25 June, Sunday – Be Not Afraid

25 June 2017

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Jeremiah 20:10-13

Jeremiah said: I hear so many disparaging me, ‘“Terror from every side!” Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ All those who used to be my friends watched for my downfall, ‘Perhaps he will be seduced into error. Then we will master him and take our revenge!’ But the Lord is at my side, a mighty hero; my opponents will stumble, mastered, confounded by their failure; everlasting, unforgettable disgrace will be theirs. But you, O Lord of Hosts, you who probe with justice, who scrutinise the loins and heart, let me see the vengeance you will take on them, for I have committed my cause to you. Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for he has delivered the soul of the needy from the hands of evil men.

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Romans 5:12-15

Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned. Sin existed in the world long before the Law was given. There was no law and so no one could be accused of the sin of ‘law-breaking’, yet death reigned over all from Adam to Moses, even though their sin, unlike that of Adam, was not a matter of breaking a law.

Adam prefigured the One to come, but the gift itself considerably outweighed the fall. If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift.

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Matthew 10:26-33

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Do not be afraid. For everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops.

‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.

‘So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.’

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“So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of human beings, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven.”

Especially in today’s world, what many of us need as individuals is COURAGE. Courage to face the truth and courage to speak the truth. We find ourselves lacking in it because we don’t want to rock the boat, because our job/income is more important than what we are actually doing, or because we simply just want to fit in.

As the Gospel says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

Indeed, the Gospel today brings us to reflect on the purpose of our lives, our identity. If our identity is in the world, then what the world says does matter to us and we will fear and succumb to the pressures of society. But if our identity is in Christ, then we know that, as in the first reading, “Yahweh is at my side like a mighty hero; my opponents will stumble, vanquished, confounded by their failure…”, we do not need to fear.

Of course this is easier said than done. But we also read of “everything now covered up will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear”. I can testify to this because if we live a life in Christ, we live a life of love and love simply never fails. Over time, one doesn’t just see what we do or say but sees the heart; because at the end of the day, it is the intention that matters. It is that peace, freedom and joy that we gain by trusting in God and in ourselves, in who He has created us to be and I truly believe this is what we all actually desire and live for.

As Catholics, we feel that our ultimate goal is to know who God is, but the beauty is that in our seeking, we also find who we are. And when we say we love God, God asks us to love everyone around us. This is the God we worship — selfless, who loves us unconditionally, who takes away the sins of the world and desires to give us life to the fullest. Let us declare and proclaim that He is our God, our life, our everything. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Lord, we want to pray for courage. Courage to stay true to our faith and to ourselves. That we may never succumb to the pressures of the world. That we may live a life of love, to bring hope, joy, peace and love to all. That we will continue to worship you in spirit and in truth. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for continuously reaching out to us, for affirming us of your presence. Thank you for the gift of your grace, through your son, that has won for us our salvation. Amen.

24 June, Saturday – Humility

Jun 24 – Solemnity of the Birthday of St. John the Baptist

John the Baptist (d.30) was the cousin of Jesus Christ. His father, Zachary, was a priest of the order of Abia whose job in the Temple was to burn incense; and of Elizabeth, a descendant of Aaron. As Zachary was ministering in the Temple, an angel brought him news that Elizabeth would bear a child filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment of his birth. Zachary doubted and was struck dumb until John’s birth.

John began his ministry as prophet around age 27, wearing a leather belt and a tunic of camel hair, living off locusts and wild honey, and preaching a message of repentance to the people of Jerusalem. He converted many, and prepared the way for the coming of Jesus. After baptizing Christ, he told his disciples to follow Jesus.

Imprisoned by King Herod, John the Baptist died a victim of the vengeance of a jealous woman; he was beheaded, and his head brought to her on a platter. St. Jerome says Herodias kept the head for a long time after, occasionally stabbing the tongue with her dagger because of what John had said in life.

  • – Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 49:1-6

Islands, listen to me,

pay attention, remotest peoples.

The Lord called me before I was born,

from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.

He made my mouth a sharp sword,

and hid me in the shadow of his hand.

He made me into a sharpened arrow,

and concealed me in his quiver.

He said to me, ‘You are my servant (Israel)

in whom I shall be glorified’;

while I was thinking, ‘I have toiled in vain,

I have exhausted myself for nothing’;

and all the while my cause was with the Lord,

my reward with my God.

