Tuesday, 26 May – Leap of Faith

26 May – St Philip Neri

He was born in Florence in 1515. At the age of eighteen he went to Rome, and earned his living as a tutor. He undertook much-needed charitable work among the young men of the city, and started a brotherhood to help the sick poor and pilgrims.

He was advised that he could do more good as a priest, and was ordained in 1551. He built an oratory over the church of San Girolamo, where he invented services, consisting of spiritual readings and hymns, which were the origin of the oratorio (tradition is a good thing; but innovation also has its place). He continued to serve the young men of Rome, rich and poor alike, with religious discussions and by organising charitable enterprises. He had a particular care for the young students at the English College in Rome, studying for a missionary life and probable martyrdom in England.

He inspired other clergy to emulate him, and formed them into the Congregation of the Oratory. Oratorian foundations still flourish in many countries today. He died in Rome in 1595.

St Philip Neri was an enemy of solemnity and conventionality. When some of his more pompous penitents made their confession to him (he was famous as a confessor) he imposed salutary and deflating penances on them, such as walking through the streets of Rome carrying his cat (he was very fond of cats). When a novice showed signs of excessive seriousness, Philip stood on his head in front of him, to make him laugh. When people looked up to him too much, he did something ridiculous so that they should not respect someone who was no wiser – and no less sinful – than they were. In every case there was an excellent point to his pranks: to combat pride, or melancholy, or hero-worship.

Laughter is not much heard in churches: perhaps that is to be expected… but outside church, Christians should laugh more than anyone else – laugh from sheer joy, that God bothered to make us, and that he continues to love us despite the idiots we are. Everyone is a sinner, but Christians are sinners redeemed – an undeserved rescue that we make even less deserved by everything we do. It is too serious a matter to be serious about: all we can reasonably do is rejoice.

Very many of the saints, not just St Philip, have an abiding terror of being looked up to. For they know their imperfections better than anyone else, and being revered by other people is doubly bad. It is bad for the others, who should be revering God instead, and for themselves, because they might be tempted to believe their own image and believe themselves to be worthy.

We are not saints yet, but we, too, should beware. Uprightness and virtue do have their rewards, in self-respect and in respect from others, and it is easy to find ourselves aiming for the result rather than the cause. Let us aim for joy, rather than respectability. Let us make fools of ourselves from time to time, and thus see ourselves, for a moment, as the all-wise God sees us.

– Universalis

________________

Sirach 35:1-12

A man multiplies offerings by keeping the Law;
he offers communion sacrifices by following the commandments.
By showing gratitude he makes an offering of fine flour,
by giving alms he offers a sacrifice of praise.
Withdraw from wickedness and the Lord will be pleased,
withdraw from injustice and you make atonement.
Do not appear empty-handed in the Lord’s presence;
for all these things are due under the commandment.
A virtuous man’s offering graces the altar,
and its savour rises before the Most High.
A virtuous man’s sacrifice is acceptable,
its memorial will not be forgotten.
Honour the Lord with generosity,
do not stint the first-fruits you bring.
Add a smiling face to all your gifts,
and be cheerful as you dedicate your tithes.
Give to the Most High as he has given to you,
generously as your means can afford;
for the Lord is a good rewarder,
he will reward you seven times over.
Offer him no bribe, he will not accept it,
do not put your faith in an unvirtuous sacrifice;
since the Lord is a judge
who is no respecter of personages.

________________ 

Mark 10:28-31

‘What about us?’ Peter asked Jesus. ‘We have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.

‘Many who are first will be last, and the last first.’

________________ 

“We have left everything and followed you.”

Two women were once talking about marriage. One of them said that she had never been anywhere outside her parents’ home and leaving her family and the only home she knew to be with her husband seemed almost alien. It took her a full week to get used to her new living circumstances, during which she cried because she was homesick.

The world we know is the one that we have grown up in. Our surroundings, our creature comforts, the people we meet daily, sights and smells. When I was going to university, my parents worried that I would suffer from culture shock being away from home all alone. Thankfully I had a sense of adventure then, and all the “newness” was almost exciting. For some, leaving the environment you are used to can be a very daunting prospect. We fear the unknown. The longer we stay in one situation, the harder it is for us to let go. To put it in perspective, some people who have been in their jobs for more than 10 years will find it less of an adventure to seek greener pastures than a younger person who has been in his job for a year. Such a move would almost be like a leap of faith.

This is what Jesus is calling on us to do today: to take the leap of faith with him and trust in the path that he is showing us. In order to do that, we need to leave behind our dependence on material possessions and more so, our old ways of thinking and living. Embracing God is like putting on new glasses — once our eyes are opened, we see a completely different world.

Are we ready to see a whole new world with Jesus today? Let us pray for the courage to take that leap of faith with him. As Christopher Columbus once said, “You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore”.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to shed our fears and give us the courage to take our leap of faith with you.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for being by our side, encouraging us on our journey with you, every step of the way. 

