31 August, Wednesday – Let us be like children at Your feet Lord

31 August

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1 Corinthians 3:1-9

Brothers, I myself was unable to speak to you as people of the Spirit: I treated you as sensual men, still infants in Christ. What I fed you with was milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it; and indeed, you are still not ready for it since you are still unspiritual. Isn’t that obvious from all the jealousy and wrangling that there is among you, from the way that you go on behaving like ordinary people? What could be more unspiritual than your slogans, ‘I am for Paul’ and ‘I am for Apollos’?

After all, what is Apollos and what is Paul? They are servants who brought the faith to you. Even the different ways in which they brought it were assigned to them by the Lord. I did the planting, Apollos did the watering, but God made things grow. Neither the planter nor the waterer matters: only God, who makes things grow. It is all one who does the planting and who does the watering, and each will duly be paid according to his share in the work. We are fellow workers with God; you are God’s farm, God’s building.

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Luke 4:38-44

Leaving the synagogue Jesus went to Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever and they asked him to do something for her. Leaning over her he rebuked the fever and it left her. And she immediately got up and began to wait on them.

At sunset all those who had friends suffering from diseases of one kind or another brought them to him, and laying his hands on each he cured them. Devils too came out of many people, howling, ‘You are the Son of God.’ But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak because they knew that he was the Christ.

When daylight came he left the house and made his way to a lonely place. The crowds went to look for him, and when they had caught up with him they wanted to prevent him leaving them, but he answered, ‘I must proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God to the other towns too, because that is what I was sent to do.’ And he continued his preaching in the synagogues of Judaea.

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“You are God’s farm, God’s building”

Being a father of 2, I had the wonderful journey of watching them grow up to be the children they are today. During these years, what was interesting was watching their faith journey. I have been blessed to witness their faith in God and have learned a lot from them.

Watching my children brought to mind the following passage:

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:2-4

In my younger years, I remember spending a lot of time theorizing about my faith. I thought about the ‘rules’ of being in God’s kingdom; would we go to heaven if we did this or that, would God condemn me if I did this, or didn’t do that? In fact, I thought about it so much that it began to get me feeling stressed.

One day, I came across the passage above and realized that I was being foolish. No matter how much time and effort I spend trying to ‘figure it out’, I would NEVER know. NEVER. In that particular moment of clarity, I felt admonished to be like a little child.

But what did it mean to be like a little child? Over the years, I have figured that ‘all’ I had to do was to trust in the Bible and the Church. It certainly is difficult to do.

In the past few months, I took a couple of courses — one to handle one’s business God’s way, and another to learn how to manage our finances God’s way. I had my mind blown during the courses, and learned so many biblical principles which seemed to contradict conventional wisdom. After my initial resistance, I reflected on the principles and began taking baby steps down this path. I have met people who have done so, and I can tell you that these people experience much more joy and peace than many others.

Today’s gospel reminds us that no matter what, we really need Jesus. In a lifetime that lasts forever, our 70-90 years of us do not make us wise. Our God knows better. Let us learn to trust Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we will not get fooled by our own perceived “wisdom”. Help us Father to always turn to You for true wisdom.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for being there to show us the correct way. Thank You Spirit, for always guiding our own spirit to do the right thing. We praise You and thank You for never giving up on us.

30 August, Tuesday – Finding our spirituality source

30 August

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1 Corinthians 2:10-16

The Spirit reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God. After all, the depths of a man can only be known by his own spirit, not by any other man, and in the same way the depths of God can only be known by the Spirit of God. Now instead of the spirit of the world, we have received the Spirit that comes from God, to teach us to understand the gifts that he has given us. Therefore we teach, not in the way in which philosophy is taught, but in the way that the Spirit teaches us: we teach spiritual things spiritually. An unspiritual person is one who does not accept anything of the Spirit of God: he sees it all as nonsense; it is beyond his understanding because it can only be understood by means of the Spirit. A spiritual man, on the other hand, is able to judge the value of everything, and his own value is not to be judged by other men. As scripture says: Who can know the mind of the Lord, so who can teach him? But we are those who have the mind of Christ.

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Luke 4:31-37

Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because he spoke with authority.

