Category Archives: Ordinary Time

20 February, Tuesday – A Loving Father

20 February

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Isaiah 55:10-11

Thus says the Lord: ‘As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.’

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Matthew 6:7-15

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So you should pray like this:

‘Our Father in heaven,
may your name be held holy,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us.
And do not put us to the test,
but save us from the evil one.

‘Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.’

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Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him

I used to think that prayers should be lengthy and contain many words so that the good Lord could hear me and understand what I need to know. However, over time, I discovered that sometimes saying nothing may actually be the best thing that could happen. Words have a way of influencing others but in the case of prayer, I find that sometimes just being silent and soaking in the presence of the Lord may be the best thing that could happen. The readings of today remind me of the need to stay close to God through prayer which is succinct.

God the Father loves us as His children and knows what we need. The tension which arises is due to the fact that sometimes what we want is different from what we need. Some may want to be established in our careers and to become individuals who are recognised by others. However, what is important for us to note is that there is a need to ask God to see if that is what He wants for us. The good Lord will always ensure that His plans for us will be accomplished as He assures us in the First Reading and this requires us to be receptive to His plans.

Being receptive to the plans of Jesus is not an easy task because it requires us to surrender the plans we want in our lives. Taking time to be closer to God and discovering what He wants from us may be a painful process and something which we may not want to encounter at all. It is in such times like this that we should ask God to enter into every part of our heart to heal whatever is holding us back. In doing so, we will be able to be ready to face the evil of the world, knowing that it is in the plan of God for us to remain close to Him despite all these challenges.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear God, help us to forgive all the hurts we have in our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people who bring us life.

19 February, Monday – Separating Sheep From Goats

19 February 

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Leviticus 19:1-2,11-18

The Lord spoke to Moses. He said: ‘Speak to the whole community of the sons of Israel and say to them:

‘“Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.

‘“You must not steal nor deal deceitfully or fraudulently with your neighbour. You must not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God. I am the Lord. You must not exploit or rob your neighbour. You must not keep back the labourer’s wage until next morning. You must not curse the dumb, nor put an obstacle in the blind man’s way, but you must fear your God. I am the Lord.

‘“You must not be guilty of unjust verdicts. You must neither be partial to the little man nor overawed by the great; you must pass judgement on your neighbour according to justice. You must not slander your own people, and you must not jeopardise your neighbour’s life. I am the Lord. You must not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. You must openly tell him, your neighbour, of his offence; this way you will not take a sin upon yourself. You must not exact vengeance, nor must you bear a grudge against the children of your people. You must love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”’

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Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

‘Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

‘Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?” Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.”

‘And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’

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“I am the Lord”

Today’s scripture readings indicate to us how God will judge us on the final day. In the gospel, we are told that He will place the virtuous on His right and the others on his left. There is no one in the middle, no room for negotiation. Because ultimately, where we end up will be a reflection of how we have lived our life on earth and whether we have indeed heeded His commandments and acknowledged Him as Lord.

When God speaks to Moses, He gives a list of ‘things not to do’ before ending with the one thing that means everything, “You must love your neighbour as yourself.” This edict is further expounded in Matthew’s gospel, where the Lord welcomes those who have provided for him when he was in need. Yesterday, I encouraged each of us to look deep within our hearts and discern what we want to offer up this Lenten season. Today, let us offer to God our pride.

Brothers and sisters, wherever we are in our lives, there are others who are much more in need than ourselves. And sometimes, those people are closer to us than we think – a cousin, an in-law, the colleague in the next cubicle, and yes, perhaps even our own parents or siblings. For many of us, it is not in our nature to reach out or offer help because ‘they don’t need my help’, or we are afraid of being rejected. Perhaps these people are simply waiting for us to make the first move, to offer a helping hand or a kind word.

When God made his covenant with man, He was taking a huge risk because He knew full well what we would put Him through. And yet, because He loved us so much, He offered Jesus to us – no less than His only son.

This Lenten season, let us learn to be like sheep and give up our pride so that we can truly obey His call for each and every one of us. Let us all learn to appreciate what it truly means to be a son or daughter of the living God, a God who loves us unconditionally, is ever-merciful and never quick to judge. A God who walks with us and grieves with us, who celebrates our achievements and lifts us up when we open up our hearts to him. A God who is waiting patiently for us to run to Him and to acknowledge him as Lord, Father and Saviour.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, you have given us so much in order to show how much you love us. Give us the humility and courage to give of ourselves to those around us so that we can manifest your love through our actions.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for all that you’ve done for us.

