Category Archives: Ordinary Time

19 October, Thursday – Who Can Understand God?

Oct 19 – Memorial for Sts. John de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, martyrs; Memorial for St. Paul of the Cross, Priest

John de Brebeuf (1593–1649) was a French Jesuit. He wanted to enter the priesthood since young, but his health was so bad there were doubts he could make it. His posting as a missionary to frontier Canada at the age of 32 was a literal godsend. He spent the rest of his life there, and the harsh and hearty climate so agreed with him that the Natives, surprised at his endurance, called him “Echon”, which means “load bearer”. His massive size made them think twice about sharing a canoe with him for fear of sinking.

John had great difficulty learning the Huron language. “You may have been a famous professor or theologian in France,” he wrote in a letter home, “but here you will merely be a student, and with what teachers! The Huron language will be your Aristla crosse.” However, he eventually wrote a catechism in Huron, and a French-Huron dictionary for use by other missionaries.

According to the histories of the game, it was John who named the present-day version of the Indian game ‘lacrosse’ because the stick used reminded him of a bishop’s crosier (la crosse).

He was martyred in 1649, tortured to death by the Iroquois. By 1650, the Huron nation was exterminated, and the laboriously built mission was abandoned. But it proved to be “one of the triumphant failures that are commonplace in the Church’s history”. These martyrdoms created a wave of vocations and missionary fervour in France, and it gave new heart to the missionaries in New France.

– Patron Saint Index

Isaac Jogues (1607–1646) joined the Jesuits at Rouen, France in 1624. He was ordained a priest and taught literature. He became a missionary to New France (Canada) in 1636, starting in Quebec and working among the Hurons and Petuns in the area of the Great Lakes. This was a rough assignment – not only were the living conditions hard, but the locals blamed the ‘Blackrobes’ for any disease, ill luck, or other problems that occurred where they were.

He was captured on 3 August 1642 by the Mohawks, enslaved, tortured and mutilated for 13 months, but he taught the Faith to any who would listen. With the help of local Dutch settlers he finally escaped and was sent back to France to recover.

In 1644, he returned to Canada to continue his work with the natives and negotiate peace with the Iroquois. He was martyred with fellow Jesuit priest John de Brebeuf and several lay missionaries when the natives blamed Christian sorcery for an epidemic and crop failure. He is one of the North America Martyrs.

– Patron Saint Index

Paul of the Cross (1694–1775) was the son of a merchant and a pious youth. After receiving a vision and while still a layman, he founded the Congregation of Discalced Clerks of the Most Holy Cross and Passion (Passionists) in 1721 to preach about Jesus Crucified. He was a preacher of such power that hardened soldiers and bandits were seen to weep.

The community lived a penitential life, in solitude and poverty, teaching people in the easiest possible way how to meditate on the Passion of Jesus. He was ordained in 1727 along with his brother John Baptist by Pope Benedict XIII. After ordination, they devoted themselves to preaching missions in parishes, particularly in remote country places where there were insufficient priests pastorally involved. Their preaching apostolate and the retreats they gave in seminaries and religious houses brought their mission to the attention of others and gradually the community began to grow.

However, the austere life of the Passionists did not encourage large numbers and at one point all the brothers in the Order deserted him. But Paul preferred a slow, at times painful, growth to something more spectacular. In 1741 his Rule was approved by Pope Benedict XIV, and the community began to grow again.

During his lifetime, Paul of the Cross was best known as a popular preacher and a spiritual director. More than two thousand of his letters, most of them letters of spiritual direction, have been preserved. By the time of his death, the congregation had 80 fathers and brothers. He is considered among the greatest Catholic mystics of the 18th century.

– Patron Saint Index, Wikipedia

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Romans 3:21-30

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

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

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Luke 11:47-54

Jesus said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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

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

18 October, Wednesday – Neighbours

Oct 18 – Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist

Luke (d. 74) was born to pagan Greek parents, and possibly a slave. He was one of the earliest converts, and a physician studying in Antioch and Tarsus. He probably travelled as a ship’s doctor, and many charitable societies of physicians are named after him. Legend has that he was also a painter who may have done portraits of Jesus and Mary, but none have ever been correctly or definitively attributed to him; this story, and the inspiration his Gospel has always given artists, led to his patronage of them.

