Category Archives: Memorials

25 April, Wednesday – Proclaiming Our Faith

25 Apr – Feast of St. Mark, evangelist

St. Mark is believed to be the young man who ran away when Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:51-52), and the “John whose other name was Mark” (Acts 12:25). He was a disciple of St. Peter who travelled with him to Rome, and was referred to as “my son Mark” by the first Pope. He was the author of the earliest canonical Gospel. He travelled with his cousin St. Barnabas, and with St. Paul through Cyprus. He evangelized in Alexandria, established the Church there, and founded the first famous Christian school.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Peter 5:5-14

All wrap yourselves in humility to be servants of each other, because God refuses the proud and will always favour the humble. Bow down, then, before the power of God now, and he will raise you up on the appointed day; unload all your worries on to him, since he is looking after you. Be calm but vigilant, because your enemy the devil is prowling round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to eat. Stand up to him, strong in faith and in the knowledge that your brothers all over the world are suffering the same things. You will have to suffer only for a little while: the God of all grace who called you to eternal glory in Christ will see that all is well again: he will confirm, strengthen and support you. His power lasts for ever and ever. Amen.

I write these few words to you through Silvanus, who is a brother I know I can trust, to encourage you never to let go this true grace of God to which I bear witness.

Your sister in Babylon, who is with you among the chosen, sends you greetings; so does my son, Mark.

Greet one another with a kiss of love.

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Mark 16:15-20

Jesus showed himself to the Eleven, and said to them: ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.’

And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven: there at the right hand of God he took his place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.

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“Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Gospel to all creation.”

Having a mentor and someone to pray for you regularly could affect you profoundly. The supporting scripture for us Catholics comes from James 5:16 which says, “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.”  This supports the Catholic practice of seeking the saints’ intercession.
As I was going through my reversion to the Catholic faith, I became very aware of having a patron saint, and mine just so happens to be Saint Mark. As God-incidence would have it, I’m writing this reflection today as a further testament of the power of being devoted to your patron saint.
Saint Mark the Evangelist wrote the Gospel of Mark, but they weren’t his words. He wasn’t a first hand witness of Jesus’ life and miracles, although most scholars tell us that he did become a follower at some point in Jesus’ public ministry. Some legends tell us that he was the naked man who ran away in the garden of Gethsamany after Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:51-52), perhaps referring to himself. Most importantly, Saint Mark was the scribe of Saint Peter, our first Pope. The Gospel according to Mark was Saint Peter’s narration of Jesus’ life and ministry.
So how did this patron Saint impact me? Maybe it started even before my reversion as I was always the happiest when I was writing compositions. After my reversion, the first ministry I joined was communications in my parish, where I was mostly involved with writing the parish bulletin and articles on faith. So here am now 8 years later, writing reflections on this blog. A lot of these writings are representations of other books, articles and websites I read too, much like Saint Mark, not a first-hand witness but re-presenter of a story with some personal anecdotes and musings.
So as Saint Mark has so profoundly impacted my life, I would encourage one and all to get to know the life of your own patron saints and, in your own way, go out into the whole world proclaiming the Gospel. It could be in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, writing, teaching, administration, cleaning or just being present to people. Let us come under someone’s patronage and get some heavenly help in whatever area we are called to.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl de Payva)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace of being able to discern the will of our patron Saint.

Thanksgiving:  We give thanks for all who have sacrificed so much for us in their own faith journeys.

24 April, Tuesday – Knowing God

24 Apr – Memorial for St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, priest & martyr

St. Fidelis Sigmaringen (1577-1622) was a lawyer and teacher of philosophy. Disgusted by the greed, corruption, and lack of interest in justice by his fellow lawyers, Mark Rey abandoned the law, became a priest and a Franciscan friar with his brother George. He changed his name to Fidelis and gave away his worldly wealth to poor people in general, and poor seminarians in particular. He served his friary as guardian, and worked in epidemics, especially healing soldiers. He led a group of Capuchins to preach to Calvinists and Zwinglians in Switzerland. The success of this work, and lack of violence suffered by mission was attributed to Fidelis spending his nights in prayer. He was, however, eventually martyred for his preaching.

“Woe to me if I should prove myself but a halfhearted soldier in the service of my thorn-crowned Captain.”

  • St. Fidelis

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Acts 11:19-26

Those who had escaped during the persecution that happened because of Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, but they usually proclaimed the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, who came from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch where they started preaching to the Greeks, proclaiming the Good News of the Lord Jesus to them as well. The Lord helped them, and a great number believed and were converted to the Lord.