I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord,

my God was my strength.

And now the Lord has spoken,

he who formed me in the womb to be his servant,

to bring Jacob back to him,

to gather Israel to him:

‘It is not enough for you to be my servant,

to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel;

I will make you the light of the nations

so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’

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Acts 13:22-26

Paul said: ‘God deposed Saul and made David their king, of whom he approved in these words, “I have selected David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will carry out my whole purpose.” To keep his promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour, whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel. Before John ended his career he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandal.”

‘My brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and all you who fear God, this message of salvation is meant for you.’

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Luke 1:57-66, 80

The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son; and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy.

Now on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up. ‘No,’ she said ‘he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘But no one in your family has that name’, and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they were all astonished. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.

Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit matured. And he lived out in the wilderness until the day he appeared openly to Israel.

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“And his spirit matured.

It is easy to be blindsided by ourselves in this day and age, when so much is made of what we can do, how much effort we put in and what we deserve. It is true that as humans, we are the pinnacle of creation, we can learn like no other creature and look how far we’ve come with the intellect and will to outdo all those that were before us. I shudder to think how full of myself I would be if I had been given the task that John the Baptist had. I might have said, “Well, if I hadn’t brought so many to repentance, Jesus’ time wouldn’t have come”.

But the 2nd reading tells us that John’s career ending words were, “I am not fit to undo his sandals”. I am immediately reminded of the history of the ‘Down in Adoration’. Two great men were commissioned to write the hymn for Corpus Christi, but St John of the Cross (another John), upon hearing what St Thomas Aquinas wrote, tore his version up. He didn’t say, “Maybe we can keep it and recycle the hymns, like how we have a liturgical cycle, or so that a future Pope might prefer his version.” No, he just conceded that Thomas’ was better and that was that.

So maybe the church is telling us that we should name our boys John if we want humble kids, St John Paul the Great was incredibly humble too. Ok, I’m sure it is more than just a name. In reflecting on humility, how many times have we been humble in dealing with an equal? So even someone that society says is below us, like the pantry lady, the estate cleaners, bus drivers and the list goes on. It can be easier for some of us to give all the glory to God for all good things come from him, but I feel like there are many times I have failed to give credit to the other people in my life who have helped me to get where I am, because there is no way I made it here on my own.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer: That others may be loved more than I ,Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. That others may be esteemed more than I, that, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, that others may be chosen and I set aside, that others may be praised and I unnoticed, that others may be preferred to me in everything, that others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should. (Part of the litany of humility)

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for all the people who have helped me in my life. I take some time to pray for some people I have never prayed for before.

23 June, Friday – Love

23 June 2017 – Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

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Deuteronomy 7:6-11

Moses said to the people: ‘You are a people consecrated to the Lord your God; it is you that the Lord our God has chosen to be his very own people out of all the peoples on the earth.

‘If the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, it was not because you outnumbered other peoples: you were the least of all peoples. It was for love of you and to keep the oath he swore to your fathers that the Lord brought you out with his mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know then that the Lord your God is God indeed, the faithful God who is true to his covenant and his graciousness for a thousand generations towards those who love him and keep his commandments, but who punishes in their own persons those that hate him. He is not slow to destroy the man who hates him; he makes him work out his punishment in person. You are therefore to keep and observe the commandments and statutes and ordinances that I lay down for you today.’

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1 John 4:7-16

My dear people, let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love. God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him; this is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God’s love for us when he sent his Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.

My dear people, since God has loved us so much, we too should love one another. No one has ever seen God; but as long as we love one another God will live in us and his love will be complete in us. We can know that we are living in him and he is living in us because he lets us share his Spirit. We ourselves saw and we testify that the Father sent his Son as saviour of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him, and he in God. We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves. God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.

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Matthew 11:25-30

Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

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God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.

I find it a real struggle to talk about the most sacred heart of Jesus, a heart that is so big and bursting with love that my own heart cannot comprehend it. Blessed are those who can.

The devotion of the most sacred heart of Jesus speaks of Jesus’ unending and long-suffering love for humanity, and humanity’s indifference to his love in return. God so loved the world that he gave us His only Son that he might die so that we can live. God loved us first and redeemed us for Himself. We know this, we have learnt and read about this, yet how much of it do we understand?

