Category Archives: Ordinary Time

28 February, Sacrifices of My Heart

28 February 2017

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First reading
Ecclesiasticus 35:2-15

A man multiplies offerings by keeping the Law;
he offers communion sacrifices by following the commandments.
By showing gratitude he makes an offering of fine flour,
by giving alms he offers a sacrifice of praise.
Withdraw from wickedness and the Lord will be pleased,
withdraw from injustice and you make atonement.
Do not appear empty-handed in the Lord’s presence;
for all these things are due under the commandment.
A virtuous man’s offering graces the altar,
and its savour rises before the Most High.
A virtuous man’s sacrifice is acceptable,
its memorial will not be forgotten.
Honour the Lord with generosity,
do not stint the first-fruits you bring.
Add a smiling face to all your gifts,
and be cheerful as you dedicate your tithes.
Give to the Most High as he has given to you,
generously as your means can afford;
for the Lord is a good rewarder,
he will reward you seven times over.
Offer him no bribe, he will not accept it,
do not put your faith in an unvirtuous sacrifice;
since the Lord is a judge
who is no respecter of personages.

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Mark 10:28-31

‘What about us?’ Peter asked Jesus. ‘We have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.

‘Many who are first will be last, and the last first.’

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Receive a hundred times more now in this present age

In today’s reading the God promises that we will receive blessings in a hundredfold. This was similar to a promise He made in Mark 9:1 “I tell you solemnly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God comes to power.”

Do we believe that God is talking to us and offering this promise to us? Are we being evasive and wondering that He must be talking to some self-righteous dude, someone holy and almost saintly? Let us deny that way of thinking!

Let us get it right from this day forward, that our God (my God) does not have favourites and he will repay you sevenfold. As our Father, He teaches us to pay within our means and with joy, to be generous, to refrain from evil and not to bribe. How have we fared as obedient children to our loving Father?

In my walk of life, I know that God is asking me to be calm and patient, revealing areas that are challenging to me. This is my challenge especially when I feel the need to stand up for myself. Some well-meaning friends told me, use these situations for the glory of God. Yes how true and my failure to do so reminds me that I am weak and I am relying on my Father to rescue me.

Who would be relying on today? Is it an astrologer, our doctors, our bosses, our teachers or even our parents and spouses? My strength is in the Lord. When everyone is bound to fail, my Lord remains steadfast and constant. He promises to bless you and me a hundredfold and repay us sevenfold, He is at work right now. We sometimes may not be plugged into the right network, help us Lord to disconnect from all false networks so we get the see the strength of your ‘signal’.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord break down these walls, break all my fears, I am here ready to receive from your blessings.

Thanksgiving: Your amazing love has captured me, all the days of my life I will sing of your praises.

27 February, Monday – Re-aligning our Purpose

27 February 2017

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Ecclesiasticus 17:20-28

To those who repent, God permits return,
and he encourages those who were losing hope.
Return to the Lord and leave sin behind,
plead before his face and lessen your offence.
Come back to the Most High and turn away from iniquity,
and hold in abhorrence all that is foul.
Who will praise the Most High in Sheol,
if the living do not do so by giving glory to him?
To the dead, as to those who do not exist, praise is unknown,
only those with life and health can praise the Lord.
How great is the mercy of the Lord,
his pardon on all those who turn towards him!

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Mark 10:17-27

Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’

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“…then come, follow me”

Priorities in life have to be made because there are competing needs on our time and energy. Being humans, we tend to gravitate towards activities that our senses can experience. This can either be in the form of good food, satisfaction of listening to good music or even the pleasure of viewing good art pieces. The readings of today remind us that the activities mentioned above are not as important as returning to God and remaining faithful to Him.