The church in Jerusalem heard about this and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. There he could see for himself that God had given grace, and this pleased him, and he urged them all to remain faithful to the Lord with heartfelt devotion; for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith. And a large number of people were won over to the Lord.
Barnabas then left for Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. As things turned out they were to live together in that church a whole year, instructing a large number of people. It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians.’

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John 10:22-30

It was the time when the feast of Dedication was being celebrated in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the Temple walking up and down in the Portico of Solomon. The Jews gathered round him and said, ‘How much longer are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus replied:

‘I have told you, but you do not believe.
The works I do in my Father’s name are my witness;
but you do not believe,
because you are no sheep of mine.
The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice;
I know them and they follow me.
I give them eternal life;
they will never be lost
and no one will ever steal them from me.
The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone,
and no one can steal from the Father.
The Father and I are one.’

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I know them and they follow me

How do we know somebody? Is it through the various identification papers which he/she has or even the occupation in which they are engaged in? Such an approach is what the world adopts but it certainly is not what we are called to do. The readings of today remind us that God knows each one of us by name.

The faith we hold is a gift from God. This faith allows us to discover the breadth and depth of God’s love for us as seen in Jesus Christ dying for our sins. This is something which is easy for us to comprehend but we can appreciate the fact that God wants us to know Him as well as He knows us.

God the Holy Spirit is with us in our lives. He will show us the way in which we can know God and He will allow our actions and words to manifest themselves in a way which will be aligned with God’s plan. Being called Christian means we need to become Christlike. Patience, forgiveness and generosity are the fruits of being a Christian. Let us ask God to grant us the grace to share these gifts with the people around us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, grant us the ability to live a life in line with what your son has called us to do so

Thanksgiving:  We give thanks for all who show us what it means to be Christian.

23 April, Monday – Living life to the fullest

23 Apr – Memorial for St. George, martyr; Memorial for St. Adalbert, bishop & martyr

St. George (d. 304) was a soldier who was martyred for his faith. That’s all we know for sure.

Several stories have been attached to St. George, the best known of which is the “Golden Legend”. In it, a dragon lived in a lake near Silena, Libya. Whole armies had gone up against this fierce creature, and had gone down in painful defeat. The monster ate two sheep each day; when mutton was scarce, lots were drawn in local villages, and maidens were substituted for sheep. Into this country came St. George. Hearing the story on a day when a princess was to be eaten, he crossed himself, rode to battle against the serpent, and killed it with a single blow with his lance. George then held forth with a magnificent sermon, and converted the locals. Given a large reward by the king, George distributed it to the poor, then rode away.

Due to his chivalrous behaviour (protecting women, fighting evil, dependence on faith and might of arms, largesse to the poor), devotion to St. George became popular in Europe after the 10th century. In the 15th century, his feast day was as popular and important as Christmas. Many of his areas of patronage have to do with life as a knight on horseback. The celebrated “Knights of the Garter” are actually “Knights of the Order of St. George”. The shrine built for his relics at Lydda, Palestine, was a popular point of pilgrimage for centuries.

He is also one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

– Patron Saint Index

Adalbert (957–997) was born to the Bohemian nobility. He took the name of St. Adalbert of Magdeburg, the archbishop who healed, educated and converted him. He became Bishop of Prague (in the modern Czech Republic) on Feb 10, 982. He was a friend of Emperor Otto III.

Adalbert encouraged the evangelization of the Magyars, and worked on it with St. Astricus. He was opposed by the nobility in Prague and unpopular in the area, so he withdrew to Rome, Italy and became a Benedictine monk, making his vows on Apr 17, 990. But Pope John XV sent him back to Prague anyway.

He founded the monastery of Brevnov, met more opposition from the nobility and returned to Rome. There being no hope of his working in Prague, he was allowed to (unsuccessfully) evangelise in Pomerania, Poland, Prussia, Hungary and Russia. He and his fellow missionaries were martyred by Prussians near Koenigsberg or Danzig at the instigation of a pagan priest. Not long before his death, Adalbert met and was a great inspiration to St. Boniface of Querfurt.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 11:1-18

The apostles and the brothers in Judaea heard that the pagans too had accepted the word of God, and when Peter came up to Jerusalem the Jews criticised him and said, ‘So you have been visiting the uncircumcised and eating with them, have you?’ Peter in reply gave them the details point by point: ‘One day, when I was in the town of Jaffa,’ he began ‘I fell into a trance as I was praying and had a vision of something like a big sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners. This sheet reached the ground quite close to me. I watched it intently and saw all sorts of animals and wild beasts – everything possible that could walk, crawl or fly. Then I heard a voice that said to me, “Now, Peter; kill and eat!” But I answered: Certainly not, Lord; nothing profane or unclean has ever crossed my lips. And a second time the voice spoke from heaven, “What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane.” This was repeated three times, before the whole of it was drawn up to heaven again.

