27 October, Thursday – Bye Felicia!

27 October

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Ephesians 6:10-20

Grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of his power. Put God’s armour on so as to be able to resist the devil’s tactics. For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the Sovereignties and the Powers who originate the darkness in this world, the spiritual army of evil in the heavens. That is why you must rely on God’s armour, or you will not be able to put up any resistance when the worst happens, or have enough resources to hold your ground.

So stand your ground, with truth buckled round your waist, and integrity for a breastplate, wearing for shoes on your feet the eagerness to spread the gospel of peace and always carrying the shield of faith so that you can use it to put out the burning arrows of the evil one. And then you must accept salvation from God to be your helmet and receive the word of God from the Spirit to use as a sword.
Pray all the time, asking for what you need, praying in the Spirit on every possible occasion. Never get tired of staying awake to pray for all the saints; and pray for me to be given an opportunity to open my mouth and speak without fear and give out the mystery of the gospel of which I am an ambassador in chains; pray that in proclaiming it I may speak as boldly as I ought to.

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Luke 13:31-35

Some Pharisees came up. ‘Go away’ they said. ‘Leave this place, because Herod means to kill you.’ He replied, ‘You may go and give that fox this message: Learn that today and tomorrow I cast out devils and on the third day attain my end. But for today and tomorrow and the next day I must go on, since it would not be right for a prophet to die outside Jerusalem.

‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you refused! So be it! Your house will be left to you. Yes, I promise you, you shall not see me till the time comes when you say:

‘Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!’

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Grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of his power.

I have found myself becoming very short of patience lately. I guess we all go through cycles like that, when we feel run over by people whose sole putpose in life seems to be to take as much as they can get, without ever giving back. Takers are tiring to be around. Their ‘Dementor-like’ demeanors suck the joy out of any occasion. They’re never happy and they refuse to allow anyone else to be happy when they’re around. Exhausting! Jerusalem in today’s gospel reminds me so much of people like that. The Bible is old as eternity, yet its echoes are as fresh as if they were yesterday. Why? Because people are inherently the same! The one certainty in life is that there will always be ingratitude in our lives. Jesus had to deal with it over and over, and in some sense, gave us the playbook for how to handle ingrates without losing our mind. He died for the ingrates in his life, asking for forgiveness on their behalf with his last breath. Most of us would have just cursed them on the cross. Not him. Yesterday, we touched on the ‘narrow gate’, how to love someone who doesn’t allow you to love them back. You know you’re at the ‘narrow gate’ when you can find in your heart the ability to love the takers and the users in your life.

I’ve been feeling run down lately, and I think part of the reason is that I’ve let the ingrates in my life suck the joy out of me. “Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power” it seems. I wish sometimes, that my Lord would rescue me, ‘Superman like’, from all the users, the takers, the no-good-backstabbers, the complainers, the Polly-Put-Downs who won’t be happy and refuse to let me be happy as a result. Yes, I am sensitive to barbed words and passive aggressive plays. Who wouldn’t be? I am not so strong that I can just let their arrows bounce off me. Yet I know that in tears and suffering, the cadences of the Holy Spirit are all the clearer. “Draw your strength from the Lord and his mighty power”. We hear his voice, not with our ears, but with our hearts, and when we are heartbroken, we are most attuned to his voice. I’ve found my Lord in my exhaustion and despair. He has opened his playbook for me to see, and made it clear that as tired as I am, what I feel now is not even a half measure of the suffering he endured on the cross for me. So I have to gird myself up and hold on to my joy, because my joy should come not from the affirmation of people in my life. My joy should come from him. To the rest of the ingrates – bye Felicia!

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for the fortitude to draw on the Lord’s mighty power in times of stress.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for His great love for us, that while we were unworthy, he died for us on the cross.

26 October, Wednesday – The Narrow Gate

26 October

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Ephesians 6:1-9

Children, be obedient to your parents in the Lord – that is your duty. The commandment that has a promise attached to it is: Honour your father and mother, and the promise is: and you will prosper and have a long life in the land. And parents, never drive your children to resentment but in bringing them up correct them and guide them as the Lord does.

