Category Archives: Memorials

21 February, Wednesday – Second Chance, Even More

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

_____________________

Jonah 3:1-10

The word of the Lord was addressed a second time to Jonah: ‘Up!’ he said ‘Go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach to them as I told you to.’ Jonah set out and went to Nineveh in obedience to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was a city great beyond compare: it took three days to cross it. Jonah went on into the city, making a day’s journey. He preached in these words, ‘Only forty days more and Nineveh is going to be destroyed.’ And the people of Nineveh believed in God; they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least. The news reached the king of Nineveh, who rose from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth and sat down in ashes. A proclamation was then promulgated throughout Nineveh, by decree of the king and his ministers, as follows: ‘Men and beasts, herds and flocks, are to taste nothing; they must not eat, they must not drink water. All are to put on sackcloth and call on God with all their might; and let everyone renounce his evil behaviour and the wicked things he has done. Who knows if God will not change his mind and relent, if he will not renounce his burning wrath, so that we do not perish?’ God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behaviour, and God relented: he did not inflict on them the disaster which he had threatened.

______________________

Luke 11:29-32

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

_______________________

Something greater than Jonah

Jonah is the man who was saved by God when He sent a fish to swallow Him. Though he was running and hiding, the Lord our great pursuer did not give up. Just as God did not give up on Jonah, He will continue to be our most earnest pursuer.

In modern times, the concept of being pursued and being given a second chance is rare and few. It is common for people to do this only if it benefits them. They (we) are more likely to be tolerant and symphatic to clients and bosses and probably less to staff and vendors. But at the heart of our hearts, we are called to be like our Lord, who is constant and just.

King David, a mighty King was humble to a point of wearing a sackcloth and fasting. Today, though many of us are not as rich yet, we fail on the grounds of being a faithful Catholic in prayer, fasting and almsgiving – the three pillars of Lent and, I dare say, the pillars of our Catholic faith.

We have drifted in our own indulgence, yet we have a God of a zillion chances, who gives us many messages in the stillness of our hearts to help the needy, visit the lonely, understand those who are differently abled, fast so that we train our flesh to withstand temptations and to adore the Love or our lives – Jesus Christ in daily prayers. What is God asking of you today, this season Lent and this year?

Do we continue to look for signs by reading horoscopes and being enslaved by the what others say about our future, even if they are so called ‘qualified’ by some quarters. Surely we are different because we are His alone. Would you obey your own father or the one given to you by someone’s father. What we allow into our lives, we give it power to rule over us. In today’s Gospel, Christ says there is something greater than Jonah, why would we not want to live in that richness and fullness of life.

We are His heirs and we should cleave to Him for everything. For it is through Him that we are truly ourselves. If you are struggling to find yourself, dig deep into the Father’s heart, because therein lies His beloved child, you.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, create a new heart and a new spirit within us. Help us to find our true selves in you.

Thanksgiving: For you are gracious merciful and you are Love. Receive, O Lord, our contrite hearts which yearn only for you.

17 February, Saturday – Humble enough to let Him lead

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.

– Patron Saint Index

__________________________

Isaiah 58:9-14

The Lord says this:

If you do away with the yoke,
the clenched fist, the wicked word,
if you give your bread to the hungry,
and relief to the oppressed,
your light will rise in the darkness,
and your shadows become like noon.
The Lord will always guide you,
giving you relief in desert places.

He will give strength to your bones
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water
whose waters never run dry.

You will rebuild the ancient ruins,
build up on the old foundations.
You will be called ‘Breach-mender’,
‘Restorer of ruined houses.’

If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,
and doing business on the holy day,
if you call the Sabbath ‘Delightful’,
and the day sacred to the Lord ‘Honourable’,
if you honour it by abstaining from travel,
from doing business and from gossip,
then shall you find your happiness in the Lord
and I will lead you triumphant over the heights of the land.
I will feed you on the heritage of Jacob your father.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

________________________

Luke 5:27-32

Jesus noticed a tax collector, Levi by name, sitting by the customs house, and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And leaving everything he got up and followed him.
In his honour Levi held a great reception in his house, and with them at table was a large gathering of tax collectors and others. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples and said, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus said to them in reply, ‘It is not those who are well who need the doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the virtuous, but sinners to repentance.’

_________________________

Follow me and leaving everything, he got up and followed him.