‘Just at that moment, three men stopped outside the house where we were staying; they had been sent from Caesarea to fetch me, and the Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going back with them. The six brothers here came with me as well, and we entered the man’s house. He told us he had seen an angel standing in his house who said, “Send to Jaffa and fetch Simon known as Peter; he has a message for you that will save you and your entire household.”

‘I had scarcely begun to speak when the Holy Spirit came down on them in the same way as it came on us at the beginning, and I remembered that the Lord had said, “John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” I realised then that God was giving them the identical thing he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ; and who was I to stand in God’s way?’

This account satisfied them, and they gave glory to God. ‘God’ they said ‘can evidently grant even the pagans the repentance that leads to life.’

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John 10:1-10

Jesus said:
‘I tell you most solemnly, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but gets in some other way is a thief and a brigand. The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. They never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognise the voice of strangers.’
Jesus told them this parable but they failed to understand what he meant by telling it to them.
So Jesus spoke to them again:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
I am the gate of the sheepfold.
All others who have come
are thieves and brigands;
but the sheep took no notice of them.
I am the gate.
Anyone who enters through me will be safe:
he will go freely in and out
and be sure of finding pasture.
The thief comes
only to steal and kill and destroy.
I have come
so that they may have life and have it to the full.’

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“I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.”

What does it mean to live life to the full? This question has been attempted to be answered by many philosophers, but I believe that Jesus shows us the way which allows us to find true happiness – one which is lasting and calming for the soul. This requires us to discern what God is calling us to do.

St Peter recounted his vision which God had granted him. This would have been contradictory to the prevailing thought at that point in time, as the Jews felt that Christianity should remain faithful to the norms and regulations of Judaism. St Peter was granted the grace to discern what was needed at that point in time and listened to the promptings of the Spirit. Through that action began a new chapter of the Church where the Gentiles were welcomed to the faith.

For each one of us, God has invited us to live life to the full. We will need to enter the gate — Jesus Christ — by obeying Him. Through  Scripture, spiritual direction and the many people He brings in our lives, we are able to obtain clarity on what it means to live a life in communion with God. However, we need to trust God’s plan and not aspire to take control of it. It is easier said than done but if we do so, God will make a way.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, heal the wounds within us and let us discover the plan you have for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who accept the challenge of living God’s way of life.

21 April, Saturday – The Bread Of Life

21 Apr – Memorial for St. Anselm, bishop & doctor

Anselm (1033-1109) was born of Italian nobility. After a childhood devoted to piety and study, he wanted to enter religious life, but his father prevented it, and Anselm became rather worldly for several years. Upon his mother’s death, Anselm argued with his father, fled to France, and became a Benedictine monk at Bec, Normandy. He studied under and succeeded Lanfranc as abbot, before later becoming Archbishop of Canterbury.

Anselm was a theological writer and counsellor to Pope Gregory VII, Pope Urban II, and William the Conqueror. He opposed slavery and obtained English legislation prohibiting the sale of men. He fought King William Rufus’ encroachment on ecclesiastical rights and the independences of the Church, and was exiled. He resolved theological doubts of the Italo-Greek bishops at the Council of Bari in 1098. He strongly supported celibate clergy. King Henry I invited him to return to England, but they disputed over investitures, and Anselm was again exiled in 1106.

He was one of the great philosophers and theologians of the Middle Ages, and was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1720 by Pope Clement XI.

No one will have any other desire in heaven than what God wills; and the desire of one will be the desire of all; and the desire of all and of each one will also be the desire of God.”

– Anselm, Opera Omnis, Letter 112

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 9:31-42

The churches throughout Judaea, Galilee and Samaria were now left in peace, building themselves up, living in the fear of the Lord, and filled with the consolation of the Holy Spirit.

Peter visited one place after another and eventually came to the saints living down in Lydda. There he found a man called Aeneas, a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years. Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ cures you: get up and fold up your sleeping mat.’ Aeneas got up immediately; everybody who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they were all converted to the Lord.

At Jaffa there was a woman disciple called Tabitha, or Dorcas in Greek, who never tired of doing good or giving in charity. But the time came when she got ill and died, and they washed her and laid her out in a room upstairs. Lydda is not far from Jaffa, so when the disciples heard that Peter was there, they sent two men with an urgent message for him, ‘Come and visit us as soon as possible.’

Peter went back with them straightaway, and on his arrival they took him to the upstairs room, where all the widows stood round him in tears, showing him tunics and other clothes Dorcas had made when she was with them. Peter sent them all out of the room and knelt down and prayed. Then he turned to the dead woman and said, ‘Tabitha, stand up.’ She opened her eyes, looked at Peter and sat up. Peter helped her to her feet, then he called in the saints and widows and showed them she was alive. The whole of Jaffa heard about it and many believed in the Lord.

