Sunday, 13 September – Let Go, Let God

13 September 

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Isaiah 50:5-9

The Lord has opened my ear.
For my part, I made no resistance,
neither did I turn away.
I offered my back to those who struck me,
my cheeks to those who tore at my beard;
I did not cover my face
against insult and spittle.
The Lord comes to my help,
so that I am untouched by the insults.
So, too, I set my face like flint;
I know I shall not be shamed.
My vindicator is here at hand. Does anyone start proceedings against me?
Then let us go to court together.
Who thinks he has a case against me?
Let him approach me.
The Lord is coming to my help,
who will dare to condemn me?

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James 2:14-18

Take the case, my brothers, of someone who has never done a single good act but claims that he has faith. Will that faith save him? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty’, without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead.

This is the way to talk to people of that kind: ‘You say you have faith and I have good deeds; I will prove to you that I have faith by showing you my good deeds – now you prove to me that you have faith without any good deeds to show.’

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Mark 8:27-35

Jesus and his disciples left for the villages round Caesarea Philippi. On the way he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say I am?’ And they told him. ‘John the Baptist,’ they said ‘others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he asked ‘who do you say I am?’ Peter spoke up and said to him, ‘You are the Christ.’ And he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him.

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again; and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. But, turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to him, ‘Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

He called the people and his disciples to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.’

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If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me”

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” We know what the disciples’ answers are. Have you asked yourself “Who is Jesus to me?”

Some would say, “He is The Living God”. Others may say “He is the Saviour.” But those aren’t really answers to this question though. Those are answers to “Who is Jesus?”

For me, Jesus is my Love, my Light, and my Guide.

But in my faith journey, how many times have I really put Jesus in the centre of my life as my Love? In the crossroads of life, or when a crisis hits, have I trusted Him as my lighthouse to navigate me through the choppy waters? Have I trusted Him to be my Guide, to lead me to where He wants me to go?

Truthfully, being a control freak, I plan my own desired outcome and when things don’t work out the way I planned, I start to bolt and panic. The ‘what if’ questions start to form in my little head. I see things with my own myopic vision and think with my own rational head.

You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.

Trusting in God and His Divine plan for us is not easy. Especially when we pray so hard and when God seems so distant. When we keep trying to listen out for Him, but He is silent. We have to pray for that grace, to be able to die to ourselves each day and let the Holy Spirit fill us.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

His plans may not always come packaged in a little blue box with white ribbons. But we have to trust that He will lead us there, if we allow Him to. Sometimes God ‘tethers’ us instead of giving us what we want. If we only saw what God sees, we would understand the consequences of what we ask for. If only we understood, we would submit to His plans. 

Recently, I have been listening to this song. The words go like this….

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise’

So my brothers and sisters, you may be going through some challenges in life now. Jesus may seem silent to your prayers. But what seems to be empty, dry and desolate now, may just be God holding us back, because His perfect plan takes time. And His timing is always perfect. Let us take up our crosses and follow Him.

Have faith. For the trials we face now, are blessings in disguise.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, teach us to deny ourselves, to let go. You take over, Lord. Take our intellect, our hopes, our dreams, our liberty. We give it all to you. Give us the grace to trust You, knowing that Your plans are perfect. Let Your life be grown in us, and us in You.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for the crosses we carry, they bring us closer to You. In You we remain strong. Thank you for your cross, thank you for the pain and shame You endured for us. Thank you for Your love.

Saturday, 12 September – What Comes Out from the Fullness of Your Heart?

12 September

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1 Timothy 1:15-17

Here is a saying that you can rely on and nobody should doubt: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I myself am the greatest of them; and if mercy has been shown to me, it is because Jesus Christ meant to make me the greatest evidence of his inexhaustible patience for all the other people who would later have to trust in him to come to eternal life. To the eternal King, the undying, invisible and only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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Luke 6:43-49

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit, nor again a rotten tree that produces sound fruit. For every tree can be told by its own fruit: people do not pick figs from thorns, nor gather grapes from brambles. A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness. For a man’s words flow out of what fills his heart.