At the beginning of 2017, I had just concluded my tenure as Co-Chairperson of our parish’s fund raising committee with the culmination of an event called ’10,000 Reasons’. It was an evening of music and testimonies – a thanksgiving for our parish, our shepherds and the community. We were so blessed with people who came forward to give of their time and talent. They were producers, creative directors, musicians and yet, when we asked them to be involved in our ‘little’ production, they said a resounding yes! The months of work culminated with a wondering evening — a huge production, it was almost like a concert. The singing and the people who shared their life stories are testimonies of God’s gift to us. It was a fitting event to mark the end of my tenure.

When my other half and I started on this journey, we were wet behind the ears and had no idea where we should start. Actually we were ‘tricked’ by our then parish priest into the role. He kind of said “Follow me.” And we blindly did. At the start, when we planned the events, we were in the driving seat. We felt we needed to take on the responsibility that was given to us, to ‘lead’ the way.

However, ’10,000 Reasons’ taught me a lesson in humility by humbly ‘following’ people who were better positioned to put this evening together. I will admit I was uncomfortable at first. The whole event took on a life of its own and I was not part of the ‘steering team’, I was not in control. But I finally learnt that I had to let go and let the professionals do the work. I had to admit that I had no clue how to even begin putting this whole event together. And because I followed their lead, the results spoke for itself. It was simply awesome. My biggest contribution for the evening was to ring the bell to signal the start of the evening!

The Sunday that followed after the event, the Lord continued to teach me what it means to follow him. Again, He spoke to me at mass, in a way that I could understand – the unteachable, stubborn person that I am. The example He showed me was ’10,000 Reasons’. Just as I had to let go and let the professionals take over, He showed me that I too need to let go the steering wheel of my life and He (the professional and the writer of my life’s script) can finally do the work. And then shall you find happiness in the Lord and I will lead you triumphant over the heights of the land. 

It is not those who are well who need the doctor, but the sick. No I am not physically sick, but my heart is weak and my head keeps trying to take over – complete disaster. It’s indeed time to let go and follow.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, you are all-knowing and an awesome God. You know everything about us, what we think, what we feel, our hopes, dreams, fears and anxiety. Teach us to give it all to you, to surrender our lives to You. Teach us to know what it really means to follow you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for being so ever present to us. For being our Friend, Comforter, Cheerleader and Captain of our lives.

10 February, Saturday – Give And Receive

10 Feb – Memorial for St. Scholastica, virgin

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

– Patron Saint Index

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

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

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

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

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

– from Dialogues by Pope St. Gregory the Great

_____________________

1 Kings 12:26-32,13:33-34

Jeroboam thought to himself, ‘As things are, the kingdom will revert to the House of David. If this people continues to go up to the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem to offer sacrifices, the people’s heart will turn back again to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will put me to death.’ So the king thought this over and then made two golden calves; he said to the people, ‘You have been going up to Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, Israel; these brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ He set up one in Bethel and the people went in procession all the way to Dan in front of the other. He set up the temple of the high places and appointed priests from ordinary families, who were not of the sons of Levi. Jeroboam also instituted a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth of the month, like the feast that was kept in Judah, and he went up to the altar. That was how he behaved in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made; and at Bethel he put the priests of the high places he had established.

Jeroboam did not give up his wicked ways but went on appointing priests for the high places from the common people. He consecrated as priests of the high places any who wished to be. Such conduct made the House of Jeroboam a sinful House, and caused its ruin and extinction from the face of the earth.

______________________

Mark 8:1-10

A great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat. So Jesus called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘I feel sorry for all these people; they have been with me for three days now and have nothing to eat. If I send them off home hungry they will collapse on the way; some have come a great distance.’ His disciples replied, ‘Where could anyone get bread to feed these people in a deserted place like this?’ He asked them, ‘How many loaves have you?’ ‘Seven’ they said. Then he instructed the crowd to sit down on the ground, and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them among the crowd. They had a few small fish as well, and over these he said a blessing and ordered them to be distributed also. They ate as much as they wanted, and they collected seven basketfuls of the scraps left over. Now there had been about four thousand people. He sent them away and immediately, getting into the boat with his disciples, went to the region of Dalmanutha.

_______________________

…and they collected seven basketfuls of the scraps left over…

The gospel today is one of my favorite Bible stories. The multiplication of bread. When Jesus said, “I feel sorry for all these people; they have been with me for three days now and have nothing to eat. If I send them off home hungry, they will collapse on the way; some have come a great distance”, it is a manifestation of the compassion and mercy of Jesus Christ. He takes into consideration the welfare of His followers. That is indeed a characteristic of a great leader.

