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3 October, Tuesday – We Go Wherever You Go

3 October 2017

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Zechariah 8:20-23

The Lord of Hosts says this: ‘There will be other peoples yet, and citizens of great cities. And the inhabitants of one city will go to the next and say, “Come, let us go and entreat the favour of the Lord, and seek the Lord of Hosts; I am going myself.” And many peoples and great nations will come to seek the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favour of the Lord.’

The Lord of Hosts says this: ‘In those days, ten men of nations of every language will take a Jew by the sleeve and say, “We want to go with you, since we have learnt that God is with you.”’

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Luke 9:51-56

As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem and sent messengers ahead of him. These set out, and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem. Seeing this, the disciples James and John said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?’ But he turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village.

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We want to go with you

I know of many parents these days who warn their child at school to be selective of whom they hang out with, to befriend those who have good results, staying away from those naughty and mischievous kids in order not to get influenced by their bad habits and behaviour. As for my childhood friendships, I believe we form friendships through common interests and the amount of time we spent playing together as well as studying together. Those were the times when we felt that this group of us would go through life till we grew old. Well, a handful of us did and we are still rather close mates after thirty-two years. But I could recall a few extremely close schoolmates just headed on different paths at various stage of their studies.

Therefore, as we grow older with more responsibilities, we choose our paths where we see fit and try to live a fruitful life every day. Don’t we begin to ask ourselves whom we want to go with? Do we build friendships to gain both popularity and money that perhaps will bring us some fortune for short term gains? Or do we build relationships that give us a lifetime of happiness and faithful support?

Today’s Gospel truly reminds us once again to be forgiving and not someone who thinks about revenge and rage. Such negative responses are not reflections of God’s intentions and love. The wrath of God that people once feared has been replaced by the Love and Grace of Jesus Christ the Son. When we feel weak and tired, are we still able to pick ourselves up, to go where the Lord leads us, to make the decision to want to go wherever he presents to us?

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: O Lord, give us the wisdom of right and wrong, of whom to be wary of and of course of whom to follow. Let us be just like the lay fishermen who dropped everything to follow Jesus.

Thanksgiving: May we thank you Lord for a peaceful early of the week, that we work hard for the week ahead, filled with your grace and wisdom.

8 August, Tuesday – Ordinary Men, Extraordinary Lives

Aug 8 – Memorial for St. Dominic, priest, religious founder

Dominic (1170-1221) was born of wealthy Spanish nobility, and was the son of Blessed Joan of Aza. Joan had difficulty conceiving and prayed at the shrine of St. Dominic of Silos who had a tradition of patronage of that problem. When she became pregnant, she named the child in honour of the saint. While pregnant, Joan had a vision that her unborn child was a dog who would set the world on fire with a torch it carried in its mouth. A dog with a torch in its mouth became a symbol for the Order he founded, the Dominicans. At Dominic’s baptism, Joan saw a star shining from his chest, which became another of his symbols in art, and led to his patronage of astronomy.

Dominic was a priest who worked for clerical reform. He had a life-long apostolate among heretics, especially Albigensians, and especially in France. He founded the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans) in 1215, a group who lived a simple, austere life. He also founded an order or nuns dedicated to the care of young girls.

At one point, Dominic became discouraged at the progress of his mission; no matter how much he worked, heresies remained. But he received a vision from Our Lady who showed him a wreath of roses, representing the rosary. She told him to say the rosary daily, teach it to all who would listen, and eventually the true faith would win out. Dominic is often credited with the invention of the rosary; it actually pre-dates him, but he certainly spread devotion to it, and used it to strengthen his own spiritual life.

Legend says that Dominic received a vision of a beggar who, like Dominic, would do great things for the Faith. Dominic met the beggar the next day. He embraced him and said, “You are my companion and must walk with me. If we hold together, no earthly power can withstand us.” The beggar was St. Francis of Assisi.

– Patron Saint Index

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Numbers 12:1-13

Miriam, and Aaron too, spoke against Moses in connexion with the Cushite woman he had taken. (For he had married a Cushite woman.) They said, ‘Has the Lord spoken to Moses only? Has he not spoken to us too?’

The Lord heard this. Now Moses was the most humble of men, the humblest man on earth. Suddenly, the Lord said to Moses and Aaron and Miriam, ‘Come, all three of you, to the Tent of Meeting.’ They went, all three of them, and the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the Tent. He called Aaron and Miriam and they both came forward. The Lord said, ‘Listen now to my words: If any man among you is a prophet I make myself known to him in a vision, I speak to him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses: he is at home in my house; I speak with him face to face, plainly and not in riddles, and he sees the form of the Lord. How then have you dared to speak against my servant Moses?’

The anger of the Lord blazed out against them. He departed, and as soon as the cloud withdrew from the Tent, there was Miriam a leper, white as snow! Aaron turned to look at her; she had become a leper.