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John 6:60-69

After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’ Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, ‘Does this upset you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?

‘It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer.

The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.

‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the outset those who did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. He went on, ‘This is why I told you that no one could come to me unless the Father allows him.’ After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.

Then Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’

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The words I have spoken to you are spirit

A couple of friends and I recently surveyed a number of Catholics on their reasons for attending mass. A range of responses were given, from spending time with the Lord, to worshipping with a community, and also accompanying family members to church.

Today’s gospel reading sees Jesus at the end of His famous bread of life discourse. The discourse comes after Jesus fed the five thousand and was seen to walk on water. Despite all the miraculous works they had witnessed or heard about, a large number of his followers left him after hearing Jesus’ response to their request for the bread that comes down from heaven. They could not accept his claim that he came from heaven, and worse, the invitation to eat his flesh and drink his blood. After they left, Jesus had the opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings about his eucharistic teaching to his remaining followers, but he did not do that. This absence of clarification is significant in its indication that Jesus truly meant for his flesh and blood to be consumed.

Brothers and sisters, the Church has sustained this doctrine of the real presence in the Eucharist for over two millennia. After receiving the body and blood of Christ during mass, the faithful are considered to be better formed to transform the world. It is not just about the quiet time with the Lord, or communion with other members of the church, but to go forth and fulfil our mission to radiate the life and peace of Christ to others.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can better live out our mission to bring Christ to the world.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the times when our inner transformation led others to know Christ.

13 April, Friday – The Faith Others Love To Hate

13 April – Memorial for St. Martin I, pope & martyr

Martin (d. 655) was chosen the 74th pope in 649 without imperial approval. He conducted the Lateran Council which condemned the Patriach of Constantinople for Monothelitism, which claimed that Christ had no human will. This put him in opposition to the emperor who had him arrested and tortured. Paul, Patriach of Constantinople, repented of his stance which saved Martin from execution, but the pope died soon after from damage received during his imprisonment, and is considered a martyr, the last martyred pope.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 5:34-42

One member of the Sanhedrin, a Pharisee called Gamaliel, who was a doctor of the Law and respected by the whole people, stood up and asked to have the apostles taken outside for a time. Then he addressed the Sanhedrin, ‘Men of Israel, be careful how you deal with these people. There was Theudas who became notorious not so long ago. He claimed to be someone important, and he even collected about four hundred followers; but when he was killed, all his followers scattered and that was the end of them. And then there was Judas the Galilean, at the time of the census, who attracted crowds of supporters; but he got killed too, and all his followers dispersed. What I suggest, therefore, is that you leave these men alone and let them go. If this enterprise, this movement of theirs, is of human origin it will break up of its own accord; but if it does in fact come from God you will not only be unable to destroy them, but you might find yourselves fighting against God.’

His advice was accepted; and they had the apostles called in, gave orders for them to be flogged, warned them not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them. And so they left the presence of the Sanhedrin glad to have had the honour of suffering humiliation for the sake of the name.

They preached every day both in the Temple and in private houses, and their proclamation of the Good News of Christ Jesus was never interrupted.

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John 6:1-15

Jesus went off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee – or of Tiberias – and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he gave by curing the sick. Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples. It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover.

Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?’ He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, ‘There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Make the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted. When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, ‘Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.’ So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves. The people, seeing this sign that he had given, said, ‘This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, escaped back to the hills by himself.

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You will not be able to destroy them

Take a moment and look back at violence around the world that involved the bombing of a church, kidnapping of priests, or any other acts that have hurt the Christian community. With each such instance, we always come back with a stronger belief that God is always there looking after us. Even till this day, there are some communities who are threatened by the Christian faith. No matter how much the Church has done for the needy through charities and schools, or even feeding the homeless, our faith is still under watch.

In today’s reading, the message from our Lord Jesus through His disciples was never interrupted. The mission of God in making Himself known to the world began since Christ rose from the dead, and has not stopped. Today, Christian communities in some regions may have dwindled with fewer members and are less active due to an ageing population. However, this is being more than compensated by the ranks of ever-growing young believers around the world. The annual World Youth Day brings young people together on a week’s retreat to renew their faith and to unite with the large Catholic community, bonding with fellow young Christians from other parts of the world.