Monday, 25 May – U-Turns

25 May – Pope St Gregory VII

He was born in Tuscany and given the name Hildebrand. He became a monk, and assisted several successive Popes in reforming and purifying the Church. He was elected pope in 1073 and took the name of Gregory VII. He fought single-mindedly to free the Church from harmful influences and dependence on the state. This brought him into conflict with the Emperor Henry IV, who was excommunicated by Gregory, then submitted to him, then changed his mind and besieged and captured Rome. Gregory was “rescued” by the Norman Robert Guiscard, who captured Rome amid scenes of appalling violence, and Gregory had to flee to Salerno, where he died.

– Universalis

________________

Sirach 17:20-28

To those who repent, God permits return,
and he encourages those who were losing hope.
Return to the Lord and leave sin behind,
plead before his face and lessen your offence.
Come back to the Most High and turn away from iniquity,
and hold in abhorrence all that is foul.
Who will praise the Most High in Sheol,
if the living do not do so by giving glory to him?
To the dead, as to those who do not exist, praise is unknown,
only those with life and health can praise the Lord.
How great is the mercy of the Lord,
his pardon on all those who turn towards him!

________________

Mark 10:17-27

Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’

________________

“To those who repent, God permits return.”

I’m sure that most of us have played the board game Monopoly. You spin your rounds, accumulate property, collect rent, build houses and hotels… and every now and then, you pick a Chance card. I remember getting the “Go to Jail” card, on which is written something like “Go straight to jail, do not pass “Go”, do not collect $200”, thereby ending my turn until I can get out of “jail” somehow and rejoin the game.

The way we live our lives can sometimes “imprison” us. Our addictions — to alcohol, cigarettes, to our phone and ipad — dictate our lives; our sins take hold of us. Sometimes we feel trapped. We can achieve so much more in our lives with our God-given gifts, but we don’t because our sins weigh us down. Sometimes the gravity of our wrong-doings gnaw at our conscience and we are ashamed of ourselves. We are ashamed to pray or go to church, thinking that God knows our sins and thus we cannot face up to Him. We hide, just like Adam and Eve did before us; or we deny the sin, or blame others for it. Either way, nothing can ever erase that spot, nothing except for God’s forgiveness.

The fact that we are ashamed shows that we have a moral concept of good and evil. Our shame shows that we are aware of our wrong-doing, and we regret our actions. In today’s reading, God promises U-turns for those who repent. He is a merciful and loving God, and would welcome back into the fold any of His children who were lost, and have now returned. Like the prodigal son who deemed himself unworthy to be called his father’s son, we can and shall be redeemed in God’s presence.

God forgives us all, and wants to save us, despite our sins, numerous as they may be. “Who can be saved?” ask the apostles in the Gospel reading. And Jesus answers, “For men, it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God”.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we come to you bearing the burden of our sins. We lift them up to you and pray for forgiveness and for your mercy, and for the strength to never sin again.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank you for freeing us from our individual prisons of sin, and taking us back into your arms again. We thank you for the liberating feeling of your forgiveness.

 

Sunday, 24 May – Fruits of the Spirit

24 May – Pentecost Sunday

The Day of Pentecost
Today we celebrate the great day of Pentecost when Christ filled the Church with the power of his Spirit and sent it out into the world to bring his peace, joy and forgiveness to all mankind.

 – The Sunday Missal

________________

Acts 2:1-11

When Pentecost day came round, they had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.

Now there were devout men living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, and at this sound they all assembled, each one bewildered to hear these men speaking his own language. They were amazed and astonished. ‘Surely’ they said ‘all these men speaking are Galileans? How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; people from Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya round Cyrene; as well as visitors from Rome – Jews and proselytes alike – Cretans and Arabs; we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.’

________________

Galatians 5:16-25

If you are guided by the Spirit you will be in no danger of yielding to self-indulgence, since self-indulgence is the opposite of the Spirit, the Spirit is totally against such a thing, and it is precisely because the two are so opposed that you do not always carry out your good intentions. If you are led by the Spirit, no law can touch you. When self-indulgence is at work the results are obvious: fornication, gross indecency and sexual irresponsibility; idolatry and sorcery; feuds and wrangling, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels; disagreements, factions, envy; drunkenness, orgies and similar things. I warn you now, as I warned you before: those who behave like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control. There can be no law against things like that, of course. You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires.

Since the Spirit is our life, let us be directed by the Spirit.

________________

John 15:26-27,16:12-15

Jesus said to his disciples:
‘When the Advocate comes,
whom I shall send to you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father,
he will be my witness.
And you too will be witnesses,
because you have been with me from the outset.
‘I still have many things to say to you
but they would be too much for you now.
But when the Spirit of truth comes
he will lead you to the complete truth,
since he will not be speaking as from himself
but will say only what he has learnt;
and he will tell you of the things to come.
He will glorify me,
since all he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.
Everything the Father has is mine;
that is why I said:
All he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.’