Aaron said to Moses: ‘Help me, my lord! Do not punish us for a sin committed in folly of which we are guilty. I entreat you, do not let her be like a monster, coming from its mother’s womb with flesh half corrupted.’

Moses cried to the Lord, ‘O God,’ he said ‘please heal her, I beg you!’

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Matthew 15:1-2, 10-14

Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem came to Jesus and said, ‘Why do your disciples break away from the tradition of the elders? They do not wash their hands when they eat food.’ He called the people to him and said, ‘Listen, and understand. What goes into the mouth does not make a man unclean; it is what comes out of the mouth that makes him unclean.’

Then the disciples came to him and said, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were shocked when they heard what you said?’ He replied, ‘Any plant my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them alone. They are blind men leading blind men; and if one blind man leads another, both will fall into a pit.’

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“Now Moses himself was by far, the meekest man on the face of the earth”

Popular culture would have us believe that the heroes of Scripture were these larger than life beings who did God’s work astride blazing chariots, while commanding the elements of nature. The reality of it is that they lived very much like us, battling doubt, exhaustion, uncertainty, frustration, false confidence and the stress of constant problem-solving.

Moses was an Egyptian prince who, in a moment of morally-driven impulsiveness, gave up his cushy life at court to become a fugitive (Exodus 2:11-15). He didn’t choose to leave, he fled for his life. At the burning bush, the work of God was thrust upon him, despite his protests that God find someone else (Exodus 3:1-4:17). And while leading the Hebrews through that vast and arid desert, he experienced constant frustration (Exodus 17:4, the water at Meribah), anger (Exodus 32:19-20, the molten calf) and despair (Exodus 14:5, rebellion at Kadesh) at their stubbornness. Peter was a simple fisherman by trade. Though he was chosen by Christ to be “the rock upon which I will build my church”, Peter was prone to fear and faithlessness (Matt 14:28-31, walking and falling into the water), spiritual denseness (Matt 15:16, not comprehending the true meaning of being unclean) and false grandiosity (Matt 26:33-34, “Even though all doubt you and fall, I will never fall”).

These were very human individuals, with the same failings we all share; ordinary people, who went on to achieve extraordinary things, despite their flaws. God did not choose the great leaders and kings of their time to carry out his work. He anointed the humble, the lowly, the least amongst people, the outcasts, the minorities. Before they went on to achieve greatness for Him, they faced themselves, acknowledged their own demons and then let God mould them to His needs. The enormity of our responsibilities can sometimes overwhelm us; the road ahead is littered with unpaid bills, insurmountable challenges and impossible demands on our time and energy. We know we’re coming up short and everyone around us is being short-changed. But are we too hard on ourselves? A humble fisherman who denied Christ three times became the foundation upon which God’s church has flourished. An orphan and a fugitive led a great people across uncrossable terrain, into a land of milk and honey. What would God achieve with us if we only gave Him – and ourselves – the chance to try?

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for His guidance to make good decisions for ourselves and our families. It is only through Him that we are able to realize the full range of our possibilities.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for God’s mercy and forgiveness, for all the times we have fallen short and denied Him in our lives.

6 August, Sunday – A Tangible Experience

Dear readers, we apologise for the late dissemination of today’s reflection due to a technical glitch.

Aug 6 – Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

Today we celebrate the occasion on which Christ revealed Himself in shining splendour to Peter, James, and John. Moses and Elijah were present, and are taken to signify that the Law and the Prophets. They testify to Jesus as the promised Messiah. God the Father also proclaimed him as such, saying, “This is my Beloved Son. Listen to him.” For a moment the veil is drawn aside, and men still on earth are permitted a glimpse of the heavenly reality, the glory of the Eternal Triune God.

http://satucket.com/lectionary/Tranfiguration.htm

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Deuteronomy 7:9-10, 13-14

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him.

He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land — your grain, new wine and olive oil — the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you. You will be blessed more than any other people; none of your men or women will be childless, nor will any of your livestock be without young.

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2 Peter 1:16-19

It was not any cleverly invented myths that we were repeating when we brought you the knowledge of the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; we had seen his majesty for ourselves. He was honoured and glorified by God the Father, when the Sublime Glory itself spoke to him and said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour.’ We heard this ourselves, spoken from heaven, when we were with him on the holy mountain.

So we have confirmation of what was said in prophecies; and you will be right to depend on prophecy and take it as a lamp for lighting a way through the dark until the dawn comes and the morning star rises in your minds.

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Matthew 17:1-9

Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone. There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them; they were talking with him. Then Peter spoke to Jesus. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and from the cloud there came a voice which said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.’ When they heard this the disciples fell on their faces overcome with fear. But Jesus came up and touched them. ‘Stand up,’ he said ‘do not be afraid.’ And when they raised their eyes they saw no one but only Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain Jesus gave them this order, ‘Tell no one about the vision until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.’

