Category Archives: Ordinary Time

20 September, Thursday – Proclamation by Action

20 September – Memorial for St. Andrew Kim Taegon and Companions, Korean Martyrs; Memorial for Sts. Laurent Imbert, Bishop Jacques Chastan, Priest (Martyrs of College General, Penang, Malaysia)

There are 103 martyrs in this group, consisting of priests, missionaries and lay people who died in the early days of the Church in Korea. Most were murdered during waves of persecutions in 1839, 1846 and 1867.

Andrew Kim Taegon’s father was a martyr. Andrew was baptised at age 15, then travelled 1,300 miles to the nearest seminary in Macao. He was Korea’s first native priest, and the first priest to die for the faith in Korea.

Laurent Imbert was a missionary to China. He taught at the College General, Penang from 1821 to 1822. He was named Vicar Apostolic of Korea on 26 April 1836. He and St. Jacques (or Jacob) were arrested for the crime of evangelisation, and then tortured and martyred.

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you – believing anything else will not lead to anything.

Well then, in the first place, I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared first to Cephas and secondly to the Twelve. Next he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died; then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles; and last of all he appeared to me too; it was as though I was born when no one expected it.

I am the least of the apostles; in fact, since I persecuted the Church of God, I hardly deserve the name apostle; but by God’s grace that is what I am, and the grace that he gave me has not been fruitless. On the contrary, I, or rather the grace of God that is with me, have worked harder than any of the others; but what matters is that I preach what they preach, and this is what you all believed.

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Luke 7:36-50

One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to a meal. When he arrived at the Pharisee’s house and took his place at table, a woman came in, who had a bad name in the town. She had heard he was dining with the Pharisee and had brought with her an alabaster jar of ointment. She waited behind him at his feet, weeping, and her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them away with her hair; then she covered his feet with kisses and anointed them with the ointment.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who this woman is that is touching him and what a bad name she has.’ Then Jesus took him up and said, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Speak, Master’ was the reply. ‘There was once a creditor who had two men in his debt; one owed him five hundred denarii, the other fifty. They were unable to pay, so he pardoned them both. Which of them will love him more?’ ‘The one who was pardoned more, I suppose’ answered Simon. Jesus said, ‘You are right.’

Then he turned to the woman. ‘Simon,’ he said ‘you see this woman? I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. For this reason I tell you that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love. It is the man who is forgiven little who shows little love.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Those who were with him at table began to say to themselves, ‘Who is this man, that he even forgives sins?’ But he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’

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“ I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

In today’s Gospel, we read of the sinful woman being forgiven by Christ. A tendency we would usually have is to focus on the imperfections, mistakes, unworthiness and weaknesses of another. We judge many for their lack of virtues, based on our own perceptions.

Today, we have an insight of how Christ’s sees. Not with the same judgment, but truly, with love. Jesus doesn’t just see and take offense in the many sins the woman has committed, but focuses on her contrite and repentant heart. Mistakes we will always made, but it’s truly in the realising, the awareness and in the seeking reconciliation that we can then move forward.

It is this proclamation that the readings speak of. It is more than a proclamation by mouth, but really, through action. An act with love, to love. We see in the Gospel of the sinful woman washing Jesus’ feet with ointment, kissing and weeping over them. And also in the first reading, where it speaks of Christ’s death and resurrection and His appearances. These are actions that proclaim love.

St Paul, in the first reading, also writes of a special gift — Grace. “For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain.” Because of original sin, there was really nothing we could do, that could ‘qualify’ us for the kingdom. It is this grace, this salvation, this victory that Christ has won for us through His death, that has given us the opportunity to be reunited with Him and the Father.

There is nothing we can do that can earn our place, nothing we can do to ‘repay’ our Father. And it is precisely this that we are not called to focus on ‘giving back’ but really just giving, just loving for eternity is already ours, and we are called to live this kingdom life here on earth. My friends, eternity is now, this life, this faith is real; His love and forgiveness is real. Let us not wait till we are ready, but let’s make an effort to be ready now, let us proclaim this faith by action, by our life. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the grace to see as you see. That we can focus on the actions of the present and not the past. That we see the heart.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for showing us the way. For your wisdom, for teaching us through your life as an example. Thank you for this grace that all of us are so undeserving of, thank you for this gift. Thank you for your love. Amen.

19 September, Wednesday – The Gift of Love

19 September – Memorial for St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr

Januarius (d. 305) was arrested on account of his profession of the Christian religion during persecution of Christians. He was cast into the fiery furnace, through which he passed wholly unharmed. On the following day, along with a number of fellow martyrs, he was exposed to the fury of wild beasts, which laid themselves down in tame submission at his feet.