13 February, Tuesday – Know What Is Enough

13 February 

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James 1:12-18

Happy the man who stands firm when trials come. He has proved himself, and will win the prize of life, the crown that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

Never, when you have been tempted, say, ‘God sent the temptation’; God cannot be tempted to do anything wrong, and he does not tempt anybody. Everyone who is tempted is attracted and seduced by his own wrong desire. Then the desire conceives and gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it too has a child, and the child is death.

Make no mistake about this, my dear brothers: it is all that is good, everything that is perfect, which is given us from above; it comes down from the Father of all light; with him there is no such thing as alteration, no shadow of a change. By his own choice he made us his children by the message of the truth so that we should be a sort of first-fruits of all that he had created.

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Mark 8:14-21

The disciples had forgotten to take any food and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. Then he gave them this warning, ‘Keep your eyes open; be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.’ And they said to one another, ‘It is because we have no bread.’ And Jesus knew it, and he said to them, ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you not yet understand? Have you no perception? Are your minds closed? Have you eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear? Or do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?’ They answered, ‘Twelve.’ And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?’ And they answered, ‘Seven.’ Then he said to them, ‘Are you still without perception?’

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Are your minds closed?

To act on temptation is to entertain the thought of wrong desires, which when acted upon will cause oneself to sin. With the accumulation of sins, death will take place in us. As tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, we begin the season of Lent, in preparation for Good Friday. We close our hearts to the temptations around us. We embrace the Lenten season looking back at all the faults and temptations that have caused us to sin and hurt those around us. The love of God, sending his Son Jesus to die for our sins, to wipe away all those wrong desires we have made, how great is that?

Are our minds closed to what Our Father in heaven has done for us? Are we like the disciples of Jesus who just could not trust what was in front of them, but had fear when Jesus worked miracles in front of them? What is considered to be enough? We are weak, and it takes prayers to build that faith and be strong in it to turn away temptation.

I do not deny the amount of temptation in more ways than one, which leads to selfishness and certainly does not build a better community. Look away from temptation, be among the righteous people. May our thoughts be all about building a strong person to stand up to trials, because we truly know Jesus provides and we should live that life that is deserving of all that is from Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: I may have belittled the power of you Lord Jesus, overwhelmed by things that are mere wrong desires. Make me turn away from them so I can be focused on being that person with a good and faithful heart.

Thanksgiving: Alleluia Alleluia, Praise the Lord for he is good. Praise the Lord who provides. Praise the Lord who forgives.

12 February, Monday – Christ Ignores Impatience

12 February 

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James 1:1-11

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

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

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

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

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Mark 8:11-13

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

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His business goes on, he himself perishes

When I drive to work in the heavy morning traffic, stuck in a jam with the news on the radio, I happen to observe a lot of things through my rear view mirror. You actually see the impatience and grumpy faces of some drivers. If you can imagine, every time we come to a red light, you allow more cars into the line and I see the drivers behind waving their hands in big gestures. I would always laugh to myself and think to myself, those few cars would not have made a difference. What is point of getting all worked up?

This leads to James’ reminder to us in today’s reading. We all have our bad days, our frustrating moments that get us all worked up, inadvertently affecting those around us as well. We could vent our anger on an innocent party, whose feelings you would have hurt for the day. We are reminded to be patient and control our feelings that could hurt, and around situations that we have difficulty with. It teaches us that putting our faith and patience ahead of ourselves would make us become fully developed and complete, with nothing missing. This sort of wisdom gets forgotten in our fast-paced, impatient world.

Wisdom that we receive through faith enables us to differentiate between right and wrong, and only to know how to approach the people around us. Like Jesus, He does not entertain the signs that are being requested by the Pharisees. This is because He is not an entertainer, He does not show signs to prove His power. He reveals Himself to those with genuine faith. To those who carry on this faith through a long period of time, through hardships and deep trust in God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: O Jesus, always be there to remind me how selfless I have to be, to be patient with the miracles you promised for my own good. That I only deserve You when my faith has been tested.

Thanksgiving: Be grateful for the gifts, for the riches, for things that last, for things that matter.