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“…but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty”

What is the basis of our faith? That’s a question each of us faces at some point during our faith journey. We profess the Apostle’s Creed each week at mass but on a personal level, how deeply do we feel our faith? In John 20:25, Thomas the apostle famously uttered, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand in his side, I will not believe”. Seeing, touching and feeling is believing – and that is true for most of us. We are all searching for that epiphany, that tangible experience of God, that faith-transforming moment. But we won’t always be able to ‘see’ it unless we’re so prompted. Peter, James and John did not fully grasp the importance of their circumstances until the Father’s voice from the cloud reminded them, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” How overwhelming it must have been, to have had that epiphany, to have felt the presence of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!

Miracles don’t happen today in the same manner that they used to in Jesus’ time, but tangible experiences of God still exist if we allow ourselves to be open to them. His presence manifests itself in other ways if we start ‘seeing’ with our hearts – the miracle of childbirth; the peace that comes at the end of one’s life; the unconditional love that a parent has for her child; the patience and tenderness between husband and wife; the consideration and tolerance that we show each other as neighbors and countrymen. In all, we catch the briefest glimpse of the shadow of God. It isn’t glamorous or clad all in white. The choirs of angels are discernible only in our heads. But these experiences are real, and that emotion we feel, that visceral reaction within us, that love – that’s a tangible experience of God. Be open to it.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the ability to ‘see’ with our hearts, to be open to the tangible experiences of God in our ordinary lives.  

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the blessings of faith, family, friends, community and the random kindness of strangers.

 

 

7 January, Saturday – Devoted in Prayer

7 Jan – Memorial for St. Raymond of Penyafort, priest

St. Raymond (1175-1275) was of Aragonian nobility. He was educated at the cathedral school in Barcelona, and became a philosophy teacher at the age of 20. He was a priest. He graduated from law school in Bologna, Italy, and joined the Dominicans in 1218. He was summoned to Rome in 1230 by Pope Gregory IX, and assigned to collect all official letters of the popes since 1150. Raymond gathered and published five volumes, and helped write Church law.

He was made Master General of the Dominicans in 1238. He reviewed the Order’s Rule, made sure everything was legally correct, then resigned his position in 1240 to dedicate himself to parish work. The pope wanted to make Raymond an archbishop, but he declined, instead returning to Spain and the parish work he loved. His compassion helped many people return to God through Reconciliation.

During his years in Rome, Raymond heard of the difficulties missionaries faced trying to reach non-Christians of Northern Africa and Spain. Raymond started a school to teach the language and culture of the people to be evangelized. With St. Thomas Aquinas, he wrote a booklet to explain the truths of faith in a way non-believers could understand. His great influence on Church law led to his patronage of lawyers.

  • Patron Saint Index

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1 John 5:14-21

We are quite confident that if we ask the Son of God for anything,
and it is in accordance with his will,
he will hear us;
and, knowing that whatever we may ask, he hears us,
we know that we have already been granted what we asked of him.
If anybody sees his brother commit a sin
that is not a deadly sin,
he has only to pray, and God will give life to the sinner
– not those who commit a deadly sin;
for there is a sin that is death,
and I will not say that you must pray about that.
Every kind of wrong-doing is sin,
but not all sin is deadly.

We know that anyone who has been begotten by God
does not sin,
because the begotten Son of God protects him,
and the Evil One does not touch him.
We know that we belong to God,
but the whole world lies in the power of the Evil One.
We know, too, that the Son of God has come,
and has given us the power
to know the true God.
We are in the true God,
as we are in his Son, Jesus Christ.
This is the true God,
this is eternal life.
Children, be on your guard against false gods.

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John 2:1-11

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited. When they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the wedding was all finished, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ Jesus said ‘Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not come yet.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ There were six stone water jars standing there, meant for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews: each could hold twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’, and they filled them to the brim. ‘Draw some out now’ he told them ‘and take it to the steward.’ They did this; the steward tasted the water, and it had turned into wine.

Having no idea where it came from – only the servants who had drawn the water knew – the steward called the bridegroom and said; ‘People generally serve the best wine first, and keep the cheaper sort till the guests have had plenty to drink; but you have kept the best wine till now.’

This was the first of the signs given by Jesus: it was given at Cana in Galilee. He let his glory be seen, and his disciples believed in him.

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Do whatever he tells you

Obedience to God’s message is something which is very important for all of us to adhere to. However, it seems quite remarkable that there are folks who really believe that their way of doing things is the correct way. Perhaps it comes from being in a society where everything is planned and that everything must follow a plan or else one will be looked down upon by others. The Gospel of today is a familiar passage but this time, I would like to turn our attention towards the steward.