Jesus reminds us of the danger of being too worldly wise and being involved in the world. We can appear to be fulfilling the requirements of the commandments of the Church but perhaps these are only superficial things. Our hearts are still attached to work and money. We may not say it and we may not behave in that manner but sometimes we would never know how attached we are to material things until we are forced to make a choice like the man of today. He had to make a choice as to whether he should renounce all his wealth and follow Jesus or if he should remain attached to the material items he had.

Jesus reminds us today of the need to remain close to Him. This means we need to put aside all the distractions in our lives and focus on Him. These distractions may also occur in the form of thoughts and emotions which prevent us from seeing God clearly in our lives. The only way to put aside these distractions is to be with God constantly in prayer, which is communication with God. Let our prayers allow us to encounter Jesus in our lives so that He can illuminate all the dark corners of our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: We pray for the strength to remain faithful to God in this world of distractions.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who love us just as we are.

26 February, Saturday – A Sensitive Soul

26 February 2017

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Isaiah 49:14-15

Zion was saying, ‘The Lord has abandoned me,
the Lord has forgotten me.’
Does a woman forget her baby at the breast,
or fail to cherish the son of her womb?
Yet even if these forget,
I will never forget you.

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1 Corinthians 4:1-5

People must think of us as Christ’s servants, stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God. What is expected of stewards is that each one should be found worthy of his trust. Not that it makes the slightest difference to me whether you, or indeed any human tribunal, find me worthy or not. I will not even pass judgement on myself. True, my conscience does not reproach me at all, but that does not prove that I am acquitted: the Lord alone is my judge. There must be no passing of premature judgement. Leave that until the Lord comes; he will light up all that is hidden in the dark and reveal the secret intentions of men’s hearts. Then will be the time for each one to have whatever praise he deserves, from God.

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Matthew 6:24-34

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.

‘That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it. Surely life means more than food, and the body more than clothing! Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they are? Can any of you, for all his worrying, add one single cubit to his span of life? And why worry about clothing? Think of the flowers growing in the fields; they never have to work or spin; yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his regalia was robed like one of these. Now if that is how God clothes the grass in the field which is there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more look after you, you men of little faith? So do not worry; do not say, “What are we to eat? What are we to drink? How are we to be clothed?” It is the pagans who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all.

Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’

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I will not even pass judgment on myself.

Since the days of my youth, I have been told that I think too much. “You are over-thinking,” friends would say. I already knew from my childhood that I was a sensitive soul. Over time, I fought this description pretty hard, and soon, subconsciously had built a ‘sensible’ shell over my thoughts. If I did think too much, I was determined to reform those thoughts into wisecracks, profound insights, foresight, or even preemptive actions. Turn them to my advantage, not my Achilles’ heel, I reasoned.

It was in meeting St Thérèse of Lisieux during a quarter-life crisis that I found comfort in a kindred sensitive soul. Through the many relational and emotional afflictions, St Thérèse suffered a bout of religious scrupulosity as a teenager and believed it impossible to please God because of her many failures – perceived or otherwise. Her desire to please God burned so strongly that it produced a counteractive intense self-judgment of her humanness. As I read more about her, I realized that some of us who desire to love God more fully often reach a point of futility in our efforts. It is natural. This juncture usually comes after a season of extremely deep faith conversion, which turns a contrite soul completely to face the burning Sun. Repentance and holy grace then pours like a spring shower over the pruned heart, and what was once dry begins to plump up again with hope, joy, and rebirth.

Yet in order for us to grow more wholly, this season cannot remain and, as a loving Father, He might allow a drought of spiritual wilderness to visit such a soul. This can be the soul’s dark night (St John of the Cross), or a deeper realm of the interior castle (St Teresa of Avila) yet not crossed. These spiritual giants aside, this season is felt very much like abandonment or an intense period of acedia.

This is the Sunday before we enter into Lent, and how apt it is that I have finally come to recognize my own parched state of soul. A sensitive soul worries far too much about offending, considers far too seriously the thoughts of others, and thinks much too harshly of itself. It is a bind for which there is no neat remedy. This tends to be the fertile soil for weeds of perpetual self-judgment and discontentment.