In the synagogue there was a man who was possessed by the spirit of an unclean devil, and it shouted at the top of its voice, ‘Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the devil, throwing the man down in front of everyone, went out of him without hurting him at all. Astonishment seized them and they were all saying to one another, ‘What teaching! He gives orders to unclean spirits with authority and power and they come out.’ And reports of him went all through the surrounding countryside.

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“Who can know the mind of the Lord, so who can teach him”

My wife and I joined a family ministry in the year 2001, a year after my daughter was born. This was a special experience for both of us, as we experienced God in a way we had never before.

We soon found ourselves leaders of a cell group, ‘leading’ a group of couples. The experience was really good, but my wife and I soon found ourselves riddled with doubt. “Were we worthy enough as leaders?”, “How do we guide our group to be closer to God?”, were just 2 out of a myriad of doubts on our minds.

More importantly, we were feeling extremely tired and taxed. We felt the weight of our responsibilities on our shoulders. Soon, we felt we could not keep going and chose to leave the leadership position.

The answer can be found in the readings of today.

Whenever He had the opportunity, Jesus was always praying. He would go off to be alone. Before His biggest test, Jesus spent time, alone and praying, in the Garden of Gethsemane. The first reading today talks about spirituality and about knowing ‘the mind of Christ’.

Similarly, by learning from our Lord, by spending more time with God, we get to know Him more intimately. It is exactly like spending time with people; the more we spend with them, the more connected we are to them. We know them, how they would think and act. We begin to be able to walk in their shoes. The more we spend time with them, the more we love them (in most parts!) and the more time we want to spend with them.

So it is with getting to know God. I remember Archbishop William Goh repeatedly emphasizing the importance of having ones’ quiet time on a daily basis, whether one felt like it or not. This process of plugging in to our Lord, will give us a deeper level of intimacy, leaving us to desire to know Him even more.

Let us begin to get to know Him more, each and every day!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray that we will get to know you more and more each day. Help us to know Your will and help us to have the courage and strength to walk closer to You.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Jesus, for showing the path to Our Father, by spending time and connecting through quiet time and prayer. Thank You Father for always being there for us, your children.

29 August, Monday – Courage in Life

29 August – The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist

To endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather is was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward. Since death was ever at hand, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: “You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake.” He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that His chosen ones should suffer for Him: “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.”

– from a homily by Saint Bede the Venerable on the death of John the Baptist

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1 Corinthians 2:1-5

When I came to you, brothers, it was not with any show of oratory or philosophy, but simply to tell you what God had guaranteed. During my stay with you, the only knowledge I claimed to have was about Jesus, and only about him as the crucified Christ. Far from relying on any power of my own, I came among you in great ‘fear and trembling’ and in my speeches and the sermons that I gave, there were none of the arguments that belong to philosophy; only a demonstration of the power of the Spirit. And I did this so that your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.

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Mark 6:17-29

Herod sent to have John arrested, and had him chained up in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife whom he had married. For John had told Herod, ‘It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife.’ As for Herodias, she was furious with him and wanted to kill him; but she was not able to, because Herod was afraid of John, knowing him to be a good and holy man, and gave him his protection. When he had heard him speak he was greatly perplexed, and yet he liked to listen to him.

An opportunity came on Herod’s birthday when he gave a banquet for the nobles of his court, for his army officers and for the leading figures in Galilee. When the daughter of this same Herodias came in and danced, she delighted Herod and his guests; so the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me anything you like and I will give it you.’ And he swore her an oath, ‘I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.’ She went out and said to her mother, ‘What shall I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the Baptist’ The girl hurried straight back to the king and made her request, ‘I want you to give me John the Baptist’s head, here and now, on a dish.’ The king was deeply distressed but, thinking of the oaths he had sworn and of his guests, he was reluctant to break his word to her. So the king at once sent one of the bodyguard with orders to bring John’s head. The man went off and beheaded him in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard about this, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

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“Anyone who follows me will have the light of life”

Years ago, things were happening at work that made me really upset. This bothered me much and it kept me up at nights. When I expressed my reservations to my co-workers and to my manager, I was told to ‘not rock the boat, and to not ‘commit career suicide’.

