Category Archives: Memorials

16 November, Saturday – The view from the other side of the Cross

Nov 16 – Memorial for St. Margaret of Scotland; Memorial for St. Gertrude, Virgin

Margaret (1045–1093)was the granddaughter of King Edmund Ironside of England, and the great-niece of St. Stephen of Hungary. She was born in Hungary while her family was in exile due to the Danish invasion of England. Even so, she still much of her youth in the British Isles.

While fleeing the invading army of William the Conqueror in 1066, her family’s ship wrecked on the Scottish coast. They were assisted by King Malcolm III Canmore of Scotland, whom Margaret married in 1070, and became Queen of Scotland. They had eight children, one of whom was St. Maud, wife of Henry I. Margaret founded abbeys and used her position to work for justice and improved conditions for the poor.

  • Patron Saint Index

Gertrude (1256–1302) may have been an orphan. She was raised in the Benedictine abbey of St. Mary of Helfta, Eiselben, Saxony from the age of five. She was an extremely bright and dedicated student, and she excelled in literature and philosophy. When she was old enough, she became a Benedictine nun.

At age 26, when she had become too enamoured of philosophy, she received a vision of Christ who reproached her. From then on she studied the Bible and the works of the Church Fathers. Gertrude received other visions and mystical instruction, which formed the basis of her writings. She helped spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Her writings have been greatly praised by St. Teresa and St. Francis de Sales, and continue in print today.

  • Patron Saint Index

____________________

Wisdom 18:14-16,19:6-9

When peaceful silence lay over all,
and night had run the half of her swift course,
down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt your all-powerful Word;
into the heart of a doomed land the stern warrior leapt.
Carrying your unambiguous command like a sharp sword,
he stood, and filled the universe with death;
he touched the sky, yet trod the earth.

For, to keep your children from all harm,
The whole creation, obedient to your commands,
was once more, and newly, fashioned in its nature.
Overshadowing the camp there was the cloud,
where water had been, dry land was seen to rise,
the Red Sea became an unimpeded way,
the tempestuous flood a green plain;
sheltered by your hand, the whole nation passed across,
gazing at these amazing miracles.
They were like horses at pasture,
they skipped like lambs,
singing your praises, Lord, their deliverer.

___________________

Luke 18:1-8

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town’ he said ‘who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, “I want justice from you against my enemy!” For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death.”’

And the Lord said ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’

____________________

“ But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?”

I cannot recall when I first heard this phrase, but I do know that it has left a deep impression on me and I have cited it often in various circumstances of faith sharing. It goes like this, “Conversion happens from an experience of the mercy of God and not from the judgement of God”. Today’s parable is an interesting one and has various facets to it. From one angle, it alludes to the need for persistent faith. From another perspective (perhaps a slightly confusing one), it suggests our God to be one who finds us pretty much a nuisance which he can’t wait to get off His back.

The perspective I would like to offer in this sharing is for us to see the judge mentioned to be indeed that of an unjust judge which “neither feared God not cared what people thought” – a judge that is self-interested, self-serving, ungodly and indifferent and the only reason for attending to the cause of the widow is nothing more than simply to be rid of her persistent nuisance. However, let us then juxtapose this judge with our God – loving, self-sacrificial, whose justice over us is subjugated under His mercy and compassion for us. A God who sent His Son to die for us, to salvage a relationship that He treasures above all else. This is not a God that finds us to be a nuisance, but a God who can’t get enough of us in spite of all the nuisance we bring before Him … our incessant demands, our arrogance when our prayers are not answered or not answered in our way and in our timing, our unfailing infidelity to Him through sin, our blatant ingratitude and forgetfulness for all the times our prayers have been answered, our selfishness even to those dearest and closest to us, or total selfishness and difference to all others so much further away from our daily consciousness. Incomprehensible – this God of ours and how much He treasures us.

Sometimes when at prayer, especially when I am in front of the shrine of our Blessed Mother carrying baby Jesus, my eyes shift inadvertently to those who come up to pray to her and Jesus. And I wonder to myself, what goes through the mind and the heart of Mother Mary and Jesus when we pray before them. And always without fail, I get moved when I think that their response to us is always that of compassion, understanding, forgiveness, consolation – never judgement. Always accepting us for who we are, always understanding the sins we commit, the hurts we cause to others, our infidelity and ingratitude because of the woundedness within us that makes us hurt others, the bondage within us that leads to our helplessness against sin and addiction, the way the evil one has used the values of this world to keep us so helpless in our greed, our selfishness, our pride, our vanity, our lusts, our indifference to those around us who are hurting and dying and killing. No matter how hard we try, no matter how good our intentions, no matter how many times we keep falling, we need to keep coming before the Cross and before Your Mother.. That is the persistent prayer of the widow.

Compassion, forgiveness and love – that is what it looks like from the other side of the Cross. This is the lens by which Jesus and our Mother look upon us with. And that is why, despite ourselves, God still loves us, Mother Mary still embraces us, the Holy Spirit still fights for us, our Saviour still hangs on the Cross for us. This is the persistent grace of God. The persistent love of God. I am not sure how much faith He will find when the Son of Man comes to earth again; but I do know that when He comes, He will come, as He always has, with compassion, forgiveness and love.

(Today’s Oxygen by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. You know what it is like to come to a place of discouragement so deep that it’s hard to pray any longer, hard to hold out hope. Some of our brothers and sisters are there right now and you are speaking to their hearts. Lift them, today, I pray. Turn their eyes to you afresh. Strengthen their faith, freshen their hope, enliven their prayers — until you come. Come soon, Lord Jesus!

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you. For the compassion, forgiveness and love which you keep showing to us, our loved ones and this world. Thank you for your insane, incomprehensible love and unbelievable fidelity to us. Thank you for not judging us. Thank you for only loving us.

