14 June, Thursday – Enjoying In The Midst Of Drought

14 June

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1 Kings 18:41-46

Elijah said to Ahab, ‘Go back, eat and drink; for I hear the sound of rain.’ While Ahab went back to eat and drink, Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel and bowed down to the earth, putting his face between his knees. ‘Now go up,’ he told his servant ‘and look out to the sea.’ He went up and looked. ‘There is nothing at all’ he said. ‘Go back seven times’ Elijah said. The seventh time, the servant said, ‘Now there is a cloud, small as a man’s hand, rising from the sea.’ Elijah said, ‘Go and say to Ahab, “Harness the chariot and go down before the rain stops you.”’ And with that the sky grew dark with cloud and storm, and rain fell in torrents. Ahab mounted his chariot and made for Jezreel. The hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and tucking up his cloak he ran in front of Ahab as far as the outskirts of Jezreel.

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Matthew 5:20-26

Jesus said to his disciples, If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.

‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.’

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Go back, eat and drink; for I hear the sound of rain.

If you were Ahab, would you be able to follow Elijah’s suggestion to eat and drink while your country is suffering from drought? I guess not. I would imagine that Ahab would probably have a spread in front of him, and yet he could not eat. How could he, when he didn’t know when the drought would end?

In the midst of our problems, we should be able to hear God telling us to relax, eat and drink, and he will sort it out once we’ve done what we need to do. Instead of enjoying ourselves as God wanted us to do, and leaving him to do what he planned, we would worry about how God would get things done. And if he did, would it be according to our liking?

I would like to share this quote by St John of the Cross. Hopefully, it will help us eat and drink even in the midst of a seemingly unsolvable problem.

“God has to work in the soul in secret and in darkness, because if we fully knew what was happening, and what Mystery, transformation, God and Grace will eventually ask of us, we would either try to take charge or stop the whole process.”

Brothers and sisters, let us pass the baton to God, and let us take rest and eat and drink.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, it is so hard to let you take control and for us to enjoy ourselves. Help us trust that you are working on it. Help us to enjoy our lives because we know we are living in your plan.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you for wanting me to enjoy my life, no matter how difficult and challenging it is. Thank you for taking care of things.

13 June, Wednesday – Are You Really Catholic?

Jun 13 – Memorial for St. Anthony of Padua, priest, religious, doctor

St. Anthony’s (1195-1231) wealthy family wanted him to be a great nobleman, but for the sake of Christ, he became a poor Franciscan. When the remains of St. Berard and his companions, the first Franciscan martyrs, were brought to be buried in his church, Anthony was moved to leave his order, enter the Friars Minor, and go to Morocco to evangelize.

Shipwrecked at Sicily, he joined some other brothers who were going to Portiuncula. One day when a scheduled speaker failed to appear, the brothers pressed him into speaking. He impressed them so much that he was thereafter constantly travelling, evangelizing, preaching, and teaching theology through Italy and France.

A gifted speaker, he attracted crowds everywhere he went, speaking in multiple tongues. Legend says that even the fish loved to listen. He was a wonder worker. As one of the most beloved saints, his images and statues are found everywhere. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1946.

  • Patron Saint Index

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1 Kings 18:20-39

Ahab called all Israel together and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah stepped out in front of all the people. ‘How long’ he said ‘do you mean to hobble first on one leg then on the other? If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.’ But the people never said a word. Elijah then said to them, ‘I, I alone, am left as a prophet of the Lord, while the prophets of Baal are four hundred and fifty. Let two bulls be given us; let them choose one for themselves, dismember it and lay it on the wood, but not set fire to it. I in my turn will prepare the other bull, but not set fire to it. You must call on the name of your god, and I shall call on the name of mine; the god who answers with fire, is God indeed.’ The people all answered, ‘Agreed!’ Elijah then said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose one bull and begin, for there are more of you. Call on the name of your god but light no fire.’ They took the bull and prepared it, and from morning to midday they called on the name of Baal. ‘O Baal, answer us!’ they cried, but there was no voice, no answer, as they performed their hobbling dance round the altar they had made. Midday came, and Elijah mocked them. ‘Call louder,’ he said ‘for he is a god: he is preoccupied or he is busy, or he has gone on a journey; perhaps he is asleep and will wake up.’ So they shouted louder and gashed themselves, as their custom was, with swords and spears until the blood flowed down them. Midday passed, and they ranted on until the time the offering is presented; but there was no voice, no answer, no attention given to them.

Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come closer to me’, and all the people came closer to him. He repaired the altar of the Lord which had been broken down. Elijah took twelve stones, corresponding to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, ‘Israel shall be your name’, and built an altar in the name of the Lord. Round the altar he dug a trench of a size to hold two measures of seed. He then arranged the wood, dismembered the bull, and laid it on the wood. Then he said, ‘Fill four jars with water and pour it on the holocaust and on the wood’; this they did. He said, ‘Do it a second time’; they did it a second time. He said, ‘Do it a third time’; they did it a third time. The water flowed round the altar and the trench itself was full of water. At the time when the offering is presented, Elijah the prophet stepped forward. ‘O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel,’ he said ‘let them know today that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, that I have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, the Lord, are God and are winning back their hearts.’

Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the holocaust and wood and licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this they fell on their faces. ‘The Lord is God,’ they cried, ‘the Lord is God.’

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Matthew 5:17-19

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.’

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I have not come to abolish but to complete them.

Every Sunday Mass, we recite the Creed to remind us of what we profess to adhere to as Catholics. The Creed is the summary of everything the Catholic Church was entrusted to teach. I wish I could say that I always reflect on it whenever I say it during Mass but there were times when I would say it mechanically.

Having grown up in a Catholic household, I used to hear the elders talk about how they disagree with the Catholic Church, and I have seen them live their lives in accordance to what would ‘make them happy’, even though their choices are not aligned with the teachings of the Catholic Church. I know how difficult it is to accept and live by every thing the Catholic Church teaches. Honestly, when I found out that weddings could be so expensive, I really thought cohabiting was more practical.

Jesus’s words today remind me that God is constant and never-changing. He did not come to abolish the law, he came to help us understand the law in its fullness. He didn’t come to remove the yoke, but to show us that we can carry our crosses too. We can’t take just part of the law and choose to live against the rest that do not suit us. We can’t take just part of the cross because it will no longer be a cross.

I honestly think that it is difficult to ‘agree’ on everything the Catholic Church teaches, but I hope we can pray for obedience. Even if we don’t understand, even if it hurts to follow the law to completion, and even though it will cost us a lot, let us still obey and be faithful.

Many things happening around the world, such as Ireland voting to decriminalize abortion and many countries allowing same-sex marriage, had Catholics voting for these changes. I think that we, the Church, are partly to blame, for we have not been able to witness and Catechize well. Even so, I pray that many of us Catholics would first obey our Church’s teachings, and then ask God to help us understand his teachings and his laws. It took me about seven years of struggling with the Church’s doctrines and I can say that I am thankful that I was given the grace to hold on and obey.

Let us be Catholics because we obey what God has entrusted to the Catholic Church for us. And if we disagree with some of these teachings, let not our actions show and let us continue to seek to understand the heart of God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, there are many conflicting messages around the world and sometimes, I emphatize and agree with those who feel that the Church’s teachings are outdated. Help me, Lord, to be firm in following you, trusting that you know what you are doing.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for allowing me to know your laws, even if I don’t understand all of them yet. I know they are for my own good.

12 June, Tuesday – My Provider

12 June

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1 Kings 17:7-16

The stream in the place where Elijah lay hidden dried up, for the country had no rain. And then the word of the Lord came to Elijah, ‘Up and go to Zarephath, a Sidonian town, and stay there. I have ordered a widow there to give you food.’ So he went off to Sidon. And when he reached the city gate, there was a widow gathering sticks; addressing her he said, ‘Please bring me a little water in a vessel for me to drink.’ She was setting off to bring it when he called after her. ‘Please’ he said ‘bring me a scrap of bread in your hand.’ ‘As the Lord your God lives,’ she replied ‘I have no baked bread, but only a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jug; I am just gathering a stick or two to go and prepare this for myself and my son to eat, and then we shall die.’ But Elijah said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, go and do as you have said; but first make a little scone of it for me and bring it to me, and then make some for yourself and for your son. For thus the Lord speaks, the God of Israel:

“Jar of meal shall not be spent,
jug of oil shall not be emptied,
before the day when the Lord sends
rain on the face of the earth.”’

The woman went and did as Elijah told her and they ate the food, she, himself and her son. The jar of meal was not spent nor the jug of oil emptied, just as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.

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Matthew 5:13-16

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You are the salt of the earth. But if salt becomes tasteless, what can make it salty again? It is good for nothing, and can only be thrown out to be trampled underfoot by men.

‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill-top cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine in the sight of men, so that, seeing your good works, they may give the praise to your Father in heaven.’

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“The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry…”

I have been struggling emotionally for a couple of months before my decision to resign, because aside from the increase in portfolios due to inadequate assignment of duties, I was also struggling with the negativity of my office environment. I felt that I was going through a mid-life crisis, and every other aspect of life seemed to be going awry as well. I had to take a step back from friends, family, ministry and even God. I knew this was what happened when I went with my plan, and not God’s plan, and I had to face the consequences of doing so. I knew I had to do something, but I was so tired that I could not bring myself to do anything. Thankfully, God made a plan for me to avail myself to serve in a retreat and post-retreat, I had a trip to Rome which I had booked 8 months earlier.