Today’s Gospel reflects on the charity and generosity of Christ. That has always been the mission of the apostles given by Christ. Through acts of love, Christ preached God’s word and intentions to His children, and by believing in the works of the Lord, the community grew stronger; even inviting non-believers to experience the beautiful works from Him. Sadly, we seem to have become a community that some people love to hate. Despite the many good works that are going on in our faith, these are also threats to our fellow brothers and sisters. But we should never fear because just as God created us, the only one who is able to destroy His works is God himself.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We pray for all the communities and charities that are under threat. That they may be protected by authorities and not be target of violence.

Thanksgiving: Thank you our Lord Jesus Christ, who built and provided us with so much faith support over the years.

11 April, Wednesday – Easter’s Love Story

11 Apr – St Stanislaus, bishop and martyr 

Stanislaus of Szczepanów, or Stanis?aw Szczepanowski, was a Bishop of Kraków known chiefly for having been martyred by the Polish king Boles?aw II the Bold. Stanislaus is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church as Saint Stanislaus the Martyr.

  • Wikipedia
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Acts 5:17-26

The high priest intervened with all his supporters from the party of the Sadducees. Prompted by jealousy, they arrested the apostles and had them put in the common gaol.

But at night the angel of the Lord opened the prison gates and said as he led them out, ‘Go and stand in the Temple, and tell the people all about this new Life.’ They did as they were told; they went into the Temple at dawn and began to preach.

When the high priest arrived, he and his supporters convened the Sanhedrin – this was the full Senate of Israel – and sent to the gaol for them to be brought. But when the officials arrived at the prison they found they were not inside, so they went back and reported, ‘We found the gaol securely locked and the warders on duty at the gates, but when we unlocked the door we found no one inside.’ When the captain of the Temple and the chief priests heard this news they wondered what this could mean. Then a man arrived with fresh news. ‘At this very moment’ he said, ‘the men you imprisoned are in the Temple. They are standing there preaching to the people.’ The captain went with his men and fetched them. They were afraid to use force in case the people stoned them.
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John 3:16-21

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned;
but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,
because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.
On these grounds is sentence pronounced:
that though the light has come into the world
men have shown they prefer darkness to the light
because their deeds were evil.
And indeed, everybody who does wrong
hates the light and avoids it,
for fear his actions should be exposed;
but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light,
so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.’

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For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

John 3:16 for many of us, was the first verse we memorized as children. My grandmother was the one who taught it to me. A born-again Christian, she found God late in life and embraced her faith wholeheartedly. She would often sing hymns to us instead of lullabies. In fact, my first encounter with the Holy Bible was a beautiful illustrated version at my grandparents’ home. I was a practising Buddhist back then, so there was always something special about the Holy Bible because it was ‘forbidden fruit’ to me. The stories from the Old Testament, of heroism, of sacrifice and faith captured my imagination.

We all have a similar memory of that first encounter with God. I didn’t even know I was being called at the time. But on looking back, I can see how the dots connected forward. As I grew older, my relationship with God deepened despite myself. I say ‘despite’ because I never actively sought God out, yet He was constantly a part of my life. Like John Newton’s famous lyrics, “thru many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home”. I know that all I am, and all I have is because of the grace of God.

The apostles in today’s first reading never imagined that their lives would play out the way it did. That’s the thing about completely trusting God to direct your life – you never know what you’re going to get, or where you’re going to end up. “Whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God” (John 3: 21). When we commit to living in the light, we find ourselves instinctively giving up our old ways. We find contentment and peace in Him, even if we are in the midst of chaos. Our lives simplify, our priorities become clearer. It may take a year, it may take ten. He changes lives in His time. This Easter, let us remember the promise of John 3:16 offered up to all of us who believe. The great love story of Easter is captured in those simple lines – God’s love for us is so great that He opened up a path for us back to Him, despite ourselves. Embrace it and watch your life change!

(Today’s OXGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for those who have committed themselves to God. We pray they find peace and calm, even if they may be surrounded by chaos.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who work in apostolic vocations. We give thanks for their tireless efforts and courage at spreading His word. Thank you for the inspiration.

23 March, Friday – Sharing Jesus

23 Mar – Memorial for St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, bishop

St. Turibius (1538-1606) was born a noble and became a lawyer, and then a professor of law at Salamanca. He was ordained in 1578, and was a judge of the Court of the Inquisition at Granada. He was later appointed Archbishop of Lima, Peru on May 15, 1579. He founded the first seminary in the Western hemisphere, and fought for the rights of the natives against the Spanish masters. He also organized councils and synods in the New World.

Prayer to St. Turibius

Lord, through the apostolic work of St. Turibius and his unwavering love of truth, you helped your Church to grow. May your chosen people continue to grow in faith and holiness. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 20:10-13

Jeremiah said:

I hear so many disparaging me,
‘“Terror from every side!”
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’
All those who used to be my friends
watched for my downfall,
‘Perhaps he will be seduced into error.
Then we will master him
and take our revenge!’
But the Lord is at my side, a mighty hero;
my opponents will stumble, mastered,
confounded by their failure;
everlasting, unforgettable disgrace will be theirs.