15 November, Friday – The Cross and the Crucifix

Nov 15 – Memorial for St. Albert the Great, Bishop, Religious, Doctor

Albertus (1206-1280) was the son of a military nobleman. A Dominican priest, he taught theology at Cologne and Paris and was the teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas. He was an influential teacher, preacher, and administrator, and became the Bishop of Regensburg. He introduced Greek and Arabic science and philosophy to medieval Europe.

He is known for his wide interest in what became later known as the natural sciences – botany, biology, etc. He wrote and illustrated guides to his observations, and was considered on par with Aristotle as an authority on these matters. He was a theological writer, and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church.

“It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where charity is not found, God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for “God is Charity” (1 John 4:8)” – St. Albert the Great

____________________

Wisdom 13:1-9

Naturally stupid are all men who have not known God
and who, from the good things that are seen, have not been able to discover Him-who-is,
or, by studying the works, have failed to recognise the Artificer.
Fire however, or wind, or the swift air,
the sphere of the stars, impetuous water, heaven’s lamps,
are what they have held to be the gods who govern the world.

If, charmed by their beauty, they have taken things for gods,
let them know how much the Lord of these excels them,
since the very Author of beauty has created them.
And if they have been impressed by their power and energy,
let them deduce from these how much mightier is he that has formed them,
since through the grandeur and beauty of the creatures
we may, by analogy, contemplate their Author.

Small blame, however, attaches to these men,
for perhaps they only go astray
in their search for God and their eagerness to find him;
living among his works, they strive to comprehend them
and fall victim to appearances, seeing so much beauty.
Even so, they are not to be excused:
if they are capable of acquiring enough knowledge
to be able to investigate the world,
how have they been so slow to find its Master?

___________________

Luke 17:26-37

Jesus said to the disciples:

‘As it was in Noah’s day, so will it also be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating and drinking, marrying wives and husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It will be the same as it was in Lot’s day: people were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but the day Lot left Sodom, God rained fire and brimstone from heaven and it destroyed them all. It will be the same when the day comes for the Son of Man to be revealed.

‘When that day comes, anyone on the housetop, with his possessions in the house, must not come down to collect them, nor must anyone in the fields turn back either. Remember Lot’s wife. Anyone who tries to preserve his life will lose it; and anyone who loses it will keep it safe. I tell you, on that night two will be in one bed: one will be taken, the other left; two women will be grinding corn together: one will be taken, the other left.’ The disciples interrupted. ‘Where, Lord?’ they asked. He said, ‘Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather.’

____________________

“…nor did they recognize the craftsman while paying heed to his works…”

The coming of Christ at Christmas, and the remembrance of this ever since, is an event looked upon and experienced with much joy, celebration, herald. Secularization and commercialization aside, even to a non-Christian, albeit for the ‘wrong’ reasons, Christmas is nevertheless a time when spirits are lifted, there is celebration in the air and people seem to walk with perhaps a bit more lightness in their step. However, that’s where it ends.

The first reading talks about how man, in his foolishness in paying heed to created things, has lost sight of the more important thing – the Creator. And in the Gospel, God reminds man of the consequences of forgetting Him and turning his back from Him. Much like the tale of the Prodigal Father – where the love of the Father seems almost foolhardy in its over-indulgence of the Prodigal Son. So too, God in His infinite patience and love for His children, continues to accept, to forgive, to redeem and to hope against all hope but for divine hope, that one day His children will abandon their foolishness and begin to finally realize how much they are loved and cherished — and how undeservedly so. Till then, man continues in his sinful, unrepentant, ungrateful, unfaithful and ignorant ways. Brothers and sisters, judgement day WILL come. It’s like taking a roller-coaster zooming towards the peak of an up-climb, however, only to discover that the tracks end there … there are no more tracks for the rest of the journey back down. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah found this out the hard way. Many, if not most of humanity, will also sadly come to this when the end-times come – be it through the individual death of a person or when Christ comes again.

The second coming of Christ, will not be anything like the first. The world will not be converted when Jesus comes again. The earth will not be full of the knowledge of the Lord. The reign of peace will not have been established. The end times will be apocalyptic – any semblance of peace will simply be the calm before the storm. Scripture has said so. And in the midst of this, we are confronted with a cross and a crucifix before us. We have the cross and we have the Crucifix. Between these two, lies man’s eternity. What is the difference between the Cross and the Crucifix? It is simply this – the former is just an empty piece of wood whereas upon the other, hangs the Saviour of the world.

For those who profess the cross and not the Crucifix, theirs is an empty proclamation – empty, devoid of divine focus, nor the unity that comes from the Holy Spirit. One that lacks identity, authority and a common theology that can truly save. Clinging to such a cross is clinging only to the delusion of salvation through the Word and that good works will never bring one to redemption and salvation. It points not to divine wisdom, but the foolishness of man that has allowed deception, pride, vain-glory and disunity in place of what should rightfully belong in its place – a Saviour’s sacrifice, a Redeemer’s justification. An empty cross can never be able to help a Christian understand why a loving God allows suffering in this world, why worldly prosperity is not an affirmation of one’s salvation, but rather in poverty do we find great treasures of divine grace, why giving up one’s life for love of a friend is not salvation from the Word alone but how the Word transforms one into making the ultimate act of sacrifice for the love of another, even for an enemy. Only when we are able to see Christ hung upon that Cross, does one truly embrace Christianity and become a Christian – and Catholic.

The Crucifix is where Christ hangs – a sign of unity of a Faith and a Church that finds its salvation not in the created icon of a cross, but in Jesus Christ — the Creator himself. This is the difference between a piece of wood symbolizing punishment, shame and defeat and a place of sanctification, redemption and salvation. And upon this Creator hangs true authority and a unity of identity, regardless who you and where you are on planet earth. Upon this Crucifix hangs the redemption that can only be won by the blood of the sacrifice of Jesus. Upon this Crucifix hangs a reminder of our need to carry our own crosses as the only way of true discipleship.And on the Crucifix, we choose to find courage and strength and hope of a Saviour who carries our crosses for us –as much today as He did for us 2019 years ago, and since the beginning of time. And upon the Crucifix, we are reminded that we do not save ourselves, but that our salvation comes from allowing Him to save us. It is not the Cross that will save us, it is the one that hangs on the Cross that will do so. Who, or what, hangs on YOUR cross?