He met St. Paul at Troas, and evangelised Greece and Rome with him, being there for the shipwreck and other perils of the voyage to Rome, and stayed in Rome for Paul’s two years in prison. He wrote the Gospel According to Luke, much of which was based on the teachings and writings of Paul, interviews with early Christians, and his own experiences. He also wrote a history of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles. He was likely to have been martyred for his faith.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Timothy 4:10-17

Demas has deserted me for love of this life and gone to Thessalonika, Crescens has gone to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia; only Luke is with me. Get Mark to come and bring him with you; I find him a useful helper in my work. I have sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak I left with Carpus in Troas, and the scrolls, especially the parchment ones. Alexander the coppersmith has done me a lot of harm; the Lord will repay him for what he has done. Be on your guard against him yourself, because he has been bitterly contesting everything that we say.

The first time I had to present my defence, there was not a single witness to support me. Every one of them deserted me – may they not be held accountable for it. But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.

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Luke 10:1-9

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.”’

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Eat what is set before you

How nice it must have been, how comforting to know that if you knock on a door, as a traveler, that household was obliged to give you shelter and some bread. The Jewish customs valued life, for if they turned a traveler away in the middle of the night, they might find him dead in the morning. So either out of fear or hospitality, it was a time where you should not be sleeping on the streets, unless you were a leper or were short of a limb, then strangely you were an outcast for fear your curse would be inflicted on them.

I myself am not one who opens his door all day long and engages in long conversations in the corridors. Thankfully, I married someone who really sees the person behind the faces she meets, she greets, she asks, she cares, and she’s engaged in a conversation along the corridor, long after I have gone into the house and put my feet up. I have truly learnt the value of being a neighbour — my neighbours have come to our aid many times, as have we in their times of need. From borrowing potatoes, to drills, to watching the baby and even sharing home-cooked meals, it does feel like I have something rare on my floor.

So as the disciples did, as Jesus commanded, I pray we sincerely wish our peace upon our neighbours, and as Jesus said, if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; if not, your peace will return to you. We have nothing to lose in reaching out, being kind, being neighbourly. We have become rather guarded but in opening our gates, I think we will find that most of the time there are bridges to be built. And hopefully, they will know that we are Christians by our love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer: Pray for us St Luke, that we may be evangelists too and not be afraid to give away some of this infinite love that Christ has given us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the challenge to love outside our comfort zone, and for the promise that we will not lose anything.

17 October, Tuesday – Wisdom

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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Romans 1:16-25

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

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

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Luke 11:37-41

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

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The more they called themselves philosophers, the more stupid they grew
I’d like to touch on a very real trait that is well-known in Singapore society: ‘kiasu-ism’. The Hokkien term ‘kiasu’ denotes someone who is afraid to lose and would literally do anything to get ahead and stay ahead. Sometimes, this includes withholding information from other people, so as to have a “first mover advantage” or to place oneself in an important position because you possessed that information.
I once worked with a manager who liked to do that. In fact he even had a reputation in the office for not sharing important information, even with his own team members. During meetings with the clients and bosses, he would present this information, giving the impression that he was in the ‘know’ and therefore creating value for himself at the expense of his team. It’s difficult to work with people like this. I can understand their motives, though I may not agree with it. In this dog-eat-dog world, it really is the survival of the fittest, and if you can’t stay in the game, you would be out.
In today’s reading, St Paul condemns those who had the knowledge of God but refused to share it with others. God revealed this to them so that they would go forth and spread the Good News of the gospel. Some of these people felt privileged that such a revelation should come upon them and turned that privilege as a bargaining chip for position. They felt important, and believed that they were smart because people would look to them. Consumed by pride, they believed only in their own reasoning and the Word of God became obliterated.
Knowledge is a gift given to us by the grace of God. We know the things that we do because God made it so. Some people are smarter than others, but it doesn’t mean that they are more important. Perhaps others possess a gift for speaking, or a gift for the arts, that another person does not have. The Holy Spirit gives each of us special gifts as he sees fit (1 Cor 12:11). What we know about work and life is because we were given the smarts to do that by God. Our ability to digest numbers, recite the law, or comprehend technical terms is undeniably from our own efforts, but more importantly because God blessed us with the ability to understand these things.
So for those of us whom God has blessed, let us ask ourselves: what are we doing with the knowledge that God has given us? Are we sharing it as we should? Are we using it for the right purposes? Are we applying discernment to what we know? Are we giving Him glory? God gives us the wisdom to know Him, His word and His creations. If we ask, we would receive it. But it is a gift and, as with all of God’s gifts, if we use it unwisely, it may one day be taken away from us.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, help us shed our ‘kiasu’ spirit and learn to share what we have with those who need it most.   
Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord for giving us the wisdom to understand Your word and the wisdom to discern. We pray that we will not take this gift of knowledge for granted.

