Category Archives: Ordinary Time

28 June, Wednesday – The Usual Suspects

St. Irenaeus, bishop, martyr

Irenaeus (c.130–202) was a disciple of St. Polycapr of Smyrna. He was ordained in 177. He was Bishop of Lugdunum, Gaul (modern Lyons, France). He worked and wrote against Gnosticism, basing his arguments on the works of St. John the Apostle, whose gospel is often cited by Gnostics. He dispatched evangelists, including St. Ferreolus of Besancon, and St. Ferrutio of Bescancon. He is considered the first great Western ecclesiastical writer and theologian, and he emphasized the unity of the Old and New Testaments, as well as Christ’s simultaneous human and divine nature, and the value of tradition. He is a Father of the Church, and was martyred for his faith.

28 June 2017

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Genesis 15:1-12,17-18

It happened that the word of the Lord was spoken to Abram in a vision, ‘Have no fear, Abram, I am your shield; your reward will be very great.’

‘My Lord,’ Abram replied ‘what do you intend to give me? I go childless…’ Then Abram said, ‘See, you have given me no descendants; some man of my household will be my heir.’ And then this word of the Lord was spoken to him, ‘He shall not be your heir; your heir shall be of your own flesh and blood.’ Then taking him outside he said, ‘Look up to heaven and count the stars if you can. Such will be your descendants’ he told him. Abram put his faith in the Lord, who counted this as making him justified.

‘I am the Lord’ he said to him ‘who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldaeans to make you heir to this land.’ ‘My Lord,’ Abram replied ‘how am I to know that I shall inherit it?’ He said to him, ‘Get me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these, cut them in half and put half on one side and half facing it on the other; but the birds he did not cut in half. Birds of prey came down on the carcases but Abram drove them off.

Now as the sun was setting Abram fell into a deep sleep, and terror seized him. When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, there appeared a smoking furnace and a firebrand that went between the halves. That day the Lord made a Covenant with Abram in these terms:

‘To your descendants I give this land,

from the wadi of Egypt to the Great River,

the river Euphrates.’

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Matthew 7:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Beware of false prophets who come to you disguised as sheep but underneath are ravenous wolves. You will be able to tell them by their fruits. Can people pick grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, a sound tree produces good fruit but a rotten tree bad fruit. A sound tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor a rotten tree bear good fruit. Any tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown on the fire. I repeat, you will be able to tell them by their fruits.’

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“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves”

The first time I ever watched Kevin Spacey in a movie was in the 1995 suspense thriller The Usual Suspects. Spacey plays the role of Verbal Kint, a physically crippled, small time con artist who survives a gang related massacre. This sets the stage for the rest of the movie, with Verbal narrating the events leading up to this violent incident. Throughout the movie, the audience is led to believe that a ruthless, shadowy villain by the name of Keyser Söze was behind this crime while Verbal feebly watches as things unfold. However – during the last five minutes of the movie, it’s revealed that Verbal fabricated the story to cover up his evil deeds and was in fact Keyser Söze.

Jesus directly warns his disciples of those who appear to be in sheep’s clothe but are wolves in disguise. Their intentions are not to live harmoniously with the rest of the flock and follow our beloved shepherd, but to separate the weak and unsuspecting and devour the vulnerable. For as Paul wrote – “for such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 11: 13-15)

How do we recognize and guard against these antagonists of our faith? Jesus commands that we must first know who they are by examining their actions as “…every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.” Our ability to discern good fruit from bad fruit would only be enhanced through the study of the Bible, prayer and fellowship. In time, those evil-doers will be revealed by their methods (2 Peter 2: 1-22) and doctrine (Galatians 1: 6-10).

The final line in the Usual Suspects is narrated by Spacey where he states “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. And like that, he’s gone”. Let us not be tricked by the devil and his false prophets. Let us arm ourselves with the word of the Lord, shielded by His grace and joined with other fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. For as with Abraham, the fruits of our faith in Him are eternal and everlasting life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the wisdom to recognize and subdue the wolves in our lives.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we give thanks for the power of your teachings and the grace of your new covenant – through the death and resurrection of our savior Jesus Christ.