Initially, they only had seven loaves of bread and a few pieces of fish. But they were able to feed the whole crowd and there was a lot left over. This really shows how marvellous our God is. Our God knows our hunger and He always satisfies it. It is just us humans who are sometimes not satisfied with our life.

The miracle is not only about how such little food becomes more than enough for all the people. There is also the miracle of the heart. It is a large crowd and that crowd followed Jesus Christ wherever He went for three days. It means to say that those people (most, if not all) were prepared to travel. They must have brought food along with them. So, when the basket was passed around, they took some food but they also put some in. Even extra baskets were given.

If only we could always be generous — not just in monetary and material things. We should be generous in giving understanding and forgiveness to others. If only it could happen, then there would be fewer crime. No more greed. No more hatred. No more revenge. Only love, harmony, and peace. But it is only an ideal. Negativity is part of our life. It is how live that we can lessen its effects.

There is this saying, “Give until it hurts. Give more until it does not hurt anymore.” Let us take this opportunity to reflect on up to what point we can be generous.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: (Prayer for Generosity – St. Ignatius of Loyola ) Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve You as I should. To give and not to count the cost. To fight and not to heed the wounds. To toil and not to seek for rest. To labor and ask not for reward. Save that of knowing that I do Your most holy will. St. Scholastica, Pray for us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the abundant graces that sustain our daily life. Thank you for the times that we can share our blessings to others.

8 February, Thursday – Crumbs Of Life

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

_____________________

1 Kings 11:4-13

When Solomon grew old his wives swayed his heart to other gods; and his heart was not wholly with the Lord his God as his father David’s had been. Solomon became a follower of Astarte, the goddess of the Sidonians, and of Milcom, the Ammonite abomination. He did what was displeasing to the Lord, and was not a wholehearted follower of the Lord, as his father David had been. Then it was that Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the god of Moab on the mountain to the east of Jerusalem, and to Milcom the god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who offered incense and sacrifice to their gods.

The Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart had turned from the Lord the God of Israel who had twice appeared to him and who had then forbidden him to follow other gods; but he did not carry out the Lord’s order. The Lord therefore said to Solomon, ‘Since you behave like this and do not keep my covenant or the laws I laid down for you, I will most surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants. For your father David’s sake, however, I will not do this during your lifetime, but will tear it out of your son’s hands. Even so, I will not tear the whole kingdom from him. For the sake of my servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen, I will leave your son one tribe.’

______________________

Mark 7:24-30

Jesus left Gennesaret and set out for the territory of Tyre. There he went into a house and did not want anyone to know he was there, but he could not pass unrecognised. A woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him straightaway and came and fell at his feet. Now the woman was a pagan, by birth a Syrophoenician, and she begged him to cast the devil out of her daughter. And he said to her, ‘The children should be fed first, because it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.’ But she spoke up: ‘Ah yes, sir,’ she replied ‘but the house-dogs under the table can eat the children’s scraps.’ And he said to her, ‘For saying this, you may go home happy: the devil has gone out of your daughter.’ So she went off to her home and found the child lying on the bed and the devil gone.

_______________________

…it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs…

I came across a Jewish prayer on being grateful to God that they are not Gentiles, not women, nor slaves. During the time of Jesus, there was no equality among genders. Women were considered as inferior and lower than men. Also, the Jews referred to Gentiles as ‘dogs’ because they considered them unclean and could not understand.

In today’s gospel, Jesus went to Gentile territory. He wanted to be anonymous, but there was a woman who found out about him. This woman was born a pagan and she had a young daughter with an unclean spirit. She went to Jesus and fell down at his feet. She begged Jesus to remove the devil from her daughter. Jesus tested this woman. Jesus said, “The children should be fed first, because it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.” The woman understood that Jesus was actually asking her why He should help her; especially so since she was a Gentile and Jesus should only be associating with the Jews.

The answer that the woman gave is really humbling. “But the house-dogs under the table can eat the children’s scraps.” She humbly and openly accepts anything. Even it is only left over as long as it is from Jesus.

The gospel teaches us that our faith is not only for a certain group of people. It is for everyone. Anyone can receive salvation as long as he or she believes in our one and only God. There are times that we think God never hears our prayers; and then later on, our faith deteriorates when we face hardships. We also sometimes forget about God when we receive successes. We think that it is from our own strength and capability that we were able to overcome whatever hindrances that we face. We must always be humble and remember that we are where we are because of the grace of God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Please grant us the grace of humility to accept who we are and to not think that we are better than others. Help us to realize that we cannot do anything alone. Help us remember that it is only through Jesus Christ that we can live our life. That we may be like the Gentile woman who has strong faith especially during trials.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for our faith, Father God. Thank you for being born as we are. Thank you for your continuous mercy Lord, God.