Timotheus, the governor who pronounced the sentence of death upon Januarius, was struck with blindness but was immediately healed by the powerful intercession of the saint, a miracle which converted nearly five thousand men on the spot. The ungrateful judge, only roused to further fury by these occurrences, caused the execution of Januarius by the sword to be forthwith carried out. The body was ultimately removed by the inhabitants of Naples to that city, where the relic became very famous for its miracles.

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13

Be ambitious for the higher gifts. And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them.

If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.

Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.

Love does not come to an end. But if there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail; or the gift of languages, it will not continue for ever; and knowledge – for this, too, the time will come when it must fail. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect; but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will disappear. When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and think like a child, and argue like a child, but now I am a man, all childish ways are put behind me. Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known.

In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.

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Luke 7:31-35

Jesus said to the people: ‘What description can I find for the men of this generation? What are they like? They are like children shouting to one another while they sit in the market-place:

‘“We played the pipes for you,
and you wouldn’t dance;
we sang dirges,
and you wouldn’t cry.”

‘For John the Baptist comes, not eating bread, not drinking wine, and you say, “He is possessed.” The Son of Man comes, eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Yet Wisdom has been proved right by all her children.’

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“…and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

The word that comes to mind after reading the readings for the day is — ‘Transactional’. In a world that inducts one from birth into a reward system, it sees us distorting the meaning and definition of love. Such that our faith today seems more like one that can be exploited and abused to fulfil our immediate desires such as financial needs, political power; basically everything else that we can’t obtain from the ‘outside world’.

One makes use of the hospitality, compassion and sometimes even scripture to get what they want. To take advantage of one’s ‘loving’ nature to satisfy one’s selfish desires and pleasures.

Indeed, our faith without love is truly nothing. We see that among the many who attend daily masses, those who are active in various ministries and especially those who hold leadership positions in the church; many fail to be a witness and an example that would lead others to Christ. And, in the whole spirit of welcoming and accepting one as he/she is, we allow them to continue their ways at the expense of so many other lives and souls.

This is the church. So broken and imperfect. I’m not sure if I led a decent life outside, I would still be actively involved. Sometimes, politics is more evident than in the corporate workplaces; what’s worse is that everyone else is a volunteer. Yes, this is our church, this is my church. For it is even in this ‘pathetic’ state that Christ still chooses us and adopts us as His children, to guarantee us a place in His kingdom, even as we continue to choose sin over love. He still gives Himself to us through the sacraments and the Eucharist week after week, in spite of how unworthy and unprepared or even, when we simply just make it a routine.

My friends, this is love. This is the gift of love. The definition of love. A gift of oneself completely for the good of the other. A love that is unconditional, definitely not transactional for it can’t be measured, can only be given.

Many times we also look to take, look to receive. May we always fix our gaze on you, for what you took is the weight of our sin on the cross, the crucifixion and death, and still you wait to receive us with open arms. Help us learn to make a gift of ourselves, a gift of love. Let our love be a testimony of our faith and our faith in You translate to loving all we meet. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for a renewal, a revival, a re-evangelising of hearts. That in a world filled with distractions, we are able to see you and your working in our lives. That our faith is more than a knowing, it is a call to love. Not to love as the world loves but to love as You love. I love you Lord.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for your love and your life. Thank you for showing us what it means to make a gift of one’s self. Thank you for the church, for still making the church Your bride.

18 September, Tuesday – Life in Sorrow

18 September

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1 Corinthians 12:12-14.27-31

Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.

Nor is the body to be identified with any one of its many parts. Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it. In the Church, God has given the first place to apostles, the second to prophets, the third to teachers; after them, miracles, and after them the gift of healing; helpers, good leaders, those with many languages. Are all of them apostles, or all of them prophets, or all of them teachers? Do they all have the gift of miracles, or all have the gift of healing? Do all speak strange languages, and all interpret them? Be ambitious for the higher gifts.

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Luke 7:11-17

Jesus went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people. When he was near the gate of the town it happened that a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her. When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her. ‘Do not cry’ he said. Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you to get up.’ And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Everyone was filled with awe and praised God saying, ‘A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.’ And this opinion of him spread throughout Judaea and all over the countryside.

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‘Do not cry’ 

Have you ever felt as if you were carrying the weight of the whole world? I guess everyone has experienced some sort of trials in life. Challenging experiences that felt as if we have been crushed to the ground. For those who have, I admire you for getting through them. For those who have not, I pray that you will never experience such trauma.