16 October, Monday – Silence Speaks To Open Hearts

Oct 16 – Memorial for St. Hedwig, Religious; Memorial for St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin

Hedwig (1174–1243) was the daughter of the Duke of Croatia, and aunt of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. She married Prince Henry I of Silesia and Poland in 1186 at the age of 12, and became the mother of seven. She cared for the sick both personally and by founding hospitals. Upon her husband’s death, she gave away her fortune and entered the monastery at Trebnitz.

– Patron Saint Index

Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647–1690) was healed from a crippling disorder by a vision of the Blessed Virgin, which prompted her to give her life to God. After receiving a vision of Christ fresh from the Scourging, she was moved to join the Order of the Visitation by Paray-le-Monial in 1671.

She received a revelation from our Lord in 1675, which included 12 promises to her and to those who practiced a true devotion to His Sacred Heart, whose crown of thorns represent his sacrifices. The devotion encountered violent opposition, especially in Jansenist areas, but has become widespread and popular.

The Twelve Promises of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary for those devoted to His Sacred Heart are:

  1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
  2. I will establish peace in their families.
  3. I will console them in all their troubles.
  4. They shall find in My Heart an assured refuge during life and especially at the hour of their death.
  5. I will pour abundant blessings on all their undertakings.
  6. Sinners shall find in My Heart the source of an infinite ocean of mercy.
  7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.
  8. Fervent souls shall speedily rise to great perfection.
  9. I will bless the homes where an image of My Heart shall be exposed and honoured.
  10. I will give to priests the power of touching the most hardened hearts.
  11. Those who propagate this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be effaced.
  12. The all-powerful love of My Heart will grant to all those who shall receive Communion on the First Friday of nine consecutive months the grace of final repentance; they shall not die under any displeasure, nor without receiving their Sacraments; My Heart shall be their assured refuge at that last hour.

– Patron Saint Index

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Romans 1:1-7

From Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus who has been called to be an apostle, and specially chosen to preach the Good News that God promised long ago through his prophets in the scriptures.

This news is about the Son of God who, according to the human nature he took was a descendant of David: it is about Jesus Christ our Lord who, in the order of the spirit, the spirit of holiness that was in him, was proclaimed Son of God in all his power through his resurrection from the dead. Through him we received grace and our apostolic mission to preach the obedience of faith to all pagan nations in honour of his name. You are one of these nations, and by his call belong to Jesus Christ. To you all, then, who are God’s beloved in Rome, called to be saints, may God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send grace and peace.

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Luke 11:29-32

The crowds got even bigger and Jesus addressed them, ‘This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here. On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.’

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This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign

Don’t you just hate it when someone asks you for some advice on a situation, yet they continue to persist in the same way, until someone else – or two – comes along with the same advice and suddenly their ears are open and they pay heed? Isn’t it just worse when they come back to you and share how that advice had changed their lives or made so much sense? It seems this person forgot that you gave the same advice from the start. I am sure this is a common experience for many, and it is definitely more irritating when it happens with someone close such as a family member or a good friend.

This happens to me; and I have done the same to the people who try to help me. Actually, for some of us, we do need to hear the same message, probably twice or thrice, before it sinks in and we take note.

However, the readings of today reveal an important ingredient: wisdom. It is not enough for us to ask for a sign, to ask for the way to be shown us. After all, Paul tells us in the first reading, the signs, the Good News had been promised by God long before through the prophets in the scriptures. The people who lived in the time of these prophets had heard the prophecies loud and clear – Jonah, Moses, Elijah – but not everyone heeded their clarion call. Well, they were mere men anyway.