‘Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord” and not do what I say?

‘Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them – I will show you what he is like. He is like the man who when he built his house dug, and dug deep, and laid the foundations on rock; when the river was in flood it bore down on that house but could not shake it, it was so well built. But the one who listens and does nothing is like the man who built his house on soil, with no foundations: as soon as the river bore down on it, it collapsed; and what a ruin that house became!’

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For a man’s words flow out of what fills his heart

Having encountered all kinds of people in my life, I always make sure I am nice to whoever I meet, no matter who they are and how they act towards me. I reckon that over time, these people will usually reveal their true colours. It is impossible to put on a mask for a long time. That probably explains why some people are very nice and kind in the beginning and then out of the blue, turn hostile towards you and vice versa. While we Catholics know never to judge others, we also know that the fruits which others produce generally are telltale signs of one’s character. But as always, we must exercise caution before coming to a conclusion about someone else’s character, because we do not know their background – where they have come from.

Jesus called us to build the firm foundations of our faith so that it will not be shaken when it eventually gets tested. We all need to rely on the graces and the power of God in order to stand firm, so that others will witness our faith when they themselves have lost their battles, and eventually become converts. We have to be very selective in whom we listen to. For our convictions come from what we have heard and read. That is when our sense of judgment comes in handy. We should turn to the person who can lead us to God and avoid the person who does not lead us to God.

What how about you? What fruit have you produced so far? Will God be pleased when you present your fruits to Him on the last day? Take a moment and reflect on what comes out from the fullness of your heart.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Michael Goo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for the sense of judgment. Help us to not jump to conclusions so that we will not judge others harshly, for we do not want to receive judgment from You too. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. 

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank You for the graces and people who have strengthened our faith. Bless them all, we pray. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friday, 11 September – Nothing is Impossible with God

11 September

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1 Timothy 1:1-2,12-14

From Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus appointed by the command of God our saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope, to Timothy, true child of mine in the faith; wishing you grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, and who judged me faithful enough to call me into his service even though I used to be a blasphemer and did all I could to injure and discredit the faith. Mercy, however, was shown me, because until I became a believer I had been acting in ignorance; and the grace of our Lord filled me with faith and with the love that is in Christ Jesus.

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Luke 6:39-42

Jesus told a parable to the disciples, ‘Can one blind man guide another? Surely both will fall into a pit? The disciple is not superior to his teacher; the fully trained disciple will always be like his teacher. Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,” when you cannot see the plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brother’s eye.’

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…who judged me faithful enough to call me into his service

Almost everyone would consider him/herself unworthy to serve the ministry because of the consciousness of sin. This is probably a good way to approach ministry as it would humble those concerned and perhaps even lessen the occurrence of sin within the ministry. The Lord has never let our sins weigh us down in His eyes. Instead, He looks lovingly at our potential so as to use us to serve in His ministries. In the Bible, Noah got drunk, Jacob lied, Moses murdered, Rahab was a prostitute, and David had an affair. Yet God still used them in the great significant events.

Although considering oneself unworthy is good, it may not always be the correct way because when the ministry needs help, especially if there are few talented people within the group, then things will get tough. It is common for people to have low self-esteem, but let us not forget that we can avail ourselves of the sacraments, especially Holy Communion, where God comes to live within us and we within Him.

Let us look at the example of Saint Paul in the first reading. Just as he recognized that he was unworthy because he had persecuted the Christians, he also recognized that God chose him to become an important apostle. Instead of considering himself unworthy and staying away from God’s ministry, he chose to move forward and do God’s works as he believed in the power of graces, faith and love in the Lord Jesus Christ.

If God can use Noah, Jacob, Moses, Rahab, King David and Saint Paul, He can use you too. What is your excuse? Can a blind person guide a blind person? Jesus Christ assured us in the Gospel that we will be matured Christians when we have received sufficient training. Nothing is impossible with God!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Michael Goo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, remove our fears and increase our love and graces. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank You for choosing us to minister to You through Your gifts. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thursday, 10 September – A Gratitude of the Day

10 September

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Colossians 3:12-17

You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful.

Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you. Teach each other, and advise each other, in all wisdom. With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God; and never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

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Luke 6:27-38

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I say this to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly. To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you. Treat others as you would like them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect? For even sinners do that much. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount. Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return. You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.’

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A good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.

In the first reading, Saint Paul encouraged us to put Jesus in the center of our lives, giving thanks to God all the time. Even today’s Psalm is all about praising God with all our might. In the Gospel, Jesus’ instructions may be tough, but they are also all about gratitude. Even those who are hard-hearted will get softened by our generosity and love over time as it is impossible to breed hatred all the time, since all of us are prone to change. When they change for the better, they will realize and return to you, perhaps apologizing and even thanking you. The highest possibility is that it happens in Heaven although it is possible that they will come to you while they are still alive.

We can never outdo God’s generosity as He will give us many good things while we continue to do good in our lives. As for me with a hearing disability, I can testify to God’s great generosity because He has blessed me with many good things (too many to count) after I decided to pursue my studies in the Philippines. I continue to make pilgrimages to the parishes and holy shrines, and serve the liturgical office in my university.

Let us make today our gratitude and thanksgiving to God. Take a moment to recollect your experience with God’s generosity. Never underestimate the simplicity of His gratitude.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Michael Goo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, remove all our attachments and fill us with love and grace for this is enough for us. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. 

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we are forever grateful to You for everything we have.  Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Wednesday, 9 September – Be Practical in Faith

9 September – St Peter Claver

He was born in Catalonia and studied at the University of Barcelona. He became a Jesuit; and while he was studying philosophy in Mallorca, the door-keeper of the college, Alfonso Rodríguez, saw that his true vocation was to evangelize the New World, and encouraged him to fulfil that vocation. (Rodríguez was later canonized on the same day as Peter Claver himself).

He arrived in Cartagena, in what is now Colombia, in 1610, and after his ordination six years later he became ‘the slave of the Negroes forever’, labouring on their behalf for 33 years, attending to both their spiritual and material needs. The slave trade was repeatedly condemned by the Popes; but it was too profitable to be stopped and on the whole the local church hierarchy kept quiet about it, much as they did in North America in the 19th century.

He brought fresh food to the slave-ships as they arrived, instructed the slaves and baptized them in the faith, followed their progress and kept track of them even when they were sent to the mines and plantations, defending them as well as he could from oppressive slave-owners. He organized teams of catechists who spoke the many languages spoken by the slaves. He worked in hospitals also, looking after lepers among others, and in prisons.

Naturally he made himself unpopular by his work: as his superior said, ‘unfortunately for himself he is a Catalan, pig-headed and difficult’. Opposition came from both within the Church and outside it, but there were always exceptions. For instance, while many fashionable ladies refused to enter his city churches because they had been profaned by the presence of the blacks, a few, such as Doña Isabel de Urbina, became his strong and lifelong supporters.

At the end of his life he fell ill with a degenerative disease and for four years he was treated neglectfully and brutally by the servant whose task it was to look after him. He did not complain but accepted his sufferings as a penance for his sins.

– Universalis

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Colossians 3:1-11

Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.

That is why you must kill everything in you that belongs only to earthly life: fornication, impurity, guilty passion, evil desires and especially greed, which is the same thing as worshipping a false god; all this is the sort of behaviour that makes God angry. And it is the way in which you used to live when you were surrounded by people doing the same thing, but now you, of all people, must give all these things up: getting angry, being bad-tempered, spitefulness, abusive language and dirty talk; and never tell each other lies. You have stripped off your old behaviour with your old self, and you have put on a new self which will progress towards true knowledge the more it is renewed in the image of its creator; and in that image there is no room for distinction between Greek and Jew, between the circumcised or the uncircumcised, or between barbarian and Scythian, slave and free man. There is only Christ: he is everything and he is in everything.