We think our hearts are broken beyond repair when someone we love walks out on us or betrays us or cheats on us. Oh, our hearts seems so trivial in comparison to the betrayal that Jesus faced when we broke his heart! I have had my fair share of heartbreak in life but I cannot fathom and am not worthy to put myself in Jesus’ position to say that I understand, I empathise.

All I can say is God is love; to know love is to know God. To love one another, and not just in a romantic sense, is to love God. God’s love is perfected in us when we love one another. Remember the line in the musical Les Miserables: to love another person is to see the face of God? For this one moment, we are offered a glimpse of what God’s love for us feels like. I imagine that to fully embrace the extent of His love for us would be akin to that little glimpse multiplied by the blazing of a thousand suns.

When there is tragedy, there is an outpouring of grief, there is a collective concern, and an overwhelming feeling of wanting to reach out and help. There is a unified effort to stand for a purpose. This is love. Of course, we do not need something as terrible as a tragedy to show love. Love is manifested in many ways. The point is that we are all born with an innate sense to love one another. We are all capable to give and receive love. This is why we find babies so adorable, because they are all love. As we experience different things, our perception of love changes, which sadly is why some are driven to the ‘dark side’. But how we let others change our ability to love is within our control. If we know our worth — and we are worth A LOT to God — then with God’s grace, we can withstand the attempts of these things to corrupt us. God loved us first, and we have to remember always what His love is worth.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer – Father, You redeemed us through Your Son, Jesus. What a price to pay! May our hearts burn for You with the same love that You have for us.

Thanksgiving – Thank you Lord, for loving us, even when we turned away from You. Yours is an unconditional and everlasting love, even though we are not worthy.

 

22 June, Thursday – Dialogue With God

Memorial for St. Paulinus of Nola, bishop; Memorial for St. John Fisher, Bishop & St. Thomas More, martyrs

Paulinus (c.354–431) was a friend of St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Nicetas of Remesiana, and was mentioned for his holiness by at least six of his contemporary saints.

He was a distinguished lawyer who held several public offices in the Empire, then retired from public ministry with his wife, Therasia, first to Bordeaux, where they were baptised, and then to Therasia’s estate in Spain. After the death of their only son at the age of only a few weeks, the couple decided to spend the rest of their lives devoted to God. They gave away most of their estates and dedicated themselves to increasing their holiness.

Paulinus became a priest and with Therasia, moved to Nola and gave away the rest of their property. They dedicated themselves to helping the poor. Paulinus was chosen bishop of Nola by popular demand. He governed the diocese for more than 21 years while living in his own home as a monk and continuing to aid the poor. His writings contain one of the earliest examples of a Christian wedding song.

  • – Patron Saint Index

John Fisher (1469–1535) studied theology at Cambridge University, receiving degrees in 1487 and 1491. He was parish priest in Northallerton, England from 1491–1494. He gained a reputation for his teaching abilities. He was proctor of Cambridge University. He was confessor to Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, in 1497. He was ordained Bishop of Rochester, England in 1504; he worked to raise the standard of preaching in his see. He became chancellor of Cambridge. He was tutor of the young King Henry VIII. He was an excellent speaker and writer.

When in 1527 he was asked to study the problem of Henry’s marriage, he became the target of Henry’s wrath by defending the validity of the marriage and rejecting Henry’s claim to be head of the Church in England. He was imprisoned in 1534 for his opposition, and he spent 14 months in prison without trial. While in prison, he was created cardinal in 1535 by Pope Paul III. He was martyred for his faith.

  • – Patron Saint Index

Thomas More (1478–1535) studied at London and Oxford, England. He was a page for the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was a lawyer. Twice married, and a widower, he was the father of one son and three daughters, and a devoted family man. He was a writer, most famously of the novel which coined the word ‘utopia’. It was translated with the works of Lucian.

He was known during his own day for his scholarship and the depth of his knowledge. He was a friend to King Henry VIII, and Lord Chancellor of England from 1529–1532, a position of political power second only to the king.

He fought any form of heresy, especially the incursion of Protestantism into England. He opposed the king on the matter of royal divorce, and refused to swear the Oath of Supremacy which declared the king the head of the Church in England. He resigned the Chancellorship, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was martyred for his refusal to bend his religious beliefs to the king’s political needs.