Paul shares the neuroses of trying to be worthy Christians amidst society. In the 1 Corinthians (4:1-5) reading, we know that it will be difficult and our own standards are impossible to fulfill! “What is expected of stewards is that each one should be found worthy of [God’s] trust.” How is that possible? How can we, fickle humans, be capable of inspiring God’s trust in us? Paul acknowledges that he too has to consciously sidestep the murmurs of ‘any human tribunal.’ “I will not even pass judgment on myself [and, even if] my conscience does not reproach me at all, [it] does not prove that I am acquitted” for the Lord alone is judge of the secret intentions of men’s hearts.

As Jesus warns us in the gospel, this compulsive worrying over all aspects of life: sustenance, appearance, careers, even salvation, paralyses us all, especially more one afflicted with scruples. What if I choose career A over B, will God bless me if I end up making the wrong choice and it is not in His will? What if I unintentionally cause my friend to be jealous if I share this good news of mine? What if no matter how much good I do to try and please God, I may actually be choosing the lesser things? These questions might sound bizarre to most people, but St Thérèse would understand a soul who fundamentally desires to love God, yet stumbles through it trying to say “I choose all” to the hard things, in the path to sanctity.

Worry is not from God. It is a weakness that grace can redeem. Jesus simply tells his disciples to reorient their hearts, minds, and souls, onto the Father’s kingdom first and his righteousness first. Our definitions and GPS pin-drops for where his Kingdom is all fall short. God never forgets us even as we stumble. “In God alone is my soul at rest… he alone is my stronghold… trust him at all times. Pour out your hearts before him.” (Psalm 61). Ultimately, St Thérèse was resilient and faithful. No matter her despair at her own weaknesses, she poured herself evermore passionately into loving God with all her being. Her hard-fought choice was to reorient her soul towards remaining childlike in deep trust of the Father. Not to concern herself with how she would get to heaven, but to remain very small and surrendered, to love in her ‘little way’, and to allow the Child Jesus to pick her or leave her when he pleased. She held firmly to her loveliness in God’s eyes and embraced her vocation with a fiery spirit, turning her afflictions into flames of love.

Every seeming weakness within us can possess paradoxical strength and light, just as every seeming strength can prove to hide a profound darkness. We are made of many fleeting moments of fumbling and shining, and each moment is by no means a judgment of who we completely are. Self-compassion is a vital tonic for the sensitive soul.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, help me to trust in your love for me, that I am always worthy of your love and trust and redemption.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the many saints who struggled honestly and valiantly with their weaknesses, pointing for us the triumphant way to heaven by their heroic devotion to God.

25 February, Saturday – Becoming a Child

25 February 2017

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Ecclesiasticus 17:1-13

The Lord fashioned man from the earth,
to consign him back to it.
He gave them so many days’ determined time,
he gave them authority over everything on earth.
He clothed them with strength like his own,
and made them in his own image.
He filled all living things with dread of man,
making him master over beasts and birds.
He shaped for them a mouth and tongue, eyes and ears,
and gave them a heart to think with.
He filled them with knowledge and understanding,
and revealed to them good and evil.
He put his own light in their hearts
to show them the magnificence of his works.
They will praise his holy name,
as they tell of his magnificent works.
He set knowledge before them,
he endowed them with the law of life.
Their eyes saw his glorious majesty,
and their ears heard the glory of his voice.
He said to them, ‘Beware of all wrong-doing’;
he gave each a commandment concerning his neighbour.
Their ways are always under his eye,
they cannot be hidden from his sight.

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Mark 10:13-16

People were bringing little children to Jesus, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.

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Let the children come to me

In Jesus’ time, children had little or no status. Clearly, the disciples did not think much of them, rebuking people who were bringing children to Jesus for His blessings. But this caused one of the few episodes in the gospels where Jesus was described as feeling indignant, showing that he has great love for children.