6 February, Tuesday – Hypocrisy

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 visited Shimazu Takahisa, the daimyo of Kagoshima, asking for permission to build the first Catholic mission in Japan. The daimyo agreed in hopes of creating a trade relationship with Europe.

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

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

– Wikipedia

_____________________

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.’

______________________

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.’

_______________________

“This people honours me only with lip service, while their hearts are far from me. Their reverence of me is worthless; the lessons they teach are nothing but human commandments.”

As the youth coordinator in my parish, I’m guilty at times of being a hypocrite, by not practising all that I preach. Working in church, I’ve seen so many similarities of how we are like the Pharisees and scribes.

People joining church activities, communities or ministries, either to make their resume look nice, to find friends of similar interests so that one will not be alone, to ‘earn’ their way into heaven, to network for their business and many many others. Most of the time, it isn’t to grow our relationship with Christ, to deepen our spiritual lives.

We go around preaching and sharing like we know the truth. It really isn’t difficult to give people an impression that one is a good Catholic.

At a superficial level, we may feel that people who are actively involved in the parish are actually really faithful, convicted and have a passion for Christ. But there’s also a group of such people that may actually be most broken, insecure and alone.

At the end of the day, we all will be able to tell because it is more than just the words but the way we live our lives. Are we reflecting Christ to the people we meet daily? The irony is that while most of us are so preoccupied with how others see us, none of us really ask ourselves the question if we have been Christ to the other? Most of the time, pride gets in the way.

The parish isn’t a museum of saints but a hospital for sinners. Indeed, we house some of the most broken, insecure, unaware, ungrateful, prideful and whatever else people; but we house them because Christ allows it to be so. When the world rejects, Christ welcomes.

Despite all the hypocrisy, though our hearts and intentions are far away from Him, He continues to run after us, to reach out for us, to create a place for us to dwell. Let us lower our walls and throw away the lies. Let us allow Christ in, let us give Him the wheel to our lives, for the true encounter and healing only happens when we allow Christ to take control of our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for courage, perseverance and patience to stand up for our faith, to trust in You even when things are not going our way. To be patient for You will know when the time is right. Help us to see beyond the things that will pass, help us not to focus on the gifts but the giver.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your unfailing love. Thank you for constantly having this hope in us. Amen

5 February, Monday – Recognising

5 Feb – Memorial for St. Agatha, virgin and martyr

We have little reliable information about this martyr who has been honoured since ancient times, and whose name is included in the canon of the Mass. Young, beautiful and rich, Agatha (d.250) lived a life consecrated to God. When Decius announced the edicts against Christians, the magistrate Quinctianus tried to profit by Agatha’s sanctity; he planned to blackmail her into sex in exchange for not charging her. Handed over to a brothel, she refused to accept customers.

After rejecting Quinctianus’ advances, she was beaten, imprisoned, tortured, her breasts were crushed and cut off. She told the judge, “Cruel man, have you forgotten your mother and the breast that nourished you, that you dare to mutilate me this way?” One version has it that St. Peter healed her. She was then imprisoned again, then rolled on live coals; when she was near death, an earthquake struck. In the destruction that followed, a friend of the magistrate was crushed, and the magistrate fled. Agatha thanked God for an end to her pain, and died.

Legend says that carrying her veil, taken from her tomb in Catania, in procession has averted erupts of Mount Etna. Her intercession is reported to have saved Malta from Turkish invasion in 1551.

– Patron Saint Index

_____________________

1 Kings 8:1-7, 9-13

Solomon called the elders of Israel together in Jerusalem to bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord up from the Citadel of David, which is Zion. All the men of Israel assembled round King Solomon in the month of Ethanim, at the time of the feast (that is, the seventh month), and the priests took up the ark and the Tent of Meeting with all the sacred vessels that were in it. In the presence of the ark, King Solomon and all Israel sacrificed sheep and oxen, countless, innumerable. The priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the Debir of the Temple, that is, in the Holy of Holies, under the cherubs’ wings. For there where the ark was placed the cherubs spread out their wings and sheltered the ark and its shafts. There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets Moses had placed in it at Horeb, the tablets of the covenant which the Lord had made with the Israelites when they came out of the land of Egypt; they are still there today.