I have been in the accounting, auditing, banking, insurance, private equity industries. The strange thing is that this particular mindset is so embedded in our human psyche that the same mindset is present. This attitude works well and good when everything is going well, but becomes challenging when things go wrong. We become fearful of the consequences of us speaking up.

St John the Baptist was a man who was unafraid to tell the truth. He insisted on telling things like it is, even to the point of losing his life. I wondered how someone could be so fearless when the realization hit me one day.

If we saw our lives as limited to our physical time on Earth, then we would be focused on self-preservation. However, if we, as Christians, remember that our lives will extend forever, and that physical death will only mean a transition to another phase of life, then our priorities will be different. Rather than looking at how to thrive during the short 50-99 years of physical life, we will instead look at what we need to do in order to thrive for the large part of our (infinite) existence.

St John the Baptist certainly understood this, and his fearlessness and behavior stemmed out of this. We must learn from him!

Another thought I had reading today’s gospel is how King Herod was conflicted when he was asked for the head of St John the Baptist. He was “deeply distressed” but was “reluctant to break his word to her”.

I wondered what I would do if I was ever caught between a promise I made, for something that does not glorify God, and choosing to break this promise just because it was wrong to do so. Which is more important… choosing to please God or choosing to please man?

While my aim is to please God, I can only pray that if I were to be caught in such a situation, I would have the strength and courage to do what is right.

What would YOU do?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Help us Father, to correct our brothers and sisters with love. May we not be tempted to take a position of power and superiority and to let You guide our attitudes and actions.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for loving us and for showing us the way to build our community here on earth. We are grateful that we have the Holy Spirit as our guide!

28 August, Sunday – Others, before ourselves

28 August

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Ecclesiasticus 3:19-21,30-31

My son, be gentle in carrying out your business,
and you will be better loved than a lavish giver.
The greater you are, the more you should behave humbly,
and then you will find favour with the Lord;
for great though the power of the Lord is,
he accepts the homage of the humble.
There is no cure for the proud man’s malady,
since an evil growth has taken root in him.
The heart of a sensible man will reflect on parables,
an attentive ear is the sage’s dream.

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Hebrews 12:18-19,22-24

What you have come to is nothing known to the senses: not a blazing fire, or a gloom turning to total darkness, or a storm; or trumpeting thunder or the great voice speaking which made everyone that heard it beg that no more should be said to them. But what you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem where the millions of angels have gathered for the festival, with the whole Church in which everyone is a ‘first-born son’ and a citizen of heaven. You have come to God himself, the supreme Judge, and been placed with spirits of the saints who have been made perfect; and to Jesus, the mediator who brings a new covenant and a blood for purification which pleads more insistently than Abel’s.

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Luke 14:1,7-14

On a sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely. He then told the guests a parable, because he had noticed how they picked the places of honour. He said this, ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, and the person who invited you both may come and say, “Give up your place to this man.” And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place. No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher.” In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’
Then he said to his host, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’

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“…the man who humbles himself will be exalted”

I was scared stiff when I first learned that I had to sell mortgages as a relatively new joinee to the banking industry. You can imagine how high this fear escalated to when I learned I was scheduled to speak with potential buyers at the property show flat soon after I graduated from training!

I remember pacing nervously at the show flat, wondering what to do, when an idea came to me. I approached one of my colleagues, a seasoned mortgage banker, and made him an offer; I would refer all my prospects to him, provided he allowed me to sit in to listen to how he spoke with them.

I learned a lot that day. While I remember him speaking confidently with the prospects, what struck me even more was that in order to sell the loans, my colleague actually misrepresented certain features of the housing loan product. When asked subsequently about it, the man said, with a smile, that he would have long left the bank by the time the clients came back to the bank to complain.

I was appalled.

While my colleague showed great competence in dealing with clients, which was a way for me to learn and model my presentations after, his lack of integrity clearly negated this.

In today’s gospel, Jesus points out what is done in society and suggests an alternative approach. Until then, people learned from watching each other, often taking their cue from the ‘higher-ups’ in society. The model was turned on its head; instead of focusing on ourselves, the parables Jesus taught showed us the right way was to focus on others.