(Today’s Oxygen by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. In the midst of the noise and foolishness of this fallen world, we struggle to find our way to you.  In the midst of so much that has been created by man, we can no longer see our Creator. We are lost and the end times bring us terror for we can no longer see you in the midst of all that turmoil.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for your Crucifix which stands strong defiant in the midst of the storms of life and which defiant in the midst of the forces of this world and of evil which wants to snuff you out simply because it knows you are the truth, the light and the way.

 

 

30 October, Wednesday – The narrow door

30 Oct 2019

____________________

Romans 8:26-30

The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what he means, and that the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit are according to the mind of God.
We know that by turning everything to their good God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those that he has called according to his purpose. They are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son, so that his Son might be the eldest of many brothers. He called those he intended for this; those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory.

___________________

Luke 13:22-30

Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.

‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!”
‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.
‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’

____________________

Try your best to enter by the narrow door

A few years ago, I left a parish ministry on a rather negative note. I was the coordinator of the group, and some negligence on my part caused unhappiness for one of the members. I could have dealt with it if her messages were sent only to me, but she chose to express her disappointment with me in the group chat. That action, to me, crossed a line. I also felt that it had unnecessarily skewed the other members’ impression of me. I had intended to leave out of sheer exhaustion anyway, and that incident marred my years of service. Recently, I was part of the organising team of a parish event, and my disagreement over finances with another member led to this person posting a series of group chat messages that were highly unpleasant, to say the least. When it happened, I could not help but recall its predecessor, and I felt the same degree of weariness. When such antics occur after I have committed so much willpower and effort to a task, the impact is not easy to bear.

Indeed, our brains seem wired to remember bad things with great intensity. For me to get past the weariness and continue to optimistically go forth with the same amount of commitment, I cannot count on my own strength. “The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness”, says today’s first reading. If I choose to dwell on my feelings of hurt, disappointment and wounded pride, I risk becoming bitter and resentful. As unwilling as I am, being a Christian means that I need to go where the Lord leads. In the first book of Kings Chapter 19, the prophet Elijah finds himself utterly defeated and broken, asking God to end his life. But God tells him to get up and go on. At his lowest point, the Lord did not allow Elijah to cave in to his despair.

All the above being said, my experience with ministries has been mostly positive and edifying. At the organisation I am currently volunteering at, I face cheery and enthusiastic adult learners every session, and the staff there make me feel truly valued as a volunteer trainer. There is of course also the ministry that is responsible for this reflection. Over the past 17 years or so of my off and on involvement in the Oxygen team, the atmosphere has always been one of mutual respect and God-centredness, cultivated almost wholly in an online environment. To help myself move on, perhaps I should learn to draw strength from such faith-affirming experiences rather than be dragged down by the weight of far less significant blips.

(Today’s Oxygen by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we can overcome adversity and sin with humility and trust in the ultimate goodness of the Lord.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for all the grace-filled moments in our service to Him. May we keep the the memories close to our hearts, so that they can help to rescue us in times of distress. 

24 October, Thursday – On Fire

24 Oct 2019

____________________

Romans 6:19-23

If I may use human terms to help your natural weakness: as once you put your bodies at the service of vice and immorality, so now you must put them at the service of righteousness for your sanctification.

When you were slaves of sin, you felt no obligation to righteousness, and what did you get from this? Nothing but experiences that now make you blush, since that sort of behaviour ends in death. Now, however, you have been set free from sin, you have been made slaves of God, and you get a reward leading to your sanctification and ending in eternal life. For the wage paid by sin is death; the present given by God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

___________________

Luke 12:49-53

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!

‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’

____________________

I have come to set the earth on fire

I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about my purpose in life. I have thought about it before, as a restless 20-something, fresh out of university, wondering what I should do in a world full of possibilities. Almost two decades later, I am still restless, still asking the same question. But while the restless me in my 20s was a more ‘youthful’, go-getter type that couldn’t wait to get started, the restlessness now in my late 30s is more urgent, more pressing.

Perhaps it is the idea of mortality – that we have a finite life here on earth – and to borrow the words of motivational writer Brendon Burchard, at the end of the day, a lot of us ask ourselves “Did we live? Did we love? Did we matter?” Are we all waiting for the ‘ah-hah’ moment, or a near-death experience to jolt us from our stupor before we begin to truly live? Our daily grind and stresses have caused us to live day by day, from one moment to another, not quite really experiencing life and not quite savouring nor appreciating the moment. Tired and depleted, most of us escape into the virtual world of social media and online games and movies, thinking that we need to give our brains a break, but even as we swipe through other peoples’ lives on Facebook and Instagram, the tragedy is that our own lives are passing us by, unfulfilled… unlived.

Life is the most precious gift of all that God has bestowed upon us. And on top of that, we each have been given a talent. It may not be much of a talent to you, but put to use, it can do amazing things. We can make a difference in someone’s lives just by being present. We can help others, starting with something small — a kind word, a greeting, a smile. The silence of a soul that has ceased to live and believe is the saddest sound of all. A smile or kind gesture is like a small spark that, given enough, would soon transform into a raging fire that will burn through our whole being and, as aptly put in today’s first reading, sanctify our souls to be given to God.

We have one life here on earth and we are accountable to this life. God has entrusted us with this life, and given us the creative license to live it as we see fit, only that we account for it at the end of our days. How then do we want to live this life? Believe me when I say that if you make a difference in someone else’s lives, you also make a difference in yours. It won’t matter what station we are at in life – bus driver, waitress, CEO – but making a difference will make us more fulfilled than we have ever been. If we do more of this, we will spread that feeling to others. If we do more of this, we will heal our own souls. We will live with a higher purpose in mind.