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Luke 6:20-26

Fixing his eyes on his disciples Jesus said:

‘How happy are you who are poor: yours is the kingdom of God.
Happy you who are hungry now: you shall be satisfied.
Happy you who weep now: you shall laugh.
Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven. This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.
‘But alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now.
Alas for you who have your fill now: you shall go hungry.
Alas for you who laugh now: you shall mourn and weep.
‘Alas for you when the world speaks well of you! This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.’

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Christ is everything and he is in everything

 Saint Peter Claver came from a rich family, yet entered the Jesuits at a young age. He had ministered to African slaves in South America for many years. His caretaker, a former slave, mistreated him before his death. As he was too ill to leave his room, he never complained, because he believed that he deserved the treatment. After his death, his story became known.

It may be a challenge for us but the story of Saint Peter Claver shows us the possibility of living the Beatitudes, just as St Paul in the first reading urged us to detach ourselves from this world and behave like the Christians who only consider heavenly matters.

“Man’s salvation and perfection consists of doing the will of God, which he must have in view in all things, and at every moment of his life.” – St Peter Claver 

Continue to grow in holiness and meditate on the Scriptures and Gospel daily. You will be able to handle the difficult cases when you have matured spiritually, just as Saint Peter Claver did. Jesus told us that we are blessed when we are poor, hungry, weeping and being hurt by the people. It is not necessary to sell everything and give all to the poor because all of us have different roles. We just need to be modest when it comes to the consummation of our needs. Some people choose to give themselves completely to the poor through singlehood or religious lives. Some people chose to devote themselves to their families through their marriages. In the words of Saint Peter Claver, “We must speak to them with our hands by giving, before we try to speak to them with our lips.” 

Take a moment to reflect on what your calling is and ask yourselves whether you have achieved what you really want. It is possible that we can practice our faith in lives through our careers, passions and hobbies.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Michael Goo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, give us graces to be practical Christians in our daily lives. Help us grow in holiness and love in our small steps. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we give thanks to You for the example of Saint Peter Claver. Saint Peter Claver, pray for us.

Tuesday, 8 September – We Are Blessed

8 September – Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary announced joy and the approaching salvation of a lost world. Mary was brought into the world not like other children of Adam, infected with the contagion of sin; but pure, holy, beautiful, and glorious, adorned with all the most precious graces fitting for the one predestined to be the Mother of the Saviour. Never did she have the slightest inclination towards anything other than the absolute and immediate Will of God.

She appeared indeed in the weak condition of all mortals, but in the eyes of Heaven, she already transcended the highest seraphim in purity, humility, charity, and the richest ornaments of grace. God had created her in the original grace, as in the beginning when Adam and Eve had enjoyed that ineffable privilege; after original sin, it was lost for all Adam’s posterity, until the time of the Redemption dawned in Mary. (Cf. I Cor. 15:21-23)

The nations celebrate, often too noisily, the birthdays of the great ones of this earth. How then ought we, as Christians, to rejoice in that of the Virgin Mary, Mother of our Salvation, and to present publicly to God the homage of our best praises and thanksgiving for the great mercies He has shown in her, imploring her mediation with her Divine Son!

Jesus of Nazareth will not reject the supplications of His most holy Mother, through whom He chose to descend from Heaven; she, the Spouse of the Canticle, is all beautiful and is the one He was pleased to obey while on earth. Her love, care, and tenderness for Him, the title and qualities which she bears, the charity and graces with which she is adorned, and the crown of glory with which she is honoured, incline Him readily to receive her recommendations and petitions.

– Magnificat

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Romans 8:28-30

We know that by turning everything to their good, God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those he has called according to his purpose. They are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son, so that his Son might be the eldest of many brothers. He called those he intended for this; those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory.

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Matthew 1:1-16,18-23

A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, Tamar being their mother,
Perez was the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram was the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon was the father of Boaz, Rahab being his mother,
Boaz was the father of Obed, Ruth being his mother,
Obed was the father of Jesse;
and Jesse was the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Azariah,
Azariah was the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah;
and Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers.
Then the deportation to Babylon took place.

After the deportation to Babylon:

Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor was the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud was the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob;
and Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary;
of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.