  • – Patron Saint Index

22 June 2017

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2 Corinthians 11:1-11

I only wish you were able to tolerate a little foolishness from me. But of course: you are tolerant towards me. You see, the jealousy that I feel for you is God’s own jealousy: I arranged for you to marry Christ so that I might give you away as a chaste virgin to this one husband. But the serpent, with his cunning, seduced Eve, and I am afraid that in the same way your ideas may get corrupted and turned away from simple devotion to Christ. Because any new-comer has only to proclaim a new Jesus, different from the one that we preached, or you have only to receive a new spirit, different from the one you have already received, or a new gospel, different from the one you have already accepted – and you welcome it with open arms. As far as I can tell, these arch-apostles have nothing more than I have. I may not be a polished speechmaker, but as for knowledge, that is a different matter; surely we have made this plain, speaking on every subject in front of all of you.

Or was I wrong, lowering myself so as to lift you high, by preaching the gospel of God to you and taking no fee for it? I was robbing other churches, living on them so that I could serve you. When I was with you and ran out of money, I was no burden to anyone; the brothers who came from Macedonia provided me with everything I wanted. I was very careful, and I always shall be, not to be a burden to you in any way, and by Christ’s truth in me, this cause of boasting will never be taken from me in the regions of Achaia. Would I do that if I did not love you? God knows I do.

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Matthew 6:7-15

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So you should pray like this:

‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be held holy, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us. And do not put us to the test, but save us from the evil one. ‘Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.’

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Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him

When I first received the Good News, I didn’t know how I should pray. Funny as it may sound, before my acceptance of Christ, I never thought about starting off with acknowledging the presence of a Power that is above all i.e. God, followed by thanksgiving and forgiveness. I am guilty of jumping in head-first and presenting all my petitions from passing exams to world peace. I remember as a child – though my intentions were good – I would pray, and thinking that the Almighty Power wouldn’t know who I was and where I lived, I would even state my name, address, and even my date of birth!

After embracing Christ, I remember coming across today’s Gospel reading and thinking to myself, “That’s it? Are you sure God knows who I am? You sure He will hear?” I was so uncertain. With a mix of apprehension and faith, I decided that if I didn’t know how to pray yet, I would start with the Lord’s Prayer, and trust that God would find me. And so I got down on my knees and prayed the Lord’s Prayer for the first time.

As today’s Gospel rightly puts it, God doesn’t want us to go on this loud and long babble. As the saying goes, less is more – He already knows our hearts and our needs. He created us! As Jeremiah 1:5 puts it, “Before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I knew you.” Psalm 139:4 says, “Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all”. So, why do we pray then?

We pray because we need to understand and acknowledge that we depend on God for our needs. We pray to have a connection with Him, it is our daily conversation with God. When we tell God our troubles, we are lifting them up to God and telling Him, “I can’t find a way, I’m stuck, I need help.” We acknowledge that we are limited, but through God who delivers us, we are limitless. Through prayer, we acknowledge God’s presence in our lives, and give Him credit and thanks for it. We learn patience, obedience and faith, that though our requests be many, we understand that God will determine what is best for us in His own time. Through prayer, we understand gratitude, gratitude for God’s help and gratitude for God’s forgiveness. The Lord’s Prayer leads us to ask for forgiveness even as we forgive others: God is saying “I want to give you so much more blessings than you think you deserve, but only if you make room for me by letting go of your own resentments”. By forgiving, only then can we receive forgiveness.

Prayer is a two-way process. It is a dialogue even though we may think it is a monologue, wondering if God hears us when we seem to be the only ones ‘talking’. He is listening. All of the above shows us that it is a process of giving and receiving, acknowledging while asking for our needs to be acknowledged. Let us go down on our knees today then, wherever we are, and have our dialogue with God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.      

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for showing us how to pray. Even though we may not know how to, You have given us a way.

21 June, Wednesday – A Father’s Love

21 June 2017

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2 Corinthians 9:6-11

Do not forget: thin sowing means thin reaping; the more you sow, the more you reap. Each one should give what he has decided in his own mind, not grudgingly or because he is made to, for God loves a cheerful giver. And there is no limit to the blessings which God can send you – he will make sure that you will always have all you need for yourselves in every possible circumstance, and still have something to spare for all sorts of good works. As scripture says: He was free in almsgiving, and gave to the poor: his good deeds will never be forgotten.