11 February, Sunday – Ask Without Attitude

11 February
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Leviticus 13:1-2,44-46

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘If a swelling or scab or shiny spot appears on a man’s skin, a case of leprosy of the skin is to be suspected. The man must be taken to Aaron, the priest, or to one of the priests who are his sons.

‘The man is leprous: he is unclean. The priest must declare him unclean; he is suffering from leprosy of the head. A man infected with leprosy must wear his clothing torn and his hair disordered; he must shield his upper lip and cry, “Unclean, unclean.” As long as the disease lasts he must be unclean; and therefore he must live apart: he must live outside the camp.’

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1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1

Whatever you eat, whatever you drink, whatever you do at all, do it for the glory of God. Never do anything offensive to anyone – to Jews or Greeks or to the Church of God; just as I try to be helpful to everyone at all times, not anxious for my own advantage but for the advantage of everybody else, so that they may be saved. Take me for your model, as I take Christ.

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Mark 1:40-45

A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: ‘If you want to’ he said ‘you can cure me.’ Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to!’ he said. ‘Be cured!’ And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured. Jesus immediately sent him away and sternly ordered him, ‘Mind you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering for your healing prescribed by Moses as evidence of your recovery.’ The man went away, but then started talking about it freely and telling the story everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived. Even so, people from all around would come to him.

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If you want to

How often do we require the help of someone but are afraid to impose on them? Then we humbly say, ‘Only if you want to’ so the other person does not have to feel obligated nor to agree if it isn’t inconvenient for them as well. I think that this is a very respectful approach to asking for help, to not think of oneself, but to also be considerate of the other’s feelings.

Today’s readings lead us to look at both sides of the exchange; being the sick and unclean who humbly seeks help and acceptance, and the ever generous love of Christ. The leper represents anyone of us who is bearing the difficulties and humiliation from the world, one who is not accepted and categorized as not ‘normal’. Have you come across someone who is in need and yet is arrogant about it? Like they deserve to be served, or they think they actually have the privilege to get the service or help they require. I have experienced this so many times and it puts me off when I am being approached with such an attitude. These are just like the unclean persons whom you want to be outside of the community. However, the Lord, whose Heart is so generous and giving, teaches us to give and not to return a service offensively. I must admit, that is a very difficult thing to do.

 I often say this to my wife when she has had a terrible day, or even when she anticipates the ungrateful patients that she is about to see at her workplace. I tell her to do it for God. We may not like the attitude of the people, but perhaps helping them out could somehow relieve those around them as well. Some may say, easy to say but very hard to do. Therefore, the next time we require the help of another, ask with humility, only if you want to.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

 Prayer: O Lord Almighty, grace us with the generosity that your Son, Jesus has shown to His children, that we may just be filled with a Christ-like attitude.

Thanksgiving: We never forget the days and days of joy when we felt at peace in the deep presence of Jesus. May you always be there for us the week ahead.

10 February, Saturday – Give And Receive

10 Feb – Memorial for St. Scholastica, virgin

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

– Patron Saint Index

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

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

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

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

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

– from Dialogues by Pope St. Gregory the Great

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

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

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

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Mark 8:1-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

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

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

9 February, Friday – Eyes Of The Heart

9 February 

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1 Kings 11:29-32,12:19

One day when Jeroboam had gone out of Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah of Shiloh accosted him on the road. Ahijah was wearing a new cloak; the two of them were in the open country by themselves. Ahijah took the new cloak he was wearing and tore it into twelve strips, saying to Jeroboam, ‘Take ten strips for yourself, for thus the Lord speaks, the God of Israel, “I am going to tear the kingdom from Solomon’s hand and give ten tribes to you. He shall keep one tribe for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel.’

And Israel has been separated from the House of David until the present day.

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Mark 7:31-37

Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’

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Be opened

Have you ever experienced hearing your name being called but you are unresponsive? I have, so many times, and not only when it comes to my name. Even when I am listening, there were moments when I was hearing everything but my mind was ‘spaced out’ elsewhere. There were times when I recorded lectures so that I could listen to them again when I study. There was a topic that seemed to be easy but I could not comprehend any of it. I re-listened to my recordings, but still, I could not move forward with that topic.