The Gospel for today is about a widow who lost her only son. Imagine the grief she experienced. The thought of being along in life can really be sorrowful. I may describe the woman as an ‘unfortunate one’ just as if she carries with her all the major misfortunes in life. I can imagine how that woman has little desire to live.

When Jesus saw her, He said, “Do not cry.” And then he touched the coffin and told the son to get up.  The man rose and Jesus gave him to his mother. Imagine the joy of a mother who sees her son alive.  This miracle clearly states that nothing is impossible to God — not even death. Not only that, the Gospel today shows the mercy of Jesus as well as His love and honour to mothers.

Jesus’ compassion is so overwhelming that nothing compares to it. We should imitate Jesus and be compassionate to others as well. A small act of saying “How are you?” to someone we know who is having a hard time can make a big difference. Not only that, Jesus gives us a concrete example on how to treat mothers. They deserve our respect. Each of us has our own mothers, and we should know how to make them happy.

Life is never easy in itself. But God gives us challenges that we can bear. Some can be harder than the others. As I reflect on my past difficulties, I discern that I was able to overcome those trials through Jesus Christ. Yes, we have free will to make decisions. But through prayer, the Holy Spirit is upon us. To guide and enlighten us on what to do. Some problems are small, while others are big. But we must remember that God is always bigger than our problems.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Dear God, may we always remember that you will never leave us. Grant us the strength to endure and surpass all the hardships that we will face.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for being always with us. We thank you for the faith to help us carry on with our life.

17 September, Monday – Faith Like No Other

17 September – Memorial for St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor

Robert (1542-1621) wrote the most complete work of his day to defend Catholicism against Protestant attack. He also wrote a children’s catechism and a catechism for teachers. As cardinal-priest, he gave most of his money to the poor. At one point he used the tapestries in his living quarters to clothe the poor, saying that “the walls won’t catch cold”.

He was involved in settling various disputes including that of King James I and the Vatican in 1607 and 1609 concerning control of the Church in England, action against Galileo Galilei with whom he established a friendly correspondence, but was forced to deliver the order for the scientist to submit to the Church, and issues concerning clerical discipline and Vatican authority. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 17 September 1931.

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 11:17-26.33

On the subject of instructions, I cannot say that you have done well in holding meetings that do you more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you all come together as a community, there are separate factions among you, and I half believe it – since there must no doubt be separate groups among you, to distinguish those who are to be trusted. The point is, when you hold these meetings, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you are eating, since when the time comes to eat, everyone is in such a hurry to start his own supper that one person goes hungry while another is getting drunk. Surely you have homes for eating and drinking in? Surely you have enough respect for the community of God not to make poor people embarrassed? What am I to say to you? Congratulate you? I cannot congratulate you on this.

For this is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.’ In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.’ Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death, So to sum up, my dear brothers, when you meet for the Meal, wait for one another.

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Luke 7:1-10

When Jesus had come to the end of all he wanted the people to hear, he went into Capernaum. A centurion there had a servant, a favourite of his, who was sick and near death. Having heard about Jesus he sent some Jewish elders to him to ask him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus they pleaded earnestly with him. ‘He deserves this of you’ they said ‘because he is friendly towards our people; in fact, he is the one who built the synagogue.’ So Jesus went with them, and was not very far from the house when the centurion sent word to him by some friends: ‘Sir,’ he said ‘do not put yourself to trouble; because I am not worthy to have you under my roof; and for this same reason I did not presume to come to you myself; but give the word and let my servant be cured. For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.’ When Jesus heard these words he was astonished at him and, turning round, said to the crowd following him, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found faith like this.’ And when the messengers got back to the house they found the servant in perfect health.

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I am not worthy to have you under my roof 

During the part of the mass that is the ‘Invitation to Communion’, we respond, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  Do we recite it because we have been so used to it? Or are we really saying it prayerfully? Do we really feel unworthy to partake of the Body of Christ?

The Gospel today tells us about a centurion, an important Roman army official. He had many servants who obeyed all his commands. It just so happened that this centurion had a favourite servant. This servant was very ill and on the verge of death. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some Jewish elders to ask Him to come and heal his servant. This demonstrated that the centurion believed that his servant could be healed through Jesus Christ.

When Jesus was near the house, the centurion sent his friends to tell Jesus, “‘Sir, do not put yourself to trouble; because I am not worthy to have you under my roof; and for this same reason I did not presume to come to you myself; but give the word and let my servant be cured…”  These statements showed the humility of the centurion as he entrusted the healing of his servant to Jesus. And indeed that servant became well.