During the retreat, I had three affirmations that it was time to move on from my current workplace, and although I did not know where to go, God gave me three words — I will provide. Unfortunately, being human and specifically, being me, I ended up wavering and questioning this decision. However, something happened while I was in Rome that made me realize no amount of money could make me stay, and I would resign upon my return. Three days before I was due to land in Singapore, I received a notification for a job interview the day I returned to Singapore, and I was offered the job three days later. When I returned to work, I kept my promise to God and I resigned from my current workplace.

This episode in my life has shown me that despite being 1.5 years late since God told me to move, He patiently waits for me to hand him the reins of my life, and immediately provided what I had needed. On hindsight, maybe if I had been less stubborn, I might not have needed to suffer the past couple of months, although I believe that despite the suffering, God had created opportunities for me to experience His grace.

Brothers and sisters, just like the widow in today’s first reading, she knew that she would have nothing left for her son and herself if she had provided for Elijah, yet she had faith and believed, and God provided as Elijah prophesized. Let us learn to be like the widow, as well as like Abraham, who entrusted his only son Isaac to God, that no matter how dire our situation may be, that God is Jehovah Jireh, He who provides.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Dear loving Father, help us to learn how to surrender to Your will, entrusting our lives fully to You because You are a God who provides.

Thanksgiving: Dearest Father, we thank You for providing for us what we need, according to Your will. Thank You for patiently waiting for us and not giving up on us even when things seem impossible.

11 June, Monday – Peacemakers

Jun 11 – Feast of St. Barnabas, apostle

St. Barnabas (martyred 61) founded the Church in Antioch. He was a Levite Jewish convert, coming to the faith soon after Pentecost. Barnabas is mentioned frequently in the Acts of the Apostles, and is included among the prophets and doctors at Antioch. Like Paul, Barnabas believed in the Church’s mission to Gentiles, and worked with him in Cyprus and Asia, but split with him over a non-theological matter. At the time of his death, he was carrying a copy of the Gospel of Saint Matthew that he had copied by hand.

  • – Patron Saint Index

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Acts 11:21-26,13:1-3

A great number believed and were converted to the Lord.

The church in Jerusalem heard about this and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. There he could see for himself that God had given grace, and this pleased him, and he urged them all to remain faithful to the Lord with heartfelt devotion; for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith. And a large number of people were won over to the Lord.

Barnabas then left for Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. As things turned out they were to live together in that church a whole year, instructing a large number of people. It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians.’

In the church at Antioch the following were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. One day while they were offering worship to the Lord and keeping a fast, the Holy Spirit said, ‘I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them.’ So it was that after fasting and prayer they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

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Matthew 5:1-12

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:

‘How happy are the poor in spirit;
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:
they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn:
they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right:
they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful:
they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart:
they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers:
they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven: this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.’

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“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

When I was younger, I used to attend Sunday school and we were tasked to memorize verses as part of our homework. I used to take pride in being able to memorize the Beatitudes, but I never took the time to really meditate and understand what the Beatitudes were about. I knew that the Latin noun of the word Beatitude was used to describe a state of blessedness, but I never understood these eight Beatitudes using my heart. Recently, I had a conversation with a friend and she mentioned that she had a t-shirt with a very cool-looking dog decked in a pair of sunglasses with the phrase “Be attitude”. At that moment, I started to realize that the Beatitudes were more than just blessings spoken by Jesus, but they are the attitudes that He wanted us to have, and although these attitudes are not easy to embrace, through God’s grace, it is possible.

The past month has been extremely rough for me emotionally, because I have decided to leave my first job after close to 7 years; not because I became bored of the nature of the work, but because I started to succumb to the negativity of the office environment. I loved my job, and I still do, which was why the decision to resign was a struggle for me; but for my own mental and emotional well-being, I decided that it was best that I resign. My boss called me silly for leaving right before the bonus month, but my happiness was more important and I knew I could no longer feel happy working in this job. A few days after my resignation, I chanced upon the Beatitudes and the particular Beatitude – Blessed are the peacemakers, they will be called children of God – struck a chord in me. I decided to embark on a personal project to connect with people who I was avoiding at work, and to make peace with them before my last day. I guess God knew it was not an easy task for me, and he has been creating opportunities for me to ‘bump’ into these people, and through a brief conversation, make peace with them.

Brothers and sisters, as today is the memorial of Saint Barnabas, the patron saint of peacemakers, let us also take this chance to make peace with someone in our lives who God has been trying to lead us to. We, together with our brethren, are God’s beloved children, and He would want nothing but the best for us. Let us be the peacemakers in the lives of those around us, and with great faith, make an impact in this chaotic and conflicting world.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the desire to reflect upon these eight Beatitudes and to give us the grace to emulate them through our daily living.

Thanksgiving: Dearest Father, we thank you for giving us the opportunity and humility to be peacemakers in the lives of those around us. Thank you for reminding us that despite all that we have done, we are Your children, and as Your children, we need to continually love one another.