This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son
and they will call him Emmanuel,
a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’

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The Book of genealogy of Jesus Christ

From what I perceive, those who are taking Theology classes would have to memorize the names of the family ancestors of Jesus’ family line. For us as non-theologians, it is highly encouraged that we would take time to remember those names as well because they too are our family, since we are the children of God.  We can remember the names of our parents, grandparents, and even grandparents. So why can’t we remember our aforementioned relatives in the Bible? And what about us? Don’t we want to be remembered by our loved ones when we leave this world?

This time, the Book of genealogy of Jesus Christ is the powerful testimony of blessings for us. Blessed Virgin Mary is most blessed because She had said ‘yes’ to God’s Holy Will without hesitation, by bringing our Lord Jesus into this world. As children of God, we are similarly blessed by saying ‘yes’ to God’s Holy Will, and bringing the Lord Jesus to others through our lives. Every member of our family, including our community, is blessed as well. Saint Paul affirmed, “Those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.”

Everyone wants his good deeds to be remembered by our loved ones. Therefore, you are encouraged to bring your friends and relatives to your community and to fellowship. Gradually, they will open up and experience God’s presence among us. This way, we are introducing Lord Jesus to them through our invitations to fellowship. Remember, the other name of Lord Jesus is Emmanuel; that means, “God is with us.” As much as love influences easily, our blessings also influence others. Therefore, we all are blessed.

Take a moment and reflect, “Am I really blessed? How can I share my blessing with others who also deserve it?” As today is the birthday of our Mother Mary, let us say three ‘Hail Marys’ to honor Her.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Michael Goo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to be Your instruments so that You can use us to spread Your blessings unto others so that they may recognise Your Beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus, among us. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we give You thanks for adopting us as Your children.  Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit! Amen.

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.

Sunday, 6 September – Conform To Your Faith

6 September

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Isaiah 35:4-7

Say to all faint hearts,
‘Courage! Do not be afraid.
Look, your God is coming,
vengeance is coming,
the retribution of God;
he is coming to save you.’
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
the ears of the deaf unsealed,
then the lame shall leap like a deer
and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy;
for water gushes in the desert,
streams in the wasteland,
the scorched earth becomes a lake,
the parched land springs of water.

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James 2:1-5

My brothers, do not try to combine faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord, with the making of distinctions between classes of people. Now suppose a man comes into your synagogue, beautifully dressed and with a gold ring on, and at the same time a poor man comes in, in shabby clothes, and you take notice of the well-dressed man, and say, ‘Come this way to the best seats’; then you tell the poor man, ‘Stand over there’ or ‘You can sit on the floor by my foot-rest.’ Can’t you see that you have used two different standards in your mind, and turned yourselves into judges, and corrupt judges at that?

Listen, my dear brothers: it was those who are poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom which he promised to those who love him.

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Mark 7:31-37

Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’

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Can’t you see that you have used two different standards in your mind, and turned yourselves into judges, and corrupt judges at that?

In my Philosophy training, I came across an interesting dialogue between an author and his professor. Being a conservative Catholic, the author was in despair because his faith was destroyed by the argument of the skeptic philosopher, David Hume, who cleverly attested that God could not exist within the empirical realm of our senses and it was impossible for the existence of God since all our knowledge came from what we had seen and experienced. Again, the author’s faith shrinked when he could not find the answer as to why evil still exists when God has the power to avert all disasters. Because it means that if God is powerful, then He is also capable of evil. The author’s professor comforted him by saying that despite the Christian belief that God is all-knowing, all- powerful and all-good, he chose to believe and emphasize that God is all good. Then from there, we can argue that if God has the power, He would avert the disasters and stop evil since He is initially all good.

As seen in the Old Testament and the Gospel, before God came to their rescue, it is understandable that the people had lost faith and become depressed because of their grave situations, making it tough for them to have a stable faith. Likewise, we too have had similar experiences in the past. So we must reminisce and remember that God sent us the divine interventions to turn our tables around, especially those impossible cases. This way, you will be able to curtail your pride and practice humility. Since God is all- good, we must also imitate Him to be all-good Christians. Then you may be able to remember that everyone has the past that moulded and formed their attitudes, both good and bad. To be a Christian is a real challenge. That is why it is often difficult to be perfect. However, as Saint Paul said, we “adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ”, we have the opportunities to practise virtues till perfection through the Holy Sacraments in our Mother Church. We are allowed to judge others according to the fruits of their deeds but we must be careful not to jump to conclusions and judge others harshly because we do not know their past.