Jesus is our ultimate role model. Jesus came, not only to die for us, but to be our ultimate role model. He shows us how we are to live!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, help us to always turn to You and Your Son Jesus, to show us how to live our lives in the way that You would want us to live. Speak to us, Father, in our prayers and in Your Word.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for showing us an alternative way to live, dear Lord. For showing us that our focus should not be on ourselves, but on others in our desire to be closer to You.

27 August, Saturday – On Being Productive

27 August – Memorial for St. Monica, Married woman

Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted a heresy and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted.

When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan, where she became a leader of the devout women there.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Take yourselves for instance, brothers, at the time when you were called: how many of you were wise in the ordinary sense of the word, how many were influential people, or came from noble families? No, it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame what is strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything. The human race has nothing to boast about to God, but you, God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom. As scripture says: if anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord.

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Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.

‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”

‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”’

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You wicked and lazy servant!

I do have my share of unproductive days.  There were times that I have been too lazy to go to work. And accompanying these instances is the thought that I wish I did not have to work in order for me to eat and sustain my daily needs.

The Gospel reading talks about the three servants. One received five talents, the other received two talents, and the third one received one talent. In the Gospel reading, one talent is equivalent to a very large amount of money.  It mentioned each in proportion to his ability. Meaning, the master compensated his servants in accordance to their ability. It can be concluded that the one who received the largest was the one who work the hardest. While the one who received the smallest was the one who work the least. The two servants who received five and two talents worked hard and were able to double what they have given. And the master was pleased with their performance and gave them rewards. On the other hand, the servant who received one talent did not do anything productive. He digs a hole and puts the talent in the ground. That talent did not prosper. The master was mad at this servant for being lazy and took the talent and gave it to the servant who had five talents.

Our God is an awesome God. He is just and fair. If you work hard, you will get your reward. Even at work, if the boss likes your performance, you are given bonuses and other perks. However, if you are a liability, the boss cannot trust you. He does not even want to give you any tasks.

When we feel exhausted in working, it is alright to take some rest. Resting does not mean being lazy. We are, after all, humans; therefore, we also get tired. We need to recharge ourselves. Even our digital gadgets become drained and need recharging. After we regain our physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual strength, we come back to life. Do some work or do anything. Let’s not just be idle and do nothing.

There is this saying that we must do our best, and God will do the rest. Our life is a gift from God. It does not cost us anything. How we live our life is something we give back to God. Are we going to be like that servant who hid and buried the talent in the ground? Are we going to sit, wait, be still, and do nothing with our life? Or are we going to do something to make ourselves productive servants of God?  As we try to look back, have we lived our lives worthy to present it to our Lord?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Lord God, please guide us in making our life productive for You and for others.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father God for all the resources that we have to sustain our daily life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

26 August, Friday – Higher Priority

26 August

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1 Corinthians 1:17-25

Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the Good News, and not to preach that in the terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed. The language of the cross may be illogical to those who are not on the way to salvation, but those of us who are on the way see it as God’s power to save. As scripture says: I shall destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing all the learning of the learned. Where are the philosophers now? Where are the scribes? Where are any of our thinkers today? Do you see now how God has shown up the foolishness of human wisdom? If it was God’s wisdom that human wisdom should not know God, it was because God wanted to save those who have faith through the foolishness of the message that we preach. And so, while the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

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Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven will be like this: Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible: the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps. The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight there was a cry, “The bridegroom is here! Go out and meet him.” At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, “Give us some of your oil: our lamps are going out.” But they replied, “There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.” They had gone off to buy it when the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall and the door was closed. The other bridesmaids arrived later. “Lord, Lord,” they said “open the door for us.” But he replied, “I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.” So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.’

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There may not be enough for us and for you...

Many times I have been accused of being stingy. I am not used to sharing what I have with other people. My co-workers hate it when I am eating something and do not offer it to them even just out of politeness. In the same way, I feel uneasy when somebody offers me food. At first, I do not think too much about it. But after working for some time, I began asking myself if there was something wrong with me. I have a sibling but we have an age gap of several years. Being born in different generations, we each have different needs and likes. I grew up not having to share anything. We eat together as a family but we do not share our personal things such as clothes, books, shampoo, soap and other things. Sharing was taught in our school. But my classmates had better possessions so I did not share anything with them.