10 June, Sunday – Division

10 June

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Genesis 3:9-15

The Lord God called to the man after he had eaten of the tree. ‘Where are you?’ he asked. ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden;’ he replied ‘I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.’ ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ he asked ‘Have you been eating of the tree I forbade you to eat?’ The man replied, ‘It was the woman you put with me; she gave me the fruit, and I ate it.’ Then the Lord God asked the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman replied, ‘The serpent tempted me and I ate.’

Then the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, ‘Be accursed beyond all cattle, all wild beasts. You shall crawl on your belly and eat dust every day of your life. I will make you enemies of each other: you and the woman,your offspring and her offspring. It will crush your head and you will strike its heel.’

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2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

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

That is why there is no weakening on our part, and instead, though this outer man of ours may be falling into decay, the inner man is renewed day by day. Yes, the troubles which are soon over, though they weigh little, train us for the carrying of a weight of eternal glory which is out of all proportion to them. And so we have no eyes for things that are visible, but only for things that are invisible; for visible things last only for a time, and the invisible things are eternal.

For we know that when the tent that we live in on earth is folded up, there is a house built by God for us, an everlasting home not made by human hands, in the heavens.

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Mark 3:20-35

Jesus went home with his disciples, and such a crowd collected that they could not even have a meal. When his relatives heard of this, they set out to take charge of him, convinced he was out of his mind.

The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem were saying, ‘Beelzebul is in him’ and, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts devils out.’ So he called them to him and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot last. And if a household is divided against itself, that household can never stand. Now if Satan has rebelled against himself and is divided, he cannot stand either – it is the end of him. But no one can make his way into a strong man’s house and burgle his property unless he has tied up the strong man first. Only then can he burgle his house.

‘I tell you solemnly, all men’s sins will be forgiven, and all their blasphemies; but let anyone blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and he will never have forgiveness: he is guilty of an eternal sin.’ This was because they were saying, ‘An unclean spirit is in him.’

His mother and brothers now arrived and, standing outside, sent in a message asking for him. A crowd was sitting round him at the time the message was passed to him, ‘Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you.’ He replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking round at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.’

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“… if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”

Last week, I had a conversation with a colleague about leadership styles, and we were discussing the rationale behind a particular type of leadership style that preferred a divided team over a cohesive and united one. This type of leadership not only creates animosity and distrust amongst staff, but the office environment becomes filled with negativity. In such an office, the well-being of each staff is compromised and the quality of work is also affected. Archbishop William, during one of the retreats conducted by him, has cautioned against this style of leadership because it not only reflects negatively on the leader, but because of the effects it has on the employees as well.

Personally, I am someone who hates conflict and I would normally run away when I anticipate conflict coming my way. Being in an office environment like the one described above, I started to see my emotional well-being decline and suffer, especially in the past year. My close friends have encouraged me to resign as they could see that I am no longer happy, not because of the nature of my job, but because of the negativity in the environment. Many people in my office have lost the passion and reason why they started work here, and most end up staying because the pay and benefits are good; but this causes the quality of work to decline. I could see myself going down the same path as my colleagues, as it would be less emotionally draining. However, I found myself fighting this as I could not bring myself to produce a poorer quality of work.

My work was not the only thing in my life that seemed to be affected by such a leadership and office environment. I started becoming irritable and my emotional meter seemed to be hitting a negative, and my family experienced a lot of my outbursts due to a shorter fuse. I also contemplated pulling away from ministry as well because I could sense myself losing my patience as I dealt with certain issues pertaining to the ministry I am in. I started to doubt my capabilities, and the effects of work started to become the truth in my life; and it took me some time to realize how it was affecting me and how I need to move on.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus cautioned against the division of kingdoms and households as it would not sustain during times of difficulty. It is also a reminder not just for leaders, but for everyone, that a division in any setting could have destructive consequences that not only affects one person, but everyone involved. Let us learn to seek cohesion instead of disharmony, and to seek for God’s unity in all that we do.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to work towards cohesion as a cord with three strands is not quickly broken. We pray for unity in our lives and in the relationships we form.

 Thanksgiving: Dear loving Father, thank you for your gentle mercies and for reminding us that a divided house is detrimental for the wellbeing of all its members.

9 June, Saturday – A Life Of Surrender

June 9 – Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary began as early as the twelfth century. During the seventeenth century in France, St John Eudes popularised this devotion along with that to the Sacred Heart. St Luke’s Gospel twice mentions that Mary ‘kept all these things in her heart’, pondering the word of God. Mary shows us how to listen to the words the Holy Spirit speaks to us in the depths of our hearts, and how to respond in faith.

Source: Universalis

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The attention of Christians was early attracted by the love and virtues of the Heart of Mary. The Gospel itself invited this attention with exquisite discretion and delicacy. What was first excited was compassion for the Virgin Mother. It was, so to speak, at the foot of the Cross that the Christian heart first made the acquaintance of the Heart of Mary. Simeon’s prophecy paved the way and furnished the devotion with one of its favourite formulae and most popular representations: the heart pierced with a sword. But Mary was not merely passive at the foot of the Cross; “she cooperated through charity”, as St. Augustine says, “in the work of our redemption”.