If you have time, please reflect on your past and current actions and ask yourself, “Am I a good judge or bad judge?” As Saint Paul said, “Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He promised to those who love Him?”

(Today’s Oxygen by Michael Goo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, remove our biases and give us the great love that begets patience and humility. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for hearing Your Beloved Son’s word, “Ephphatha” that opened our ears so that we can hear You in our prayers and the Scriptures. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, 5 September – God Himself is My Help

5 September

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Colossians 1:21-23

Not long ago, you were foreigners and enemies, in the way that you used to think and the evil things that you did; but now he has reconciled you, by his death and in that mortal body. Now you are able to appear before him holy, pure and blameless – as long as you persevere and stand firm on the solid base of the faith, never letting yourselves drift away from the hope promised by the Good News, which you have heard, which has been preached to the whole human race, and of which I, Paul, have become the servant.

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Luke 6:1-5

One sabbath Jesus happened to be taking a walk through the cornfields, and his disciples were picking ears of corn, rubbing them in their hands and eating them. Some of the Pharisees said, ‘Why are you doing something that is forbidden on the sabbath day?’ Jesus answered them, ‘So you have not read what David did when he and his followers were hungry how he went into the house of God, took the loaves of offering and ate them and gave them to his followers, loaves which only the priests are allowed to eat?’ And he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is master of the sabbath.’

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I am the Way, the Truth and the Life

It is clearly said in today’s reading that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. What He deems fit was made law and what he denied, was denied. Importantly, he is also the source of Life.

In Jesus and through Jesus, there is Life. We receive this precious gift of eternal life by walking in the path He laid out for us. He taught His apostles many things about the way and the truth so that they could be one with Him forever. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, our soul and our mind and to love our neighbour as ourselves. He who is the truth, taught us that.

In today’s Gospel, he is ridiculed by the Jewish leaders because His apostles are not “following the rules of the sabbath.” He was steadfast in His response, telling them that “He is the Lord of the Sabbath”. In many instances, he was questioned about the Sabbath because it is such a big part of the Jewish culture to rest on the Sabbath.

Recently, one of the elders in my church was commenting on the dressing of one of the youths who, like the apostles, was faithfully following Christ in serving Him and His flock. She was adamant that youths who serve in ministry should be dressed immaculately and that when one dresses to go to church, they have to be dressed decently. I am all for modesty, yet I could not see her point in ‘throwing daggers’ at the youth she was pointedly referring to and the others in ministry as well. It is true that sometimes, those of us who are not so active in church ministry actually become so opinionated, we feel that we have the right and the voice to demand certain behaviour of others in ministry. Why has our opinion become so important that it can kill a person’s reputation? How is it that sometimes we talk down about others behind their backs? Even the Jewish leaders in today’s Gospel did not talk behind Jesus back. Are we so critical and judgemental to a point that others don’t feel that they could ever belong?

I would never advocate less than modest dressing but I would suggest that we offer our compassion and understanding in these instances. It is when we cannot seem to understand the failings of our brethren that we need to be open to dialogue. I cannot imagine that talking behind their backs about their dressings or conduct is going to help the situation, and neither will bashing them for their failures. Let us remember that we all fail at some point and that is why we need God in our lives; to show what constant truth and life looks like. How do we know the right way to go – again we look to Him to show us, lead us and guide us.

Today, let us make an effort to foster friendships and love as a means of taking a step closer to Jesus – the way, the truth and the life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu) 

Prayer: Father, show me to look  at people like you do, to love others and to always consider others as more important than me.

Thanksgiving: We will praise your name, O Lord, for its goodness. We proclaim that you are the way, the truth, and the life; you’re our life.