But you, O Lord of Hosts, you who probe with justice,
who scrutinise the loins and heart,
let me see the vengeance you will take on them,
for I have committed my cause to you.
Sing to the Lord,
praise the Lord,
for he has delivered the soul of the needy
from the hands of evil men.

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John 10:31-42

The Jews fetched stones to stone him, so Jesus said to them, ‘I have done many good works for you to see, works from my Father; for which of these are you stoning me?’ The Jews answered him, ‘We are not stoning you for doing a good work but for blasphemy: you are only a man and you claim to be God.’ Jesus answered:

‘Is it not written in your Law:
I said, you are gods?
So the Law uses the word gods
of those to whom the word of God was addressed,
and scripture cannot be rejected.
Yet you say to someone the Father has consecrated and sent into the world,
“You are blaspheming,”
because he says, “I am the son of God.”
If I am not doing my Father’s work,
there is no need to believe me;
but if I am doing it,
then even if you refuse to believe in me,
at least believe in the work I do;
then you will know for sure
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’

They wanted to arrest him then, but he eluded them.

He went back again to the far side of the Jordan to stay in the district where John had once been baptising. Many people who came to him there said, ‘John gave no signs, but all he said about this man was true’; and many of them believed in him.

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John gave no signs, but all he said about this man was true.

I was having a conversation with a friend recently, and he told me that he would only convert to Catholicism if he could see a great sign. I thought that I’m just me, a mere mortal, and miracles are out of my capability. I asked myself if it was really the dead-end, if there was no chance of me being able to invite him to see what the Catholic Church had to offer.

Just the other day, another friend was telling me that she knew of a family who converted to Catholicism after a miraculous healing of their child. I knew it was a good story and I also knew that while every conversion is a miracle, not every conversion is made up of a spectacular miracle.

In today’s Gospel, John gave no signs. Instead, he did something very well – that is sharing about the Truth of Jesus so much so that when the people who heard him talk about Jesus saw Jesus, they knew he was the one John was talking about. So while I cannot perform a miracle, I know that my sharing of who Jesus really is will help people in their conversion.

Pope Francis wrote about the Joy of the Gospel. Some of us, at some points in our lives, live like the Gospel is a chain that binds us and makes Catholics unhappy. The reality is, the Gospel can really be demanding and we are not always happy to obey. This paints a very different reality because instead of a chain, the Gospel is a bitter pill that helps us live well. Our lack of joy in our lives does not make us good witnesses to the Gospel. It does not really tell the Truth of who Jesus is. I know that if I want to tell the Truth about Jesus, I should do it with a smile.

Let me end this reflection by sharing something another friend told me. She shared that one of her office colleagues wanted to join the RCIA. She was surprised because it seemed to come out of the blue. When she asked her colleague why she decided to do so, the colleague replied that she noticed that all the Catholics in their office seemed to be exuding joy and peace. They didn’t even do any preaching. They just smiled and stayed happy despite the office stress.

What does your life say about Jesus? What does it say about our Catholic Faith? When people around us finally find Jesus, will they say that we said what is true about him?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, I do not always know how to introduce you to other people except through how I live my life. Someone said that my life might be the only bible other people will read. Help me live my life in a way that introduces you to them well.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, for the many things in my life that make me smile. I know that while this joy is also for me, it is also to witness the love you have for everyone.

17 March, Saturday – Getting Over Betrayal

17 Mar – Memorial for St. Patrick, bishop

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

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

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

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

– Saint Patrick, from his breastplate

  • Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 11:18-20

The Lord revealed it to me; I was warned.

O Lord, that was when you opened my eyes to their scheming. I for my part was like a trustful lamb being led to the slaughter-house, not knowing the schemes they were plotting against me, ‘Let us destroy the tree in its strength, let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name may be quickly forgotten!’

But you, the Lord of Hosts, who pronounce a just sentence,
who probe the loins and heart,
let me see the vengeance you will take on them,
for I have committed my cause to you.

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John 7:40-52

Several people who had been listening to Jesus said, ‘Surely he must be the prophet’, and some said, ‘He is the Christ’, but others said, ‘Would the Christ be from Galilee? Does not scripture say that the Christ must be descended from David and come from the town of Bethlehem?’ So the people could not agree about him. Some would have liked to arrest him, but no one actually laid hands on him.