Now when the priests came out of the sanctuary, the cloud filled the Temple of the Lord, and because of the cloud the priests could no longer perform their duties: the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s Temple.

Then Solomon said: ‘The Lord has chosen to dwell in the thick cloud. Yes, I have built you a dwelling, a place for you to live in for ever.’

______________________

Mark 6:53-56

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

_______________________

“And all those who touched him were saved.”

What really stood out for me in today’s reading was the recognition. A recognition that Yahweh chose to dwell in the thick cloud, in the first reading. And in the Gospel where having reached Gennesaret, people at once recognise Jesus and at once brought the sick to Him.

Going deeper into today’s readings, we can ask ourselves — who was Jesus to those people? A healer? A miracle worker? The Christ? Do we recognise the healer? Or only the healing?

We read in Luke 17:11-19 about the healing of 10 men with leprosy and how only one returned to thank Jesus. And also in Luke 8:43-48, we read about the woman ‘touching’ Jesus’ garment amidst the crowd.

Who was really touched? Have we truly touched Jesus? Or has Jesus touched us?

It is indeed a struggle. For us, Christ mostly seems to be at the back seat of the car (hopefully not in the boot), when He is supposed to be at the wheel. But in our world today, we are just too caught up with so many things. There is always something else to do, something that can be improved on, something to follow up on. Will any of this ever end?

Maybe we can spend some time away from the all the stuff that weighs us down. To just simply recognise Christ in our lives, ever so patiently waiting at our door for us to open our hearts to Him. For Him to dwell.

Let us learn to be grateful for all that has happened in our lives and that is going to happen, to have faith that amidst everything that seems to separate us from Christ, we will break through those barriers and reach out to touch Him. Not because He has touched us but, more because we allowed Him to touch us.

May we continue to pray with the scriptures, in order that Your Word may continue to touch us, that our lives may continue to transform as we live lives that reflect your light and your love to all.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for sight. To see with the eyes of faith, eyes of truth, eyes of love. To see as you see Lord. Amen

Thanksgiving: Thank you for all your abundant blessings, especially all those up till now we still fail to realise and be grateful for. Thank you for always desiring us. Amen

3 February, Saturday – On Noise And Knowledge

3 Feb – Memorial for St. Blaise, bishop and martyr; Memorial for St. Ansgar, bishop

Blaise (d. 316) was a physician and Bishop of Sebaste, Armenia. He lived in a cave on Mount Argeus. He was a healer of men and animals. According to legend, sick animals would come to him on their own for help, but would never disturb him in prayer.

Agricola, governor of Cappadocia, came to Sebaste to persecute Christians. His huntsmen went into the forests of Argeus to find wild animals for the arena games, and found many waiting outside Blaise’s cave. Discovered in prayer, Blaise was arrested and Agricola tried to get him to recant his faith. While in prison, Blaise ministered to and healed his fellow prisoners, including saving a child who was choking on a fish bone; this led to the blessing of throats of Blaise’s feast day.

Thrown into a lake to drown, Blaise stood on the surface and invited his persecutors to walk out and prove the power of their gods; they drowned. When he returned to land, he was martyred by being beaten, his flesh torn out with wool combs (which led to his association with and patronage of those involved in the wool trade), and then beheaded.

Blaise has been extremely popular for centuries in both the Eastern and Western Churches. In 1222, the Council of Oxford prohibited servile labour in England on his feast. He is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

 

Ansgar (801-865) was born to the French nobility. He was a Benedictine monk at Old Corbie Abbey in Picardy, and New Corbie in Westphalia. He studied under St. Adelard and St. Paschasius Radbert. He accompanied the converted King Harold to Denmark when the exiled king returned home.

He was a missionary to Denmark and Sweden. He founded the first Christian church in Sweden in c.832. He was abbot of New Corbie c.834. He was ordained Archbishop of Hamburg by Pope Gregry IV. He was a papal legate to the Scandinavian countries. He established the first Christian school in Denmark, but was run out by pagans, and the school was burned to the ground. He campaigned against slavery.

He was Archbishop of Bremen. He converted Erik, King of Jutland. He was a great preacher, a miracle worker, and greatly devoted to the poor and sick. Sadly, after his death most of his gains for the Church were lost to resurgent paganism.

– Patron Saint Index

________________

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.’

________________

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.