The gospel today is about a deaf and mute man who was bought before Jesus. And Jesus cured this man. Jesus wanted to keep this miracle a secret. But people are human. The more rules are imposed on them, the more likely they would break them. The gospel teaches us that we can be mute and deaf spiritually. On our own, we do not have the capacity to share the good news nor understand it. It is by the grace of God that we can fully understand and speak the message of the readings. This gift is given freely. Sometimes, we just have to ask for it and develop it. We must always pray to God that our deaf and mute heart will always be healed.

I believe everyone prays. But prayer is a two-way communication. We talk to God and then we listen to him. Sometimes, we just want to do the talking. We do not know how to listen. There are times when we think we were listening, but we are not. We persevere by asking God for everything, but we do not give Him the chance to speak to us. Being silent is a way where we can listen to God. It seems easy to shut our mouth, but our mind is still noisy. It is not easy to silence ourselves. It takes practice, perseverance, and patience. It is easier to think about being silent but more difficult for it to be done. There are people who are already experts on this, there are others who are just starting. I am an example of someone who is struggling with silence. I try to set a time for it, but I am not always faithful with my schedule. The thing is, we must not give up doing what is pleasing to God because God never abandons us.

I gave up listening to that recording. Instead, I asked a very knowledgeable classmate to explain it to me. It did help. Sometimes when we think we have done so many things, we tend to forget that we also need to listen. Silence is a necessary part of our life in order to hear more of what God is saying to us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, please open our hearts to know your will. Give us the humility to accept it so that we may fulfill your will.

Thanksgiving: Ever dearest God, we are truly grateful for everything you have given us. Thank you for giving us another chance to do Your will. Thank you for the gift of hearing and understanding, which we hope we may use well.

8 February, Thursday – Crumbs Of Life

8 Feb – Memorial for St. Jerome Emiliani; Memorial for St. Josephine Bakhita, virgin

Jerome (1481–1537) was born wealthy, the son of Angelo and Eleanor Mauroceni Emiliani. His father died when Jerome was a teenager, and he ran away from home at age 15. After a dissolute youth, he became a soldier in Venice in 1506. He commanded the League of Cambrai forces at the fortress of Castelnuovo near Trevso. He was captured by Venetian forces on Aug 27, 1511, and was chained in a dungeon. Here, he prayed to Our Lady for help and was miraculously freed by an apparition. He hung his chains on a church wall as an offering. He became Mayor of Treviso while studying for the priesthood, and was ordained in the spotted-fever plague year of 1518.

He cared for the sick and housed orphans in his own home. At night he roamed the streets, burying those who had collapsed and died unattended. He contracted the fever himself, but survived. He founded six orphanages, a shelter for penitent prostitutes, and a hospital.

He founded the Order of Somaschi (Company of Servants of the Poor, or Samascan Fathers) in 1532. It is a congregation of clerks regular vowed to the care of orphans, and named after the town of Somasca where they started and where they founded a seminary. The society was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540 and it continues its work today in a dozen countries. Jerome is believed to have developed the question-and-answer catechism technique for teaching children religion.

In 1928, Pope Pius XI declared him the patron saint of orphans and abandoned children.

– Patron Saint Index

Josephine (1868–1947) was born to a wealthy Sudanese family. At age 9, she was kidnapped by slave-traders who gave her the name Bakhita. She was sold and resold in the markets at El Obeid and Khartoum, finally purchased in 1883 by Callisto Legnani, an Italian consul who planned to free her. She accompanied Legnani to Italy in 1885 and worked for the family of Augusto Michieli as nanny. She was treated well in Italy and grew to love the country. She joined the Church as an adult convert on Jan 9, 1890, taking the name Josephine as a symbol of her new life.

She entered the Institute of Canossian Daughters of Charity in Venice, Italy, in 1893, taking her vows on Dec 8, 1896 in Verona, and served as a Canossian Sister for the next 50 years. Her gentle presence, her warm, amiable voice and her willingness to help with any menial task were a comfort to the poor and suffering people who came to the door of the Institute. After a biography of her was published in 1930, she became a noted and sought-after speaker, raising funds to support missions.