But here comes Jesus. Jesus, Paul proclaims, is the Son of God, the Christ our Lord. Paul is reminding the Romans that Jesus Christ is the sign for this generation. ‘For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation… and there is something greater than Solomon here… and there is something greater than Jonah here.’ (Lk 11:31-32) These were the very words of Christ himself as he preached amongst the Jews and Pagans that he walked amongst.

As I pondered this scene, I wonder if I were one of those around him back then, would I have truly listened with wisdom and discernment, or merely heard and forgot. Would I have walked on from that crowd and joined another gathering to listen to yet another wise man preach, aimlessly asking for teachings and signposts like a mindless addiction for cure-alls? Or do I choose to open my heart to the Living Word of God to seek His wisdom and love for a deep conversion within?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to sit still and let Your Word in the scriptures sink into my being like food from heaven for my weary soul.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord, for the gift of a morning or night-time silence when we can reflect on our days and Your presence.

15 October, Sunday – Meeting God On Judgment Day

15 October 2017

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Isaiah 25:6-10

On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food.

On this mountain he will remove the mourning veil covering all peoples, and the shroud enwrapping all nations, he will destroy Death for ever.

The Lord will wipe away the tears from every cheek; he will take away his people’s shame everywhere on earth, for the Lord has said so.

That day, it will be said: See, this is our God in whom we hoped for salvation; the Lord is the one in whom we hoped.

We exult and we rejoice that he has saved us.

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Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20

I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty. There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength. All the same, it was good of you to share with me in my hardships. In return my God will fulfil all your needs, in Christ Jesus, as lavishly as only God can. Glory to God, our Father, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Matthew 22:1-14

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding. He sent his servants to call those who had been invited, but they would not come. Next he sent some more servants. “Tell those who have been invited” he said “that I have my banquet all prepared, my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, everything is ready. Come to the wedding.” But they were not interested: one went off to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his servants, maltreated them and killed them. The king was furious. He despatched his troops, destroyed those murderers and burnt their town. Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready; but as those who were invited proved to be unworthy, go to the crossroads in the town and invite everyone you can find to the wedding.” So these servants went out on to the roads and collected together everyone they could find, bad and good alike; and the wedding hall was filled with guests. When the king came in to look at the guests he noticed one man who was not wearing a wedding garment, and said to him, “How did you get in here, my friend, without a wedding garment?” And the man was silent. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’

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The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence

My first reaction to today’s Gospel was anger. How could God send a man who was not dressed appropriately to such a harsh and condemning punishment? Isn’t God supposed to be merciful and compassionate? How could He be so cruel? Underlying my anger, however, is fear. What if one day He sends me out and punishes me for eternity? What if in His eyes, my ‘dressing’ (in the form of how well I love others, how compassionate I am, etc) is not good enough for Him?

Such thinking reflects my fears that underneath the veneer of God being a kind and compassionate Father, He is actually calculating, not willing to dialogue or listen, and tyrannical in His ways. But is He really like this? Or am I projecting my own experiences of limitations in human love onto Him?

Notice how in the Gospel, the King addressed the man as, “my friend”. There was equality in his addressing the man, despite his status as King. He was not quick to judge, but ready to listen with compassion when he asked the man why he was not dressed appropriately. It was, however, the man himself who knew that he had no good reason. He could have said that he did not know the dress code and the King would probably have taken pity on him and asked his servants to dress this man. But the man was silent. He knew the dress code.

The man could have said that he did not have the money to adorn himself with the appropriate robes and, again, the King would likely take pity on him. But he was silent, revealing that it was his personal choice to disrespect the King’s request. Perhaps if he had rebelled out of anger at the King, the King would have even taken pity on his anger. But this man had nothing. No personal anger — simply a desire to be his own god and set his own rules.