The one who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide you with all the seed you want and make the harvest of your good deeds a larger one, and, made richer in every way, you will be able to do all the generous things which, through us, are the cause of thanksgiving to God.

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Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win men’s admiration. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

‘And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them; I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

‘When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.’

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…your Father who sees all that is done in secret.

We recently celebrated the Feast of Corpus Christi at the Catholic Spirituality Centre (CSC) with a vigil mass and adoration followed by a 24-hour intercession in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel, culminating in a procession and mass. It was certainly a ‘packed’ weekend for all of us and, leading up to it, I had been swamped with work and hence, did not feel as if I had prepared well for my ministry’s assigned 2-hour intercession slot.

Ordinarily, I would be filled with some nervous energy, worrying about what I should pray (my group had been asked to lead the prayers). However, by God’s grace, I stepped into the chapel totally free of any anxiety and as we knelt by the Blessed Sacrament, a sense of calm came over me and I truly believe that He led the way for an anointed time of intercession.

I have touched a bit on my recent struggles with responsibility and commitment and how, in discerning His plan for me, I have come to reconcile some of the changes I have had to make in my life. I believe that in approaching the coming weeks and months with expectant faith that He will provide in abundance, I have very much ‘settled down’ and come to accept His hand in everything that has transpired. So much so that I have begun to stop worrying about things that I would ordinarily fret about. I must admit, I don’t know how long this attitude is going to last, but I certainly am filled with the hope that He will continue to sustain me as long as I keep up my prayer life.

Indeed, there are no secrets that we can keep from our heavenly Father. After all, we who have eaten his flesh and drank his blood remain in Him and He in us. Hard to imagine then, that there is any aspect of our lives which He does not know about. And truly, at our lowest and in our darkest periods, it is only His light and divine presence within us that keeps us going.

Due to a very hectic week, it is Father’s Day as I write this reflection. It wasn’t planned (we usually have to submit our reflections one week ahead), but I believe it was His plan. My own father passed away two years ago and I miss him terribly at times. Looking back, while I have no regrets about the time I spent with him, I wish I had been more honest and forthright with him about my feelings, especially during the years I was struggling. Because I know that in spite of his default demeanour, he truly loved me and felt my pain as he watched me struggle through my 20s and 30s. I thank God for welcoming dad into the faith at his deathbed and am comforted knowing that he watches over us as a family now. And the best part – we truly have nothing to hide from him!

Brothers and sisters, especially fathers, let us always look to our heavenly Father to sustain us in His love so that as we walk our individual faith journeys, we will stride forward with our heads held high, fully confident and proud to be His sons and daughters.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that you continue to keep us in your loving embrace and to speak to us in our hearts during our times of need.

Thanksgiving: We thank you, Lord, for always being there for us.

20 June, Tuesday – Rich Man, Poor Man

20 June 2017

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2 Corinthians 8:1-9

Now here, brothers, is the news of the grace of God which was given in the churches in Macedonia; and of how, throughout great trials by suffering, their constant cheerfulness and their intense poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity. I can swear that they gave not only as much as they could afford, but far more, and quite spontaneously, begging and begging us for the favour of sharing in this service to the saints and, what was quite unexpected, they offered their own selves first to God and, under God, to us.

Because of this, we have asked Titus, since he has already made a beginning, to bring this work of mercy to the same point of success among you. You always have the most of everything – of faith, of eloquence, of understanding, of keenness for any cause, and the biggest share of our affection – so we expect you to put the most into this work of mercy too. It is not an order that I am giving you; I am just testing the genuineness of your love against the keenness of others. Remember how generous the Lord Jesus was: he was rich, but he became poor for your sake, to make you rich out of his poverty.

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Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

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…so that by his poverty you might become rich.

I have been struggling lately with feelings of anger because of certain lifestyle changes I have had to make, purely for financial reasons. However, after sharing my predicament and struggles with my brothers and also lifting up the situation to Jesus during a recent retreat, I began to understand God’s plan for me and to accept the burden graciously. After all, I have had a pretty comfortable (hmmmm, there’s ‘COM’ again) life all this while.