How then again, do you want to live your life today?

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: God Almighty, as we live our lives each day, help us to live it with purpose and passion, to help others, even as we help ourselves. Help us to be the spark that will start Your raging fire here on earth.

Thanksgiving: Father, we thank you for the gift of life, for our second chances, for the kindness that we receive from others. We thank you for giving us the ability to lead a full life, and we pray for Your help and guidance to live it fully.

23 October, Wednesday – Freedom for…

Oct 23 – Memorial for St. John Capistrano, Priest

John (1386–1456) was the son of a former German knight. His father died when John was still young. He studied law at the University of Perugia, and became a lawyer in Naples, Italy. He was the reforming governor of Perugia under King Landislas of Naples. When war broke out between Perugia and Malatesta in 1416, John tried to broker a peace, but instead his opponents ignored the truce, and John became a prisoner of war.

During his imprisonment, he came to the decision to change vocations. He had married just before the war, but his marriage was never consummated and, with his bride’s permission, it was annulled. He became a Franciscan at Perugia on 4 October 1416 and was a fellow student with St. James of the Marshes, and a disciple of St. Bernadine of Siena. He was a noted preacher while still a deacon, beginning his work in 1420.

He was an itinerant priest throughout Italy, Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Russia, preaching to tens of thousands. He established communities of Franciscan renewal, and was reported to heal by making the Sign of the Cross over a sick person. He wrote extensively, mainly against the heresies of the day.

After the fall of Constantinople, he preached Crusade against the Muslim Turks. At the age of 70, he was commissioned by Pope Callistus II to lead it, and marched off at the head of 70,000 Christian soldiers. He won the great battle of Belgrade in the summer of 1456. He died in the field a few months later, but his army delivered Europe from the Muslims.

– Patron Saint Index

____________________

Romans 6:12-18

You must not let sin reign in your mortal bodies or command your obedience to bodily passions, you must not let any part of your body turn into an unholy weapon fighting on the side of sin; you should, instead, offer yourselves to God, and consider yourselves dead men brought back to life; you should make every part of your body into a weapon fighting on the side of God; and then sin will no longer dominate your life, since you are living by grace and not by law.

Does the fact that we are living by grace and not by law mean that we are free to sin? Of course not. You know that if you agree to serve and obey a master you become his slaves. You cannot be slaves of sin that leads to death and at the same time slaves of obedience that leads to righteousness. You were once slaves of sin, but thank God you submitted without reservation to the creed you were taught. You may have been freed from the slavery of sin, but only to become ‘slaves’ of righteousness.

___________________

Luke 12:39-48

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

Peter said, ‘Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?’ The Lord replied, ‘What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you truly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time coming,” and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.

The servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes. When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.’

____________________

You may have been freed from the slavery of sin, but only to become ‘slaves’ of righteousness.

A few years back, I attended a Bible Study on the book of Exodus delivered by Msgr Ambrose Vaz. One of the key phrases that struck me was that the Israelites were freed from Egypt and made free for something.

What am I made free for?

St Pope John Paul II said that “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” In our lives, there are many things that enslave us – our vices, our negative tendencies, our emotions, the activities that fill our days, ministry, past trauma, hurts, pains, relationships, dreams, etc. Sometimes, even prayer, when it’s preventing us from doing what we ought to, enslaves people. And the list goes on.

One of the tips for breaking free from a bad habit is to replace that habit with a good one. Our minds are like a vacuum — if you remove something, it will either fill up with another thing, or cling on to what it was freed from. The same is true with our lives. If we do not do what we were made free for, we will definitely revert back to our old ways. Sometimes, being made free for something causes us anxiety since we may be facing something unfamiliar. It’s all too easy to crave for what we feel is familiar.

One of the things I recently gave up was being active in the ministry. Let me emphasize that I am not asking any of you to leave the ministry but I would encourage you all to discern. You see, I have been active in the ministry for a good 10 years but recently, I have been feeling like I have not been receiving any formation. I was feeling empty. So I left and now, I’m not part of any ministry.

And immediately afterwards, I planned what ministry I should do. I was thinking of creating more Catholic YouTube videos, or writing more in my blog. Then, I realized that I was just filling up my time which God is calling me to dedicate to Him, under His terms. I really feel that this is the time God wants to use to fill me up, and as with all decisions, we’ll know if it’s right if you start seeing fruits. I have never felt truly loved and appreciated until I quit the ministry to work on myself with God. Now that I am no longer contributing to anyone, I could feel how much the people in my Church care about me. I think this is it — God freed me from what I was doing, so I could be free to see and receive the love people are giving me.

When God is freeing us from something, I think we should have that conversation with God as to what He wants us to do. And sometimes, the answer is just to be free to wait on Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Father, help me trust you when you are freeing me from something.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for giving me the freedom to do what you made me for.

 

17 October, Thursday – Who can understand God?

Oct 17 – Memorial for St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr

Ignatius (c. 50–107) was a convert from paganism to Christianity. He succeeded Peter as bishop of Antioch, Syria. He served during persecution of Domitian. During the persecution of Trajan, he was ordered to be taken to Rome to be killed by wild animals. On the way, a journey which took months, he wrote a series of encouraging letters to the churches under his care. He was the first writer to use the term The Catholic Church. He was an apostolic father and a martyr. His name occurs in the Canon of the Mass. Legend says he was the infant that Jesus took into his arms in Mark 9.

– Patron Saint Index

____________________

Romans 3:21-30

God’s justice that was made known through the Law and the Prophets has now been revealed outside the Law, since it is the same justice of God that comes through faith to everyone, Jew and pagan alike, who believes in Jesus Christ. Both Jew and pagan sinned and forfeited God’s glory, and both are justified through the free gift of his grace by being redeemed in Christ Jesus who was appointed by God to sacrifice his life so as to win reconciliation through faith. In this way God makes his justice known; first, for the past, when sins went unpunished because he held his hand, then, for the present age, by showing positively that he is just, and that he justifies everyone who believes in Jesus.