________________

“… but for understanding so you may know what is right…”

In the Tao Te Ching, there is a famous saying, that “those who know are not learned; those who are learned do not know”. It used to bother me that the Tao Te Ching was advocating for us to remain blissfully ignorant. And then I grew up, started reading the news and realized that the more ‘knowledge’ you acquire, the more ‘noise’ you have to deal with. Noise can seem important if you dress it up with enough bells and whistles, but it serves no purpose other than to waste our time. How do we tell the differnce between knowledge that harms and knowledge that heals? Solomon’s request was for exactly that – to be able to discern truth from the noise.

It’s so easy to be misled. You won’t even feel like you’re going astray. How often have we mindlessly surfed the Internet only to look up and find that we’ve lost half a day? For instance, it has taken me an entire day to write this reflection. Why? Because I’ve been faffing about, looking at headlines, allegedly so I can ‘stay engaged and informed’. Noise throws you off your purpose, and you may not even be aware that it’s happening.

Whatever our ambitions, we are finite beings. We grow weary, our days on earth are numbered, our efforts are not inexhaustible. So how we apply ourselves is important. We may think that wisdom lies in the acquistion of knowledge, but that isn’t the case. Will we live more meaningful lives by chasing every headline out there? I don’t think so. Wisdom comes from living simply, according to His commandments. Wisdom comes from making Him our unwavering purpose. Without Christ as our focus – and our filter – we are exactly as he decribed the crowd; lost like sheep without a shepherd. We’ll fall for every distraction that calls our name.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the wisdom to discern between things that are of God, and things that are of this world.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, who resides within us and guides our thoughts and actions.

Wednesday, 31 January – Faith Comes With Humility

31 Jan – Memorial for St. John Bosco, priest

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

________________

2 Samuel 24:2,8-17

King David said to Joab and to the senior army officers who were with him, ‘Now go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and take a census of the people; I wish to know the size of the population.’ Having covered the whole country, they returned to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. Joab gave the king the figures for the census of the people; Israel numbered eight hundred thousand armed men capable of drawing sword, and Judah five hundred thousand men.

But afterwards David’s heart misgave him for having taken a census of the people. ‘I have committed a grave sin’ David said to the Lord. ‘But now, Lord, I beg you to forgive your servant for this fault. I have been very foolish.’ But when David got up next morning, the following message had come from the Lord to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, ‘Go and say to David, “the Lord says this: I offer you three things; choose one of them for me to do to you.”’

So Gad went to David and told him. ‘Are three years of famine to come on you in your country’ he said ‘or will you flee for three months before your pursuing enemy, or would you rather have three days’ pestilence in your country? Now think, and decide how I am to answer him who sends me.’ David said to Gad, This is a hard choice. But let us rather fall into the power of the Lord, since his mercy is great, and not into the power of men.’ So David chose pestilence.

It was the time of the wheat harvest. The Lord sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning till the time appointed and plague ravaged the people, and from Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men of them died. The angel stretched out his hand towards Jerusalem to destroy it, but the Lord thought better of this evil, and he said to the angel who was destroying the people, ‘Enough! Now withdraw your hand.’ The angel of the Lord was beside the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite. “When David saw the angel who was ravaging the people, he spoke to the Lord. ‘It was I who sinned;’ he said ‘I who did this wicked thing. But these, this flock, what have they done? Let your hand lie heavy on me then, and on my family.’

________________

Mark 6:1-6

Jesus went to his home town and his disciples accompanied him. With the coming of the sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue and most of them were astonished when they heard him. They said, ‘Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?’ And they would not accept him. And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house’; and he could work no miracle there, though he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

________________

‘A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house’; and he could work no miracle there…

Imagine a coworker who joined the company the same time as you, in the exact same team with the exact same responsibilities. You become friends and learn about each other, discovering in the process that you both come from similar backgrounds. So similar in fact, that you both might as well have grown up in the same house and done the same course at the same university.

Now, imagine that same coworker suddenly showing up at work one day, giving suggestions and instructions on how to solve a particular problem. No, he wasn’t promoted overnight but he knows a little bit more about this particular issue (because he learnt about it) than you do and thought he would help you.

Instead of accepting his solution, you choose to shut him down and question, “How could he possibly know more than me?” Both of you come from the same background, with the same education. How could he possibly know more than you?

In today’s gospel, this is the situation Jesus found himself in. The people in his hometown could not believe that he knew enough to teach about God and the Scriptures. After all, wasn’t he just a carpenter’s son? What right did he have to tell them how to live their life?