Slaves, be obedient to the men who are called your masters in this world, with deep respect and sincere loyalty, as you are obedient to Christ: not only when you are under their eye, as if you had only to please men, but because you are slaves of Christ and wholeheartedly do the will of God. Work hard and willingly, but do it for the sake of the Lord and not for the sake of men. You can be sure that everyone, whether a slave or a free man, will be properly rewarded by the Lord for whatever work he has done well. And those of you who are employers, treat your slaves in the same spirit; do without threats, remembering that they and you have the same Master in heaven and he is not impressed by one person more than by another.

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Luke 13:22-30

Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.

‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!”

‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’

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Honour your father and mother …

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor 13:11). There comes a time in every child’s life when she realizes that she has outgrown her parents and must soon assume the role of their caregiver and steward. Whether through illness, death, divorce or simply the passage of time, it’s an inevitable reversal of roles that happens to all of us. Old age is spiteful. It robs our parents of their human dignity, of their self-respect. It takes their health and their minds, and all we can do is watch them retreat until they’re but a reflection through a glass darkly.

In a reduced state, people say and do things that are hurtful. It’s as if they lose their inhibitions and revert to child-like versions of themselves. The gospel says to us, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough” (Luke 13:24). Well, the ‘narrow gate’ is when someone you love turns on you despite all your efforts to love them and make things easier for them. Those who most need to be helped are often the ones who refuse it most viciously. The easy thing to do is to walk away, to give up because we feel unappreciated, insulted, unloved. Yet Christ loved us despite our ingratitude, our insults and our attacks on him. And he asked forgiveness for us with his dying breath. The greatest act of love you can perform, that which is most Christ-like, is to love someone and to persevere in your efforts to love them, despite their ingratitude. Christ paved the way for all believers when he did it for us. He was the perfect embodiment of love for us, because despite our efforts to push him away, he remained faithful to us.

One day, we too will lose ourselves – to illness, or dementia, or early on-set Alzheimer’s. We might have a stroke and find that suddenly we’ve lost our motor skills. We could be struck down by cancer, and be so pumped full of morphine that we’re too dazed to realize who or what we’re about. Old age is cruel and it comes for everyone. The narrow gate is to love those who are hard to love because one day, we too will become hard to be around. And then, we pray for the blessing of those who are not afraid to love us despite ourselves.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for all caregivers, those who persevere on despite the ingratitude of those whom they love. We pray for them to find strength in His grace.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who are caregivers and stewards, who love us despite ourselves.

25 October, Tuesday – Yeast

25 October

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Ephesians 5:21-33

Give way to one another in obedience to Christ. Wives should regard their husbands as they regard the Lord, since as Christ is head of the Church and saves the whole body, so is a husband the head of his wife; and as the Church submits to Christ, so should wives to their husbands, in everything. Husbands should love their wives just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her to make her holy. He made her clean by washing her in water with a form of words, so that when he took her to himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless. In the same way, husbands must love their wives as they love their own bodies; for a man to love his wife is for him to love himself. A man never hates his own body, but he feeds it and looks after it; and that is the way Christ treats the Church, because it is his body – and we are its living parts. For this reason, a man must leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one body. This mystery has many implications; but I am saying it applies to Christ and the Church. To sum up; you too, each one of you, must love his wife as he loves himself; and let every wife respect her husband.

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Luke 13:18-21

Jesus said, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it with? It is like a mustard seed which a man took and threw into his garden: it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air sheltered in its branches.’

Another thing he said, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God with? It is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’

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It is like yeast… mixed in with three measures of wheat flour, until the whole batch of dough was leavened.

When I was a teenager, someone in my bible study group proclaimed with much certainty that as Christians, we were not supposed to date someone ‘outside the faith’, so as not to be ‘unequally yoked’. At the time, it struck me as a strange thing to say. Jesus Christ himself ate in the house of tax collectors and counted prostitutes as friends. So what was wrong with me fraternizing with someone who was not Christian? But this person was adamant in her view, and so, being new to the faith then, I simply went along.