 

Friday, 4 September – Joy in the Presence of the Lord

4 September

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Colossians 1:15-20

Christ Jesus is the image of the unseen God
and the first-born of all creation,
for in him were created
all things in heaven and on earth:
everything visible and everything invisible,
Thrones, Dominations, Sovereignties, Powers –
all things were created through him and for him.
Before anything was created, he existed,
and he holds all things in unity.
Now the Church is his body,
he is its head.
As he is the Beginning,
he was first to be born from the dead,
so that he should be first in every way;
because God wanted all perfection
to be found in him
and all things to be reconciled through him and for him,
everything in heaven and everything on earth,
when he made peace
by his death on the cross.

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Luke 5:33-39

The Pharisees and scribes said to Jesus, ‘John’s disciples are always fasting and saying prayers, and the disciples of the Pharisees too, but yours go on eating and drinking.’ Jesus replied, ‘Surely you cannot make the bridegroom’s attendants fast while the bridegroom is still with them? But the time will come, the time for the bridegroom to be taken away from them; that will be the time when they will fast.’

He also told them this parable, ‘No one tears a piece from a new cloak to put it on an old cloak; if he does, not only will he have torn the new one, but the piece taken from the new will not match the old.

‘And nobody puts new wine into old skins; if he does, the new wine will burst the skins and then run out, and the skins will be lost. No; new wine must be put into fresh skins. And nobody who has been drinking old wine wants new. “The old is good” he says.’

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He is the head of the Body, the Church.

It should not come as a surprise to us when we are faced with instances where people create an uproar about respecting authority, simply because it happens almost everywhere we go. The same situation occurred when the Pharisees and scribes could not accept Jesus as the head of the church, hence their condescending questions on the conduct of His disciples. We face the same situation today — questioning the way things are, merely to find fault and undermine the leaders of our churches and in our workplace. Sometimes, even we face questions from people who may want to know or even challenge the way things are done at our ministry or workplace.

I was sharing with someone that I am currently one of the ‘Core team in training’ members of our parish youth ministry. This then led to someone questioning me about the leadership of our ministry, without any grounds to do so.  I found that it was asked in a way which undermine my leaders. I assured this person that I felt that the right people were doing the right things and I would not want to assume that I am better than the core team, which has been in place for the past few years. The core team members bring with them experiences that are valuable based on their interactions with youths in the parish, as well as working with other leaders in our parish. Their personal journeys and spiritual experience in ministry is invaluable, making them more worthy youth leaders than myself. All this comes from today’s reading where we recognise Christ as the head of the body, which points to each of us being His instruments. Today, let us refrain from ‘falling in’ with the Pharisees and scribes (who undermined the teachings of the Church),  by questioning the leadership of our parish priests and ministry heads. It does not matter if we are active in church ministry or not. We all need to recognise that He is Lord and head of the Church. We need to embrace our Pope, bishops, priests, lay leaders unconditionally.

Most of us will agree that there is joy in His presence but how often do we actively seek Him through the Eucharist and the word of God? What is stopping us? Is it our lack of humility? We also encounter God in our suffering. Mother Teresa aptly states that suffering brings you so close to Jesus that you can kiss Jesus. And for those of us who are not in the suffering season, have we at least made any attempt to attend a retreat so that we can be restored in the source of true Joy? Let us recognise that pursuing our passion and achieving our goals does not meet this, it is the Lord who waits at the tabernacle, the confessional. The embrace of the leaders we choose not to accept, because of our lack of humility, is where the Joy of the Lord resides.

Today, if we fail to reflect and do anything, let us just do this one thing – to embrace humility as a way of our life. He is our head and He was humble, humble till death on the cross and we are called to be His with the same humble heart and demeanour.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Create in us O Lord, a humble person, renew our self-seeking ways and restore it with humility. Protect us from the temptation of questions and doubting like the Pharisees of the past. Lead us to perfect trust and acceptance of our beloved clergy and lay leaders.

Thanksgiving: Father, you are the Head of the Body; make us worthy to serve in your kingdom, seeking the good of the others above our own.