Today’s Gospel reading teaches us about responsibility. Our responsibility to be prepared for the tasks assigned to us. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible: the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps.  The sensible were wise enough to have a back-up plan. They brought flasks of oil with them. It may be an added weight to their baggage but they were blessed enough to know that they had to bring those. And indeed their extra efforts paid off. They needed the oil when they met the bridegroom.

It can be said that there are foolish and sensible people in this world. Sometimes we can be the foolish ones, sometimes we can be the sensible ones. We are sensible enough to realize our needs and to do something about it. But we have our fair share of foolishness. Even repeated foolishness over the same things.

When the sensible people said, “you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves…”, it may seem that they were being selfish. They could have shared a little oil with the foolish ones but they didn’t. As I reflect on it more, I realize that I can never give something that I do not have. Those who were sensible brought oil just enough for them to use and knew that if they shared it, none of their lamps would be able to provide any light. It teaches to help ourselves first in order to help others. Even in airplanes, there is this reminder to help yourself first before assisting others. It is like when you have your last penny in your pocket, you need to go to work, and there was a beggar asking for a penny. Well, if you are able to walk to work, you are able to give that penny to the beggar. But if that penny is your only fare to get to work, use it for your transportation. It is not being selfish nor greedy. You need to work in order for you to earn. And your earnings are something worth sharing.

Let us continue to pray to God, to enlighten us, to be like those sensible bridesmaids, to be spiritually prepared.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Lord God, please help us to use our wisdom in accordance to your will.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father God for providing for our needs.

25 August, Thursday – The Future is Beyond

25 August – Memorial for St. Louis of France, Married man; Memorial for St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest, Religious founder

As king of France, Louis (1214-1270) made numerous judicial and legislative reforms. He promoted Christianity in France; established religious foundations, aided mendicant orders, propagated synodal decrees of the Church, built leper hospitals, and collected relics.

“In prosperity, give thanks to God with humility and fear lest by pride you abuse God’s benefits and so offend him.” – St. Louis IX

Joseph Calasanz (1556-1648) and two fellow priests opened a small, free school for poor children. He was supervising several teachers and hundreds of students. When the school moved to larger quarters, the teaching priests were reorganised into a community recognised as a religious order called Le Sciole Pie (Religious Schools), also known as the Piarists, or Scolopii or Ordo Clericorum Regularium Pauperum Matris Dei Scholarum Piarum or Order of Poor Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools; Joseph acted as superior of the Order.

The community encountered many obstacles. It was dissolved, then reorganised after Joseph’s death. They were restored as a religious order in 1669, and continue their good work today.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Corinthians 1:1-9

I, Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle, together with brother Sosthenes, send greetings to the church of God in Corinth, to the holy people of Jesus Christ, who are called to take their place among all the saints everywhere who pray to our Lord Jesus Christ; for he is their Lord no less than ours. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace.

I never stop thanking God for all the graces you have received through Jesus Christ. I thank him that you have been enriched in so many ways, especially in your teachers and preachers; the witness to Christ has indeed been strong among you so that you will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed; and he will keep you steady and without blame until the last day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, because God by calling you has joined you to his Son, Jesus Christ; and God is faithful.

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Matthew 24:42-51

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming. You may be quite sure of this that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house. Therefore, you too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

‘What sort of servant, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their food at the proper time? ‘Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you solemnly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the dishonest servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time,” and sets about beating his fellow servants and eating and drinking with drunkards, 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 hypocrites, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.’

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Therefore, you too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

I used to do project management work where one of the critical stages is planning. Our team needed to foresee everything. We had to anticipate what our clients’ wanted. We also had to prepare ready-made answers to our clients’ inquiries. Since we were always prepared, we were quite successful in our projects.  But there were also times that we experienced failures. I do get frustrated when things do not go well. I always ask myself, “What did I miss?”, “How come I was not able to see these things?”, and other similar questions. I am a planner. I want to make sure that everything goes smoothly without any problem. I get anxious when things do not work out how they are supposed to be.