Absolutes are dangerous pronounciations, especially when made carelessly in front of new believers. It is misleading to think of people as absolutely good or absolutely bad. Good and bad are always and everywhere intertwined – in our churches, in our homes, and often even in our hearts. The parable of the yeast in today’s gospel reminds us of this truth about our faith. We need only a little bit of yeast to leaven an entire loaf of bread. The yeast is not of the dough, and yet it has the power to change it. We exist in this world of good and evil; we are not a part of it, but we have the power to affect its conversion. Throughout Scripture, God’s people have existed amongst the non-believing masses. Think of Moses, who spent most of his young adult life as an Egyptian prince. And Joseph, who rose from slave to the highest ranks of Pharoah’s court. And Jesus, who was rejected by the Jewish elders in the synagogues. It is as if God deliberately puts us in the midst of cross-fire. But why?

In John 17:15, Christ prayed for us, “I do not ask you to remove them from the world, but to keep them from the evil one”. God intended for us to live amongst the secular forces of this world, not to be corrupted by it, but to bring about its conversion. We are His change agents, in our workplace, in our schools, in our churches, even in our own homes. We are here, placed by Him in often hostile surroundings, to shine His light on those who have yet to see Him or who have forgotten His goodness. For if there was no darkness, how would we be able to appreciate the Light?

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for the perseverance to bear patiently with those around us who are non-believers or who have fallen away from God. We pray for their conversion, that they find their way back to Him.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the means and the resources to be His agents of change in the societies we live in.

24 October, Monday – The Rage In Her Heart

24 October – Memorial for St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop

Anthony Mary Claret (1807–1870) was a weaver and a seminary student with Blessed Francis Coll. He was ordained on 13 June 1835, and became a missionary in Catalonia and the Canary Islands. He directed retreats and founded the Congregation of Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Claretians). He became Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba on 20 May 1850, and founded the Teaching Sisters of Mary Immaculate.
Following his work in the Caribbean, Blessed Pope Pius IX ordered him back to Spain where he became confessor to Queen Isabella II and was exiled with her. He had the gift of prophecy and miracles, and was reported to have preached 10,000 sermons, published 200 works. He spread devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 4:32-5:8

Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ.

Try, then, to imitate God as children of his that he loves and follow Christ loving as he loved you, giving himself up in our place as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God. Among you there must be not even a mention of fornication or impurity in any of its forms, or promiscuity: this would hardly become the saints! There must be no coarseness, or salacious talk and jokes – all this is wrong for you; raise your voices in thanksgiving instead. For you can be quite certain that nobody who actually indulges in fornication or impurity or promiscuity – which is worshipping a false god – can inherit anything of the kingdom of God. Do not let anyone deceive you with empty arguments: it is for this loose living that God’s anger comes down on those who rebel against him. Make sure that you are not included with them. You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light.

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Luke 13:10-17

One sabbath day Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who for eighteen years had been possessed by a spirit that left her enfeebled; she was bent double and quite unable to stand upright. When Jesus saw her he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are rid of your infirmity’ and he laid his hands on her. And at once she straightened up, and she glorified God.

But the synagogue official was indignant because Jesus had healed on the sabbath, and he addressed the people present. ‘There are six days’ he said ‘when work is to be done. Come and be healed on one of those days and not on the sabbath.’ But the Lord answered him. ‘Hypocrites!’ he said ‘Is there one of you who does not untie his ox or his donkey from the manger on the sabbath and take it out for watering? And this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan has held bound these eighteen years – was it not right to untie her bonds on the sabbath day?’ When he said this, all his adversaries were covered with confusion, and all the people were overjoyed at all the wonders he worked.

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And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit

­My grandmother died with anger in her heart. Hers was a slow deterioration — a long, sad, bewildering goodbye. I feel she lost herself before she left us. Towards the end, she seemed to obsess over things that had happened years ago, old hurts that had been inflicted on her, but she would forget what you said to her ten minutes before. She was like a different person altogether. Who was once a loving, happy force in my life, changed into someone I didn’t recognize. It was as if a black pall came over her. When she finally let go and breathed her last, it felt like she had been set free. Whatever evil had taken hold of her mind, it was gone and she had returned to God.