In the midst of the second world war Pope Pius XII put the whole world under the special protection of our Savior’s Mother by consecrating it to her Immaculate Heart, and in 1944 he decreed that in the future the whole Church should celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This is not a new devotion. In the seventeenth century, St. John Eudes preached it together with that of the Sacred Heart; in the nineteenth century, Pius VII and Pius IX allowed several churches to celebrate a feast of the Pure Heart of Mary. Pius XII instituted today’s feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the whole Church, so as to obtain by her intercession “peace among nations, freedom for the Church, the conversion of sinners, the love of purity and the practice of virtue” (Decree of May 4, 1944).

Source: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2016-06-04

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2 Timothy 4:1-8

Before God and before Christ Jesus who is to be judge of the living and the dead, I put this duty to you, in the name of his Appearing and of his kingdom: proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, call to obedience – but do all with patience and with the intention of teaching. The time is sure to come when, far from being content with sound teaching, people will be avid for the latest novelty and collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes; and then, instead of listening to the truth, they will turn to myths. Be careful always to choose the right course; be brave under trials; make the preaching of the Good News your life’s work, in thoroughgoing service.

As for me, my life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.

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Luke 2:41-51

Every year the parents of Jesus used to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up for the feast as usual. When they were on their way home after the feast, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it. They assumed he was with the caravan, and it was only after a day’s journey that they went to look for him among their relations and acquaintances. When they failed to find him they went back to Jerusalem looking for him everywhere.

Three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions; and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies. They were overcome when they saw him, and his mother said to him, ‘My child, why have, you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.’

‘Why were you looking for me?’ he replied ‘Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’ But they did not understand what he meant.

He then went down with them and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority. His mother stored up all these things in her heart.

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Why were you looking for me?

A common struggle of faith is one of letting go and trusting in God. There are many things in life that we want to hang on to, and as described by Bishop Robert Barron, they can be grouped into these four categories – power, wealth, honour and pleasure. Each of us has our ‘favourite’ addictions from one or more of these categories that appeal to our self-indulgent nature, and they are constant barriers in our relationship with God.

In today’s gospel passage, we come across a familiar account, that of the finding of the boy Jesus in the temple. Instead of following his family and relatives on their trip home, Jesus had stayed behind to converse with the religious teachers. Mary, in particular, would likely be feeling extreme anxiety about not being able to locate her son. Imagine her relief when she sees him in the temple, and naturally, there is a tone of reproach in her voice as she speaks to Jesus. His unexpected response would perhaps have caused her to feel taken aback and confused. We do not know if Jesus had made mention of his mission in the years before he turned twelve, but this is likely the first instance since the immaculate conception that Mary is told about her son’s purpose in the world. As before, even though she may not fully understand what is in store, she accepts and trusts in God’s plans for her and her son.

The Old and New Testament is replete with examples of people who made great personal sacrifices in their commitment to a life serving the Lord. They seem to be the exception to the norm, but really, each one of Christ’s followers is called to surrender their lives to the Lord. He must always come first. We struggle, as there is always a tendency to cave in to self-serving desires instead of being obedient to God. As we stumble, fall, and pick ourselves up again in our daily battles with sin, may we draw inspiration from our Blessed Mother in the complete dedication of her life to the Lord.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that Mary continue to intercede for us, and that our weakness may become a source of divine grace.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the times when the Lord shows us His reassuring love when we surrender our lives to Him.

8 June, Friday – Coincidence And Fate

June 6 – Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

The devotion to the Sacred Heart (also known as the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sacratissimum Cor Iesu in Latin) is one of the most widely practiced and well-known Roman Catholic devotions, taking Jesus Christ?s physical heart as the representation of his divine love for humanity.

This devotion is predominantly used in the Roman Catholic Church and in a modified way among some high-churchAnglicans, Lutherans and Eastern Catholics. The devotion is especially concerned with what the Church deems to be the longsuffering love and compassion of the heart of Christ towards humanity. The popularization of this devotion in its modern form is derived from a Roman Catholic nun from France, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, who said she learned the devotion from Jesus during a series of apparitions to her between 1673 and 1675,[1] and later, in the 19th century, from the mystical revelations of another Roman Catholic nun in Portugal, Blessed Mary of the Divine Heart, a religious of the Good Shepherd, who requested in the name of Christ that Pope Leo XIII consecrate the entire world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Predecessors to the modern devotion arose unmistakably in the Middle Ages in various facets of Catholic mysticism, particularly with Saint Gertrude the Great.[2]

– Wikipedia

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Hosea 11:1,3-4,8-9

Listen to the word of the Lord:
When Israel was a child I loved him,
and I called my son out of Egypt.
I myself taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them in my arms;
yet they have not understood that I was the one looking after them.
I led them with reins of kindness,
with leading-strings of love.
I was like someone who lifts an infant close against his cheek;
stooping down to him I gave him his food.
Ephraim, how could I part with you?
Israel, how could I give you up?
How could I treat you like Admah,
or deal with you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils from it,
my whole being trembles at the thought.
I will not give rein to my fierce anger,
I will not destroy Ephraim again,
for I am God, not man:
I am the Holy One in your midst
and have no wish to destroy.