The steward tastes and acknowledges that the wine he drinks is far superior compared to the wine served earlier. To him, some aberration to the norm has occurred. Whilst not life-threatening and not a major issue which will disrupt the wedding banquet, perhaps it would have done him well to ask the servants what happened that resulted in a disruption of the dinner plans. Indeed,  we sometimes grumble and question God about why things happen in a way which is not according to plan; but perhaps we need to ask God the Holy Spirit to show us why is it that such a disruption was allowed to happen? Instead of asking why this happened to me, perhaps we could ask God how we could make the best of this scenario before us?

Mother Mary is the best example we can follow. She had to put up with great hardship, from having to risk being stoned because she was bearing a child before marriage, to being a refugee as Herod was out to kill her child, to seeing her Son falsely accused. These incidents would have caused some others to lose hope in God and in life, but Mary continued to hold on to her Faith and not waver. This is an example we can follow through a devoted and dedicated prayer life, which allows us to be in communion with God; so that we can face all the challenges in our life with a prayer-like attitude, always trusting that God will be with us, if we let Him take control of our lives.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer Heavenly Father, we pray for us to remain faithful to you in our prayer life.

ThanksgivingWe give thanks for all who engage in humanitarian work.

3 January, Tuesday – Remaining Faithful

3 Jan – Memorial for the Most Holy Name of Jesus

Today’s feast day is a remembrance and celebration of the conferral of the Holy Name of Jesus. A separate votive Mass under this title is found in the revised Roman Missal, and may be used for an annual celebration (e.g. titular of a Church), or as an expression of devotion which is part of the tradition and spirituality of a religious order. It was formerly listed as the Sunday between 1 and 6 January, if one occurs. It was instituted in the 15th century by the bishops of Germany, Scotland, England, and Belgium. It was extended to the universal Church in 1721. There is a commemoration in the Mass of the Octave of St. Stephen if the feast is kept on the second, of St. John on the third, and of the Holy Innocents on the fourth of January.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 John 2:29-3:6

You know that God is righteous –
then you must recognise that everyone whose life is righteous
has been begotten by him.

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us,
by letting us be called God’s children;
and that is what we are.
Because the world refused to acknowledge him,
therefore it does not acknowledge us.
My dear people, we are already the children of God
but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed;
all we know is, that when it is revealed
we shall be like him
because we shall see him as he really is.

Surely everyone who entertains this hope
must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.
Anyone who sins at all
breaks the law,
because to sin is to break the law.
Now you know that he appeared in order to abolish sin,
and that in him there is no sin;
anyone who lives in God does not sin,
and anyone who sins
has never seen him or known him.

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John 1:29-34

Seeing Jesus coming towards him, John said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I spoke of when I said: A man is coming after me who ranks before me because he existed before me. I did not know him myself, and yet it was to reveal him to Israel that I came baptising with water.’ John also declared, ‘I saw the Spirit coming down on him from heaven like a dove and resting on him. I did not know him myself, but he who sent me to baptise with water had said to me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is going to baptise with the Holy Spirit.” Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God.’

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My dear people, we are already the children of God.

Being called a child of God is indeed a great privilege and this allows us to share in the inheritance of what Christ has promised, which is Eternal Life. However, something which keeps me going on despite being assured as God’s child is the deepest desire to be one with God. This means that I will need to discover the richness of the Catholic Faith and be willing to accept the challenges it poses to my way of life.

This continued struggle between what God wants us to do and what we want to do is definitely an ongoing one, but it is one which will allow us to grow in maturity in our Faith. Like John the Baptist in today’s readings, we are called to be a witness to the people whom we meet, of the great love of God which has touched us. This witness we are called to give includes the need to show the struggles we face in our daily lives and how we continue to hold onto our Faith despite the many difficulties it brings.

God invites us to remain faithful to Him and we can only do so if we turn to Him in continued prayer and devotion to what He asks of us. As we continue in this season of Christmas, let us put our hearts and souls towards accepting the challenge which has been put before us and to let others see that various challenges we are facing.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us accept our Cross with Faith and Courage.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who help people cope in their struggles against addictions.

11 April, Monday – Till Death Do Us Part

11 April – Saint Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr

Anyone who reads the history of Eastern Europe cannot help but chance on the name of Stanislaus, the saintly but tragic bishop of Kraków, patron of Poland. He is remembered with Saints Thomas More (June 22) and Thomas Becket (December 29) for vigorous opposition to the evils of an unjust government.

Born in Szczepanow near Kraków on July 26, 1030, he was ordained a priest after being educated in the cathedral schools of Gniezno, then capital of Poland, and at Paris. He was appointed preacher and archdeacon to the bishop of Kraków, where his eloquence and example brought about real conversion in many of his penitents, both clergy and laity. He became bishop of Kraków in 1072.

During an expedition against the Grand Duchy of Kiev, Stanislaus became involved in the political situation of Poland. Known for his outspokenness, he aimed his attacks at the evils of the peasantry and the king, especially the unjust wars and immoral acts of King Boleslaus II.