I’ll never understand why her manner changed towards the end. I read that the dying know their time is up, and as the days pass, they relinquish more of the banalities of life, until what’s left is just the essence of their soul. It hurts me to think it was anger that resided at the core of her heart. Anger and bitterness. Because in life, she wasn’t like that. She was a beautiful person. I still don’t know what could have happened to change her at the end, or how the unresolved conflicts in her life became so large that they consumed her.

In today’s gospel, we read that the woman was gripped by an evil spirit. That’s what anger does to the heart when we hold on to it. Grudges, nurtured by resentment and unforgiveness, become hatred with the passage of time. Caught up in our rage, love dies in our heart. My grandmother pushed everyone away at the end. She didn’t mean to, she just couldn’t help herself. Her anger defined her and she died holding on to it.

I want to believe that she is with Jesus now, that he has freed her from the rage that held her hostage at the end. I pray he frees us too, those of us who loved her but were stung by her sharp words at the end. Those of us she left behind, who are still holding on to the hurt and confusion in our hearts. I want to only remember the loving, devoted woman who was so much a part of my happy childhood. I pray that she is at peace now. I pray she is with God now.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for those who have passed on, may they find the peace that eluded them in life.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, who calms us during the storms of our life, who saves us from ourselves.

23 October, Sunday – On Prayer

23 October

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Ecclesiasticus 35:12-14, 16-19

The Lord is a judge
who is no respecter of personages.

He shows no respect of personages to the detriment of a poor man,
he listens to the plea of the injured party.

He does not ignore the orphan’s supplication,
nor the widow’s as she pours out her story.

The man who with his whole heart serves God will be accepted,
his petitions will carry to the clouds.

The humble man’s prayer pierces the clouds,
until it arrives he is inconsolable,

And the Lord will not be slow,
nor will he be dilatory on their behalf.

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2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18

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.

The first time I had to present my defence, there was not a single witness to support me. Every one of them deserted me – may they not be held accountable for it. But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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Luke 18:9-14

Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else: ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

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The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds

Nagging is quite possibly one of the ugliest traits a person can have. The basic premise of nagging is trust, or more accurately, the lack of it. We nag because we don’t trust that things will get done unless we are actively micro-managing it. But when we repeat petitions and prayers to God, isn’t that a little like nagging? And nagging God, no less? I was reflecting on this while at church last Sunday, as I rattled off a litany of petitions to Him. As request number 25 rolled off my tongue, I wondered — how must it feel to be God? To be talked to like some bearded, blue-tinged genie? If I were to weigh out how often I asked of Him, ‘Can you please do this/that…’, versus how often I said ‘Thank you’, or ‘Forgive me’, what would that ratio look like? 2:1? 10:1? 50:1? When it comes down to it, what is the quality of our prayer?

On reading the gospel from Luke today, the image of the Pharisee in ‘self-congratulatory prayer’ struck me. Most of us would probably go, “That’s so not me! Of course I give thanks! Of course I’m grateful for His blessings!” But words are empty unless they’re spoken from the heart. The Pharisee also ‘gave thanks’ but what is thankfulness without humility and self-awareness – “Oh God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity…” Is it really thanksgiving?

The quality of my prayer has been something I’ve started to think about a lot lately. I tend to ‘list’ things. I list my thanks for all His blessings. I list my requests. I list my sins or what I can think of at least, and ask for His forgiveness. But always, I am checking off lists, making new lists, updating lists, deleting lists. Somehow, I don’t think that’s how we’re supposed to be praying. I’d like to have a conversation with God sometimes, a heart-to-heart without the tyranny of all these lists and boxes I need to complete. I know He knows my heart – all the things I want to say, the things I can’t say, the things I’m too afraid to speak. And He has already given me all that I need, all the gifts for this journey called Life. Wouldn’t it be great for once, to be able to just sit with God, and be?

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(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for the honesty to engage God in thoughtful, prayerful, mindful conversation.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for The Word, our guide to how to live a prayerful, purposeful life.