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Ephesians 3:8-12,14-19

I, Paul, who am less than the least of all the saints have been entrusted with this special grace, not only of proclaiming to the pagans the infinite treasure of Christ but also of explaining how the mystery is to be dispensed. Through all the ages, this has been kept hidden in God, the creator of everything. Why? So that the Sovereignties and Powers should learn only now, through the Church, how comprehensive God’s wisdom really is, exactly according to the plan which he had had from all eternity in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is why we are bold enough to approach God in complete confidence, through our faith in him; This, then, is what I pray, kneeling before the Father, from whom every family, whether spiritual or natural, takes its name:

Out of his infinite glory, may he give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God.

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John 19:31-37

It was Preparation Day, and to prevent the bodies remaining on the cross during the sabbath – since that sabbath was a day of special solemnity – the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken away. Consequently the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with him and then of the other. When they came to Jesus, they found he was already dead, and so instead of breaking his legs one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water. This is the evidence of one who saw it – trustworthy evidence, and he knows he speaks the truth – and he gives it so that you may believe as well. Because all this happened to fulfil the words of scripture:

Not one bone of his will be broken;

and again, in another place scripture says:

They will look on the one whom they have pierced.

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In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

I thought I’d share about a miracle that I experienced during a recent snowboarding holiday. God’s providence, even in trivial matters, has shown me that He is always present, and that sometimes all we need to do when in trouble is to ask for his help.

I had placed my handphone in a zipless jacket pocket, believing that because of how snug the jacket was, the handphone would be safe and secure. Much to my dismay, however, I discovered that the phone was missing at the end of my last run for the day. Panic overwhelmed me and I kept berating myself for my mistake.

I decided to retrace my (very long) path down the mountain to find my phone. I had already written it off as a loss as the snow was ankle deep and it was a crowded resort; what were the odds? I clearly recall speaking to God on the chairlift up, “God, if you’re there, help me find my phone. Even if it goes unfound, I will still have faith and treat this as a lesson in conscientiousness”.

When I was halfway down the run, I got a call from some friends who told me that they had found my phone. Someone in our group had caught a glimpse of it on her way down, and they were able to find the phone after retracing their steps. I could not believe what I had heard.

The phone was undamaged and in perfect working condition. Against all odds, I once again held my phone in my hands and spent the next few hours soaking in the lesson that God was trying to teach me.

We may never always get what we want, and things may sometimes never go as planned. Yet, through the ‘coincidences’ in our lives, it is clear to me that God has a hand in everything. Whenever I feel discouraged or anxious about the future, or filled with regret about the past, I cradle my phone and am filled with the warm assurance that it was, is, and will all be ok.

What miracles in your life give you the fortitude to face each new day with joy and confidence?

(Today’s Oxygen by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dearest God, increase our faith in you so that we come to you at all times, good and bad, big and small.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for the gift of your Sacred Heart. May we grow to emulate your love and nurturing spirit.

7 June, Thursday – Living Out Love

7 June

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2 Timothy 2:8-15

Remember the Good News that I carry, ‘Jesus Christ risen from the dead, sprung from the race of David’; it is on account of this that I have my own hardships to bear, even to being chained like a criminal – but they cannot chain up God’s news. So I bear it all for the sake of those who are chosen, so that in the end they may have the salvation that is in Christ Jesus and the eternal glory that comes with it.
Here is a saying that you can rely on:

If we have died with him, then we shall live with him.
If we hold firm, then we shall reign with him.
If we disown him, then he will disown us.
We may be unfaithful, but he is always faithful,
for he cannot disown his own self.

Remind them of this; and tell them in the name of God that there is to be no wrangling about words: all that this ever achieves is the destruction of those who are listening. Do all you can to present yourself in front of God as a man who has come through his trials, and a man who has no cause to be ashamed of his life’s work and has kept a straight course with the message of the truth.

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Mark 12:28-34

One of the scribes came up to Jesus and put a question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to him, ‘Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true: that he is one and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.’ Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken, said, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that no one dared to question him any more.

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“So I bear it all for the sake of those who are chosen, so that in the end they may have the salvation that is in Christ Jesus and the eternal glory that comes with it.”

In yesterday’s reflection, I shared about witnessing to God’s goodness without fear. For me, today’s readings are all about living my own life for His glory. If I am His instrument, then I must live a life of holiness.