So what becomes of our boasts? There is no room for them. What sort of law excludes them? The sort of law that tells us what to do? On the contrary, it is the law of faith, since, as we see it, a man is justified by faith and not by doing something the Law tells him to do. Is God the God of Jews alone and not of the pagans too? Of the pagans too, most certainly, since there is only one God.

___________________

Luke 11:47-54

Jesus said:

‘Alas for you who build the tombs of the prophets, the men your ancestors killed! In this way you both witness what your ancestors did and approve it; they did the killing, you do the building.

‘And that is why the Wisdom of God said, “I will send them prophets and apostles; some they will slaughter and persecute, so that this generation will have to answer for every prophet’s blood that has been shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was murdered between the altar and the sanctuary.” Yes, I tell you, this generation will have to answer for it all.

‘Alas for you lawyers who have taken away the key of knowledge! You have not gone in yourselves, and have prevented others going in who wanted to.’

When he left the house, the scribes and the Pharisees began a furious attack on him and tried to force answers from him on innumerable questions, setting traps to catch him out in something he might say.

____________________

So what becomes of our boasts? There is no room for them.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is 55:8-9)

The readings today are truly confounding. Let us put aside what we already know, to step into the shoes of all who were present in the scene where Paul preached, or in the presence of Jesus as he denounced the Pharisees and lawyers. How might we feel?

In the letter to the Romans, Paul cautioned them against self-righteousness amongst themselves, whether Jews or pagans. It is not enough just to live within the bounds of the Law, for all have sinned and forfeited God’s glory. We understand this reasoning when we pause long enough to recognise even the minor wrongs we commit against our neighbours through gossip, judgmentalism, lies. It is not enough to be of the same Christian stock or label – for every person’s individual flaws and weaknesses are different. Paul tells us, “…both are justified through the free gift of his grace by being redeemed in Christ Jesus… so as to win reconciliation through faith” (Rm 3:24-25).

We must not be complacent and boast about our salvation simply because we outwardly profess our faith in Christ Jesus. This can become misguided and exclusionary. “What sort of law excludes them? The sort of law that tells us what to do? On the contrary, it is the law of faith, since, as we see it, a man is justified by faith and not by doing something the Law tells him to do…” (Rm 3:27-28)

Only God can look into the hearts of man. Even the holiest of men cannot see into the soul of another, though he may be able to discern it. This is what made Jesus furious as he lambasted the Pharisees and lawyers of the time. He accused them of the same sins as their ancestors, by “taking away the key of knowledge” (Lk 11:52). Jesus was referring to their wrongful gatekeeping of the faith and misrepresentation of the Laws.

Theirs was a love of the law of the Law, and not the the love of Love itself. By their interference, they became the obstacle between their fellow men and God – murdering prophets and apostles ‘between the altar and the sanctuary’. “You have not gone in yourselves, and have prevented others going in who wanted to.” (Lk 11:52).

Are there occasions where I have (through my zealousness or judgmentalism) unconsciously interfered in the gift of faith that God was working in someone’s life?

This is a moment for me to pause and contemplate what the words of scripture mean personally for me. It is not only by works; yet, it is not only by faith. Both can be superficial extremes which Jesus denounces. How I am called to act and respond in every moment, to each person, is a unique sensing of God’s Wisdom. God’s grace is always at work within me; may I not neglect the Holy Spirit in my daily life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Holy Spirit, help us to deepen our own spiritual sensing and hide our life with Christ; for even narrower is the gate to heaven for those with spiritual pride. 

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for this gift of faith I have received by your sacrifice

15 October, Tuesday – The Francis Stain-Removal System®

Oct 15 – Memorial for St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor

Also known as Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Jesus (1515–1582) was born to the Spanish nobility, the daughter of Don Alonso Sanchez de Cepeda and Dona Beatriz. She grew up reading the lives of the saints, and playing at ‘hermit’ in the garden.

Crippled by disease in her youth, which led to her being well-educated at home, she was cured after prayer to St. Joseph. Her mother died when she was 12, and Teresa prayed to Our Lady to be her replacement. Her father opposed her entry into religious life, so she left home without telling anyone, and entered a Carmelite house at 17. Seeing her conviction to her call, her father and family consented.

Soon after taking her vows, Teresa became gravely ill, and her condition was aggravated by the inadequate medical help she received; she never fully recovered her health. She began receiving visions and was examined by Dominicans and Jesuits, including St. Francis Borgia, who pronounced her visions to be holy and true.

She considered her original house too lax in its rule, so she founded a reformed convent of St. John of Avila. She founded several houses, often against fierce opposition from local authorities. She was a mystical writer, and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 27 September 1970 by Pope Paul VI. She is known for ‘holy wit’.

“God, deliver me from sullen saints.” – St. Teresa of Avila

  • Patron Saint Index

____________________

Romans 1:16-25

I am not ashamed of the Good News: it is the power of God saving all who have faith – Jews first, but Greeks as well – since this is what reveals the justice of God to us: it shows how faith leads to faith, or as scripture says: The upright man finds life through faith.

The anger of God is being revealed from heaven against all the impiety and depravity of men who keep truth imprisoned in their wickedness. For what can be known about God is perfectly plain to them since God himself has made it plain. Ever since God created the world his everlasting power and deity – however invisible – have been there for the mind to see in the things he has made. That is why such people are without excuse: they knew God and yet refused to honour him as God or to thank him; instead, they made nonsense out of logic and their empty minds were darkened. The more they called themselves philosophers, the more stupid they grew, until they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for a worthless imitation, for the image of mortal man, of birds, of quadrupeds and reptiles. That is why God left them to their filthy enjoyments and the practices with which they dishonour their own bodies, since they have given up divine truth for a lie and have worshipped and served creatures instead of the creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen!

