, mending their nets. He called them at once and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him.

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Come with me, and I will make you into fishers of people

Someone close to me will be baptized into our Catholic faith this Easter, and I feel very blessed and thankful to God that there will soon be a new sheep in our flock. I trust that Jesus will guide him along this new journey of being a new Catholic.

However, I was soon examining myself as to whether I am a good Catholic. I was concerned whether my way of life would influence him to continue living out and being strengthened by the Catholic faith. Being a good Catholic primarily involves building an intimate relationship with God as well as healthy interpersonal relationships with other people, by living as Christ called us to live and by loving everyone just as Jesus has loved us. I admit that I have not been the best Catholic, and that there is a lot of room for improvement and for me work on. First and foremost, I am not fervent in my prayers and I sometime have the tendency to not love our brothers and sisters in Christ as I should.

As I interact with my friends, I also realise that actions speak louder than words. Even if we may not know the A to Z of our Catechesis and theoretical foundations, we should love others and live our lives in a Christ-like manner, such that others will see the glory of God and praise Him. This will hopefully prompt them to want to know more about our faith, giving us an opportunity to evangelize and shine the way for the many lost sheep in today’s world.

So, my New Year Resolution this 2020 is to live as Christ would have lived amongst us today, selflessly loving other people and forgiving everyone around Him. And not to forget to spend more time praying more fervently and meaningfully to God amidst the distractions of the modern world. It will definitely not be easy as it involves some major changes to my way of life, but I hope that by living out my life as a good Catholic, by my actions and new lifestyle, I may influence another friend of mine to either join or return to our faith.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please pray for us to live our lives in Your light and guidance, so that we can be Your face to the lost sheep who are looking for You. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for giving us the grace to be able to forgive those who have hurt us, and for allowing us to shine Your light and glory before others, who will hopefully come to know You by Your love that is manifested through us. Amen.