St Paul, in today’s first reading, says: “If we have died with him, then we shall live with him. If we hold firm, then we shall reign with him.”

If we have died in the Lord and to our sinfulness, then surely we will rise to live with Him. How then, am I living my life worthy of the love of God? Have I given up my own sin to walk in His light?

What are some of the areas of my life that are coming between me and the light of God?

Yes, it is difficult to live a life of holiness. But I truly believe that God is faithful to us. Even St Paul says it himself, “We may be unfaithful, but he is always faithful”. As long as we open up our hearts to the Lord and allow His grace and hand to take over, I’m certain He provides the grace to walk in His ways. There will be times when we will be put to the test. But let us take courage and continue to persevere in living out our baptismal promises.

Today’s gospel gives a very simple way of living a life of holiness, summarised in one commandment: Love. Loving God and loving neighbour.

To me, loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength is to worship Him. And loving my neighbour as myself, is to offer myself as a sacrifice to my neighbour. Doing both allows me to be selfless, to deny myself and in turn live a life of holiness.

Let us take courage my brothers and sisters, to love God in all our ways, by giving Him the glory in all that we do, and to also be loving to our brothers and sisters. Again, let us remember that He is faithful in giving us the grace to do what He commands us to. All we need to do is to say “Amen.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Lee)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, You are the source of love. Help me to love You and love my neighbour as myself. When it is difficult to love someone, grace me Lord to depend on Your faithfulness in love. Amen!

Thanksgiving: Thank You Lord, for your love and faithfulness. When I struggle to love as you do, teach me to deny myself.

6 June, Wednesday – God Of The Living

Jun 6 – Memorial for St. Norbert, bishop, religious founder

St. Norbert (1080-1134) had been born to the nobility and raised around the royal court. There he developed a very worldly view, taking holy orders as a career move when he joined the Benedictines. A narrow escape from death led him to a conversion experience, and taking his vows seriously.

He founded a community of Augustinian canons, starting a reform movement that swept through European monastic houses. St. Norbert also reformed the clergy in his see, using force when necessary. He worked with St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Hugh of Grenoble to heal the schism caused by the death of Pope Honorius II, and for heresy in Cambrai, France with the help of St. Waltmann. He is one of the patron saints of peace.

  • – Patron Saint Index

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2 Timothy 1:1-3,6-12

From Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus in his design to promise life in Christ Jesus; to Timothy, dear child of mine, wishing you grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.

Night and day I thank God, keeping my conscience clear and remembering my duty to him as my ancestors did, and always I remember you in my prayers. That is why I am reminding you now to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy – not because of anything we ourselves have done but for his own purpose and by his own grace. This grace had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time, but it has only been revealed by the Appearing of our saviour Christ Jesus. He abolished death, and he has proclaimed life and immortality through the Good News; and I have been named its herald, its apostle and its teacher.

It is only on account of this that I am experiencing fresh hardships here now; but I have not lost confidence, because I know who it is that I have put my trust in, and I have no doubt at all that he is able to take care of all that I have entrusted to him until that Day.

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Mark 12:18-27

Some Sadducees – who deny that there is a resurrection – came to him and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, if a man’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first married a wife and then died leaving no children. The second married the widow, and he too died leaving no children; with the third it was the same, and none of the seven left any children. Last of all the woman herself died. Now at the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be, since she had been married to all seven?’

Jesus said to them, ‘Is not the reason why you go wrong, that you understand neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry; no, they are like the angels in heaven. Now about the dead rising again, have you never read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the Bush, how God spoke to him and said: I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is God, not of the dead, but of the living. You are very much mistaken.’

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He is God, not of the dead, but of the living

I would think that there is no one question more important to each person than the purpose of his/her existence. Birth, life and death are great mysteries, and, as we journey towards the inevitable end, there will certainly be wonder, fear and contemplation about what awaits. There are some who believe in an afterlife, and there are some who don’t. The latter group might dismiss a belief in the afterlife as something that is invented to ease people’s fear of death, but surely, it is more than a human invention if there is an entire (seemingly impossible to accomplish) body of teachings about how to live life in this world, in preparation for an afterlife with God?

The Sadducees in today’s gospel reading did not believe in an afterlife, nor a resurrection, for that matter. Fully aware that the Sadducees only acknowledged the authority of the first five books of the bible (Genesis to Deuteronomy), Jesus wisely made reference to Exodus in response to their theological challenge to him. He asserts that souls do live on after the death of the physical bodies, and that relationships like marriages are no longer existent in the afterlife.

The gospel reading reminds me of Jesus’ words in John 14:3 – “And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Sometimes, when I think about what will happen after death, I am overcome with fear over the uncertainty. But instead of clinging on to that fear which is ultimately, unproductive and crippling, I am instead beginning to recognise that one thing is for certain — we cannot do in the afterlife what we can do on this earth and in this realm of existence. So we have to keep going on, keeping faith in Jesus’ words and trusting that the Spirit will lead us to who we are meant to be.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we will always remember to trust in the Lord.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the reassuring love of God, made ever more present in the person of Christ.