The king first excused himself, then made a show of penance, then relapsed into his old ways. Stanislaus continued his open opposition in spite of charges of treason and threats of death, finally excommunicating the king. The latter, enraged, ordered soldiers to kill the bishop. When they refused, the king killed him with his own hands.

Forced to flee to Hungary, Boleslaus supposedly spent the rest of his life as a penitent in the Benedictine abbey in Osiak.

-Source: AmericanCatholic.org
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Acts 6:8-15

Stephen was filled with grace and power and began to work miracles and great signs among the people. But then certain people came forward to debate with Stephen, some from Cyrene and Alexandria who were members of the synagogue called the Synagogue of Freedmen, and others from Cilicia and Asia. They found they could not get the better of him because of his wisdom, and because it was the Spirit that prompted what he said. So they procured some men to say, ‘We heard him using blasphemous language against Moses and against God.’ Having in this way turned the people against him as well as the elders and scribes, they took Stephen by surprise, and arrested him and brought him before the Sanhedrin. There they put up false witnesses to say, ‘This man is always making speeches against this Holy Place and the Law. We have heard him say that Jesus the Nazarene is going to destroy this Place and alter the traditions that Moses handed down to us.’ The members of the Sanhedrin all looked intently at Stephen, and his face appeared to them like the face of an angel.
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John 6:22-29

After Jesus had fed the five thousand, his disciples saw him walking on the water. Next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side saw that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that the disciples had set off by themselves. Other boats, however, had put in from Tiberias, near the place where the bread had been eaten. When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into those boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’
Jesus answered:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs
but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.
Do not work for food that cannot last,
but work for food that endures to eternal life,
the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you,
for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.’
Then they said to him, ‘What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?’ Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’
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This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.

My dad used to tell me that sometimes, jobs requiring the individual to wear a uniform may make the person’s life easy in terms of fashion sense because he need not think of what to wear every day. For me, it is not a matter of convenience but also the fact that when one wears a uniform, the person represents what the uniform stands for; either as a representative of the school or the ethos and values which the institution he is standing for. Believing in Christ is no different because it requires all believers to stand up for their faith and put it into action when the going gets tough.

We have with us a very positive example in the form of St Stephen, whose process of martyrdom looks similar to what Jesus had to go through. St Stephen was bold in his preaching and did not flinch away from correcting the wrong teachings of others, even if that meant possible death for him. As I was reflecting on this passage, I feel that it could be due to the ‘grace and power’ (Acts 6:8) that he obtained through a deep and close relationship with God. Jesus calls us to encounter Him in a deep and personal way, but this encounter is not meant to be kept within ourselves; it is to be shared with the people around us, to join us in this wonderful experience which we have had with Christ.

As Christians, the ‘uniform’ we wear is the one of good works and the motivation behind the good works is not for us to develop a warm fuzzy feeling within ourselves, but because we believe in Jesus. The main motivation and driver has to be the fact that Jesus loves us and wants us to be just as generous with the rest in sharing the joys of having such a wonderful God in our lives. This love for Jesus must be greater than our desire to be accepted by humans. The ways of the world can often corrupt the simple but very powerful message of the Bible — that Jesus is the fulfilment of the promises of God made in the past and this belief in Him is all that we need to continue journeying with our lives. Once we learn how to die to the sins preventing us from coming closer to God, and this means even physical death, we will be able to live fully in Christ.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer – Dear Father, we pray that we be your worthy children to share the love you have shown us.

Thanksgiving – We give thanks for all who seek God with a sincere heart.

Wednesday, 16 March – Living Free

16 March

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Daniel 3:14-20,24-25,28

King Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, is it true that you do not serve my gods, and that you refuse to worship the golden statue I have erected? When you hear the sound of horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, or any other instrument, are you prepared to prostrate yourselves and worship the statue I have made? If you refuse to worship it, you must be thrown straight away into the burning fiery furnace; and where is the god who could save you from my power?’ Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘Your question hardly requires an answer: if our God, the one we serve, is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace and from your power, O king, he will save us; and even if he does not, then you must know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue you have erected.’ These words infuriated King Nebuchadnezzar; his expression was very different now as he looked at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He gave orders for the furnace to be made seven times hotter than usual, and commanded certain stalwarts from his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the burning fiery furnace.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar sprang to his feet in amazement. He said to his advisers, ‘Did we not have these three men thrown bound into the fire?’ They replied, ‘Certainly, O king.’ ‘But,’ he went on ‘I can see four men walking about freely in the heart of the fire without coming to any harm. And the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’

Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: he has sent his angel to rescue the servants who, putting their trust in him, defied the order of the king, and preferred to forfeit their bodies rather than serve or worship any god but their own.’

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John 8:31-42

To the Jews who believed in him Jesus said:

‘If you make my word your home
you will indeed be my disciples,
you will learn the truth
and the truth will make you free.’