27 June, Tuesday – Love

Memorial for St. Cyril of Alexandria, bishop and Doctor of the Church

Cyril (376–444) was the nephew of Theophilus the Patriarch. He was a monk and a priest who became Bishop of Alexandria, Egypt in 412, and later the Patriarch of Alexandria. He suppressed the Novatians. He worked at the Council of Ephesus. He fought against Nestorius who taught the heresy that there were two persons in Christ.

He was a catechetical writer, and wrote a book opposing Julian the Apostate. He is a Greek Father of the Church, and is a Doctor of the Church.

  • – Patron Saint Index

27 June 2017

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Genesis 13:2, 5-18

Abram was a very rich man, with livestock, silver and gold. Lot, who was travelling with Abram, had flocks and cattle of his own, and tents too. The land was not sufficient to accommodate them both at once, for they had too many possessions to be able to live together. Dispute broke out between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and those of Lot’s. (The Canaanites and the Perizzites were then living in the land.) Accordingly Abram said to Lot, ‘Let there be no dispute between me and you, nor between my herdsmen and yours, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land open before you? Part company with me: if you take the left, I will go right; if you take the right, I will go left.’

Looking round, Lot saw all the Jordan plain, irrigated everywhere – this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah – like the garden of the Lord or the land of Egypt, as far as Zoar. So Lot chose all the Jordan plain for himself and moved off eastwards. Thus they parted company: Abram settled in the land of Canaan; Lot settled among the towns of the plain, pitching his tents on the outskirts of Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were vicious men, great sinners against the Lord.

The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted company with him, ‘Look all round from where you are towards the north and the south, towards the east and the west. All the land within sight I will give to you and your descendants for ever. I will make your descendants like the dust on the ground: when men succeed in counting the specks of dust on the ground, then they will be able to count your descendants! Come, travel through the length and breadth of the land, for I mean to give it to you.’

So Abram went with his tents to settle at the Oak of Mamre, at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.

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Matthew 7:6, 12-14

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls in front of pigs, or they may trample them and then turn on you and tear you to pieces.

‘So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.

‘Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’

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“So always treat others as you would like them to treat you.”

I believe that all of us, in some way, want to be accepted, to feel belonged, to be loved. But how many of us accept and love others back?

Indeed, where it says, “enter by the narrow gate; since the road that leads to destruction is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Many of us prefer the easy way out, choosing not to rock the boat and yet we wonder why we are still struggling with problems that are not going away; surrounded by people who don’t change, even wondering why God isn’t hearing our prayers. But I guess, sometimes, God places us in such situations where we are called to effect change.

However, many times, we resort to using either experience, authority or even qualifications as a means to effect change rather than love. How do we hope for others to speak to us? How do we hope for others to treat us? And hence in our Gospel today, we read “so always treat others as you would like them to treat you”.

This is the narrow road we are encouraged to take, for we will always question, why is it we need to love first, forgive first? And sometimes, how many more times do we need to do so for others to realise, for them to finally change. The beauty of our faith is that there is no answer to those questions except to continue to love. Love isn’t about allowing oneself to be used or taken advantage of; love is speaking and living the truth.

For we live our lives not based on what others say about us but what God says. Created with love, from love, we are also called to love. Not as how we know it but as how God has loved us by His example. Let us challenge ourselves to continue to persevere in love not to receive love in return but because we have already received through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us be Christ to others, to all. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for our own conversion, for the many times we have been selfish. We pray also for perseverance as we continue to do your will and build your kingdom, a kingdom of love.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for understanding us, for helping us to see beyond ourselves, to help us see what really matters, what is really important, what is it we actually live for and what gives us life.

26 June, Monday – Do Not Judge

26 June 2017

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Genesis 12:1-9

The Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name so famous that it will be used as a blessing.

‘I will bless those who bless you:

I will curse those who slight you.

All the tribes of the earth

shall bless themselves by you.’

So Abram went as the Lord told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had amassed and the people they had acquired in Haran. They set off for the land of Canaan, and arrived there.

Abram passed through the land as far as Shechem’s holy place, the Oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘It is to your descendants that I will give this land.’ So Abram built there an altar for the Lord who had appeared to him. From there he moved on to the mountainous district east of Bethel, where he pitched his tent, with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord. Then Abram made his way stage by stage to the Negeb.

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Matthew 7:1-5

Jesus said to his disciples:

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgements you give are the judgements you will get, and the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given. Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How dare you say to your brother, “Let me take the splinter out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.’

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“Take the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.”