For those of us who are striving to walk in God’s ways and are afraid that we may still inevitably make mistakes because of our ignorance or struggles, take comfort that God will patiently and compassionately listen to us in our struggles. For those of us who are angry with God and therefore disobey Him, take comfort that He will listen when we cry out in our wounds and anger. But for those of us who sin simply because we want to be our own gods and set our own rules, let this be a reminder that there will come a day when all of us will face the one true God — whether or not we like it — and then we will realize that we are no longer the dictator of our own home but a guest in another’s house.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jean Natalia)

Prayer: We pray for the faith to hold onto the truth that there is a God who has created the world in order, justice, mercy, compassion, intimacy, and love. We pray to live in accordance with this truth.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for constantly challenging me not to base my understanding of who you are on my limited experiences of human relationships, but always inviting me to dare to hope in a new world, a new love, a new home in You.

14 October, Saturday – A Roof Over Our Heads In Tough Times

Oct 14 – Memorial for St. Callistus I, Pope and Martyr

Callistus (d. 223) was born a slave, owned by Carpophorus, a Christian in the household of Caesar. His master entrusted a large sum to Callistus to open a bank, which took in several deposits, made several loans to people who refused to pay them back, and went broke. Knowing he would be personally blamed and punished, Callistus fled, but was caught and returned to his owner. Several depositers begged for his life, believing that he had not lost the money, but had stolen and hid it.

They were wrong; he wasn’t a thief, just a victim, but he was sentenced to work the tin mines. By a quirk of Roman law, the ownership of Callistus was transferred from Carpophorus to the state, and when he was later ransomed out of his sentence with a number of other Christians, he became a free man. Pope St. Zephyrinus put Callistus in charge of the Roman public burial grounds, today still called the Cemetery of Saint Callistus. He later became an archdeacon and the 16th pope.

Most of what we know about him has come down to us from his critics, including an anti-Pope of the day. He was, on more than one occasion, accused of heresy for such actions as permitting a return to Communion for sinners who had repented and done penance, or for proclaiming that differences in economic classes were no barrier to marriage.

This last put him in conflict with Roman civil law, but he stated that in matters concerning the Church and the sacraments, Church law trumped civil law. In both cases, he taught what the Church has taught for centuries, including today, and though a whole host of schismatics wrote against him, his crime seems to have been to practice orthodox Christianity. He was martyred for his faith.

– Patron Saint Index

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Joel 4:12-21

The Lord says this:

‘Let the nations rouse themselves, let them march to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for I am going to sit in judgement there on all the nations round.

Put the sickle in: the harvest is ripe; come and tread: the winepress is full, the vats are overflowing, so great is their wickedness!’

Host on host in the Valley of Decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the Valley of Decision! Sun and moon grow dark, the stars lose their brilliance.

The Lord roars from Zion, makes his voice heard from Jerusalem; heaven and earth tremble.

But the Lord will be a shelter for his people, a stronghold for the sons of Israel.

‘You will learn then that I am the Lord your God, dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain. Jerusalem will be a holy place, no alien will ever pass through it again.’

When that day comes, the mountains will run with new wine and the hills flow with milk, and all the river beds of Judah will run with water.

A fountain will spring from the house of the Lord to water the wadi of Acacias. Egypt will become a desolation, Edom a desert waste on account of the violence done to the sons of Judah whose innocent blood they shed in their country.

But Judah will be inhabited for ever, Jerusalem from age to age. ‘I will avenge their blood and let none go unpunished’, and the Lord shall make his home in Zion.

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Luke 11:27-28

As Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, ‘Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!’ But he replied, ‘Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!’

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But the Lord will be a shelter for his people

It has certainly been a trying time for the world with senseless violence in the US, unrest in Spain, natural disasters wreaking havoc in Puerto Rico, Florida and Japan, the plight of the Rohingya refugees in Myanmar and millions of others suffering from homelessness and hunger in Asia. Back home in Singapore, we are thankful to be somewhat sheltered from such upheavals and yet, we seem to be ‘cracking’ at the seams. Our infrastructure and, more importantly, our youth, are beginning to come apart from the various stresses and strains that our ‘first-world society’ demands.

I was shocked to receive news of the death of a friend’s daughter last week from an apparent suicide. She was only 19 years old and had a full life ahead of her. While I have not really kept in touch with him over the years, I am quite sure that as a parent, he would have been totally devastated. From his Facebook postings, I could tell that he was a devoted and loving father, always going on trips with his family and certainly always providing the best for them. I just wonder if all that is enough in today’s world, and whether we really need to focus on God even more, in the face of all the creature comforts that are so easily available to us these days.