They answered, ‘We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone; what do you mean, “You will be made free”?’ Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
everyone who commits sin is a slave.
Now the slave’s place in the house is not assured,
but the son’s place is assured.
So if the Son makes you free,
you will be free indeed.
I know that you are descended from Abraham;
but in spite of that you want to kill me
because nothing I say has penetrated into you.
What I, for my part, speak of
is what I have seen with my Father;
but you, you put into action
the lessons learnt from your father.’

They repeated, ‘Our father is Abraham.’ Jesus said to them:

‘If you were Abraham’s children,
you would do as Abraham did.
As it is, you want to kill me
when I tell you the truth
as I have learnt it from God;
that is not what Abraham did.
What you are doing is what your father does.’

‘We were not born of prostitution,’ they went on ‘we have one father: God.’ Jesus answered:

‘If God were your father, you would love me,
since I have come here from God;
yes, I have come from him;
not that I came because I chose,
no, I was sent, and by him.’

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So if a son frees you, then you will truly be free.

I was recently invited to help critique a few groups of final year students reading a communications degree in one of the local universities. One of the final year projects focussed on verbal abuse in a relationship. The project struck a chord with me as nearly two decades ago, I was in such a relationship.

Looking back, I know that the person I became while in the relationship was not only a victim of abuse but also became an abuser. It is truly by the grace of God that I chose to break free of that unhealthy bondage and begin anew. I remember feeling so trapped in my own shell back then that I resorted to alcohol and cigarettes to escape my reality. I truly don’t recall what the breaking point was but I knew that I had to consciously choose to free myself in order to be happy again. Today, I am healed because God has blessed me abundantly with a loving, caring partner who possesses a heart of gold and is generous to a fault. Indeed, in choosing to set myself free, I have found the freedom to love and to be loved.

Our Archbishop recently issued a statement about how there is no neutrality in faith. We are either for Christ or not. Many of us cling on to things that, in the grand scheme of things, really do not matter. Power, money, forbidden love, idols (musical, fictional, etc) and many more. I was once a slave to them but again, by the grace of God, I have gradually learnt to break free of the bonds and to live freely in the love of our merciful, heavenly Father. The son who set me free was none other than Fr William, who was then spiritual director at the Catholic Spirituality Centre and who still conducts the CERs. Till then, I had never made such a heartfelt Sacrament of Reconciliation nor experienced such mercy and love from a priest.

Brothers and sisters, God gives us free will to choose. Each and every day, we are given choices at home, at work, with family, with colleagues, with friends, with those who we don’t get along with. And whatever we choose, God already knows what the consequences will be. But God, in all His mercy, is also ready to forgive and to love us in spite of the choices we make. So if you truly want to live free as a son and daughter of God, make a choice to give God a chance to free you. Because He is knocking at the door of your heart. And the doorknob is within, for He will never force His way in.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, guide us each day as we face the choices you put in front of us. Show us the way to your loving and merciful heart.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for always being there for us.

Monday, 8 February – Effort

8 February – Memorial for St. Jerome Emiliani; Memorial for St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin

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

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Kings 8:1-7,9-13

Solomon called the elders of Israel together in Jerusalem to bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord up from the Citadel of David, which is Zion. All the men of Israel assembled round King Solomon in the month of Ethanim, at the time of the feast (that is, the seventh month), and the priests took up the ark and the Tent of Meeting with all the sacred vessels that were in it. In the presence of the ark, King Solomon and all Israel sacrificed sheep and oxen, countless, innumerable. The priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the Debir of the Temple, that is, in the Holy of Holies, under the cherubs’ wings. For there where the ark was placed the cherubs spread out their wings and sheltered the ark and its shafts. There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets Moses had placed in it at Horeb, the tablets of the covenant which the Lord had made with the Israelites when they came out of the land of Egypt; they are still there today.

Now when the priests came out of the sanctuary, the cloud filled the Temple of the Lord, and because of the cloud the priests could no longer perform their duties: the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s Temple.

Then Solomon said:
‘The Lord has chosen to dwell in the thick cloud.
Yes, I have built you a dwelling,
a place for you to live in for ever.’

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Mark 6:53-56

Having made the crossing, Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret and tied up. No sooner had they stepped out of the boat than people recognised him, and started hurrying all through the countryside and brought the sick on stretchers to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, to village, or town, or farm, they laid down the sick in the open spaces, begging him to let them touch even the fringe of his cloak. And all those who touched him were cured.

________________

They scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was

When I first became a Catholic, some of my non-Catholic friends would ask me, “ How do you justify being part of a faith that condones the building of palatial places of worship while its faithful in some parts of the world starve from their hunger and poverty?” I used to get tripped up by that all the time. It would make me angry and defensive. Yes, why DID we condone that? Why wasn’t every dime spent alleviating pain, healing the sick and comforting the poor? As I grew older though, I began to understand that the glory of God is manifest not just in acts of charity. He inspires art, music, literature, architecture. He moves the body and mind to create things of transcendental beauty. We look upon something like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and it fills us with wonder. What motivates a man to create art that is so breathtaking? What is the root of inspiration? Is it a gift that is given to everyone, but only those who would struggle and expend the effort, can reap its glorious fruit?