This is a passage that many of us would be struggling with. Even as I was praying with the scriptures, my heart was already telling me that some people in my life should be reading this passage for they are not aware of their failings.

I try my very best to always be as aware as possible because it is never my intention to cause anyone any hurt or harm. But yet, it is usually during my reflection after an event that makes me realise the areas I did wrongly. I want the best for others, I want them to experience Christ, yet sometimes all that excitement and passion leads to me being impatient, resulting in frustration, disappointment and hurt, whether with myself or others. I am a perfectionist and most of the time, when I feel I can do better, I’ll try to get myself involved so that hopefully, I can help others be more aware.

But the real question is how aware am I actually? I don’t think it’s a lot to do with judging but more how much do we love the other? Do we love the other such that we will bring them up versus put them down, be patient and understanding with them versus force upon them compliance, encourage versus criticise?

I guess to a large extent, it is also about our pride. That I can’t have others being better than me thus I need to put people down so that I may be above. I feel I am able to manage my pride but what still frustrates me is when someone obviously cannot make it, but doesn’t feel that anything is wrong. And in order that I may not be like one towards others, I always remember to ask for feedback and constructive criticism in order that I may be aware of the log in my eye and hopefully be able to remove it.

I guess the challenge really is to see Christ in others. To look with love. There will always be logs and splinters, but I believe there will also always be love. Where there is love, there is God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we will see not with the eyes of judgment but that of love. That we may always look to you, from your example, where you say “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”. And where you still gave your life for us. Help us to continue to love as you did. Help us to be like you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your wisdom and for the challenges in our lives. Thank you for always providing us with that second chance. Thank you for not judging us. Thank you for loving us always.

25 June, Sunday – Be Not Afraid

25 June 2017

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Jeremiah 20:10-13

Jeremiah said: I hear so many disparaging me, ‘“Terror from every side!” Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ All those who used to be my friends watched for my downfall, ‘Perhaps he will be seduced into error. Then we will master him and take our revenge!’ But the Lord is at my side, a mighty hero; my opponents will stumble, mastered, confounded by their failure; everlasting, unforgettable disgrace will be theirs. But you, O Lord of Hosts, you who probe with justice, who scrutinise the loins and heart, let me see the vengeance you will take on them, for I have committed my cause to you. Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for he has delivered the soul of the needy from the hands of evil men.

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Romans 5:12-15

Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned. Sin existed in the world long before the Law was given. There was no law and so no one could be accused of the sin of ‘law-breaking’, yet death reigned over all from Adam to Moses, even though their sin, unlike that of Adam, was not a matter of breaking a law.

Adam prefigured the One to come, but the gift itself considerably outweighed the fall. If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift.

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Matthew 10:26-33

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Do not be afraid. For everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops.

‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.

‘So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.’

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“So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of human beings, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven.”

Especially in today’s world, what many of us need as individuals is COURAGE. Courage to face the truth and courage to speak the truth. We find ourselves lacking in it because we don’t want to rock the boat, because our job/income is more important than what we are actually doing, or because we simply just want to fit in.

As the Gospel says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

Indeed, the Gospel today brings us to reflect on the purpose of our lives, our identity. If our identity is in the world, then what the world says does matter to us and we will fear and succumb to the pressures of society. But if our identity is in Christ, then we know that, as in the first reading, “Yahweh is at my side like a mighty hero; my opponents will stumble, vanquished, confounded by their failure…”, we do not need to fear.

Of course this is easier said than done. But we also read of “everything now covered up will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear”. I can testify to this because if we live a life in Christ, we live a life of love and love simply never fails. Over time, one doesn’t just see what we do or say but sees the heart; because at the end of the day, it is the intention that matters. It is that peace, freedom and joy that we gain by trusting in God and in ourselves, in who He has created us to be and I truly believe this is what we all actually desire and live for.

As Catholics, we feel that our ultimate goal is to know who God is, but the beauty is that in our seeking, we also find who we are. And when we say we love God, God asks us to love everyone around us. This is the God we worship — selfless, who loves us unconditionally, who takes away the sins of the world and desires to give us life to the fullest. Let us declare and proclaim that He is our God, our life, our everything. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Lord, we want to pray for courage. Courage to stay true to our faith and to ourselves. That we may never succumb to the pressures of the world. That we may live a life of love, to bring hope, joy, peace and love to all. That we will continue to worship you in spirit and in truth. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for continuously reaching out to us, for affirming us of your presence. Thank you for the gift of your grace, through your son, that has won for us our salvation. Amen.