Admittedly, I am not in a dire situation. And while serving in my ministry, I have witnessed many miracles of salvation and heard countless testimonies from others who have been in much worse situations, yet have been saved by the grace of God. Truly, our God is so generous that He cannot be outdone. What He requires from us is faith — an unwavering belief that He will provide, in spite of how bad we think our situation is.

The verse above assures me that by His sacrifice, Christ has enriched me in a way that is beyond our secular undersatnding. And how ‘rich’ I am or will be is going to be dependent on how open I am to accepting the situations that come my way as I serve in His vineyard. Already, there has been a call from my parish to help and yet, the call from CSC remains ever strong. I shared with my discipleship group recently that God seems to be encouraging me to simplify my life in order for me to serve Him more. It is a fact that if I were not in ministry, I would probably be spending many weekday evenings out with friends, enjoying spirits of a more liquid nature, spending money needlessly.

So brothers and sisters, if I wanted to be extremely practical about it, I could say, “Yes Lord, I will serve because that would mean committing X days a week to you, therefore saving $Y every month.” But I know that wouldn’t get me very far. Rather, I need to listen in the silence of my heart and discern His call and to just say “Yes”. Easier said than done, you might say. But how many times have we been approached by our priests and/or ministry members to serve yet we brush them away with “I don’t have the time” or “I am sure someone else can do a better job”?

Perhaps in such situations, we should just stop and pray silently and ask the Lord, “Lord, what is it that you desire from me? What is your plan for me?” Then listen to the stirring in your heart or the soft voice that prompts a ‘Yes’. Because that simple ‘Yes’ could lead you to a lot more riches than you could ever imagine.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that you give us a heart of worship and to surrender to you willingly when you call without counting the cost.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always enriching us and providing for us in our times of need.

19 June, Monday – Christ over me

Jun 19 – Memorial for St. Romuald, abbot

St Romuald (951-1027) had been an Italian noble. Acting as second, he witnessed his father kill a man in a duel, and sought to atone for the crime by becoming a Benedictine monk at Classe, Italy where he was abbot from 996–999.

A wanderer by nature, he established several hermitage and monasteries in central and northern Italy. He tried to evangelize the Slavs, but met with little success. He founded the Camaldolese Benedictines and spent the last fourteen years of his life in seclusion. His body which is enshrined in Italy remains incorrupt till this day.

  • Patron Saint Index

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2 Corinthians 6:1-10

As his fellow workers, we beg you once again not to neglect the grace of God that you have received. For he says: At the favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help. Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.

We do nothing that people might object to, so as not to bring discredit on our function as God’s servants. Instead, we prove we are servants of God by great fortitude in times of suffering: in times of hardship and distress; when we are flogged, or sent to prison, or mobbed; labouring, sleepless, starving. We prove we are God’s servants by our purity, knowledge, patience and kindness; by a spirit of holiness, by a love free from affectation; by the word of truth and by the power of God; by being armed with the weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left, prepared for honour or disgrace, for blame or praise; taken for impostors while we are genuine; obscure yet famous; said to be dying and here are we alive; rumoured to be executed before we are sentenced; thought most miserable and yet we are always rejoicing; taken for paupers though we make others rich, for people having nothing though we have everything.

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Matthew 5:38-42

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.’

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…behold, now is the day of salvation.

Just last weekend, I attended a community retreat at CSC conducted by a lay person who is trained in Ignatian spirituality. It was a two day ‘holiday’ for the ministry members who attended as we were treated to silence, a movie and interesting talks which touched on topics such as ‘Known’, ‘Loved’ and ‘Whose Am I’.

As many members shared openly at the end of the retreat, it was truly a time of reflection for us in ministry, who constantly strive to do our best at the various retreats, 4th Saturday healing services and regular Friday sessions. Many who were caught up with the ‘doing’ felt recharged as they enjoyed the quiet time with God, reflecting, journalling and adoring Jesus in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel.

For me, I took three very clear words from the retreat – Community, Compassion and Come. I shared with my fellow brothers and sisters that as a relative ‘newbie’ to the community (I have been serving there for 6 years), I sometimes felt inadequate and inferior in my service. But what the Lord revealed to me as I journalled were many questions that alluded to issues concerning pride, low self-esteem and anger. My initial surprise slowly gave way to an understanding of why I harboured certain feelings at various times during my ministry.