Effort, by definition, is ‘a vigorous or determined attempt, a strenuous physical or mental exertion’. Solomon’s purpose was to build the Temple of The Lord, and he gave his life and the vast resources of his country’s coffers over to achieving that end. Today’s reading shows him celebrating all the years of planning and hard work, his reward being the Lord’s glory filling the temple of the Lord. In the gospel reading of Mark, the people tirelessly bring their sick to wherever Jesus might be, in the hope that they might be healed by his touch. “They scurried about the surrounding countryside”, searching the market places, villages and towns. There was no telling where Jesus would be, but the people never gave up.

Man’s struggle in life has always been to seek a higher purpose, to reach for something greater than himself. For those of us called to the faith, that struggle is evident in our daily walk of faith. We do not do this alone though. If we will expend the effort, God gives us the grace to stay true to the path; not stray nor be distracted, nor tire from the strain required to walk the path, nor become angry and disillusioned by failure. He gives us grace enough for the journey. All He asks is that we make the effort.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for His grace to help us to persevere when we grow weary and discouraged on our faith journeys. Let not disillusion, anger and resentment take root in our hearts and keep us from doing our work in His ministry.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gift of faith and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that moves us to create beautiful things for His glory.

Sunday, 6 December – Hidden Glory

6 December

Dear Readers,
Advent is fast approaching us.
As with OXYGEN tradition, we would like to invite our readers to contribute reflections for the four Christmas Masses on the Nativity of the Lord (you’ll only need to write one). Write to us at oxygen@thecatholicwriter.com with your intention via email subject ‘Invitation for Christmas reflections’ by 12 Dec. We will assign the scriptures to you for your reflections. Fret not about style nor aptitude, all we need is a willing and fervent heart to share! We hope you will be respond to the prompts of the Holy Spirit and share your love and testimony for our Lord Jesus Christ on the day He took on the flesh of humanity. God bless!
– The Oxygen Team

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Baruch 5:1-9

Jerusalem, take off your dress of sorrow and distress,
put on the beauty of the glory of God for ever,
wrap the cloak of the integrity of God around you,
put the diadem of the glory of the Eternal on your head:
since God means to show your splendour to every nation under heaven,
since the name God gives you for ever will be,
‘Peace through integrity, and honour through devotedness.’
Arise, Jerusalem, stand on the heights
and turn your eyes to the east:
see your sons reassembled from west and east
at the command of the Holy One, jubilant that God has remembered them.
Though they left you on foot,
with enemies for an escort,
now God brings them back to you
like royal princes carried back in glory.
For God has decreed the flattening
of each high mountain, of the everlasting hills,
the filling of the valleys to make the ground level
so that Israel can walk in safety under the glory of God.
And the forests and every fragrant tree will provide shade
for Israel at the command of God;
for God will guide Israel in joy by the light of his glory
with his mercy and integrity for escort.

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Philippians 1:4-6,8-11

Every time I pray for all of you, I pray with joy, remembering how you have helped to spread the Good News from the day you first heard it right up to the present. I am quite certain that the One who began this good work in you will see that it is finished when the Day of Christ Jesus comes; and God knows how much I miss you all, loving you as Christ Jesus loves you. My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more and never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception so that you can always recognise what is best. This will help you to become pure and blameless, and prepare you for the Day of Christ, when you will reach the perfect goodness which Jesus Christ produces in us for the glory and praise of God.

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Luke 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the lands of Ituraea and Trachonitis, Lysanias tetrach of Abilene, during the pontificate of Annas and Caiaphas the word of God came to John son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. He went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the sayings of the prophet Isaiah:

A voice cries in the wilderness:

Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley will be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low,
winding ways will be straightened
and rough roads made smooth.
And all mankind shall see the salvation of God.

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Peace through integrity, and honour through devotedness.

The words ‘peace through integrity, and honour through devotedness’ in our First Reading of Baruch caught my imagination today. That word ‘integrity’ is used more often these days in referring to honesty and moral principles, especially when we think of work ethics or corruption, or the mismanagement of funds in public or private arenas. We think less of the intrinsic value that ‘integrity’ points towards: the state of being whole and undivided; completeness, coherence, unity.

It is this yearning for a deep wholeness and peace that our world today lacks – peace through a ‘complete, united, whole and undivided’ love and respect for God. I realised that the yearning for a source of Divine Peace is truly universal. Otherwise, all of the world would not recognise, in solidarity, that the outbreak of terror and war has destroyed peace in the world and our families. And peace in our own hearts. Isn’t it true that the realisation of lack implies the need for that which is lacking? The same goes for the moments when we feel unloved and rejected. This feeling opens our eyes to realising our deep ache for acceptance and love.