___________________

Luke 11:37-41

Jesus had just finished speaking when a Pharisee invited him to dine at his house. He went in and sat down at the table. The Pharisee saw this and was surprised that he had not first washed before the meal. But the Lord said to him, ‘Oh, you Pharisees! You clean the outside of cup and plate, while inside yourselves you are filled with extortion and wickedness. Fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside too? Instead, give alms from what you have and then indeed everything will be clean for you.’

____________________

Instead, give alms from what you have and then indeed everything will be clean for you

I admit — I am not the most delicate of eaters. I tend to rush my meals because of an irrational fear that someone in a bear suit will appear out of nowhere, grab my lunch and run away leaving me hungry. Thus my on-going therapy, and the unnecessary gobbling down of my meals, all of which results in me habitually leaving unfortunate food stains on my shirt. (Ewww!)

Some time ago, while praying through the Office of Readings, I came across something interesting St. Francis of Assisi wrote. He said, “Give alms because they purify our souls from the stain of sin.” I found the expression ‘stain of sin’ to be provoking. Obviously, St. Francis did not mean that forgiveness of sin is earned by doing good works such as almsgiving. Forgiveness comes through grace by the cross, made accessible by the sacrament of reconciliation. However, the ‘stain’ that is left by the sin is another matter.

What are stains? Well, a stain is basically a discoloration that can be seen in contrast to the surface it is on. Stains are caused by a physical or chemical interaction between two dissimilar materials, or in my case, dropping the overly-oily pork belly on my clean white shirt. Despite my frantic removal of the pork belly, a stain ensues, a mark is left — damming evidence of my general motor-skills and paranoia towards imaginary pouncing sports mascots.

I find that to be true in my spiritual life. Sins that I have committed leave stains, a lingering after-effect. The effects of sin are not confined to a singular event; they leave impressions on our souls in ways that leaves us susceptible to future temptations. There seems to be a spiritual-chemical reaction that leaves a discoloration on our moral fabric. Most of the time, even having removed the pork belly of sin through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I find myself returning back to my old patterns. Even though the sin and the guilt of sin is removed, there is often still a lingering blemish on my soul.

Enter the Francis Stain-Removal System® — Alms-giving. The good Saint Francis advises sinners like myself to rub a little almsgiving on the stain of sin and letting it sit overnight before washing.

Why? What is it about the practice of Almsgiving that dissolves the stains of sin? There are at least 4 reasons I discern:

  1. Almsgiving strikes at the root of most sins — self-centeredness.
  2. Almsgiving helps turn our eyes and align our hearts to what is important to God’s heart — the poor.
  3. Almsgiving helps us to appreciate what we have received from God and so share with others out of gratitude.
  4. Almsgiving opens our hearts to experience the fulfilling joy that comes from generosity, at the expanse of the fleeting happiness that comes from sin as well as our selfishness that leaves us empty.

Essentially what Almsgiving does, if done sincerely, is to incline our wills to love — loving God, loving others and loving ourselves. Generosity, spiritual poverty, fulfilling joy and gratefulness are all very effective solvents on our moral fabric and strengthens our conscience against sin by inclining it towards good. The outward act of Almsgiving strengthens our inner will to choose good over evil, generosity over selfishness, others over ourselves, joy over emptiness. This removes the stain of sin and helps restore the true hues of our souls, made in the image of God.

So the next time you face temptations or have given in to it, take the advice of the guy wearing the hooded brown lab coat and rub some Almsgiving on the stain of sin. And please, do yourself a favor and keep your pork on your fork.

(Today’s Oxygen by Leonard Koh)

Prayer:  Lord, incline my heart and strengthen my will to choose love over selfishness. May my practice of meeting the needs of the poor align my heart with yours.

Thanksgiving:  That my victory against sin comes from my confidence in the superior happiness in what You promise to be for me in Christ.

9 October, Wednesday – Bantering with God

Oct 9 – Memorial for Sts. Denis, Bishop, and Companions, Martyrs; Memorial for St. John Leonardi, Priest

Denis (d. 258) was a missionary to Paris, and its first bishop. His success roused the ire of local pagans, and he was imprisoned by the Roman governor. He was martyred in the persecutions of Valerius with Sts. Eleutherius and Rusticus. Legends have grown up around his torture and death including one that has his body carrying his severed head some distance from his execution site. St. Genevieve built a basilica over his grave. His feast was added to the Roman calendar in 1568 by Pope St. Pius V, though it has been celebrated since 800.

  • Patron Saint Index

John Leonardi (1541–1609) was the founder of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of Lucca. He was born in Lucca, Tuscany in 1541 and ordained a priest in 1572. He first dedicated himself to the Christian formation of young people in his parish of Lucca. Then he founded the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.

In 1574, he founded a community charged to deepen faith and devotion; this foundation occurred as part of the movement known as the Counter-Reformation. He worked with this community to spread the devotion to the Virgin Mary, to the Forty Hours and to frequent Communion.

This foundation received approval from Pope Paul V in 1614. He took his work to Rome where he became friends with St. Philip Neri who held him in high regard for his qualities of firmness and judgement and entrusted him to delicate works such as the reform of the Benedictan congregation of Montevergine.

He then founded with J. Vives the seminary of the Propagation of the Faith. He died in 1609, dedicated himself to his brothers suffering from the influenza epidemic that was raging in Rome at that time.

The final Rule of his community was published in 1851. Two houses of the Clerks of the Mother of God were opened when he died; three others were opened during the 17th century. He was beatified in 1861 and canonised in 1938.

  • Patron Saint Index, Wikipedia

____________________

Jonah 4:1-11

Jonah was very indignant; he fell into a rage. He prayed to the Lord and said, ‘Ah, Lord, is not this just as I said would happen when I was still at home? That was why I went and fled to Tarshish: I knew that you were a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, relenting from evil. So now, Lord, please take away my life, for I might as well be dead as go on living.’ The Lord replied, ‘Are you right to be angry?’