We pray to God for a lot of things — wealth, health, relationships, and many more. How do we feel whenever we ask God for those things? Do we feel deserving to be granted by our Lord? What happens if we received what we have been praying for? I assume that we are indeed happy and very much grateful to our Lord. But what if we do not receive what we want? What happens to our faith? Some may falter.  But I think the ‘No’ answer should strengthen our faith. For me, it is like God saying to me, “Why would I give it to you when you do not even believe in me in the first place?”

If we are in need of something, pray for it, and believe that God will grant it.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please grant us the grace of humility and faith similar to the centurion. And may we always accept and fulfil Your will.

Thanksgiving: Father God, unworthy as we are, we thank You for Your love and mercy.

16 September, Sunday – Deeper Way

16 September 2018

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Isaiah 50:5-9

The Lord has opened my ear.

For my part, I made no resistance,
neither did I turn away.
I offered my back to those who struck me,
my cheeks to those who tore at my beard,
I did not cover my face
against insult and spittle.

The Lord comes to my help,
so that I am untouched by the insults.
So, too, I set my face like flint;
I know I shall not be shamed.

My vindicator is hear at hand. Does anyone start proceedings against me?
Then let us go to court together.
Who thinks he has a case against me?
Let him approach me.
The Lord is coming to my help,
who dare condemn me?

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James 2:14-18

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

This is the way to talk to people of that kind: “You say you have faith and I have good deeds; I will prove to you that I have faith by showing you my good deeds – now you prove to me that you have faith without any good deeds to show.”

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Mark 8:27-35

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

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

He called the people and his disciples to him and said, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

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“Who do people say I am?” 

Imagine the scenario of our first encounter. We do not know each other yet since it is our first meeting. If I were to ask you “Who are you?”, you would probably have an immediate answer. It could be a general description of yourself, your job, or could be anything that you are not ashamed of. You already have this memorized narration that will give a good first impression.

How about if we were asked by Jesus, “Who do you say I am?”  What would our answer be? At the back of my mind, I know he was born more than 2000 years ago. He was from Nazareth. His mother was Mary and his father was Joseph, a carpenter. He had so many followers and performed many miracles. Yet, he was sentenced to death at the age of 33. We have known this much about Christ. And yet, there should be more to it; because it is not as simple as “Who is Jesus Christ?” but rather, who is Jesus Christ to us?

In the Gospel, Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Christ.”  This signifies that Peter is clearly stating that he knew Jesus as the Saviour that they had been waiting for. After Jesus told them not to tell anyone about Him, He also told them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again.  All that being said, Peter disagreed with Jesus. I feel that what Peter was saying was that it is impossible to happen.

Sometimes in life, we are so fixated on the glamorous side of things. Peter, similarly, was only focused on Jesus as the Messiah, neglecting the course of action to becoming one. Jesus is our Saviour and we must always remember that He died for the sake of us.  It is not enough that we only knew about it. We have to seek a deeper, personal encounter with Him. We have to find ways to respond to Jesus. Then we ask, “But how?” It will never be easy. Jesus said so Himself, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  The statement itself for me is very hard to bear. Imagine taking up my cross. That means I must carry all my burdens and hardships in life. And with all of those, I have to do the will of God. But as hard as it is, we have to remember that God is always with us. God gives us trials that we can overcome. It is by the grace of God that we can surpass all our difficulties.

The most important thing that we have to remember is to pray. We all have these memorized prayers.  Yes, it is okay to pray those. But let us pray from our hearts and not from our memory. Let us pray as if those words are our own and we say those to our God. Let us pray that we will be able to know God’s will, accept it, and fulfil it.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, please grant us the grace to know You more and to do Your will.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for giving us Your son, Jesus Christ to save us from our sins.

15 September, Saturday – Memorial of Our Lady Of Sorrows

15 September – Memorial for Our Lady of Sorrows

Different sorrows of Mary have been honoured in the Church’s history, but since the 14th century these seven have come to be regarded as the seven ‘dolors’ (sorrows) of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

  1. The Prophecy of Simeon
  2. The Flight into Egypt
  3. The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days
  4. Meeting Jesus on the Way to Calvary
  5. The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus
  6. Jesus Taken Down from the Cross
  7. Jesus Laid in the Tomb

By commemorating Our Lady of Sorrows, we call to mind the sufferings that Mary endured as part of her vocation as the Mother of the Redeemer. No one is closer to Christ than Mary, consequently no one has participated more intimately in the redemptive suffering of Christ than His Mother Mary.