22 June, Thursday – Dialogue With God

Memorial for St. Paulinus of Nola, bishop; Memorial for St. John Fisher, Bishop & St. Thomas More, martyrs

Paulinus (c.354–431) was a friend of St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Nicetas of Remesiana, and was mentioned for his holiness by at least six of his contemporary saints.

He was a distinguished lawyer who held several public offices in the Empire, then retired from public ministry with his wife, Therasia, first to Bordeaux, where they were baptised, and then to Therasia’s estate in Spain. After the death of their only son at the age of only a few weeks, the couple decided to spend the rest of their lives devoted to God. They gave away most of their estates and dedicated themselves to increasing their holiness.

Paulinus became a priest and with Therasia, moved to Nola and gave away the rest of their property. They dedicated themselves to helping the poor. Paulinus was chosen bishop of Nola by popular demand. He governed the diocese for more than 21 years while living in his own home as a monk and continuing to aid the poor. His writings contain one of the earliest examples of a Christian wedding song.

  • – Patron Saint Index

John Fisher (1469–1535) studied theology at Cambridge University, receiving degrees in 1487 and 1491. He was parish priest in Northallerton, England from 1491–1494. He gained a reputation for his teaching abilities. He was proctor of Cambridge University. He was confessor to Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, in 1497. He was ordained Bishop of Rochester, England in 1504; he worked to raise the standard of preaching in his see. He became chancellor of Cambridge. He was tutor of the young King Henry VIII. He was an excellent speaker and writer.

When in 1527 he was asked to study the problem of Henry’s marriage, he became the target of Henry’s wrath by defending the validity of the marriage and rejecting Henry’s claim to be head of the Church in England. He was imprisoned in 1534 for his opposition, and he spent 14 months in prison without trial. While in prison, he was created cardinal in 1535 by Pope Paul III. He was martyred for his faith.

  • – Patron Saint Index

Thomas More (1478–1535) studied at London and Oxford, England. He was a page for the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was a lawyer. Twice married, and a widower, he was the father of one son and three daughters, and a devoted family man. He was a writer, most famously of the novel which coined the word ‘utopia’. It was translated with the works of Lucian.

He was known during his own day for his scholarship and the depth of his knowledge. He was a friend to King Henry VIII, and Lord Chancellor of England from 1529–1532, a position of political power second only to the king.

He fought any form of heresy, especially the incursion of Protestantism into England. He opposed the king on the matter of royal divorce, and refused to swear the Oath of Supremacy which declared the king the head of the Church in England. He resigned the Chancellorship, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was martyred for his refusal to bend his religious beliefs to the king’s political needs.

  • – Patron Saint Index

22 June 2017

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2 Corinthians 11:1-11

I only wish you were able to tolerate a little foolishness from me. But of course: you are tolerant towards me. You see, the jealousy that I feel for you is God’s own jealousy: I arranged for you to marry Christ so that I might give you away as a chaste virgin to this one husband. But the serpent, with his cunning, seduced Eve, and I am afraid that in the same way your ideas may get corrupted and turned away from simple devotion to Christ. Because any new-comer has only to proclaim a new Jesus, different from the one that we preached, or you have only to receive a new spirit, different from the one you have already received, or a new gospel, different from the one you have already accepted – and you welcome it with open arms. As far as I can tell, these arch-apostles have nothing more than I have. I may not be a polished speechmaker, but as for knowledge, that is a different matter; surely we have made this plain, speaking on every subject in front of all of you.

Or was I wrong, lowering myself so as to lift you high, by preaching the gospel of God to you and taking no fee for it? I was robbing other churches, living on them so that I could serve you. When I was with you and ran out of money, I was no burden to anyone; the brothers who came from Macedonia provided me with everything I wanted. I was very careful, and I always shall be, not to be a burden to you in any way, and by Christ’s truth in me, this cause of boasting will never be taken from me in the regions of Achaia. Would I do that if I did not love you? God knows I 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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Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him

When I first received the Good News, I didn’t know how I should pray. Funny as it may sound, before my acceptance of Christ, I never thought about starting off with acknowledging the presence of a Power that is above all i.e. God, followed by thanksgiving and forgiveness. I am guilty of jumping in head-first and presenting all my petitions from passing exams to world peace. I remember as a child – though my intentions were good – I would pray, and thinking that the Almighty Power wouldn’t know who I was and where I lived, I would even state my name, address, and even my date of birth!