It is a great sadness that when we do have love, we think little of it or may wish to be loved with greater thrill; when we have peace and stability, we see our mundanity as boring and routine; when we have the joys of waking up each new day, that we wish we could snooze longer and not have to wake up to face the daily grind. I find myself in this struggle, and it is indeed a hallmark of being human – the never ending ability to tend towards feeling disgruntled and ungrateful. And it is true too that those of us who do know God, have sometimes grieved Him so much. After all, our Heavenly Maker did give us this coveted ‘free will’.

At the same time, this freedom we have been given puts before us a task to ‘choose’ peace through integrity, and honour through devotedness. Peace and honour, joy, beauty and glory, love and compassion do not come without our striving. These come from our choosing to respond to our deep inmost desires for wholeness, completeness and unity with God through Jesus Christ. This is why the book of Baruch exhorts Jerusalem to ‘take off your dress of sorrow and distress, put on the beauty of the glory of God for ever, wrap the cloak of the integrity of God around you, put the diadem of the glory of the Eternal on your head…’

Likewise, the joy of claiming the Gospel, the good news of our salvation, is written beautifully by St Paul in the Second Reading. ‘Every time I pray for all of you, I pray with joy, remembering how you have helped to spread the Good News from the day you first heard it right up to the present… the One who began this good work in you will see that it is finished when the Day of Christ Jesus comes… My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more… This will help you… and prepare you for the Day of Christ, when you will reach the perfect goodness which Jesus Christ produces in us for the glory and praise of God.’ (Philippians 1:4-11)

Our wait for Jesus this Advent, and indeed the everyday advent of our lives, requires of us an active participation in cleaving to the joy and zeal of our missionary faith and our filial love and devotion to God who is our Heavenly Father.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I seek you first in all my ways and days. Help me to wait in active hope and joy of Your promises and blessings in the ups and downs of life.

Thanksgiving: Jesus, in this time of worldly crisis, we thank you for the memory of your reign on earth in a form that people could not recognise. We trust therefore that murky as the times are today, your Glory is hidden but not absent. Jesus, we continue to trust in you.

 

Monday, 7 September – Revenge or Charity?

7 September

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Colossians 1:24-2:3

It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church. I became the servant of the Church when God made me responsible for delivering God’s message to you, the message which was a mystery hidden for generations and centuries and has now been revealed to his saints. It was God’s purpose to reveal it to them and to show all the rich glory of this mystery to pagans. The mystery is Christ among you, your hope of glory: this is the Christ we proclaim, this is the wisdom in which we thoroughly train everyone and instruct everyone, to make them all perfect in Christ. It is for this I struggle wearily on, helped only by his power driving me irresistibly.

Yes, I want you to know that I do have to struggle hard for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for so many others who have never seen me face to face. It is all to bind you together in love and to stir your minds, so that your understanding may come to full development, until you really know God’s secret in which all the jewels of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.

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Luke 6:6-11

On the sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching him to see if he would cure a man on the sabbath, hoping to find something to use against him. But he knew their thoughts; and he said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Stand up! Come out into the middle.’ And he came out and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, ‘I put it to you: is it against the law on the sabbath to do good, or to do evil; to save life, or to destroy it?’ Then he looked round at them all and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He did so, and his hand was better. But they were furious, and began to discuss the best way of dealing with Jesus.

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… they were furious, and began to discuss the best way of dealing with Jesus

In today’s first reading, Saint Paul emphasized that Christ lives within us, carrying the hope for our glory. It is Christ whom we proclaim as our Saviour, living within us. Therefore, we possess the treasures of divine wisdom and knowledge that will be revealed in God’s time as we grow in holiness and love.

So we should mindful of your actions and deeds towards others because what we do to others, we also do to Jesus. As a golden rule, do unto others as you would have others do unto you. It is inevitable that some people may act unpleasantly towards us even though we have been generous and kind to them. These people probably have not met with kindness in the past and therefore would tend to only think for themselves. Keep in mind that anyone who does something to us, also does the same to Christ in us.

We are called to manifest the good behaviour of Christ as Jesus showed in today’s Gospel. Yes, we are obliged to fulfill our full participation in the Holy Mass on Sunday. In addition, we have to manifest our faith as active and practical witnesses of Christ to others. In time, people will come and recognize Christ within you.

Take time and reflect on your situation where you were very angry towards others. It may not easy but ask yourself, “Am I called to execute my revenge or act with charity towards others?”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Michael Goo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, give us graces to practice the charity and remove our evil root of anger and hatred for we seek to imitate Lord Jesus Christ, Your Beloved Son. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for the good examples that Lord Jesus and all the Saints had shown us. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.