22 October, Saturday – Repent in order to know Him

22 October – Memorial for St. John Paul II

Karol Józef Wojty?a was born in 1920 in Wadowice, Poland. After his ordination to the priesthood and theological studies in Rome, he returned to his homeland and resumed various pastoral and academic tasks. He became first auxiliary bishop and, in 1964, Archbishop of Kraków and took part in the Second Vatican Council. On 16 October 1978 he was elected pope and took the name John Paul II. His exceptional apostolic zeal, particularly for families, young people and the sick, led him to numerous pastoral visits throughout the world. Among the many fruits which he has left as a heritage to the Church are above all his rich Magisterium and the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church and for the Eastern Churches. In Rome on 2 April 2005, the eve of the Second Sunday of Easter (or of Divine Mercy), he departed peacefully in the Lord. He was canonized by Pope Francis on 27 April, the Second Sunday of Easter 2014.

– Universalis

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Ephesians 4:7-16

Each one of us has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it. It was said that he would:

When he ascended to the height, he captured prisoners,
he gave gifts to men.

When it says, ‘he ascended’, what can it mean if not that he descended right down to the lower regions of the earth? The one who rose higher than all the heavens to fill all things is none other than the one who descended. And to some, his gift was that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; so that the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ. In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.

Then we shall not be children any longer, or tossed one way and another and carried along by every wind of doctrine, at the mercy of all the tricks men play and their cleverness in practising deceit. If we live by the truth and in love, we shall grow in all ways into Christ, who is the head by whom the whole body is fitted and joined together, every joint adding its own strength, for each separate part to work according to its function. So the body grows until it has built itself up, in love.

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Luke 13:1-9

Some people arrived and told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices. At this he said to them, ‘Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell and killed them? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’

He told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to the man who looked after the vineyard, “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?” “Sir,” the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”’

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‘…but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’

It seems to me as though today’s first reading is a combination of the readings from the previous few days. Knowing God, growing in faith, and becoming the image and likeness of God. Indeed, when we have fulfilled the above and grow to become the Perfect Man, who is Jesus, then surely we can be gifted to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.

But it is never that easy. Sin continues to knock at our door and causes us to fall often.

Fortunately for us, Jesus tells us today in the gospel, that unless we repent we will perish like the Galileans and the eighteen who were crushed under the weight of the tower of Siloam.

If we are willing to repent, God gives us the space and time to do it as in the parable of the fig tree. Even after being a barren fruit tree, the man who looked after it pleaded with the owner to leave it one year and allow him to tend to it.

Yes, God gives us the chance to grow and change our lives; yet we shouldn’t be taking our own sweet time to do it, because we do not know the hour the Son of Man is coming.

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. John Paul II. A great saint of our time. A great man who epitomises what it means to have faith in God. I recall his inaugural speech at the beginning of his pontificate where he exhorted the faithful three times to not be afraid to welcome Christ in our hearts and open the door wide for Him to enter.

Truly, if we take faith in following the Lord, we will get to know Him, love Him and serve Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Lee)

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Prayer: Father, show me the way to live a life that is worthy of Your calling. Help me never to turn away from You and reject Your love for me.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank You for always showing me Your love and mercy, even if I fall over and over again.

21 October, Friday – Knowing the signs

21 October

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Ephesians 4:1-6

I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.

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Luke 12:54-59

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud looming up in the west you say at once that rain is coming, and so it does. And when the wind is from the south you say it will be hot, and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the face of the earth and the sky. How is it you do not know how to interpret these times?

‘Why not judge for yourselves what is right? For example: when you go to court with your opponent, try to settle with him on the way, or he may drag you before the judge and the judge hand you over to the bailiff and the bailiff have you thrown into prison. I tell you, you will not get out till you have paid the very last penny.’

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‘How is it you do not know how to interpret these times?’

Are we sensitive to God’s presence? God is ever in our midst, but how do we tell that He is with us in our good times and bad times? Often, we rely on signs and wonders to see if God is really at work in our lives, just as we rely on signs in the sky to tell the weather. For example, when we miraculously complete a difficult project at work, we say that God was helping us along the way.