The police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees who said to them, ‘Why haven’t you brought him?’ The police replied, ‘There has never been anybody who has spoken like him.’ ‘So’ the Pharisees answered ‘you have been led astray as well? Have any of the authorities believed in him? Any of the Pharisees? This rabble knows nothing about the Law – they are damned.’ One of them, Nicodemus – the same man who had come to Jesus earlier – said to them, ‘But surely the Law does not allow us to pass judgement on a man without giving him a hearing and discovering what he is about?’ To this they answered, ‘Are you a Galilean too? Go into the matter, and see for yourself: prophets do not come out of Galilee.’

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…not knowing the schemes they were plotting against me…

As the ‘official’ spokesperson of our university, I sometimes find myself caught in situations where I have to manage two differing opinions or points of view in order to present a more balanced view or position to the media or the public. Thankfully, most times, the solution(s) end up being acceptable to all parties involved and we move on. However, I recently found myself in a situation which made me start to question my own abilities as a leader. Effectively, I was ‘betrayed’ by someone who I had thought I was helping over the past year.

In trying to help an underperforming senior staff understand his errors and coach him out of his rather ‘warped’ way of approaching work and leadership, I cited a lot of my own personal experiences and inevitably exposed myself a bit too much, especially when I got a bit passionate about his weaknesses and lack of certain qualities which I expected from a supposedly seasoned professional. To cut a long story short, HR is now involved as there has now been feedback about me to my boss.

I truly never expected such a slap in the face from someone I thought I was helping. How could I have been so naïve?! Especially having come across such situations when I was living in Dubai a decade ago. But lo and behold, it is when people are desperate and grasping at straws that they forget all about professional courtesy and decency. Whether they have been ill-advised or are acting out of sheer desperation, it brought to my mind some appreciation of how Jesus must have felt being betrayed by Judas and all of those who had a hand in his crucifixion. The best part is that Jesus knew exactly what He was getting himself into whereas we never do.

Brothers and sisters, we must never let such setbacks deter us from opening our hearts to others. Painful as it may be, the sting of betrayal can never be soothed by revenge. Instead, we must don the breastplate of faith and accept that as we journey with our wounded brothers and sisters, we must be prepared to face arrows, daggers, even bullets shot at us by those who may not be as ‘mature’ as we think.

Because if Jesus could forgive every one of us, who are we to condemn others who we deem ‘unworthy’? Can we, in good conscience, condemn those who hurt us? Or should we instead continue praying for them so that they may be redeemed?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, give us a heart that is filled with love, mercy and compassion for our brothers and sisters who are themselves wounded by pride and envy.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Jesus, for always showing us the depths of your love.

9 March, Friday – Walking The Talk

9 Mar – Memorial for St. Frances of Rome, religious

St. Frances (1384-1440) was an aristocrat by birth. She married at the age of 12, and her marriage lasted 40 years. She was a mother of three before becoming a widow. She joined the Benedictines, and was the foundress of the ‘Oblates of the Tor de’ Specchi’ (Collatines). She is said to have been guided by an archangel only she could see. She spent her life and fortune, both as a laywoman and a religious, in the service of the sick and the poor, including the founding of the first home in Rome for abandoned children. She dictated 97 ‘Visions’, in which she saw many of the pains of Hell.

On her feast day, priests bless cars due to her patronage of cars and drivers. Frances certainly never drove, but legend says that when she went abroad at night, her guardian angel went before her, lighting the road with a headlight-live lantern, keeping her safe in her travels.

Prayer to St. Frances

Dear Frances, you were an exemplary wife, ever faithful to your husband. After his death, you founded and governed the Congregation of Mount Olivet, revealing your great devotion to our Lord’s Passion. Your faith in Angels was rewarded by frequent visions of them. Please pray for Catholics in our day that they may be as dedicated to God as you were. Amen.

– Patron Saint Index

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Hosea 14:2-10
The Lord says this:
Israel, come back to the Lord your God;
your iniquity was the cause of your downfall.
Provide yourself with words
and come back to the Lord.
Say to him, ‘Take all iniquity away
so that we may have happiness again
and offer you our words of praise.
Assyria cannot save us,
we will not ride horses any more,
or say, “Our God!” to what our own hands have made,
for you are the one in whom orphans find compassion.’
– I will heal their disloyalty,
I will love them with all my heart,
for my anger has turned from them.
I will fall like dew on Israel.
He shall bloom like the lily,
and thrust out roots like the poplar,
his shoots will spread far;
he will have the beauty of the olive
and the fragrance of Lebanon.
They will come back to live in my shade;
they will grow corn that flourishes,
they will cultivate vines
as renowned as the wine of Helbon.
What has Ephraim to do with idols any more
when it is I who hear his prayer and care for him?
I am like a cypress ever green,
all your fruitfulness comes from me.
Let the wise man understand these words.
Let the intelligent man grasp their meaning.
For the ways of the Lord are straight,
and virtuous men walk in them,
but sinners stumble.
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Mark 12:28-34
One of the scribes came up to Jesus and put a question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to him, ‘Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true: that he is one and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.’ Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken, said, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that no one dared to question him any more.
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“You must love your neighbour as yourself”

I grew up in a 3-room HDB flat, living with my grandaunt and her son, my uncle. We had no real consistent means of income and my grandaunt made her money by being a babysitter, looking after about five children at any one time.