The first reading clearly states that Paul was appointed by God. It was God who chose him; not anyone else, but God. The graces that were received were from God through Jesus Christ. The blessings that made the people strong and equipped are from God. It is by the grace of God that we have received so many blessings. And we should be grateful for those. Our life is a gift from God. He chose us to live this life serving Him. The Gospel reading enlightens us as to what kind of servant we should be. One servant did wicked things while his master was away. There is another servant who did his job properly even though his master was away. Are we doing good things because there are people who see us?  Are we doing good things because we want to do it and it is the right thing to do?

I admit there are times when I feel lazy when my boss is not around. I feel relaxed and relieved thinking there is no one to guard me. I am free. I am free to do anything I want. And freedom is a gift from God.  We have free will to do anything with our lives. However, we must be prepared for our the consequences of our actions.

Planning is needed in our daily lives. But we must remember that it is God’s will that our plans push through. It is in the name of Jesus Christ that things happen in accordance to how we plan. We cannot see what lies ahead. But we must always be prepared to receive God’s plans for us. Other people may not see what we do every day. But God sees everything. We continue to be focused living our faith and hope for better days to come.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Lord God, may you grant us the grace to feel your plan for us. May we able to do the things in according to Your will.

Thanksgiving: Father God, thank you for this gift of life. Thank you for everything that makes us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

24 August, Wednesday – In Truth And In Love

24 August – Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle

Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Apostles. He was probably a close friend of St. Philip, as his name is always mentioned in the gospels in connection with Philip, and it was Philip who brought Bartholomew to Jesus. He may have written a gospel, now lost, as it is mentioned in other writings of the time.

Someone preached in Asia Minor, Ethiopia, India, and Armenia and left behind assorted writings. Local tradition says it was Bartholomew.

– Patron Saint Index

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Apocalypse 21:9-14

The angel came to speak to me, and said, ‘Come here and I will show you the bride that the Lamb has married.’ In the spirit, he took me to the top of an enormous high mountain and showed me Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down from God out of heaven. It had all the radiant glory of God and glittered like some precious jewel of crystal-clear diamond. The walls of it were of a great height, and had twelve gates; at each of the twelve gates there was an angel, and over the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel; on the east there were three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. The city walls stood on twelve foundation stones, each one of which bore the name of one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

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John 1:45-51

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, the one about whom the prophets wrote: he is Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.’ ‘From Nazareth?’ said Nathanael ‘Can anything good come from that place?’ ‘Come and see’ replied Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said of him, ‘There is an Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit.’ ‘How do you know me?’ said Nathanael ‘Before Philip came to call you,’ said Jesus ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ Nathanael answered, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.’ Jesus replied, ‘You believe that just because I said: I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.’ And then he added ‘I tell you most solemnly, you will see heaven laid open and, above the Son of Man, the angels of God ascending and descending.’

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Come and see

I currently have a friend who has given up believing in the Catholic Faith because he wants God to appear right before him so that he can believe. He believes his five senses are the most reliable way of understanding the world. It is probably easy to engage in a philosophical discussion on whether one can trust one’s senses or one should only trust one’s mind. The readings of today seek the other party to trust God on the basis of faith as Philip invited Nathaniel (Bartholomew) to “Come and see”.

The faith we have is a gift which God has given us. When we reject this gift, we depend on a weaker form of knowing, for example, that of our senses. A person sometimes loses his faith because of doubt; or it could be because some have been hurt by others. This is indeed something which we can address because we need to tap on our faith to help revive the light within them. We first need to be their friend and understand why they are feeling this way. Only when we show our desire to get to know them as a person, can we then share with them the gift of Faith we have.

Jesus called Nathaniel a person incapable of being deceived. We can ask the Holy Spirit to grant us this gift too, of being able to see through the walls and barriers which our friends have put before us. They do so not to deceive us in the usual sense of the word but perhaps because they are in need of healing and so need us to hear them. May God continue to guide us in our lives and allow us to be like Nathaniel, incapable of deceit yet willing to lay down his life for the Faith.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: St Bartholomew, pray for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who lend a listening ear to others.

23 August, Tuesday – Deepening our Faith

23 August – Memorial for St. Rose of Lima, Virgin

A beautiful girl and devoted daughter, Rose (1586-1617) was so devoted to her vow of chastity, she used pepper and lye to ruin her complexion so she would not be attractive. She lived and meditated in a garden, raising vegetables and making embroidered items to sell to support her family and help the other poor. She was the founder of social work in Peru.