Yes, indeed God was and is helping us. But even in our smallest tasks at work or at home, something that we take for granted, God was there to give us a helping hand too, and sometimes we might fail to see that.

How feeble are we in faith, if all we ever do was to search high and low for signs and wonders to know the coming of the Lord.

Yet, if we really read the Word, we know that God is with us as He promised.

Today’s first reading also reminds us that we are one, and we should do all we can to preserve the unity. St Paul exhorts us to bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness. If we are to see the Lord in one another, then surely we need to love one another as commanded by the Lord.

At some point in our lives, we might have had certain people that we could see eye to eye with. This is when St Paul’s plea to us ring true: to lead a life worthy of our vocation: to love. How do we know if God is present in our lives? The most obvious, and maybe not so obvious way, is seeing God in the people around us.

Brothers and sisters, let us open our eyes and our hearts to learn to see and appreciate God’s presence not just in our lives but in the people around us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Lee)

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Prayer: Father, help me to see Your presence in my life and to learn to live my life worthy of my vocation. Help me to love my neighbour the way you love him or her.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank You for loving me and revealing Your love for me through the people around me.

20 October, Thursday – Knowing the truth

20 October

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Ephesians 3:14-21

This 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.

Glory be to him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine; glory be to him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen.

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Luke 12:49-53

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!

‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’

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I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already!’

I have to admit that today’s gospel was quite a challenge to read and reflect on. How could Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and whom the prophets spoke of His coming, bring division? These are such contradictory statements. So I had to read up commentaries and reflections by priests and eventually found: The Truth!

Indeed, Jesus came to bring division. But this division, as I have read, stems from the truth. Families are divided because of the truth. And yes, the truth hurts. Jesus is the way, the TRUTH and the life, as He said it Himself. Hence, following the truth, following Him will bring division.

In Luke 14:26, Jesus said: “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple!” And more than anything, we as Christians are called to be followers of Jesus above all else. In other words, if we know the truth, we will have to follow Him, Jesus.

Often, I am selective about the truth. If it benefits and sits well with me, it is the truth. If it doesn’t, then I try to justify my actions. That in itself causes a division within myself. If I am to follow Jesus, I have to follow Him wholeheartedly and not selectively. Yet, as St Paul prays in today’s first reading, may God give us the power through His Spirit for our hidden selves to grow strong, so that Christ may live in our hearts.

My brothers and sisters, God will give us the strength to grow strong and walk in His love. And as St Paul says, God can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Lee)

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Prayer: Father, help me to know Your truth and to stand by it. Knowing that You are the way, the truth and the life. Grace me to live my life according to Your truth.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank You for giving me the grace to differentiate right from wrong, truth from falsehood. Thank You for guiding and leading me in Your righteousness daily.

19 October, Wednesday – Knowing God

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

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

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index, Wikipedia

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Ephesians 3:2-12

You have probably heard how I have been entrusted by God with the grace he meant for you, and that it was by a revelation that I was given the knowledge of the mystery, as I have just described it very shortly. If you read my word you will have some idea of the depths that I see in the mystery of Christ. This that has now been revealed through the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets was unknown to any men in past generations; it means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Jesus Christ, through the gospel. I have been made the servant of that gospel by a gift of grace from God who gave it to me by his own power. I, 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.

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Luke 12:39-48

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

Peter said, ‘Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?’ The Lord replied, ‘What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you truly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time coming,” and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.

The servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes. When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.’

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‘…because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

A question that I find myself asking often is “Do I really know the Lord?” Do I really know His love and mercy?

One popular hymn I remember singing when I was a young boy is ‘The Greatest Thing’. The gist of the song is about how the greatest thing in one’s life is knowing you (God), followed by loving God, and then serving God. It is in that particular order for a reason, as I have learnt, because before we can talk about serving God, we need to love Him. And before we can love Him, we need to come to know Him.