Their pride had clouded their judgment of Jesus. Instead of seeing him as the Messiah, they saw someone who had no authority on anything else besides carpentry and repair work. They were unnerved with the amount of authority Jesus spoke with. How dare he speak with such conviction?

Word would definitely have travelled far and wide of the miracles he performed but his very own people refused to accept the stories, insisting that it just wasn’t possible. Pride took over the people in the gospel and pride clouded their perception to the point their faith was stifled. Their lack of faith was what led to Jesus only being able to perform very few miracles among his people. What they failed to realize is that Jesus is a repairman. Both in his job and spiritually. He was sent to repair our faith and souls.

Most of the time, God talks to us through other people and pride has to be put aside in order to hear what He has to say. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to shut down your ego but we need to do it because we can’t serve both God and our ego. Humble yourself to God and see how your faith will grow and miracles happen in your life.

Let Jesus into your hearts so that he can repair your soul.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Rebecca Grace)

Prayer: Lord, help us let go of our pride so that we can let You into our lives, and forgive us for the weak moments when we unintentionally let our ego take over.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks, dear God, for the little miracles you perform in our lives and the wonderful people who act as your messengers for us.

27 January, Saturday – Where Is It?

27 Jan – Memorial for St. Angela Merici, virgin

St. Angela Merici (1474-1540) became a Franciscan tertiary at the age of 15. She received a vision telling her that she would inspire devout women in their vocation.

In Crete, during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, she was struck blind. Her friends wanted to return home, but she insisted on going on, visiting the shrines with as much devotion and enthusiasm as if she had her sight. On the way home, while praying before a crucifix, her sight was restored at the same place where it had been lost.

In 1535, she gathered a group of girl students and began what would become the ‘Institute of St. Ursula’ (the Ursuline Sisters), founded to teach children, beginning with religion and later expanding into secular topics; her first schools were in Desenazno and Brescia.

  • Patron Saint Index

______________________

2 Samuel 12:1-7,10-17

The Lord sent Nathan the prophet to David. He came to him and said:

‘In the same town were two men, one rich, the other poor. The rich man had flocks and herds in great abundance; the poor man had nothing but a ewe lamb, one only, a small one he had bought. This he fed, and it grew up with him and his children, eating his bread, drinking from his cup, sleeping on his breast; it was like a daughter to him. When there came a traveller to stay, the rich man refused to take one of his own flock or herd to provide for the wayfarer who had come to him. Instead he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for his guest.’

David’s anger flared up against the man. ‘As the Lord lives,’ he said to Nathan ‘the man who did this deserves to die! He must make fourfold restitution for the lamb, for doing such a thing and showing no compassion.’

Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man. So now the sword will never be far from your House, since you have shown contempt for me and taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.”

‘Thus the Lord speaks, “I will stir up evil for you out of your own House. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to your neighbour, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. You worked in secret, I will work this in the face of all Israel and in the face of the sun.”’

David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Then Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord, for his part, forgives your sin; you are not to die. Yet because you have outraged the Lord by doing this, the child that is born to you is to die.’ Then Nathan went home.

The Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David and it fell gravely ill. David pleaded with the Lord for the child; he kept a strict fast and went home and spent the night on the bare ground, covered with sacking. The officials of his household came and stood round him to get him to rise from the ground, but he refused, nor would he take food with them.

____________________

Mark 4:35-41

With the coming of evening, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind they took him, just as he was, in the boat; and there were other boats with him. Then it began to blow a gale and the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped. But he was in the stern, his head on the cushion, asleep. They woke him and said to him, ‘Master, do you not care? We are going down!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Quiet now! Be calm!’ And the wind dropped, and all was calm again. Then he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?’ They were filled with awe and said to one another, ‘Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.’

___________________

How is it that you have no faith?

A man was searching his garden high and low for something. After a while, his neighbour, who had been watching him from over the fence, asked out loud, “What are you looking for?” The man replied, “My house keys.” The neighbour came over to help but after another fruitless half hour, he asked the man, “Are you sure you lost it out here?” The man replied, “No. I lost them in the house.” Puzzled, the neighbour asked, “Why are you searching out here then?” To which the man replied, “Because it is nice and bright out here.”