How does one become like a little child in order to enter God’s kingdom? Perhaps one of the best references is the writings of Saint Therese, well-loved and famous for her ‘Little Way’. Saint Therese had a remarkable perception of her relationship with God from a young age, figuring out that the way to heaven for her is to do small things with great love and obedience. Like how a child is completely dependent on his/her parents, she would put her total trust in God, accepting whatever He gives her, and loving others as He has loved her.

I attempted to apply some of Saint Therese’s teachings to the way I deal with my own issues. It is a lot more challenging than it looks, especially when despair is always more tempting than trusting God. Perhaps it is not so much about avoiding or getting rid of negative feelings, but trusting God enough to still give and love in spite of the pain.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we can empty ourselves this Lent in order for God to fill it up.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the abundant and ever-present love of the Lord.

24 February, Friday – Spiritual Friends

24 February 2017

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Ecclesiasticus 6:5-17

A kindly turn of speech multiplies a man’s friends,
and a courteous way of speaking invites many a friendly reply.
Let your acquaintances be many,
but your advisers one in a thousand.
If you want to make a friend, take him on trial,
and be in no hurry to trust him;
for one kind of friend is only so when it suits him
but will not stand by you in your day of trouble.
Another kind of friend will fall out with you
and to your dismay make the quarrel public,
and a third kind of friend will share your table,
but not stand by you in your day of trouble:
when you are doing well he will be your second self,
ordering your servants about;
but if ever you are brought low he will turn against you
and will hide himself from you.
Keep well clear of your enemies,
and be wary of your friends.
A faithful friend is a sure shelter,
whoever finds one has found a rare treasure.
A faithful friend is something beyond price,
there is no measuring his worth.
A faithful friend is the elixir of life,
and those who fear the Lord will find one.
Whoever fears the Lord makes true friends,
for as a man is, so is his friend.

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Mark 10:1-12

Jesus came to the district of Judaea and the far side of the Jordan. And again crowds gathered round him, and again he taught them, as his custom was. Some Pharisees approached him and asked, ‘Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him. He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ ‘Moses allowed us’ they said ‘to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘It was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’ Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, ‘The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.’

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Whoever fears the Lord makes true friends

I was feeling a little lost about what to reflect on for today’s readings – the first is about friendship, while the gospel is about marriage. I do not have anyone I can count as a best friend or even very close friends, nor am I married or in a relationship. I prayed about it and was led to this blog page where the writer related her experience of finding spiritual friends. Through the page, I learned about the writings of Saint Francis de Sales on friendship. I find them to be a good guide on how to build true spiritual friendships with others, and would like to share some of his writings with you.

“If men share false and vain things, their friendship will be false and vain; if that which is good and true, their friendship will be good and true…” What do you talk about with your good friends? I am grateful to have several friends with whom I can have deep meaningful conversations with, and I have a special love for those with whom I have shared spiritual ideas and thoughts with in an open and trusting manner. “If the bond of your mutual liking be charity, devotion and Christian perfection, God knows how very precious a friendship it is!” I have learned that having such “spiritual friends” is of paramount importance for one to continually grow in faith, especially in this present age where there are so many distractions that can lead one astray.

I have heard about two famous examples of spiritual friendships among saints – that between Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Clare, and between Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Jane de Chantal. It was evident that although they were close friends of the opposite sex, their eyes were not on each other but were looking in the same direction – towards God. In this way their friendship became apostolic and life-giving, allowing them to become pillars of faith in their own communities.

“And friendship is the most dangerous of all affections, because any other love may exist without much mental communication, but as friendship is founded thereon, it is hardly possible to be closely bound by its ties to any one without sharing in his qualities.” We like to talk about meeting the ‘right one’, but if instead we get to the meet the ‘right friend’, how precious would that friendship be!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the Holy Spirit to send us good and holy friendships at different points in life’s journeys.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the true spiritual friends you have blessed us with, and for all those who have truly loved us for who we are.