In times of peril and distress, who or what do we turn to in order to feel better? Is it our bank book, the casinos, or do we employ ‘retail therapy’ and splurge on luxury goods and seek to enrich ourselves in ways that we think will assuage our feelings of pain and unworthiness?

Or do we turn to the Lord and spend time with him in adoration, or at daily mass, listening to His voice and promptings, seeking counsel in His loving embrace? Brothers and sisters, while it is extremely difficult to receive any form of ‘instant gratification’ from our prayers, we must always have faith that our Lord is always there to provide for us and to shelter us from the raging storms both around us and within us.

I have been dealing with a variety of ‘storms’ over the past few months and have begun to understand how seeking refuge in prayer, in adoration and, especially so in the loving arms of Mother Mary can indeed bring joy, hope and peace within. It is ultimately all a matter of perspective – do we seel solace in the material world that provides fleeting satisfaction? Or can we humble ourselves to trust in the eternal gratification that our Lord provides through confession, adoration, the sacred rosary and in the Eucharist?

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are you amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord, for the trials that come our way. And for the hope that you bring in your gentle, caring way.

13 October, Friday – Covetousness

13 October 2017

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Joel 1:13-15, 2:1-2

Priests, put on sackcloth and lament. Ministers of the altar, wail.

Come, pass the night in sackcloth, you ministers of my God. For the house of our God has been deprived of oblation and libation.

Order a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly; elders, call together all the inhabitants of the country to the house of the Lord your God.

Cry out to the Lord, ‘Oh, what a day! For the day of the Lord is near, it comes as a devastation from Shaddai.’

Sound the trumpet in Zion, give the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the country tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, yes, it is near.

Day of darkness and gloom, day of cloud and blackness. Like the dawn there spreads across the mountains a vast and mighty host, such as has never been before, such as will never be again to the remotest ages.

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Luke 11:15-26

When Jesus had cast out a devil, some of the people said, ‘It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.’ Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven; but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses. So too with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? – Since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils. Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out? Let them be your judges then. But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you. So long as a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he is attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.

‘He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.

‘When an unclean spirit goes out of a man it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and not finding one it says, “I will go back to the home I came from.” But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied, it then goes off and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and set up house there, so that the man ends up by being worse than he was before.’

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…his goods are undisturbed
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says that, “When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe.” (Lk 11:21). In my early years in advertising, I used to covet many things. I had collections of caps, Swatch watches, CDs, magazines (GQ, Arena and the like), even Mambo t-shirts (which I hardly wore). I don’t know what possessed me to regularly hit the stores on payday and just pick up whatever caught my eye. Looking back, I just wonder how much I spent over the years storing up all these possessions.
As I progressed in my career, I began spending on more expensive items. Blinded by my ego and pride, I always wanted to be seen in the latest jeans, wearing a cool timepiece or luxury accessory. Then, reality hit when I was retrenched twice. I realized how much I had simply thrown to the retail gods over nearly 15 years. So when Jesus speaks about a strong man fully armed, who is attacked and overcome by a stronger being, I identify with the weaker man who has been attacked by the devil. In my case, the evil one certainly knew my weaknesses and exploited them to the fullest, through a potent mix of pride, greed and covetousness. I discovered that at the end of the day, no amount of material possessions can help if deep within one’s heart, there is nothing of value.
Today, my perspective on the same verse is slightly different. I still identify with the strong man but I am now building up my armor not through material goods, but through formation. The past 6 years have been a blessing as I journey closer to God and attempt to walk in the footsteps of his disciples. And while I cannot proclaim to be strong in terms of my spirituality and prayer life, I know that every day, the Lord is building me up and strengthening my armor through the people and situations He sends my way.
Brothers and sisters, we are children of God, created in His image. What we possess in our hearts is much more important than what we possess in our lives. For me, the love of God resides deep in my heart. That is something that I will always cherish and keep safe within me. So too the fruits of the Holy Spirit – charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, generosity, modesty, self-control, gentleness and chastity. In whatever degree we possess them, let us pray that each of us strives to protect these ‘possessions’ and keep them safe in our hearts.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that you continue to work within us to build up our spiritual armor so that we can protect ourselves from temptation and sin.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we give thanks to You all that you bless us with and, most importantly, for your unconditional love for all of us.