– http://www.catholic.net/RCC/Periodicals/Faith/1998-03-04/sorrows.html

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1 Corinthians 10:14-22

My dear brothers, you must keep clear of idolatry. I say to you as sensible people: judge for yourselves what I am saying. The blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ. The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in this one loaf. Look at the other Israel, the race, where those who eat the sacrifices are in communion with the altar. Does this mean that the food sacrificed to idols has a real value, or that the idol itself is real? Not at all. It simply means that the sacrifices that they offer they sacrifice to demons who are not God. I have no desire to see you in communion with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot take your share at the table of the Lord and at the table of demons. Do we want to make the Lord angry; are we stronger than he is?

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Luke 2:33-35

As the child’s father and mother stood there wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’

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“… and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” 

In the Stabat Mater,a grieving Virgin Mary stands on the right of the crucified Christ, heartbroken but unflinching. The opening lines of the hymn – “At the cross her station keeping, stood the mournful Mother weeping, close to Jesus to the last” – are of her fidelity to Christ in his darkest hour. It’s a fitting symbol for us as the Catholic Church reels from the latest revelations of sexual abuse and cover-ups. Our news cycle is relentless, the details almost too gruesome to bear.If you have been paying attention, your first response would have been of revulsion and horror. How could this have happened in our house, on our watch? Did we not see? Were we wilfully blind, too trusting, too much like sheep? More importantly, now that it has come to light, what are we, the laity, going to do about it?

We are on a long and painful road,but one that is necessary if God’s house is to be purified and this rotrouted from our midst. It isn’t enough for us to say, “What happened is a human sin, it has nothing to do with me or why I go to church”. A refusal to inform one’s self is as bad as looking the other way while it is happening. That is removing yourself from the seriousness of the matter. “Because… we though many, are one Body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (1 Cor 10: 17). What happens to one of us, happens to ALL of us. What has happened here in America, affects all of us as Catholics around the world. All of our testimonies, all our evangelical efforts, all our hard work witnessing – ALL that has been compromised because the credibility of God’s house has been compromised. So this is everybody’s fight, not just that of Catholics in America.What’s at stake is the continuity of this place we all call home, our Church, where we have all grown up spiritually, where we go for confession, for communion, for baptism, for worship.

For us the laity, our beacon is Christ and Our Lady. It’s easy to be angry, to let the hurt overcome us and fall away. I am certainly guilty of it. I’ve been angry and broken for what feels like weeks now. In this state of despair, I’ve gone back to the one thing I know is unassailable – the Word of God. Our hurt and anger should not be the end-all of our response. See the quiet courage with which Our Lady gazed upon the devastation before her, the unwavering focus she had for Christ. It’s fitting that this is the symbol the Holy Spirit has chosen for us now, because unflinching focus on Christ is what will save us during this chaotic time. God help us all.

“O sweet Mother! font of love,

Touch my spirit from above,

Make my hear with yours accord.

Make me feel as you have felt;

Make my soul to glow and melt

With the love of Christ, my Lord” – Stabat Mater

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the courage to gaze unflinchingly, to walk unwaveringly, this difficult road ahead. We pray for the prophets and judges that God will raise up in this time of purification, that He guides their hands and strengthens their hearts.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, our divine guiding light when all things are dark and dim around us.

14 September, Friday – Feast Of The Exaltation Of The Holy Cross

13 September – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

The feast was celebrated in Rome before the end of the 7th century. Its purpose is to commemorate the recovering of that portion of the Holy Cross which was preserved at Jerusalem, and which had fallen into the hands of the Persians. Emperor Heraclius recovered this precious relic and brought it back to Jerusalem on 3 May 629.

– Patron Saints Index

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Numbers 21:4-9

On the way through the wilderness the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’

At this God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. The people came and said to Moses, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede for us with the Lord to save us from these serpents.’ Moses interceded for the people, and the Lord answered him, ‘Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.’ So Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard, and if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived.

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Philippians 2:6-11

Jesus Christ’s state was divine,
yet he did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

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John 3:13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who came down from heaven,
the Son of Man who is in heaven;
and the Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
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.’

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“So must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” 

My 2.5yr old nephew believes he can see Jesus Christ. He describes with some detail, the figure of Christ, surrounded by a holy fire, and wonders why we can’t see him. He says he can see his deceased grandfather too, surrounded by the same holy fire. He says all this matter-of-factly, as if it’s the most natural thing. Is this what Christ means when he says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt 19:14)? We don’t quite know what to make of all this, so we have just let him be, instead of trying to talk him down from it. Faith is a beautiful thing, and that he has learnt it at such a young age is a blessing.