Jonah then went out of the city and sat down to the east of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God arranged that a castor-oil plant should grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head and soothe his ill-humour; Jonah was delighted with the castor-oil plant. But at dawn the next day, God arranged that a worm should attack the castor-oil plant – and it withered.

Next, when the sun rose, God arranged that there should be a scorching east wind; the sun beat down so hard on Jonah’s head that he was overcome and begged for death, saying, ‘I might as well be dead as go on living.’ God said to Jonah, ‘Are you right to be angry about the castor-oil plant?’ He replied, ‘I have every right to be angry, to the point of death.’ The Lord replied, ‘You are only upset about a castor-oil plant which cost you no labour, which you did not make grow, which sprouted in a night and has perished in a night. And am I not to feel sorry for Nineveh, the great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, to say nothing of all the animals?’

___________________

Luke 11:1-4

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘Say this when you pray:

“Father, may your name be held holy, your kingdom come; give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us. And do not put us to the test.”’

____________________

The Lord replied

I love how Jonah goes back and forth with God in the first reading of today. After reluctantly going to Nineveh to preach repentance to the Ninevites, Jonah is settling down to watch what happens to the city. What is amazing is that he even argues with God and is unafraid to express this anger to Him.

When I first learned to pray as a child, one of the things that bothered me the most was the silence that greeted me when I tried to pray. I remember being in church and praying one day but was distracted by people walking past me. Despite how hard I tried, the silence where God’s voice should be was overwhelming.

This followed me for many years. As part of my search for a solution to this dilemma, I remember what a priest told me; that spiritual dryness was normal and the best strategy would be to pray through it; to tell God how we feel, despite our doubts and fears.

I learned, over time, for me that while God may not speak with most of us aurally, He does converse with us very richly. I experienced this rich conversation when I attended the Conversion Experience Retreat. I learned to listen with more than just my ears. Instead, I tuned into my feelings, to what I read, my thoughts or what someone else shared with me.

May we learn to be like Jonah and be unafraid to speak and connect with our God. What a rich life we would have!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, help us to learn to listen to You and be connected with You. Help us to listen with more than our ears.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful Father, for Your everlasting love for us, and allowing us to connect with You. We thank You for your generosity!

7 October, Monday – Going Beyond the Law

Oct 7 – Memorial for Our Lady of the Rosary

This day was originally observed as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory. Its date was chosen to commemorate the European victory at the third naval Battle of Lepanto in 1571. This battle marked the high point of Turkish (Muslim) advance on European soil with the Balkans and the regions west and north of the Black Sea returning to Western (Christian) hands in the succeeding centuries. This victory, after two earlier defeats at the same location, was attributed to Our Lady of the Rosary as special processions were made on that same day in Rome for the sake of this crucial victory.

Pope Pius V ordered that a commemoration of the rosary should be made upon that day, and at the request of the Dominican Pope Gregory XIII in 1573 allowed this feast to be kept in all churches which possessed an altar dedicated to the rosary. In 1671, the observance of this festival was extended by Pope Clement X to the whole of Spain, and somewhat later Pope Clement XI, after the important victory over the Turks gained by Prince Eugene on 6 August 1716 at Peterwardein in Hungary, commanded the feast of the rosary to be celebrated by the universal Church.

Wikipedia

____________________

Jonah 1:1-2:1, 11

The word of the Lord was addressed to Jonah son of Amittai:

‘Up!’ he said ‘Go to Nineveh, the great city, and inform them that their wickedness has become known to me.’ Jonah decided to run away from the Lord, and to go to Tarshish. He went down to Joppa and found a ship bound for Tarshish; he paid his fare and went aboard, to go with them to Tarshish, to get away from the Lord. But the Lord unleashed a violent wind on the sea, and there was such a great storm at sea that the ship threatened to break up. The sailors took fright, and each of them called on his own god, and to lighten the ship they threw the cargo overboard. Jonah, however, had gone below and lain down in the hold and fallen fast asleep. The boatswain came upon him and said, ‘What do you mean by sleeping? Get up! Call on your god! Perhaps he will spare us a thought, and not leave us to die.’ Then they said to each other, ‘Come on, let us draw lots to find out who is responsible for bringing this evil on us.’ So they cast lots, and the lot fell to Jonah. Then they said to him, ‘Tell us, what is your business? Where do you come from? What is your country? What is your nationality?’ He replied, ‘I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.’ The sailors were seized with terror at this and said, ‘What have you done?’ They knew that he was trying to escape from the Lord, because he had told them so. They then said, ‘What are we to do with you, to make the sea grow calm for us?’ For the sea was growing rougher and rougher. He replied, ‘Take me and throw me into the sea, and then it will grow calm for you. For I can see it is my fault this violent storm has happened to you.’ The sailors rowed hard in an effort to reach the shore, but in vain, since the sea grew still rougher for them. They then called on the Lord and said, ‘O the Lord, do not let us perish for taking this man’s life; do not hold us guilty of innocent blood; for you, the Lord, have acted as you have thought right.’ And taking hold of Jonah they threw him into the sea; and the sea grew calm again. At this the men were seized with dread of the Lord; they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.

The Lord had arranged that a great fish should be there to swallow Jonah; and Jonah remained in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. The Lord spoke to the fish, which then vomited Jonah on to the shore.

___________________

Luke 10:25-37

There was a lawyer who, to disconcert Jesus, stood up and said to him, ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? What do you read there?’ He replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ ‘You have answered right,’ said Jesus ‘do this and life is yours.’

But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead. Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him. He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He then lifted him on to his own mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him. Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said “and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.” Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands‘ hands?’ ‘The one who took pity on him’ he replied. Jesus said to him, ‘Go, and do the same yourself.’

____________________

“And who is my neighbour?”