12 October, Thursday – Ode To My Home

12 October 2017

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Malachi 3:13-20

You say harsh things about me, says the Lord. You ask, ‘What have we said against you?’ You say, ‘It is useless to serve God; what is the good of keeping his commands or of walking mournfully before the Lord of Hosts? Now we have reached the point when we call the arrogant blessed; yes, they prosper, these evil-doers; they try God’s patience and yet go free.’ This is what those who fear the Lord used to say to one another. But the Lord took note and heard them: a book of remembrance was written in his presence recording those who fear him and take refuge in his name. On the day which I am preparing, says the Lord of Hosts, they are going to be my own special possession. I will make allowances for them as a man makes allowances for the son who obeys him. Then once again you will see the difference between an upright man and a wicked one, between the one who serves God and the one who does not serve him. For the day is coming now, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and the evil-doers will be like stubble. The day that is coming is going to burn them up, says the Lord of Hosts, leaving them neither root nor stalk. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays.

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Luke 11:5-13

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night to say, “My friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend of mine on his travels has just arrived at my house and I have nothing to offer him”; and the man answers from inside the house, “Do not bother me. The door is bolted now, and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up to give it you.” I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it him for friendship’s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants.

‘So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or hand him a snake instead of a fish? Or hand him a scorpion if he asked for an egg? If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

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“Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you”

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be an American. I read Emma Lazarus’ ‘New Colossus’ and it set my heart on fire. Our family was supposed to have emigrated when I was a child, but things didn’t work out. It is only now, as an adult, that I have found my way here. I love my adopted country deeply. We are going through an existential crisis at the moment but I know we will emerge more loving and more united. Though lost, we will find our way again. It’s a strange feeling to be praying for one’s country. But I feel we are in need of divine intervention to save us from ourselves. Perhaps this turmoil is so we might figure out who we are, and what we stand for. Perhaps this is a test — of our faith, our tenacity, our capacity to love and forgive each other and ourselves.

Jesus reminds us in today’s gospel, that when we pray, we have to “ask and you will receive, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9). Prayer works, but we have to be earnest in our pursuit of it. Our hearts have to be fully invested. And that’s what we are not – invested. So many of us have despaired that the only way to cope is to look away. So our prayers lack conviction. We say the words but don’t believe things can change because we can’t see that change. What is faith though, if not the belief in things yet unseen?

In Matthew 5:24, Jesus tells us we need to forgive each other before we approach God in prayer – “…leave your gift in front of the altar, go at once and make peace, and then come back and offer your gift to God”. And that’s what we don’t have – forgiveness. We refuse to make peace. We dredge up old grudges, define ourselves by our differences. But how can we stand on common ground if we refuse to even seek it?

If there is a God, and He is good, why are these things happening to us? I hear that a lot lately. People have lost their tenacity, they’re giving up even on God. But Scripture has so many examples of the fruits of persistence. God answers prayers. And He has a track record for sparing His people. So why are we giving up? Think of Moses interceding for the Hebrews as they wandered through the desert. And Abraham advocating for the Sodomites. If God could find ten good people, ten good Americans, might He not spare us too? Scripture shows that all it takes is a remnant to make a nation great again. If God could find ten good Americans, might He not save us from ourselves?

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: I pray for my country, that we might find the resolve, the courage, the forgiveness to move beyond the things that are happening to us.

Thanksgiving: I give thanks for the peacekeepers, the first responders, all who labor in the belief that all it takes is a remnant to make a nation great again.

11 October, Wednesday – On Forgiveness

11 October 2017

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Jonah 4:1-11

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

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

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

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Luke 11:1-4

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

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

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“Have you reason to be angry?”

Today’s reading in Jonah is about forgiveness. Specifically, how to find it within ourselves to forgive someone who has wronged us, when all we want is for justice to be served. Jonah’s predicament was that he preached a future of hail and hellfire. And though he was calling for repentance, there was a part of Jonah who secretly wanted to see the Assyrians meet their sorry end. As we know, that never happened because the city of Nineveh turned from its wicked ways and thus, its people were spared the wrath of God. So the only ‘loser’ in this equation, if you can call it that, was Jonah.