Child-like faith does not get caught up with the difficult questions of adulthood. It does not fret about the small details or question the boundaries of reality and imagination. Child-like faith accepts the risen state of Christ without tripping up on the mystery of the Eucharist. Believe and it will be! This was essentially what Moses asked the Hebrews to do – believe and you will be saved! You will be cured! You will be liberated! As an adult, one of the biggest stumbling blocks to being confirmed a Catholic is the Eucharist. To submit to the mystery of the cross goes against our fact-based instincts. We may, at one time, have had the child-like faith of my 2.5yr old nephew but, we grew up, life got in the way, and now we suffer from that adult affliction – scepticism. Can we reclaim that innocence? Yes, if we believe that Christ died for our sins, “so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” If we embrace him into our lives, He can heal us from our cynicism, he can restore us. But to do that requires humility and the willingness to accept, like a child does, that some things are simply a mystery. The risen Christ is a mystery – and that’s ok. We don’t have to have all the answers. It is ok not to know.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all those struggling with their faith. In these chaotic times, hold on tight to one another in prayer and meditate on the Word of God. May the Holy Spirit guide you to the conclusion you are seeking.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who labour in God’s name. They are an inspiration to those of us who are seeking purposeful vocations.

13 September, Thursday – Marie Kondo And Forgiveness

13 September – Memorial for St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor

John’s (347-407) father died when he was young and he was raised by a very pious mother. It was for his sermons that John earned the title “Chrysostom” (golden-mouthed). They were always on point, they explained the scriptures with clarity, and they sometimes went on for hours.

As bishop, he criticised the rich for not sharing their wealth, fought to reform the clergy, prevented the sale of ecclesiastical offices, called for fidelity in marriage, and encouraged practices of justice and charity. St. John’s sermons caused nobles and bishops to work to remove him from his diocese; and he was twice exiled from his diocese. He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 451.

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 8:1-7,11-13

Now about food sacrificed to idols. ‘We all have knowledge’; yes, that is so, but knowledge gives self-importance – it is love that makes the building grow. A man may imagine he understands something, but still not understand anything in the way that he ought to. But any man who loves God is known by him. Well then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: we know that idols do not really exist in the world and that there is no god but the One. And even if there were things called gods, either in the sky or on earth – where there certainly seem to be ‘gods’ and ‘lords’ in plenty – still for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things come and for whom we exist; and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things come and through whom we exist.

Some people, however, do not have this knowledge. There are some who have been so long used to idols that they eat this food as though it really had been sacrificed to the idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled by it. In this way your knowledge could become the ruin of someone weak, of a brother for whom Christ died. By sinning in this way against your brothers, and injuring their weak consciences, it would be Christ against whom you sinned. That is why, since food can be the occasion of my brother’s downfall, I shall never eat meat again in case I am the cause of a brother’s downfall.

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Luke 6:27-38

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I say this to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly. To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you. Treat others as you would like them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect? For even sinners do that much. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount. Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return. You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.’

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“… forgive and you will be forgiven”

Fall always makes me a little melancholic. Yes, it’s my favourite season of the year; I mean, I love the family gatherings, the start of football season, the smell of pumpkin spice latte at the coffee shops. But there’s also a kind of sadness to it. You see, Fall is when I ‘KonMari’ out my house. The closets are cleaned out, the pantry is stripped down, drawers are emptied, half-used bottles of nonsense thrown out. Any object that does not ‘spark joy’ (as per Ms Marie Kondo) is put in a pile to be disposed or repurposed. It’s a cathartic experience. The fact that I have moved homes three times in the last 5 years means I don’t actually have a lot of stuff. I’d like to think that everything I have held on to has significance. If you don’t stay on top of it though, ‘stuff’ builds up like you wouldn’t believe it! A truly clutter-free home requires near religious fervour! Yes, it’s physically exhausting, but it is also very liberating. I remember feeling euphoric the moment I realized that I could get by with relatively little. There’s been no turning back since!

Knowing all this about myself then, it’s a little ironic that I don’t apply Marie Kondo’s principles of housekeeping to my own heart. Why am I still carrying around the hurts and slights from high school?! So what if people used to make fun of my weight/looks/economic status, etc? Wasn’t all of that ancient history? Why was all this angst still hanging around? So what if there were double standards in my childhood home, or my workplace? So what if I didn’t get that promotion? Does it really matter anymore? So what if my ex was a loser who checked out of our relationship and left me holding a sham? Wasn’t that why we went ‘ex’? Did it even matter in the end?