After embracing Christ, I remember coming across today’s Gospel reading and thinking to myself, “That’s it? Are you sure God knows who I am? You sure He will hear?” I was so uncertain. With a mix of apprehension and faith, I decided that if I didn’t know how to pray yet, I would start with the Lord’s Prayer, and trust that God would find me. And so I got down on my knees and prayed the Lord’s Prayer for the first time.

As today’s Gospel rightly puts it, God doesn’t want us to go on this loud and long babble. As the saying goes, less is more – He already knows our hearts and our needs. He created us! As Jeremiah 1:5 puts it, “Before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I knew you.” Psalm 139:4 says, “Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all”. So, why do we pray then?

We pray because we need to understand and acknowledge that we depend on God for our needs. We pray to have a connection with Him, it is our daily conversation with God. When we tell God our troubles, we are lifting them up to God and telling Him, “I can’t find a way, I’m stuck, I need help.” We acknowledge that we are limited, but through God who delivers us, we are limitless. Through prayer, we acknowledge God’s presence in our lives, and give Him credit and thanks for it. We learn patience, obedience and faith, that though our requests be many, we understand that God will determine what is best for us in His own time. Through prayer, we understand gratitude, gratitude for God’s help and gratitude for God’s forgiveness. The Lord’s Prayer leads us to ask for forgiveness even as we forgive others: God is saying “I want to give you so much more blessings than you think you deserve, but only if you make room for me by letting go of your own resentments”. By forgiving, only then can we receive forgiveness.

Prayer is a two-way process. It is a dialogue even though we may think it is a monologue, wondering if God hears us when we seem to be the only ones ‘talking’. He is listening. All of the above shows us that it is a process of giving and receiving, acknowledging while asking for our needs to be acknowledged. Let us go down on our knees today then, wherever we are, and have our dialogue with God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.      

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for showing us how to pray. Even though we may not know how to, You have given us a way.

21 June, Wednesday – A Father’s Love

21 June 2017

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2 Corinthians 9:6-11

Do not forget: thin sowing means thin reaping; the more you sow, the more you reap. Each one should give what he has decided in his own mind, not grudgingly or because he is made to, for God loves a cheerful giver. And there is no limit to the blessings which God can send you – he will make sure that you will always have all you need for yourselves in every possible circumstance, and still have something to spare for all sorts of good works. As scripture says: He was free in almsgiving, and gave to the poor: his good deeds will never be forgotten.

The one who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide you with all the seed you want and make the harvest of your good deeds a larger one, and, made richer in every way, you will be able to do all the generous things which, through us, are the cause of thanksgiving to God.

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Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win men’s admiration. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

‘And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them; I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

‘When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.’

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…your Father who sees all that is done in secret.

We recently celebrated the Feast of Corpus Christi at the Catholic Spirituality Centre (CSC) with a vigil mass and adoration followed by a 24-hour intercession in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel, culminating in a procession and mass. It was certainly a ‘packed’ weekend for all of us and, leading up to it, I had been swamped with work and hence, did not feel as if I had prepared well for my ministry’s assigned 2-hour intercession slot.

Ordinarily, I would be filled with some nervous energy, worrying about what I should pray (my group had been asked to lead the prayers). However, by God’s grace, I stepped into the chapel totally free of any anxiety and as we knelt by the Blessed Sacrament, a sense of calm came over me and I truly believe that He led the way for an anointed time of intercession.

I have touched a bit on my recent struggles with responsibility and commitment and how, in discerning His plan for me, I have come to reconcile some of the changes I have had to make in my life. I believe that in approaching the coming weeks and months with expectant faith that He will provide in abundance, I have very much ‘settled down’ and come to accept His hand in everything that has transpired. So much so that I have begun to stop worrying about things that I would ordinarily fret about. I must admit, I don’t know how long this attitude is going to last, but I certainly am filled with the hope that He will continue to sustain me as long as I keep up my prayer life.

Indeed, there are no secrets that we can keep from our heavenly Father. After all, we who have eaten his flesh and drank his blood remain in Him and He in us. Hard to imagine then, that there is any aspect of our lives which He does not know about. And truly, at our lowest and in our darkest periods, it is only His light and divine presence within us that keeps us going.