Thursday, 23 February – Flavourless salt

23 Feb – Saint Polycarp, Bishop, Martyr

St Polycarp (-155) He was a disciple of the Apostles, bishop of Smyrna, and a friend of St Ignatius of Antioch. He went to Rome to confer with Pope Anicetus about the celebration of Easter. He was martyred in about 155 by being burnt to death in the stadium. Polycarp is an important figure in the history of the Church because he is one of the earliest Christians whose writings still survive. He bears witness to the beliefs of the early Christians and the early stages of the development of doctrine.

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Ecclesiasticus 5:1-10

Do not give your heart to your money,
  or say, ‘With this I am self-sufficient.’
Do not be led by your appetites and energy
  to follow the passions of your heart.
And do not say, ‘Who has authority over me?’
  for the Lord will certainly be avenged on you.
Do not say, ‘I sinned, and what happened to me?’
f or the Lord’s forbearance is long.
Do not be so sure of forgiveness
  that you add sin to sin.
And do not say, ‘His compassion is great,
  he will forgive me my many sins’;
for with him are both mercy and wrath,
  and his rage bears heavy on sinners.
Do not delay your return to the Lord,
  do not put it off day after day;
for suddenly the Lord’s wrath will blaze out,
  and at the time of vengeance you will be utterly destroyed.
Do not set your heart on ill-gotten gains,
  they will be of no use to you on the day of disaster.

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Mark 9:41-50

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.

  ‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go out. For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is a good thing, but if salt has become insipid, how can you season it again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.’

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If salt has become insipid, how can you season it again?

Salt was an extremely important and valuable commodity in ancient times. It can be used to flavour and preserve foods. Salt, in ancient times, did not go through the purification that modern technology provides, so it was possible for the salt from the Dead Sea to lose its saltiness through exposure to air, contamination with impurities or through exposure to excessive sunlight. A chemical reaction must occur for the salt to lose its saltiness, and the process is irreversible.

How can we lose our flavour when it comes to the faith? Very easily. We live in times where worldly ideas of ‘freedom’ are the social norm, or even if they are not yet the social norm, people fight to make it so. Without a solid foundation in the faith, it is easy to fall prey to the reasoning behind secular worldviews. A lifestyle where one places work and other priorities before Christ is another characteristic of this age of busyness, and almost inevitably the faith becomes lukewarm or even non-existent.

The silver lining in all this is that, unlike salt, we can still regain our saltiness. For me, I find that it is crucial for me to be in constant contact with spiritual writings or faith communities. Since most of us do work that does not directly involve scripture or religion, there has to be that extra effort made to be constantly reminded of Christ’s teachings. It is only when we ourselves feel refreshed, invigorated and inspired by the faith, that we can reach out effectively to others.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we will not be led by our own appetites and energy to follow the passions of our hearts. Instead, let us be led by Christ and His love.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the invisible hand of the Lord that guides us and brings us up when we fall.

21 February, Tuesday – Faith & Humility

21 Feb – Memorial for St. Peter Damian, bishop and doctor

Peter Damian (1007-1072) was the youngest child in a large family. When he was orphaned, he was sent to live with a brother where he was mistreated and forced to work as a swine-herd. He cared for another brother, a priest in Ravenna, Italy. He was well educated in Fienza and Parma and became a professor, but lived a life of strict austerity.

He gave up his teaching to become a Benedictine monk. His health suffered, especially when he tried to replace sleep with prayer. He founded a hermitage. He was occasionally called on by the Vatican to make peace between arguing monastic houses, clergymen, and government officials, etc. He was made Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia, and he fought simony.

He tried to restore primitive discipline among priests and religious who were becoming more and more of the world. He was a prolific correspondent, and he also wrote dozens of sermons, seven biographies (including one of St. Romuald), and poetry, including some of the best Latin of the time. He tried to retire being a monk, but was routinely recalled as a papal legate.