Many times, we choose to not see what is right in front of us. Or we choose to look for something where there is not even the remoteness chance of finding it. For a very long time, I believe that I lost my faith in God; not because it wasn’t there, but more because I had allowed the world around me to cloud my perspective on life. The clouds have since lifted and I have finally begun to discern how ‘little’ my faith is. However, that has not stopped me from putting my entire faith in God now and trusting that He will lead me out of the abyss I sometimes find myself in. Whether it is a physical one (my weight and ‘shape’), an emotional one (mainly brought about by frustrations at work) or a spiritual one (my constant struggle against sin), I believe that once you have found even an iota of faith, all that is needed is totally surrendering it to God. No questions asked.

Many of us struggle with our faith. We question, we challenge, we doubt. I think a person can surround himself with the best theologians, doctors, lawyers or professors and fire countless questions to satisfy our own curiosity. But there is no way one can explain fully this ‘faith’ that God has given to us. Like it or not, at some point, we just have to lift our doubts and fears up to Him, fully trusting that He will take it and multiply it a hundredfold. So how do we know when we have finally ‘connected’? There is no flash of lightning nor a loud thunderclap. For me, it was a gentle whisper in my ear and a ‘prompting’ within my heart. That ‘itchy itchy’ feeling one gets when you know that something big is going to happen.

That, brothers and sisters, is why Jesus asks us the question each day. Because every day is a test of faith for many of us. For some of us, just getting through a day unscathed is a testimony of our faith in Him. For others, we seem to breeze through the day with nary a worry. Wherever you are on your faith journey, especially where you are doubtful, ask yourself if you are searching in the right places.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: We pray for the gift of faith. That You will give us the desire to surrender fully to you and lift up our entire life to you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your everlasting faith in us.

26 January, Friday – Gifts

26 Jan – Memorial for Sts. Timothy and Titus, bishops

Timothy (d. 97) was the son of a Greek gentile, his mother Eunice was Jewish. He was converted to Christianity by St. Paul around the year 47. He was a partner, assistant and close friend of Paul. He was a missionary as well, and became head of the Church in Ephesus. He was the recipient of two canonical letters from St. Paul, and was stoned to death for opposing the worship of Dionysius.

Titus (d. 96) was also a disciple of St. Paul and was the recipient of a canonical letter from him. He was the first bishop of the Church in Crete.

  • Patron Saint Index

______________________

2 Timothy 1:1-8

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; I remember your tears and long to see you again to complete my happiness. Then I am reminded of the sincere faith which you have; it came first to live in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I have no doubt that it is the same faith in you as well.

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.

____________________

Mark 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time: he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’

He also said, ‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’

Using many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, so far as they were capable of understanding it. He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.

___________________

…fan into a flame the gift that God gave you…

It has been a long and tiring month (so what’s new?) and it wasn’t helped by the fact that I had the resignation of a valued staff to deal with. For me, he had been more than pulling his weight, especially when he shared that he had been covering for his direct report. I had suspected it all along but am dealing with the ‘consequences’ now – spending hours each week coaching, cajoling and mentoring a flawed senior staff in the hope of helping him realise that he has been living with a flawed concept of what ‘work’ and ‘success’ is.

I have never had things easy in my career and believe that aside from my gift of writing, God has moulded me into a leader who has a heart for the downtrodden and helpless. Yet, through my past experiences, I am also able to detach myself from the emotions that arise at work (apart from anger that wells when I see people trying to cut corners or justify inachievement with weak excuses). Some call me a taskmaster but I have come to realise that I have been called to this role in a somewhat circuitous manner.

And of late, a similar path is being carved out for me in ministry. I have answered the call bravely, but with some trepidation. Yet I know that just as He has sustained me throughout my career, He will sustain me on this new journey that I am undertaking. I will soon begin lessons to train myself to be a truly qualified leader and the decision was made after a discussion with a mentor who I value greatly. The way she communicated to me about exercising the gifts He has given to her over the years convinced me that I had nothing to fear. All I needed was a heart of love, one that burns brightly for our heavenly Father.

Looking back, I even surprised myself with the conviction in making the quick decision overnight. And while I look forward to how He is going to lead me along this new journey, I know that it is only by His grace that my talents will fully come to fruition.

Brothers and sisters, we are all called to be here on this earth for a reason. Unfortunately, many will never discern what the purpose of their human existence will be. Slowly but surely, I am beginning to discern and fathom a call that is extremely hard to ignore. I am not sure where it is going to lead me, but I know for certain that I will emerge from the experience with my heart still burning for Him and for those I care about.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, help us to fully appreciate your gifts by teaching us how to discern your calling for us and filling us with the courage to say ‘Yes’.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for the gifts you have bestowed us with here on earth.