Our sense of justice and morality almost demands that God mete out justice to those who have wronged us. When we see them flourishing instead, we suffer from a ‘You’ve got to be joking!’ moment. Like Jonah, we sputter with indignation, puff our cheeks with disbelief, shake our heads with incredulity. Why are the bad guys allowed to win, we lament? It’s so unfair!

The comforting thing about all this is that God understands our frustation and tries to come down to our level to explain it to us – “should I not be concerned over Nineveh, the great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons, who cannot distinguish their right hand from their left”. Or more plainly put, “Should I not be concerned with people who I have made in my likeness, who are still such fledglings that they can’t tell wrong from right?” He implores us to be better men (and women), to rise to the occasion and to find within us the compassion to put aside our indignation and forgive those who have wronged us. Forgiveness can be a bitter pill to swallow yet that’s the way that God has chosen to move forward. So who are we to insist on having justice served our way when we too are in need of His forgiveness?

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for a heart of self awareness and love, that sees beyond our puny demands and perceives God’s bigger picture.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit that guides us to make good decisions, even when it doesn’t feel good to make them.

10 October, Tuesday – How Superheroines Handle Stress

10 October 2017

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Jonah 3:1-10

The word of the Lord was addressed a second time to Jonah: ‘Up!’ he said ‘Go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach to them as I told you to.’ Jonah set out and went to Nineveh in obedience to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was a city great beyond compare: it took three days to cross it. Jonah went on into the city, making a day’s journey. He preached in these words, ‘Only forty days more and Nineveh is going to be destroyed.’ And the people of Nineveh believed in God; they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least. The news reached the king of Nineveh, who rose from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth and sat down in ashes. A proclamation was then promulgated throughout Nineveh, by decree of the king and his ministers, as follows: ‘Men and beasts, herds and flocks, are to taste nothing; they must not eat, they must not drink water. All are to put on sackcloth and call on God with all their might; and let everyone renounce his evil behaviour and the wicked things he has done. Who knows if God will not change his mind and relent, if he will not renounce his burning wrath, so that we do not perish?’ God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behaviour, and God relented: he did not inflict on them the disaster which he had threatened.

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Luke 10:38-42

Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered: ‘Martha, Martha,’ he said ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’

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“Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?”

Today’s gospel reading is very special to me. St Martha is my confirmation saint. Her story has always resonated with me because of the two sisters, Martha is the one that’s more relatable. She’s the woman of action, the superheroine go-getter who has the gumption to invite Jesus for dinner in the first place (Luke 10:38). You can identify with her because her traits are so human. You’ve probably been in her position yourself – overworked, under-resourced and overwhelmed. That’s the predicament of the majority of people who work in service. It’s no wonder she’s our patron saint!

Though Scripture focuses on how Mary made better choices, it is Martha who inspires us with her courage and chutzpah. In John 11:21-22, a grieving Martha goes out to meet Jesus and scolds him, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know thar whatever you ask from God, God will give you”, as if to demand of Jesus, “You had better fix this. He’s dead because you were late!”. Her tone is implied to be more forceful than Mary’s, because Mary ‘fell at his feet’ (John 11:32). In the same forthright manner, she matter-of-factly informs Jesus that she believes him to be Christ, the Messiah and Son of God. Her proclamation is similar to Peter’s in Matt 16:16, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God”. Martha’s story is not without a happy ending, despite how Scripture paints her. In John 12 we are told that “six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where he had raised Lazarus, the dead man, to life. Now they gave a dinner for him and while Martha waited on them, Lazarus sat at the table with Jesus” (John 12:1-2). It’s a simple verse, yet we can infer that Martha has made peace with herself and her vocation to be of service to Christ and his disciples. There’s no demanding, no scolding and no foot-stamping. She’s happy to simply wait on them.

There is a famous verse in the Book of Matthew for the overburdened and the fatigued – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). I’d like to believe that in the midst of her domestic chaos, Martha would have whispered this prayer herself — and that God, in His infinite grace, heard her cry and gave her the resources she needed to complete her tasks. What an inspiration that is to all of us who labor in service!

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all those who labor with limited resources, that they find what they need, just when they need it.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the reserves of strength that God sends us when we come to the end of our rope!