I’ve set aside a week this Fall to clear out all the chaff that’s clogging up my heart. Marie Kondo was really on to something! If something doesn’t spark joy, let it go! That’s the crux of forgiveness isn’t it? Letting things go. Loving your enemies or, at least, being able to accept them for who they are, so you can move forward. When we feel we’ve been wronged, when our pride is wounded, we tend to hold on to that hurt as if storing away fuel to keep our anger burning. But why? Does it serve us? It most certainly doesn’t make us joyful people. Worse than that, it keeps us from having a meaningful relationship with God and the people around us. Who wants to be around an angry person all the time? So stop now – “stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6: 37). We don’t know when our time on earth comes to an end. Shouldn’t it be our prerogative to live as joyful and free a life as we possibly can?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the grace to forgive those who have wronged us, who have hurt us with their sharp words and wounded us with their insensitive actions. We pray for the maturity to let go of all our anger towards them.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, who inspires wisdom and insight. We ask that it guide us to make good decisions, not just for ourselves but also those that God has placed in our lives.

12 September, Wednesday – The Sermon On The Plain

12 September – Holy Name of Mary

This feast is a counterpart to the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (January 3); both have the possibility of uniting people easily divided on other matters. The feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary began in Spain in 1513 and in 1671 was extended to all of Spain and the Kingdom of Naples. In 1683, John Sobieski, king of Poland, brought an army to the outskirts of Vienna to stop the advance of Muslim armies loyal to Mohammed IV in Constantinople. After Sobieski entrusted himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary, he and his soldiers thoroughly defeated the Muslims. Pope Innocent XI extended this feast to the entire Church.

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 7:25-31

About remaining celibate, I have no directions from the Lord but give my own opinion as one who, by the Lord’s mercy, has stayed faithful. Well then, I believe that in these present times of stress this is right: that it is good for a man to stay as he is. If you are tied to a wife, do not look for freedom; if you are free of a wife, then do not look for one. But if you marry, it is no sin, and it is not a sin for a young girl to get married. They will have their troubles, though, in their married life, and I should like to spare you that.

Brothers, this is what I mean: our time is growing short. Those who have wives should live as though they had none, and those who mourn should live as though they had nothing to mourn for; those who are enjoying life should live as though there were nothing to laugh about; those whose life is buying things should live as though they had nothing of their own; and those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it. I say this because the world as we know it is passing away.

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Luke 6:20-26

Fixing his eyes on his disciples Jesus said:

‘How happy are you who are poor: yours is the kingdom of God.
Happy you who are hungry now: you shall be satisfied.
Happy you who weep now: you shall laugh.

Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven. This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

‘But alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now.
Alas for you who have your fill now: you shall go hungry.
Alas for you who laugh now: you shall mourn and weep.

‘Alas for you when the world speaks well of you! This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.’

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“For the world in its present form is passing away”

Imagine the setting – Jesus has been praying all night. At the crack of dawn, he stirs. His disciples are still as they watch him. He chooses twelve men from amongst them, men he thinks will take his new church forward, who will do his father’s work. He smiles, tired but satisfied. He comes slowly down the hill. His disciples follow tentatively behind. Everyone is hushed, overwhelmed by their thoughts. The rays of sunlight illuminate the thirteen men as they come into sight. Flushed from exhilaration, overcome by emotion, awed by the nearness of Christ, the apostles glow from within.

Standing on the plain that morning watching the whole scene play out, the significance of that visual would not have been lost on the crowd gathered there. They would have remembered the old Hebrew stories of another saviour generations before, one who had liberated his people from slavery, who went up the mountain to bring down God’s commandments. Here, as Jesus addressed the throng, that sense of a new order would not have been lost on them. This was God’s plan for humanity, a plan to save them from their sins, a plan to set them free. Jesus was the new Messiah.