Due to a very hectic week, it is Father’s Day as I write this reflection. It wasn’t planned (we usually have to submit our reflections one week ahead), but I believe it was His plan. My own father passed away two years ago and I miss him terribly at times. Looking back, while I have no regrets about the time I spent with him, I wish I had been more honest and forthright with him about my feelings, especially during the years I was struggling. Because I know that in spite of his default demeanour, he truly loved me and felt my pain as he watched me struggle through my 20s and 30s. I thank God for welcoming dad into the faith at his deathbed and am comforted knowing that he watches over us as a family now. And the best part – we truly have nothing to hide from him!

Brothers and sisters, especially fathers, let us always look to our heavenly Father to sustain us in His love so that as we walk our individual faith journeys, we will stride forward with our heads held high, fully confident and proud to be His sons and daughters.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that you continue to keep us in your loving embrace and to speak to us in our hearts during our times of need.

Thanksgiving: We thank you, Lord, for always being there for us.

20 June, Tuesday – Rich Man, Poor Man

20 June 2017

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2 Corinthians 8:1-9

Now here, brothers, is the news of the grace of God which was given in the churches in Macedonia; and of how, throughout great trials by suffering, their constant cheerfulness and their intense poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity. I can swear that they gave not only as much as they could afford, but far more, and quite spontaneously, begging and begging us for the favour of sharing in this service to the saints and, what was quite unexpected, they offered their own selves first to God and, under God, to us.

Because of this, we have asked Titus, since he has already made a beginning, to bring this work of mercy to the same point of success among you. You always have the most of everything – of faith, of eloquence, of understanding, of keenness for any cause, and the biggest share of our affection – so we expect you to put the most into this work of mercy too. It is not an order that I am giving you; I am just testing the genuineness of your love against the keenness of others. Remember how generous the Lord Jesus was: he was rich, but he became poor for your sake, to make you rich out of his poverty.

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Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

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…so that by his poverty you might become rich.

I have been struggling lately with feelings of anger because of certain lifestyle changes I have had to make, purely for financial reasons. However, after sharing my predicament and struggles with my brothers and also lifting up the situation to Jesus during a recent retreat, I began to understand God’s plan for me and to accept the burden graciously. After all, I have had a pretty comfortable (hmmmm, there’s ‘COM’ again) life all this while.

Admittedly, I am not in a dire situation. And while serving in my ministry, I have witnessed many miracles of salvation and heard countless testimonies from others who have been in much worse situations, yet have been saved by the grace of God. Truly, our God is so generous that He cannot be outdone. What He requires from us is faith — an unwavering belief that He will provide, in spite of how bad we think our situation is.

The verse above assures me that by His sacrifice, Christ has enriched me in a way that is beyond our secular undersatnding. And how ‘rich’ I am or will be is going to be dependent on how open I am to accepting the situations that come my way as I serve in His vineyard. Already, there has been a call from my parish to help and yet, the call from CSC remains ever strong. I shared with my discipleship group recently that God seems to be encouraging me to simplify my life in order for me to serve Him more. It is a fact that if I were not in ministry, I would probably be spending many weekday evenings out with friends, enjoying spirits of a more liquid nature, spending money needlessly.

So brothers and sisters, if I wanted to be extremely practical about it, I could say, “Yes Lord, I will serve because that would mean committing X days a week to you, therefore saving $Y every month.” But I know that wouldn’t get me very far. Rather, I need to listen in the silence of my heart and discern His call and to just say “Yes”. Easier said than done, you might say. But how many times have we been approached by our priests and/or ministry members to serve yet we brush them away with “I don’t have the time” or “I am sure someone else can do a better job”?

Perhaps in such situations, we should just stop and pray silently and ask the Lord, “Lord, what is it that you desire from me? What is your plan for me?” Then listen to the stirring in your heart or the soft voice that prompts a ‘Yes’. Because that simple ‘Yes’ could lead you to a lot more riches than you could ever imagine.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that you give us a heart of worship and to surrender to you willingly when you call without counting the cost.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always enriching us and providing for us in our times of need.

19 June, Monday – Christ over me

Jun 19 – Memorial for St. Romuald, abbot

St Romuald (951-1027) had been an Italian noble. Acting as second, he witnessed his father kill a man in a duel, and sought to atone for the crime by becoming a Benedictine monk at Classe, Italy where he was abbot from 996–999.