5 June, Tuesday – Steering Through Stormy Seas

Jun 5 – Memorial for St. Boniface, bishop and martyr

Educated at the Benedictine monastary at Exeter, England where he became a monk, Boniface (c.673–754) was a missionary to Germany from 719, assisted by St. Albinus, St. Abel, and St. Agatha. They destroyed idols and pagan temples, and then built churches on the sites.

He was ordained a bishop and later became Archbishop of Mainz. He reformed the churches in his see, and built religious houses in Germany. He ordained St. Sola. He founded the dioceses of Bavaria, Thuringia, and Franconia. He evangelized in Holland, but was set upon by a troop of pagans and he and 52 of his new flock, included St. Adaler and St. Eoban were martyred.

Once in Saxony, Boniface encountered a tribe worshipping a Norse deity in the form of a huge oak tree. Boniface walked up to the tree, removed his shirt, took up an axe, and without a word he hacked down the six-foot wide wooden god. Boniface stood on the trunk, and asked, “How stands your mighty god? My God is stronger than he.” The crowd’s reaction was mixed, but some conversions were begun.

One tradition about St. Boniface says that he used the customs of the locals to help convert them. There was a game in which they threw sticks called kegels at smaller sticks called heides. Boniface brought religion to the game, having the heides represent demons, and knocking them down showing the purity of spirit.

He is the patron of many groups, including World Youth Day.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Peter 3:11-15,17-18

You should be living holy and saintly lives while you wait and long for the Day of God to come, when the sky will dissolve in flames and the elements melt in the heat. What we are waiting for is what he promised: the new heavens and new earth, the place where righteousness will be at home. So then, my friends, while you are waiting, do your best to live lives without spot or stain so that he will find you at peace. Think of our Lord’s patience as your opportunity to be saved. You have been warned about this, my friends; be careful not to get carried away by the errors of unprincipled people, from the firm ground that you are standing on. Instead, go on growing in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory, in time and in eternity. Amen.

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Mark 12:13-17

The chief priests and the scribes and the elders sent to Jesus some Pharisees and some Herodians to catch him out in what he said. These came and said to him, ‘Master, we know you are an honest man, that you are not afraid of anyone, because a man’s rank means nothing to you, and that you teach the way of God in all honesty. Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay, yes or no?’ Seeing through their hypocrisy he said to them, ‘Why do you set this trap for me? Hand me a denarius and let me see it.’ They handed him one and he said, ‘Whose head is this? Whose name?’ ‘Caesar’s’ they told him. Jesus said to them, ‘Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.’ This reply took them completely by surprise.

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“Be on your guard not to be led into the error of the unprincipled and to fall from your own stability”

I have been following the developments of the political situation back home in Malaysia, right from the run-up to the elections till the implementation of reforms by the current government. Equivalent to a modern Shakespearean drama, the unfolding of events has also given rise to scenes of “he says, she says”, with politicians and media trying to ensnare one another in a game of words.

I saw one such interview of a young politician (whom I shall not name) whom the interviewer was clearly trying to corner in her line of questioning. The said politician deftly manoeuvered the situation with a series of comebacks and responses which were very admirable.

Experience in the media spotlight has, no doubt, given this politician a trump card; however from the conviction in the responses given, it also seemed clear that a strong set of principles has given this politician a firm foundation from which to fire off these responses without getting caught with one’s foot in one’s mouth.

The Gospel reading today isn’t much different from the politics of present-time. The Pharisees and Herodians were sent to corner Jesus, hoping that he would trip up over his words. But Jesus knew what they were about, and not only deftly answered the question, but point-blank asked them “Why are you testing me?” Life will always be peppered with people and situations meant to trap us and test us, people who want to shake us and expose to the world our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and thus shame us. That could ruin us. It could bring down our morale and ruin our reputation. It could cause us to hide in anger and embarrassment. Or we could maneuver it into a positive experience instead, should we have a firm set of principles to fall back on.

How strong our faith is, and how unshakeable our moral compass is, will determine how well we navigate through the storms of life. One false step and we could smash into the rocks, one wrong turn and we could end up miles off our route. A single moment of giving in to fear could mean the sinking of our lives as we know it, and those who depend on us will go down as well. We do not know when this time will come, when tests will be laid at our feet. But every day is a new day to train our minds and hearts to be ready for when it happens. Every day, we have to learn to don the armour of God through prayer and reconciliation, by living an upright life with the fear of God within us. When that day comes, may we be found blameless and ready to steer safely through the storm.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, many are out there trying to trap us with their words and wiliness. We pray that we may hold steadfast in our faith so as not to fall into their trap.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we give you thanks for guiding us through the rough times in our lives and always being for us a beacon of hope and salvation.