He died on Feb 22, 1072 of fever at Ravenna while surrounded by brother monks reciting the Divine Office. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1828.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Ecclesiasticus 2:1-11

My son, if you aspire to serve the Lord,
prepare yourself for an ordeal.
Be sincere of heart, be steadfast,
and do not be alarmed when disaster comes.
Cling to him and do not leave him,
so that you may be honoured at the end of your days.
Whatever happens to you, accept it,
and in the uncertainties of your humble state, be patient,
since gold is tested in the fire,
and chosen men in the furnace of humiliation.
Trust him and he will uphold you,
follow a straight path and hope in him.
You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy;
do not turn aside in case you fall.
You who fear the Lord, trust him,
and you will not be baulked of your reward.
You who fear the Lord hope for good things,
for everlasting happiness and mercy.
Look at the generations of old and see:
who ever trusted in the Lord and was put to shame?
Or who ever feared him steadfastly and was left forsaken?
Or who ever called out to him, and was ignored?
For the Lord is compassionate and merciful,
he forgives sins, and saves in days of distress.

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Mark 9:30-37

After leaving the mountain Jesus and his disciples made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.

They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’ He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms round him, and said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’

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“If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all… anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus leads by example. The irony where being first is to be last and servant of all. He came into the world and indeed led the simplest life yet suffered the most, had to be crucified and had to give His life. But He didn’t just do it for himself, He did so for all of us. Jesus came into the world, perfect, the Son of God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords yet humiliated, He lowered himself in order to save us.

Amidst all the suffering and pain Christ knew was coming His way, He still obeyed His Father and saw it through as He recognised that He belongs to the Father too. The example is very clear that we should not forget nor take for granted who we are, the blessings that our Father in heaven has bestowed on us. And we should live our lives in the glory of His name.

Indeed, it is His kingdom that we should desire to be first in, instead of the many areas of the world. We can never be the best in the world and nothing is ever enough in the world simply because the world itself is imperfect and we humans are the same.

Hence, we are called, in the first reading, to prepare ourselves, to cling on to Christ, to trust in Him, to hope in Him. The whole of the first reading assures us that God will lead us through the storms of life and we simply need to keep our faith in Him.

Let us allow the first reading to encourage us for at the end of the day, it isn’t about knowing that we are first but to know that we have placed our trust, hope and faith in God. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for humility, that we may not trade you for the things of this world. Help us to see beyond the successes in life, help us to see you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for your example Lord, to help us see beyond ourselves, to help us see what true love is. Thank you for your encouragement and affirmation that you will always be with us. Amen.

20 February, Monday – Faith & Prayer

20 February 2017

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Ecclesiasticus 1:1-10

All wisdom is from the Lord,
and it is his own for ever.
The sand of the sea and the raindrops,
and the days of eternity, who can assess them?
The height of the sky and the breadth of the earth,
and the depth of the abyss, who can probe them?
Before all other things wisdom was created,
shrewd understanding is everlasting.
For whom has the root of wisdom ever been uncovered?
Her resourceful ways, who knows them?
One only is wise, terrible indeed,
seated on his throne, the Lord.
He himself has created her, looked on her and assessed her,
and poured her out on all his works
to be with all mankind as his gift,
and he conveyed her to those who love him.

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Mark 9:14-29

When Jesus, with Peter, James and John came down from the mountain and rejoined the disciples, they saw a large crowd round them and some scribes arguing with them. The moment they saw him the whole crowd were struck with amazement and ran to greet him. ‘What are you arguing about with them?’ he asked.

A man answered him from the crowd, ‘Master, I have brought my son to you; there is a spirit of dumbness in him, and when it takes hold of him it throws him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and goes rigid. And I asked your disciples to cast it out and they were unable to.’ ‘You faithless generation’ he said to them in reply. ‘How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.’