God also revealed to me the deeper meaning of those 3 words that stuck in my mind. They all begin with ‘COM’ – Christ Over Me. Over the years, and certainly over the past few months, I had been approaching my service from a very ‘human’ perspective. I had to do things a certain way, I arranged discipleship group meetings depending on when I was free (rather than setting a regular day for sharing) and, over the past few months, had never really cared about how my brothers were feeling nor was I concerned about their spirituality. I had been going about ministry work precisely like how I approached work in my office – get it over and done with, with a minimum of fuss. I had not been placing Christ above me and had sidelined Him in my eagerness to fulfil my tasks.

Brothers and sisters, if you are involved in ministry, whether in your parish or at a retreat centre, do remember to take time to listen and ‘chill’. Don’t get caught up in the doing that you forget the ‘being’. Be present and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit so that whatever burdens you carry are truly ‘light’ and that your soul will find rest in the Lord. God never promised that the load would be easy. But he did invite us to come to Him and to shoulder His yoke in order for our souls to find rest in Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, teach us to remain silent in our hearts so that we can listen to your voice in our lives and to discern your promptings.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord, for giving us feelings in order to express ourselves and to relate with one another in our various communities.

18 June, Sunday – Food for Eternal Life

18 Jun 2017 – Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord (Corpus Christi), Year A

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Deuteronomy 8:2-3,14-16

Moses said to the people: ‘Remember how the Lord your God led you for forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, to test you and know your inmost heart – whether you would keep his commandments or not. He humbled you, he made you feel hunger, he fed you with manna which neither you nor your fathers had known, to make you understand that man does not live on bread alone but that man lives on everything that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

‘Do not become proud of heart. Do not forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery: who guided you through this vast and dreadful wilderness, a land of fiery serpents, scorpions, thirst; who in this waterless place brought you water from the hardest rock; who in this wilderness fed you with manna that your fathers had not known.’

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1 Corinthians 10:16-17

The blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ. The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in this one loaf.

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John 6:51-58

Jesus said to the crowd:

‘I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,
for the life of the world.’

Then the Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said. Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood
has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’

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He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him

People love their food in this country. They spend time planning where they want to go for their lunch and dinner. They post photos and videos of what they have eaten on social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. In-depth analysis of the quality and quantity of food together with the service of the staff will be rated. Yet I often wonder if the same effort will be devoted towards understanding the depth of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Today’s Solemnity is an important celebration for each one of us as we enter into the mystery of this wonderful gift of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist which we have received from Jesus Christ. Just as food nourishes our bodies, the Holy Eucharist nourishes our spiritual lives and makes grow in deeper communion with the Lord Jesus.

The Eucharist brings us closer towards Jesus Christ and allows us to enter into a deeper communion with the Lord Jesus. This allows us to discover this great mystery of God’s love for us – to want to come down on earth to save us so that we can enter into eternal joy with Him. Moses in the First Reading remind us that we cannot live on bread alone and Jesus reminds us in the Gospel that the Jews who ate the manna have all died but those who eat His flesh and drink His Blood will have eternal life. This means that we must renounce the ways of the world. The flesh cannot give us eternal life but Jesus’s flesh certainly can do so.

To believe that the Lord Jesus is truly present Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist requires faith because Reason is unable to fully explain this great Mystery. The Scriptures and the Eucharist strengthen our souls and our lives are transformed to become examples for the world to follow. St Paul in the Second Reading shares with us that although we respond in a very special way to the vocation God has called us to live in this world, we remain one Christian community. The lives of Christians, in whichever location and occupation we are in, will become a consistent and living example for all to see what being in love with Christ is.

The question is, “Are we ready to accept the plan which God has for us?”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that you allow the visible sign of your Body and Blood hidden in the bread and wine to become for us the sustenance to love and serve you in this passing world.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all priests who celebrate the Mass every day.

17 June, Saturday – Saying Yes to God

17 June 2017

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2 Corinthians 5:14-21

The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.

From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here. It is all God’s work. It was God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the work of handing on this reconciliation. In other words, God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, not holding men’s faults against them, and he has entrusted to us the news that they are reconciled.

So we are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God. For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God.