“Our Lord and Savior lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: ‘Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.’”

from the writings of St. Rose of Lima

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2 Thessalonians 2:1-3,14-17

To turn, brothers, to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we shall all be gathered round him: please do not get excited too soon or alarmed by any prediction or rumour or any letter claiming to come from us, implying that the Day of the Lord has already arrived. Never let anyone deceive you in this way.

It cannot happen until the Great Revolt has taken place and the Rebel, the Lost One, has appeared. Through the Good News that we brought he called you to this so that you should share the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Stand firm, then, brothers, and keep the traditions that we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father who has given us his love and, through his grace, such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope, comfort you and strengthen you in everything good that you do or say.

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Matthew 23:23-26

Jesus said, ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who pay your tithe of mint and dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law – justice, mercy, good faith! These you should have practised, without neglecting the others. You blind guides! Straining out gnats and swallowing camels!

‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who clean the outside of cup and dish and leave the inside full of extortion and intemperance. Blind Pharisee! Clean the inside of cup and dish first so that the outside may become clean as well.’

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Never let anyone deceive you in this way

Deception is something which some may find repulsive. This is due to the fact that there is an aspect of our lives which we desire all people to be honest to us. We expect this in our human relationships with others, but we also need to uphold the same disdain for all who spread false information about our Faith. The readings of today remind us that sometimes, this can be spread through our own actions.

The deposit of Faith which we have must be preserved in its entirety with no alteration; but sometimes, we may be unaware of what the Church teachings are. Firstly, we can improve our knowledge of what our Church teaches through attending courses which allow us to deepen our faith. This helps us to appreciate the richness of our faith. The other thing which we must do is to pray for Holy Spirit to grant us the spirit of wisdom, to know when and how to say the truth without fear and in charity.

Our faith journey is an on-going stage of formation and sharing of our lives. We can draw strength from the Holy Spirit to guide us in our decisions and to let us be living testimonies of his love. We must do our part and be open to deepening our knowledge of our faith in God in whichever way we can.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us discover what we do not know and to be open to us learning from you.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who teach the Sacred Sciences.

22 August, Monday – Simple Love

22 August – Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Whoever, therefore, reverences the Queen of heaven and earth – and let no one consider himself exempt from this tribute of a grateful and loving soul – let him invoke the most effective of Queens, the Mediatrix of peace; let him respect and preserve peace, which is not wickedness unpunished nor freedom without restraint, but a well-ordered harmony under the rule of the will of God; to its safeguarding and growth the gentle urgings and commands of the Virgin Mary impel us. – Pope Pius XII

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Isaiah 9:1-6

The people that walked in darkness
has seen a great light;
on those who live in a land of deep shadow
a light has shone.
You have made their gladness greater,
you have made their joy increase;
they rejoice in your presence
as men rejoice at harvest time,
as men are happy when they are dividing the spoils.

For the yoke that was weighing on him,
the barb across his shoulders,
the rod of his oppressor,
these you break as on the day of Midian.

For all the footgear of battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
is burnt,
and consumed by fire.

For there is a child born for us,
a son given to us
and dominion is laid on his shoulders;
and this is the name they give him:
Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God,
Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace.

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Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

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For nothing is impossible to God

Why do we need to pray to Mary when we can pray to God directly? This question may be received by many Catholics from people who wonder what the role of Mary is in the Catholic religion. Sometimes, this question is posed to us out of a genuine desire to know our faith better; but sometimes, it is posed to us out of a spirit of malice and spite. This is where we must keep recourse to our Lady and ask her to grant us patience to answer these questions.

Today’s feast reminds us of the need to follow Mary as our role model in living our lives. This means we can look to her for guidance and help when we feel down because she also went through the various emotions we have gone through. Mary is a queen who understands all our trials which we go through. It may seem like a repeated maxim that “Mother Mary intercedes for us”, but I strongly trust that there is truth in that statement.

Sometimes, the role of Mary is not emphasised enough in our understanding of salvation. But I believe that this can be overcome if we pray to Our Lady and appreciate that she cares for us if we let her. As we continue with our daily lives, may we always depend on God for help and trust Mary to show us the way.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Mother Mary, pray for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who make Rosaries.