They brought the boy to him, and as soon as the spirit saw Jesus it threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell to the ground and lay writhing there, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ ‘From childhood,’ he replied ‘and it has often thrown him into the fire and into the water, in order to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.’ ‘If you can?’ retorted Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for anyone who has faith.’

Immediately the father of the boy cried out, ‘I do have faith. Help the little faith I have!’ And when Jesus saw how many people were pressing round him, he rebuked the unclean spirit. ‘Deaf and dumb spirit,’ he said ‘I command you: come out of him and never enter him again.’ Then throwing the boy into violent convulsions it came out shouting, and the boy lay there so like a corpse that most of them said, ‘He is dead.’ But

Jesus took him by the hand and helped him up, and he was able to stand. When he had gone indoors his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why were we unable to cast it out?’ ‘This is the kind’ he answered ‘that can only be driven out by prayer.’

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“I do have faith. Help the little faith I have!”

The last line of today’s Gospel kind of struck me the most. “This is the kind,” he answered “that can only be driven out by prayer”. The reality is that most of us tend to rely on our own strengths. Moving in this direction, we tend to prevent Christ from working through us. Hence it is us who heal, it is our effort, it is our session…

Usually we will then only turn to prayer after we have exhausted trying everything we know. We hear prayers like “Lord, I don’t know what to do anymore, I’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work”. We treat God as our last resort but the only one who loses out is ourselves, if we don’t trust Him enough to offer our work and lives to Him, we probably won’t be able to see His hand in our lives daily.

We forget whose work we are doing, using our strengths, it’s also normal for us to seek the recognition and appreciation for OUR work. But we know that the best outcome is when we prepare all we can, to the best of our abilities and allow God to work through us, to use our gifts and talents to glorify HIS name.

Faith isn’t about the results/outcomes, it’s the process, the journey. It’s the patience, the perseverance and really about wisdom, to see through the lenses of faith. Faith doesn’t remove the obstacles, it helps us to overcome them. When we pray, our faith strengthens and when our faith strengthens, we pray.

Let us make Christ not only our priority but our everything. He lives in us and we will be able to do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to learn to trust, to grow in faith. To see your hand moving in my life, for the wisdom to discern. Help me persevere when things aren’t going my way, because maybe they are going Your way.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always being there and being available to us. Thank you for allowing us to turn to you even when we place you as our last resort at times. Thank you for my faith!

19 February, Sunday – Love your neighbour

19 February 2017

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Leviticus 19:1-2,17-18

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

‘“Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.
‘“You must not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. You must openly tell him, your neighbour, of his offence; this way you will not take a sin upon yourself. You must not exact vengeance, nor must you bear a grudge against the children of your people. You must love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”’

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1 Corinthians 3:16-23

Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.

Make no mistake about it: if any one of you thinks of himself as wise, in the ordinary sense of the word, then he must learn to be a fool before he really can be wise. Why? Because the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As scripture says: The Lord knows wise men’s thoughts: he knows how useless they are; or again: God is not convinced by the arguments of the wise. So there is nothing to boast about in anything human: Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life and death, the present and the future, are all your servants; but you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.

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Matthew 5:38-48

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.

‘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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“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven…”

I would like to start with this story. Once, I was supporting a camp overseas, I brought my laptop along as I needed to use it to conduct my session. After setting up, I went for my lunch, I was told the room would be locked and it would be safe to leave my laptop there.

When I returned, the room was locked. However, I found my laptop missing. I checked with the organisers and nobody had seen it. Looking at the ceiling, I saw that there were cameras outside the room, maybe it will be able to show more about the incident. Approaching the guard house, I was disappointed and irritated to know that the cameras were faulty. There was basically no way to trace who the culprit was. The funny thing was that the person took the laptop without the charger, so there was no way the person could use it either.