Despite the fact that we were rather poor, we had wonderfully generous neighbours. I remember them bringing food over to share with us on an almost daily basis. Another laundered and ironed our clothes daily. Yet another came over to spend time with my grandaunt, spending time with her and listening to her share her daily woes.

During the 30-plus years I spent there, I felt the love that our neighbours had for us and knew that whatever the circumstances we had to face, we had their support. In fact, whenever we had any financial difficulty, the neighbours readily loaned us money.

In today’s Gospel, our Lord Jesus talks about the two greatest commandments; to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.

The bible has many examples about how we should be interacting and helping our neighbours. These passages all talk about how our behaviour should reflect our faith, and that this faith should not be theoretical.

Such an example were my former neighbours. They never needed to tell us they cared, or even what they thought about us. All they did was to show us, every day. Even though they were all not Christians, they demonstrated what it was like to show Christian love.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, we pray that we will learn what it means to love God; by loving our neighbours. Help us to resist the temptation to keep our faith in our minds, and to live it everyday.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for showing us how to manifest our faith and love in You. Thank You for helping us know the way to heaven.

7 March, Wednesday – The Truth In Scripture

7 Mar – Memorial for Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, martyrs

Perpetua (d. 203) was a lay woman born to a noble pagan family. She was a convert, a wife and a mother. She was martyred with her maid, friend, and fellow convert Felicitas. In centuries past, their story was so popular that St. Augustine of Hippo warned against giving it the weight of scripture.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Deuteronomy 4:1,5-9

Moses said to the people:

‘Now, Israel, take notice of the laws and customs that I teach you today, and observe them, that you may have life and may enter and take possession of the land that the Lord the God of your fathers is giving you.

‘See, as the Lord my God has commanded me, I teach you the laws and customs that you are to observe in the land you are to enter and make your own. Keep them, observe them, and they will demonstrate to the peoples your wisdom and understanding. When they come to know of all these laws they will exclaim, “No other people is as wise and prudent as this great nation.” And indeed, what great nation is there that has its gods so near as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call to him? And what great nation is there that has laws and customs to match this whole Law that I put before you today?

‘But take care what you do and be on your guard. Do not forget the things your eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your heart all the days of your life; rather, tell them to your children and to your children’s children.’

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Matthew 5:17-19

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

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“…the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven”

I was not born into the Catholic faith. One of the things I learned when I started attending the Church was the concept of abstinence on Fridays. At first, I was troubled to learn that I could not eat meat, but was totally elated that I could eat fish! I began to seek out tasty recipes to cook fish so I could ‘abstain’ enjoyably!

It was later that I learned that the rationale behind eating fish was that it was seen as a poor quality meat in the West, unlike the fresh fish we have here in Singapore. Over time, I understood that abstinence is an important part of repentance and helps us in our efforts to turn away from sin and to reconnect with God.

As Christians, we need to understand what God’s laws for us mean and have to be careful that we do not undermine the essence of what these laws mean. I began to understand what this meant when I trained as an accountant.

One of the tenets I learned was the importance of ‘substance over form’.

In interpreting any accountancy principle, one had to look at the substance of what that principle was meant to cover, rather than just the wording. I have seen many instances where many fail to understand the underlying meaning and still end up violating the principle in its essence.

In my journey of faith, I learned many ‘do’s and don’ts’ in the Old Testament. Often, I found these challenging (and numerous!). As a new Christian previously attending a Protestant church, I spent much time mulling and debating over what I was supposed, and not supposed, to do.

In the New Testament, however, I found my answer. It is the ‘substance’ of my faith and drives my understanding of the Old Testament. The two greatest commandments our Lord Jesus taught us completes my grasp of my faith.

Now, when I look at the circumstances I face in my life, I ask myself if I am loving my God with all my heart, with all my soul and with all my mind. Next, I ask myself if I have loved my neighbour as myself.

Let us pray that we may continue to always turn to these 2 basic principles in trying to grow in our faith.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, we pray that we may always be ‘plugged in’ to Your promptings. Help us to always head towards You.

Thanksgiving: We praise and thank You, Father, for teaching us what is it You want us to be and to learn.