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Matthew 5:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you: do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’

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Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No

Many people (myself included) have somehow over the course of our lives acquired a bad habit of using God’s name to swear. And in swearing, I mean both senses of the word, whether in terms of making a promise or an oath, or cursing an inopportune event that has befallen one. So it is common to hear things like “I swear to God, I didn’t do it!” or “Jesus Christ! Did he just cut in front of me?” One of my favourite bands, Jars of Clay, even has a song that addresses this habit of swearing in God’s name. Entitled “Oh My God”, the song plays on secular society’s habit to use the phrase ‘oh my god’ for all sorts of situations.

In today’s gospel, Jesus makes it clear that swearing of any form, not just using God’s name, is wrong. Indeed, the Lord teaches us that we need to say what we mean, and mean what we say. For to swear would be to promise more than we can deliver, and hence end up making false oaths. Indeed, “no one knows about the day or hour” (MT 24:36). How can we promise anyone anything when we do not even know if the sun will rise tomorrow, much less whether we will be able or willing to fulfil the promises or oaths that we have this tendency to make.

Jesus even goes so far as to say that anything more than ‘yes’ meaning ‘yes’ and ‘no’ meaning ‘no’ is from the Evil One. Indeed, many of the promises and oaths that we make, even under duress (especially under duress), stem from an overconfidence in our own ability to deliver on promises or even determine our own fates. This excessive belief in ourselves can be seen as an elevation of the ‘self’ as an idol. That is why our Lord said that such promises are from the Evil One.

Rather than swearing oaths and making promises we cannot keep, let us be clear (both to others and to ourselves) what we can/should and can/should not do. In doing so, we say ‘yes’ to God in our obedience to Him and trust in His providence, and we say ‘no’ to the devil and all his empty promises.

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, keep us grounded in Your love and our humility, so that we may continue to trust and rely on your never-ending providence.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for providing us with all that we need, for it is in the fulfilment of these needs that we see the emptiness of our wants.

16 June, Friday – Cutting off the hand that is distraction

16 June 2017

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2 Corinthians 4:7-15

We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us. We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair; we have been persecuted, but never deserted; knocked down, but never killed; always, wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body. Indeed, while we are still alive, we are consigned to our death every day, for the sake of Jesus, so that in our mortal flesh the life of Jesus, too, may be openly shown. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

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

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Matthew 5:27-32

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.

‘It has also been said: Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. But I say this to you: everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.’

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If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away

There is very little doubt that we live in a time of great distraction. Everywhere we look, we see people distracted – whether absorbed the little glowing screens of their smartphones or mesmerized by the latest fashion or products that our shiny cities have to offer. Yes, it is a time of great distraction, and we are a people dying to be distracted. How often have you felt that sinking feeling of helplessness, when you realize that you have left your phone at home? Or the urge to check out the latest season in your favourite apparel store?

Yet, this constant state of distraction is dangerous for us, for we are absorbed in an artificial environment of social media posts, shares, and likes. Worse yet, our life choices come to be defined by these distractions. I often see couples, and even families, sitting at the dining table, everyone mindlessly scrolling through their smartphones. How did we get here? When did social media posts and 800-word blogposts or commentary pieces become more important than the thoughts and feelings of our loved ones or an 800-page literary classic?

Worse yet, we have allowed such distraction to affect our spiritual and faith lives, for in our distraction, we are no longer able to discern the wonders of God in our everyday lives, whether in terms of our familial relationships, the world around us (the actual physical world around us, mind you), or perhaps more importantly, the needs of the people around us. One does not need to look very far to find a homeless person or a lonely soul in our midst.

If our gadgets and distractions are truly distracting us and keeping us from performing our roles and duties as children of God and disciples of Christ, then perhaps it is time to consider giving them up. For Jesus in today’s Gospel exhorts us to tear out the eye or cut off the hand that causes us to sin. Isn’t it so much easier simply to put away that phone or look away from the store display, rather than cutting off a hand or tearing out an eye? Yet for some, it is just as difficult to put down the phone as it is to cut off a hand.

In that case, we need to ask ourselves: what is more important? Our personal pleasures and desires? Or our commitment to Christ and the Kingdom of God?

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for Your strength and fortitude, so that we can reject sin and Satan, especially in the distractions that keep us from living out our Christian duties.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for the wonders and beauty of His creation, set in the world around us, as a pleasing reminder of His love and providence. May we never become so distracted as to forget these gifts from our heavenly Father.