A wanderer by nature, he established several hermitage and monasteries in central and northern Italy. He tried to evangelize the Slavs, but met with little success. He founded the Camaldolese Benedictines and spent the last fourteen years of his life in seclusion. His body which is enshrined in Italy remains incorrupt till this day.

  • Patron Saint Index

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2 Corinthians 6:1-10

As his fellow workers, we beg you once again not to neglect the grace of God that you have received. For he says: At the favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help. Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.

We do nothing that people might object to, so as not to bring discredit on our function as God’s servants. Instead, we prove we are servants of God by great fortitude in times of suffering: in times of hardship and distress; when we are flogged, or sent to prison, or mobbed; labouring, sleepless, starving. We prove we are God’s servants by our purity, knowledge, patience and kindness; by a spirit of holiness, by a love free from affectation; by the word of truth and by the power of God; by being armed with the weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left, prepared for honour or disgrace, for blame or praise; taken for impostors while we are genuine; obscure yet famous; said to be dying and here are we alive; rumoured to be executed before we are sentenced; thought most miserable and yet we are always rejoicing; taken for paupers though we make others rich, for people having nothing though we have everything.

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Matthew 5:38-42

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.’

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…behold, now is the day of salvation.

Just last weekend, I attended a community retreat at CSC conducted by a lay person who is trained in Ignatian spirituality. It was a two day ‘holiday’ for the ministry members who attended as we were treated to silence, a movie and interesting talks which touched on topics such as ‘Known’, ‘Loved’ and ‘Whose Am I’.

As many members shared openly at the end of the retreat, it was truly a time of reflection for us in ministry, who constantly strive to do our best at the various retreats, 4th Saturday healing services and regular Friday sessions. Many who were caught up with the ‘doing’ felt recharged as they enjoyed the quiet time with God, reflecting, journalling and adoring Jesus in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel.

For me, I took three very clear words from the retreat – Community, Compassion and Come. I shared with my fellow brothers and sisters that as a relative ‘newbie’ to the community (I have been serving there for 6 years), I sometimes felt inadequate and inferior in my service. But what the Lord revealed to me as I journalled were many questions that alluded to issues concerning pride, low self-esteem and anger. My initial surprise slowly gave way to an understanding of why I harboured certain feelings at various times during my ministry.

God also revealed to me the deeper meaning of those 3 words that stuck in my mind. They all begin with ‘COM’ – Christ Over Me. Over the years, and certainly over the past few months, I had been approaching my service from a very ‘human’ perspective. I had to do things a certain way, I arranged discipleship group meetings depending on when I was free (rather than setting a regular day for sharing) and, over the past few months, had never really cared about how my brothers were feeling nor was I concerned about their spirituality. I had been going about ministry work precisely like how I approached work in my office – get it over and done with, with a minimum of fuss. I had not been placing Christ above me and had sidelined Him in my eagerness to fulfil my tasks.

Brothers and sisters, if you are involved in ministry, whether in your parish or at a retreat centre, do remember to take time to listen and ‘chill’. Don’t get caught up in the doing that you forget the ‘being’. Be present and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit so that whatever burdens you carry are truly ‘light’ and that your soul will find rest in the Lord. God never promised that the load would be easy. But he did invite us to come to Him and to shoulder His yoke in order for our souls to find rest in Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, teach us to remain silent in our hearts so that we can listen to your voice in our lives and to discern your promptings.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord, for giving us feelings in order to express ourselves and to relate with one another in our various communities.

17 June, Saturday – Saying Yes to God

17 June 2017

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2 Corinthians 5:14-21

The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.

From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here. It is all God’s work. It was God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the work of handing on this reconciliation. In other words, God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, not holding men’s faults against them, and he has entrusted to us the news that they are reconciled.

So we are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God. For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God.

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Matthew 5:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you: do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’

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Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No

Many people (myself included) have somehow over the course of our lives acquired a bad habit of using God’s name to swear. And in swearing, I mean both senses of the word, whether in terms of making a promise or an oath, or cursing an inopportune event that has befallen one. So it is common to hear things like “I swear to God, I didn’t do it!” or “Jesus Christ! Did he just cut in front of me?” One of my favourite bands, Jars of Clay, even has a song that addresses this habit of swearing in God’s name. Entitled “Oh My God”, the song plays on secular society’s habit to use the phrase ‘oh my god’ for all sorts of situations.