She was canonized on Oct 1, 2000 by Pope John Paul II, and is thought to be the only saint originally from Sudan.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Kings 11:4-13

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

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

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Mark 7:24-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

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

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

7 February, Wednesday – Inside Out

7 February 

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1 Kings 10:1-10

The fame of Solomon having reached the queen of Sheba… she came to test him with difficult questions. She brought immense riches to Jerusalem with her, camels laden with spices, great quantities of gold, and precious stones. On coming to Solomon, she opened her mind freely to him; and Solomon had an answer for all her questions, not one of them was too obscure for the king to expound. When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon, the palace he had built, the food at his table, the accommodation for his officials, the organisation of his staff and the way they were dressed, his cup-bearers, and the holocausts he offered in the Temple of the Lord, it left her breathless, and she said to the king, ‘What I heard in my own country about you and your wisdom was true, then! Until I came and saw it with my own eyes I could not believe what they told me, but clearly they told me less than half: for wisdom and prosperity you surpass the report I heard. How happy your wives are! How happy are these servants of yours who wait on you always and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God who has granted you his favour, setting you on the throne of Israel! Because of the Lord’s everlasting love for Israel, he has made you king to deal out law and justice.’ And she presented the king with a hundred and twenty talents of gold and great quantities of spices and precious stones; no such wealth of spices ever came again as those given to King Solomon by the queen of Sheba.

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Mark 7:14-23

Jesus called the people to him and said, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to this.’

When he had gone back into the house, away from the crowd, his disciples questioned him about the parable. He said to them, ‘Do you not understand either? Can you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot make him unclean, because it does not go into his heart but through his stomach and passes out into the sewer?’ (Thus he pronounced all foods clean.) And he went on, ‘It is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.’

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…it is what comes out of man that makes him unclean…

I always have this habit of observing people from time to time. In my mind, I judge them based on their actions and my experiences with them. I describe their attitudes as how they show them to people. If I observe that they do good things, I would judge them as having a kind heart. If they do otherwise, I would judge them as having a wicked heart.

The gospel today can confirm the statement, “It is what we do that defines who we are.” As we have learned from yesterday’s gospel, the Pharisees and the Jews focus more on traditions and practices. One example is that they need to clean first before eating; thereby, judging Jesus’ disciples for eating with unclean hands.

The gospel today signifies that eating with unclean hands does not make a person a sinner. As Jesus says, “Nothing that goes from the outside can make him unclean.” Though in our present days, there are people who really are very meticulous when it comes to washing hands thoroughly before eating. But food does not influence the state of our heart. What is in our hearts shows our spiritual life. Our heart, our conscience is the start of all our actions. Jesus stated that, “it is from within that evil intentions emerged.”

We are humans and we make mistakes. We make decisions that are sometimes morally inappropriate. Those decisions go with our gift of free will. When we exercise our free will, let us examine our conscience. Is it the right thing to do? Or is it the wrong thing to do? Our decisions should not solely be based on us alone. We need to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit for us to make a better decision. We live a very busy life, but I believe somewhere in between, we can make time to speak to God. Have time to pray and examine how we are living our life. What are our priorities? Do we focus more on looking good than doing good?

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please guide us so that our words and actions will only be in accordance to your will. Please help us to let Jesus live in our hearts forever.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father God, for this gift of life. Thank You for our families and friends who help us to be closer to You.

6 February, Tuesday – Hypocrisy

6 Feb – Memorial for Sts. Paul Miki and Companions, martyrs (in Japan)

Paul Miki (1562-1597) was one of the Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan. He was born into a rich family and educated by Jesuits in Azuchi and Takatsuki. He joined the Society of Jesus and preached the gospel for his fellow citizens. The Japanese government feared Jesuit influences and persecuted them. He was jailed among others.

He and his Christian peers were forced to walk 600 miles from Kyoto while singing ‘Te Deum’ as a punishment for the community. Finally they arrived at Nagasaki, the city which had the most conversions to Christianity, and he was crucified on 5 February 1597. He preached his last sermon from the cross, and it is maintained that he forgave his executioners stating that he himself was Japanese. Alongside him died Joan Soan (de Goto) and Santiago Kisai, of the Society of Jesus, in addition to 23 clergy and laity, all of whom were canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1862.

On 15 August 1549, St. Francis Xavier, Father Cosme de Torres, SJ, and Father John Fernandez arrived in Kagoshima, Japan, from Spain with hopes of bringing Catholicism to Japan. On Sep 29, St. Francis Xavier visited Shimazu Takahisa, the daimyo of Kagoshima, asking for permission to build the first Catholic mission in Japan. The daimyo agreed in hopes of creating a trade relationship with Europe.

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

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

– Wikipedia

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1 Kings 8:22-23, 27-30

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

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

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Mark 7:1-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

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

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