So the next question that comes to mind is, “Do I know the full measure of His love and mercy?” St Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, tells us that the mystery of God and His grace has been made known through scripture so that we now “share the same inheritance…”, and “parts of the same body”. In that respect, do I spend time to read the Word (scripture) in order to know God and His grace?

We know that cultivating a relationship requires spending time with each other before it blossoms. The same goes for knowing God and developing a relationship with Him. It requires spending time and effort in reading the Word and, where possible, spending time before God who is ever-present in the Blessed Sacrament. Developing such a relationship allows us to be ever-mindful of the Lord’s presence and keeping ourselves in check, and ultimately living in holiness.

Today’s gospel is exactly that. Living in holiness and being mindful of God’s presence, and preparing for the coming of the Son of Man at an hour which we least expect it. May we continue to live in holiness and wait in anticipation for the coming of our Lord. The hour known to Him only.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Lee)

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Prayer: Father, help me to stand ready at all times. Ready to know You, ready to love You and ready to serve You. May I always be mindful of Your loving presence in my life.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank You for calling me Your child and giving me the grace to know, love and serve You.

18 October, Tuesday – No excess baggage

18 October – Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Timothy 4:10-17

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

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

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Luke 10:1-9

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

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Peace to this household

Would you go on a journey without a change of clothes and money? Imagine the freedom of not having to pack or unpack nor having to lug along a heavy piece of luggage to the airport – that can sure sound refreshing to some of us.

Some of us are all too familiar with the meaning of excess baggage – of dragging along items in our lives which we do not need anymore — hoarding ill feelings, unforgiveness, hurt, anger, resentment and even unrequited love. It is sensible for us to realise what sort of baggage we still carry. Just as car which is overloaded with things consumes more fuel, a part of us works extra hard to carry the burden that is no longer ours to bear. What baggage do we carry today which you can check in to God?

On my recent pilgrimage to Poland for World Youth Day, I was under the impression that I travelled light. I carried 4 t-shirts, 2 pants, a light jacket, clothes for our performances and my prayer books and bible as well as souvenirs. It was easy to handle my luggage and there was still room for the other material we received there. I felt liberated to carry a bag which I could handle. One of the other things that I had to do was to apply for 15 days of annual leave, leaving me with 3 days of leave from August to the end of the year.

In September, my dad feel ill. There were days when I could not follow him for doctor’s appointments or even send my parents to the hospital. While he was hospitalised, my mum had to take a cab each morning from my house to visit him. I found myself in a constant dilemma about how best to utilise the 3 days of leave. The guilt was eating me when I could only take time off work; when I would rather be by his bedside or even to be around and talk to the doctors. I was desperately wishing that I had not gone for World Youth Day. Over the 3 weeks of hospital visits and doctor’s appointment, I started realising that I had to learn to lean on God, to send us the right person or the solution to fulfil my needs. It was then that I realised that those few weeks were not so stressful at work and I managed to take time off, as and when required. Thankfully, my other family members were around for my parents on the days that I could not.

My pilgrimage was an experience of mercy and peace and during my dad’s illness, everything seemed like it was swept away. But I realised His peace remained and so did His mercy. The only change was my perception.

As members of the International Centre of Evangelisation at World Youth Day, we were reaching out to so many people. On a daily basis, my group would be out in the streets handing out leaflets on our faith, talking to people and praying with and for them. It is not much different from what the 72 did in today’s gospel. We ate the food that was served as I had run out of funds and walked endlessly although most of us travelled by car everywhere on a daily basis. Was it too big a price to pay for the salvation of others? This cannot be the case.

What is God asking of you today, so that you bring His peace to others? What is He asking us to check in at His counter of mercy, the mercy which He offers in equal measure to both you and your trespassers. Are you convinced of His blessings in your life? Do you believe that you are made an instrument of His peace and mercy to a world who knows you and not Him?

How can you be like the faithful 72 disciples he sent out, today and for the rest of your life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

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Prayer: Lord help me to trust in you, believe in your providence and be always aware that I can expect it. Mary, let me never lose my God. St Luke, pray for us and all the doctors who treat us.

Thanksgiving: Lord I thank you for your peace and mercy. I will pass it on.