In today’s gospel, Jesus makes it clear that swearing of any form, not just using God’s name, is wrong. Indeed, the Lord teaches us that we need to say what we mean, and mean what we say. For to swear would be to promise more than we can deliver, and hence end up making false oaths. Indeed, “no one knows about the day or hour” (MT 24:36). How can we promise anyone anything when we do not even know if the sun will rise tomorrow, much less whether we will be able or willing to fulfil the promises or oaths that we have this tendency to make.

Jesus even goes so far as to say that anything more than ‘yes’ meaning ‘yes’ and ‘no’ meaning ‘no’ is from the Evil One. Indeed, many of the promises and oaths that we make, even under duress (especially under duress), stem from an overconfidence in our own ability to deliver on promises or even determine our own fates. This excessive belief in ourselves can be seen as an elevation of the ‘self’ as an idol. That is why our Lord said that such promises are from the Evil One.

Rather than swearing oaths and making promises we cannot keep, let us be clear (both to others and to ourselves) what we can/should and can/should not do. In doing so, we say ‘yes’ to God in our obedience to Him and trust in His providence, and we say ‘no’ to the devil and all his empty promises.

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, keep us grounded in Your love and our humility, so that we may continue to trust and rely on your never-ending providence.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for providing us with all that we need, for it is in the fulfilment of these needs that we see the emptiness of our wants.

16 June, Friday – Cutting off the hand that is distraction

16 June 2017

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2 Corinthians 4:7-15

We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us. We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair; we have been persecuted, but never deserted; knocked down, but never killed; always, wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body. Indeed, while we are still alive, we are consigned to our death every day, for the sake of Jesus, so that in our mortal flesh the life of Jesus, too, may be openly shown. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

But as we have the same spirit of faith that is mentioned in scripture – I believed, and therefore I spoke – we too believe and therefore we too speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus to life will raise us with Jesus in our turn, and put us by his side and you with us. You see, all this is for your benefit, so that the more grace is multiplied among people, the more thanksgiving there will be, to the glory of God.

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Matthew 5:27-32

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.

‘It has also been said: Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. But I say this to you: everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.’

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If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away

There is very little doubt that we live in a time of great distraction. Everywhere we look, we see people distracted – whether absorbed the little glowing screens of their smartphones or mesmerized by the latest fashion or products that our shiny cities have to offer. Yes, it is a time of great distraction, and we are a people dying to be distracted. How often have you felt that sinking feeling of helplessness, when you realize that you have left your phone at home? Or the urge to check out the latest season in your favourite apparel store?

Yet, this constant state of distraction is dangerous for us, for we are absorbed in an artificial environment of social media posts, shares, and likes. Worse yet, our life choices come to be defined by these distractions. I often see couples, and even families, sitting at the dining table, everyone mindlessly scrolling through their smartphones. How did we get here? When did social media posts and 800-word blogposts or commentary pieces become more important than the thoughts and feelings of our loved ones or an 800-page literary classic?

Worse yet, we have allowed such distraction to affect our spiritual and faith lives, for in our distraction, we are no longer able to discern the wonders of God in our everyday lives, whether in terms of our familial relationships, the world around us (the actual physical world around us, mind you), or perhaps more importantly, the needs of the people around us. One does not need to look very far to find a homeless person or a lonely soul in our midst.

If our gadgets and distractions are truly distracting us and keeping us from performing our roles and duties as children of God and disciples of Christ, then perhaps it is time to consider giving them up. For Jesus in today’s Gospel exhorts us to tear out the eye or cut off the hand that causes us to sin. Isn’t it so much easier simply to put away that phone or look away from the store display, rather than cutting off a hand or tearing out an eye? Yet for some, it is just as difficult to put down the phone as it is to cut off a hand.

In that case, we need to ask ourselves: what is more important? Our personal pleasures and desires? Or our commitment to Christ and the Kingdom of God?

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for Your strength and fortitude, so that we can reject sin and Satan, especially in the distractions that keep us from living out our Christian duties.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for the wonders and beauty of His creation, set in the world around us, as a pleasing reminder of His love and providence. May we never become so distracted as to forget these gifts from our heavenly Father.