Every time I read or listen to the Parable of the Good Samaritan, I have always focused on the Good Samaritan, who goes all out to help the traveller, whom the others strove hard to avoid. What struck me, however, was that the injured traveller was actually a priest, or a Levite.

In other passages of the New Testament, it is shown clearly that the Samaritans know of the Israelites’ aversion to them (take for example, the Samaritan woman by the well, whom Jesus encounters). In this case, the differences between the Good Samaritan are even more pronounced given that the fallen traveller was a Levite. Despite knowing the possible negative implications (that the Levite is likely to dislike, or hate him), the Samaritan still goes out of his way to aid him.

What a powerful message!

Something else that is interesting in this passage is not just how the lawyer asks Jesus about how to inherit eternal life, but rather what is written in the law.

For many years, I had wondered how to accumulate enough brownie points to enable myself to enter heaven. I had imagined that on the day I die, I would meet St Peter at the Pearly Gates and he would have a checklist against which he would measure my performance here on earth.

Apparently, this lawyer had a similar mindset! What I have learned, and realised is that no matter what I do here, it would never earn me a place in heaven; it is a gift from God! Because of this gift of Grace from God, I cannot help but love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind and all our soul, and I must love my neighbours as I love myself.

I simply must.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray Father, that we may always see everyone around us as our neighbours, and that we may never see anyone as undeserving of our love.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful, Father, for Your love and mercy for us, no matter how sinful we are! Thank You for Your gift of grace!

4 October, Friday – Use smartphones and laptops for His glory!

Oct 4 – Memorial for St. Francis of Assisi

Francis Bernardone (1181–1226) was the son of Pietro Bernadone, a rich cloth merchant. Though he had a good education and became part of his father’s business, he also had a somewhat misspent youth. He was a street brawler and some-time soldier. He was captured during a conflict between Assisi and Perugia, and spent over a year as prisoner of war. During this time, he had a conversion experience, including a reported message from Christ calling him to leave this worldly life. Upon release, Francis began taking his religion seriously.

He took the Gospel as the rule of his life, Jesus Christ as his literal example. He dressed in rough clothes, begged for his sustenance, and preached purity and peace. His family disapproved, and his father disinherited him; Francis formally renounced his wealth and inheritance. He visited hospitals, served the sick, preached in the streets, and took all men and women as siblings.

He began to attract followers in 1209, and with papal blessing founded the Franciscans based on a simple statement by Jesus: “Leave all and follow me.” In 1212, Clare of Assisi became his spiritual student, which led to the founding of the Poor Clares. He visited and preached to the Saracens. He composed songs and hymns to God and nature. He lived with animals, worked with his hands, cared for lepers, cleaned churches, and sent food to thieves. In 1221 he resigned direction of the Franciscans.

While in meditation on La Verna (Mount Alvernia) in the Apennines in September 1224, Francis received the stigmata, which periodically bled during the remaining two years of his life. This miracle has a separate memorial on 17 September.

In the Middle Ages, people who were believed to be possessed by Beelzebub especially called upon the intercession of St. Francis, the theory being that he was the demon’s opposite number in heaven.

“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.” – St. Francis of Assisi

– Patron Saint Index

____________________

Baruch 1:15-22

Integrity belongs to the Lord our God; to us the look of shame we wear today, to us, the people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem, to our kings and princes, our priests, our prophets, as to our ancestors, because we have sinned in the sight of the Lord, have disobeyed him, and have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God telling us to follow the commandments which the Lord had ordained for us. From the day when the Lord brought our ancestors out of the land of Egypt until today we have been disobedient to the Lord our God, we have been disloyal, refusing to listen to his voice. And so the disasters, and the curse which the Lord pronounced through his servant Moses the day he brought our fathers out of Egypt to give us a land where milk and honey flow, have seized on us, disasters we experience today. Despite all the words of those prophets whom he sent us, we have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God, but, each following the dictates of his evil heart, we have taken to serving alien gods, and doing what is displeasing to the Lord our God.

___________________

Luke 10:13-16

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. And still, it will not go as hard with Tyre and Sidon at the Judgement as with you. And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted high as heaven? You shall be thrown down to hell.

‘Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me.’

____________________

We have been disobedient to the Lord our God, we have been disloyal, refusing to listen to his voice

When I read this line, the first thing that struck me was this thought — although we, the younger generation, are so used to spending a huge amount of time daily on our smartphones and laptops, how can we say that we are disobedient to God, and that we have been disloyal to Him? We still attend Mass on Sunday, and some of us visit the sacraments regularly. It is impossible for us to let go of our technological devices just so that we show our loyalty to God! Our family and friends will certainly laugh at us!

Then, I realized that it is not wrong for us to use our smartphones and laptops, if we want to communicate with our friends and family, if we have to use these devices for study. However, it would be wrong for us to idolize these devices, by spending time on our technological devices when we are supposed to spend time with God during Mass, or even by using our phones to the point of addiction. It would also be wrong if we use these devices to do sinful things, like cyber-bullying our classmates, watching pornography or downloading illegal content.

It is not our smartphones or laptops that cause us to stop listening to God. These technological devices are simply tools; it is our free will and choice to decide what we want to do with these devices. Do we use them to glorify God, for instance, by telling our friends to not bully a weaker classmate? Or perhaps by posting Catholic-related content on our social media platforms as a way to encourage fellow Catholics in their faith and invite non-Catholics to learn more about our faith? That’s certainly a great way of evangelization! Do we leverage these platforms as ways to reach out to the lost sheep in our community and treat our brothers and sisters with Christ-like love?

So, let’s start afresh today. Let us show loyalty to God and listen to His voice by using our smartphones and laptops to build up our brothers and sisters in Christ and glorify Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please help us to use our technological devices for Your glory, and to reach out to our brothers and sisters who are in need. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for allowing us to use technological devices to reach out to more of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and to glorify You in ways which we could not possibly have done without technology. Amen.