“The world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor 7:31), cries Paul. This is the fundamental message of the Sermon On The Plain, a message of rebirth and renewal. Through Christ, the old order would give way to the new. Jesus himself had proclaimed as such just a few verses before, in the parable of the ‘old and new’ – “No one tears a piece from a new coat to put it on an old one… no one puts new wine into old wineskins… new wine must be put in fresh skins” (Luke 5: 36-38). This message of renewal is all the more relevant now as our Church struggles to purify itself. There will be some of us whose faith will be shaken, some who will give up and fall away, some who will go back to their old ways. In this time of chaos, when you can’t tell the difference between what’s real or false, or who God’s prophets are, go back to the one thing that is unshakeable – the Word of God. Read the Bible, meditate on its truths. Read them to your children, to your families, to all those close to you. Hold on to it, pray on it. It will be your anchor and your filter. Its message will cut through the noise. In every age, Christ has been the source of all renewal. He will not fail us now if we call to him and hold on to him. Like the throng gathered on the plain that morning, remember that you too have been called, you too are blessed, and you are to rejoice when you are denounced for holding on to Christ.

“Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven!”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the endurance and spiritual maturity to be able to withstand this time of chaos in our Church. We pray that God helps us to discern His true prophets.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who silently toil for the good of God’s house, who live their faith on the understanding that God’s is the only opinion that matters.

11 September, Tuesday – Bad Witness

11 September

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1 Corinthians 6:1-11

How dare one of your members take up a complaint against another in the law courts of the unjust instead of before the saints? As you know, it is the saints who are to ‘judge the world’; and if the world is to be judged by you, how can you be unfit to judge trifling cases? Since we are also to judge angels, it follows that we can judge matters of everyday life; but when you have had cases of that kind, the people you appointed to try them were not even respected in the Church. You should be ashamed: is there really not one reliable man among you to settle differences between brothers and so one brother brings a court case against another in front of unbelievers? It is bad enough for you to have lawsuits at all against one another: oughtn’t you to let yourselves be wronged, and let yourselves be cheated? But you are doing the wronging and the cheating, and to your own brothers.

You know perfectly well that people who do wrong will not inherit the kingdom of God: people of immoral lives, idolaters, adulterers, catamites, sodomites, thieves, usurers, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers will never inherit the kingdom of God. These are the sort of people some of you were once, but now you have been washed clean, and sanctified, and justified through the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and through the Spirit of our God.

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Luke 6:12-19

Jesus went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God. When day came he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them; he called them ‘apostles’: Simon whom he called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.

He then came down with them and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. People tormented by unclean spirits were also cured, and everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all.

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“Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the Kingdom of God?”

Corinth during the time of Paul was a thriving hub of political, spiritual and sexual liberalism. It’s hard to find a modern equivalent to it – an extreme version of San Francisco, maybe? Corinth was also a centre of the Imperial Cult who practiced the worship of Rome’s emperors as divine beings. As a result, the city enjoyed a great deal of wealth. Corinth was where you would go, if you wished to live an unfettered, hedonistic kind of life. The funny thing about that kind of liberalism is that taken too far, it can be exhausting. People ultimately want order in their lives, something lasting to build their life around. God brought Paul to Corinth to tap into this emotional wellspring, this yearning for a simpler and more purposeful way of life.

Within this context, we can understand Paul’s indignation with the elders of Corinth. Christ’s newly established church was to serve as a shining example to the rest of the city. Its elders were supposed to be paragons of the faith. But they let themselves be dragged into the same mud as everyone else. Who wants to join a church if it is led by a bunch of hypocrites? The Corinthians were ruled by Romans! They already knew all about that way of life! No, the people of Corinth were looking for leadership they could get behind, someone to inspire them, someone who would take them to higher ground! They were hungry for it! There was going to be no tolerance for bad witness if Christ’s newly established church was to have any credibility. And Paul understood this.

The world we live in today is not so different than the Corinth of Paul’s time. We are all hungering for credible leadership, seeking a more authentic way of life, looking for something enduring that we can build our lives around. We’re tired of the hypocrisy, the politics, tired of not knowing who we can trust, what is fake news, what is not. We’re tired! And our Catholic Church today, is not so different than Paul’s church in Corinth. We can’t afford any further bad witnesses; the credibility of the Catholic Church is at stake. If we are going to profess that we are Catholic, we too must bear the responsibility of rebuilding that credibility. And we do that by ensuring our own witness is beyond reproach. Our Church has already taken too much of a beating with these recent scandals. Right now, the whole world is watching. The rebuilding and healing starts here – in our communities, in our homes, in our schools. It’s up to each one of us to rise to the occasion, to bear good witness, if we are to begin to right the wrongs and take back God’s house. To borrow a phrase from Gandhi – “Be the change that you wish to see”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the wisdom, the love and the courage to be good witnesses of our Catholic faith, that we might reflect the light of Christ in these dark times.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who support us in our faith journeys; those who help us to carry our crosses when they get too heavy to bear.