I continued the camp without my laptop. Coming home, I shared this incident with my uncle. I expected him to empathise with me but instead, he shared this with me. “The person who took your laptop must be suffering, we should pray for him”. Just right after hearing those words, I was frustrated but pondering on what he said, my heart changed; Christ was present at that moment. I recognised how blessed I was, seeing the situation through the eyes of Christ, with the eyes of love. I knew at that instant, this was who we are all called to be, bodies of love.

As in the second reading, we are all not wise enough, I did not know the background of the person, the action is indeed wrong but we can never be wise enough to condemn, as we do not fully understand the situation.

I was eventually blessed with a budget of $1,000 to get myself a new laptop. But more than that, I believe I recognised God, I understood Him so much more, I knew He lives in me and what love is really about.

Let us pray for this encounter, for this awareness, that life is far more greater than the rights and wrongs. It is about recognising that we belong to Christ, that we are from Christ and it is to Christ that we will return. Let our love not be transactional but one that is unconditional. Let us be Christ to one another and, in that way, allow Him to love through us, His perfect love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for a humility, to see ourselves before we judge others, to love our neighbours just as ourselves.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your unconditional love, help us to be more like you.

18 February, Saturday – Seek Him

18 February 2017

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Hebrews 11:1-7

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen. It was for faith that our ancestors were commended.

It is by faith that we understand that the world was created by one word from God, so that no apparent cause can account for the things we can see.

It was because of his faith that Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain, and for that he was declared to be righteous when God made acknowledgement of his offerings. Though he is dead, he still speaks by faith.

It was because of his faith that Enoch was taken up and did not have to experience death: he was not to be found because God had taken him. This was because before his assumption it is attested that he had pleased God. Now it is impossible to please God without faith, since anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and rewards those who try to find him.

It was through his faith that Noah, when he had been warned by God of something that had never been seen before, felt a holy fear and built an ark to save his family. By his faith the world was convicted, and he was able to claim the righteousness which is the reward of faith.

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Mark 9:2-13

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter spoke to Jesus: ‘Rabbi,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were so frightened. And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and there came a voice from the cloud, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean. And they put this question to him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah has to come first?’ ‘True,’ he said ‘Elijah is to come first and to see that everything is as it should be; yet how is it that the scriptures say about the Son of Man that he is to suffer grievously and be treated with contempt? However, I tell you that Elijah has come and they have treated him as they pleased, just as the scriptures say about him.’

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..he rewards those who seek him.

It has been a challenging time for me over the past few weeks, with various high-level events coming up, a final push for our church fundraising project and more than a few personal ‘to-dos’ which have been shelved for too long. One of these was tidying up my mobile phone gallery and uploading all the pictures I took last year so as to free up some much-needed memory.

That process of decluttering allowed me to reflect once again on my Camino in Spain and as I went through the three week’s worth of pictures, I couldn’t help but wonder where I would be today if I had not taken that walk. Would my faith be as strong? Would I have been able to overcome all the challenges that came my way over the past few months?

Whenever I lead prayer for my ministry, I always give thanks for the crosses that God has placed on our shoulders and for giving us the faith and perseverance to carry those crosses for however long He wants us to. I believe that in seeking Him, we must be prepared to take on all that He will lay upon us so that we learn to trust fully in Him. Looking back, He has certainly rewarded me tremendously since my return from Spain in October. I’m sure you all know how it feels to look back and wonder ‘How did I do all that’?

One of my worship leaders shared with me this evening about her initial experiences when she started to lead praise and worship at CSC. She told me that at some point during a session, she would be able to feel God take over as the congregation worshipped. She says that it is not something she could describe but that the experience was amazing. And she exhorted that by surrendering to God and letting Him take over, He will reveal His presence and glory to us.

Brothers and sisters, what are we seeking today? I know many of us are suffering and just looking for the next break, the next job interview, the next paycheque and the next meal. And while we all have our challenges, perhaps it is time that we consciously seek out God on a daily basis.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, give us the grace to seek you out amidst all our troubles so that we can learn to trust in your providence.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving us free will to choose our path in life.