________________

“What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness…”

I remember when I attended my first Life in the Spirit weekend. This was shortly before I was baptized. I remember it being a very powerful weekend; it was all very strange and new to me, but very powerful. We were prayed upon and many of us experienced “resting in the Spirit”. I have to admit that I was initially afraid, and I resisted. But when I finally let go, I rested in the Spirit. I cannot explain how it felt like. It completely filled me and it was a very warm feeling that overwhelmed me. Had I continued to resist and be afraid, I would not have experienced what I did that day.

I don’t profess to understand enough about the Holy Spirit to be able to talk about it, except that I know it comes from God. We are all baptized into one body of Christ. We are all parts that make up one body, and because we are of Christ, then we are all also in one Spirit. Our gifts that we receive are from the Holy Spirit, and we are all given unique gifts. We may not know what these gifts are yet, but if we pray about it the Holy Spirit will guide us and show us. The way we use our gifts is entirely up to us but we have to remember that they were given to us to be used for the benefit of others.

I used to wonder about what my gift was. The only gift I knew then was the gift of tongues, and I thought that because I could not speak in tongues maybe that meant I was not “worthy”. But I realize that the Holy Spirit dispenses gifts as it sees fit. Maybe I do not have the gift of tongues or the gift of prophecy, but as today’s reading says, what the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, self-control. These are fruits of the Holy Spirit, and are a result of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives.

We each probably know of times when we were kind or patient with someone, or brought joy to our parents, or loved our children, times when we were gentle with the meek… These are times when we should be convinced that the Holy Spirit works in us. I don’t doubt anymore; rather I pray and hope that the Holy Spirit continues to work in me and helps me to be more like Christ, for I know I am not perfect. I pray always for the presence of the Spirit in my life.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the Holy Spirit to always fill our hearts and souls that we may live lives worthy of Christ. We pray that we won’t resist the fruits of the Spirit, rather help us to magnify them so that we will always walk in the Spirit.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for giving us the help that we need when we call on you. Thank you for the gifts that the Spirit brings.

Saturday, 23 May – Companions on a Journey

23 May 

________________

Acts 28:16-20,30-31

On our arrival in Rome Paul was allowed to stay in lodgings of his own with the soldier who guarded him.

After three days he called together the leading Jews. When they had assembled, he said to them, ‘Brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. They examined me and would have set me free, since they found me guilty of nothing involving the death penalty; but the Jews lodged an objection, and I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I had any accusation to make against my own nation. That is why I have asked to see you and talk to you, for it is on account of the hope of Israel that I wear this chain.’

Paul spent the whole of the two years in his own rented lodging. He welcomed all who came to visit him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ with complete freedom and without hindrance from anyone.

________________

John 21:20-25

Peter turned and saw the disciple Jesus loved following them – the one who had leaned on his breast at the supper and had said to him, ‘Lord, who is it that will betray you?’ Seeing him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘What about him, Lord?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to stay behind till I come, what does it matter to you? You are to follow me.’ The rumour then went out among the brothers that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus had not said to Peter, ‘He will not die’, but, ‘If I want him to stay behind till I come.’

This disciple is the one who vouches for these things and has written them down, and we know that his testimony is true.

There were many other things that Jesus did; if all were written down, the world itself, I suppose, would not hold all the books that would have to be written.

________________

The upright will see His face.

Today’s readings mark the end of the wonderful season of Easter which we have celebrated for the past 7 weeks. In this period of time, what we have discovered is the simple yet profound truth that God loves us, and will allow us to discover what he wants from us through prayer and interaction with the people whom we meet and encounter in our lives.

The reading from the Acts of the Apostles sums up the journey of St Paul and shares with us an important lesson; that we must remain resolute in our effort to teach the Good News of Jesus Christ to all the people around us. This resolution comes from an encounter with the Lord and is something which we must continually renew. Encountering the Lord is not just a one-time experience but one which we can continually experience in prayer and our daily lives.

This encounter is done firstly through our own personal contact with God and to discover what plans He has for us. This is then followed by the participation in common celebrations of the Liturgy which manifests the unity of the Church amongst the people of God. The people make up the people of God in our lives. We therefore need to realise that our Christian journey with the people around us is not a competition per se, but one which allows us to encourage each other along the journey, to support each other in our strengths, especially when we fail.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear Lord, let us stay close to our friends who show us the path towards your love.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who have walked with us in the journey of faith.

Friday, 22 May – Total Obedience

22 May – St Rita

She was born near Cascia, in Umbria in Italy. She was married at the age of 12 despite her frequently repeated wish to become a nun. Her husband was rich, quick-tempered and immoral and had many enemies. She endured his insults, abuse and infidelities for 18 years and bore him two sons, who grew to be like him.

Towards the end of his life she helped to convert her husband to a more pious way of life, but he was stabbed to death by his enemies not long afterwards. He repented before he died and was reconciled to the Church.

Her sons planned to avenge their father’s death. When Rita’s pleas were unavailing, she prayed that God should take their lives if that was the only way to preserve them from the sin of murder. They died of natural causes a year later.

Rita asked to join the convent of St Mary Magdalen at Cascia. She was rejected for being a widow, since the convent was for virgins only, and later given the impossible task of reconciling her family with her husband’s murderers. She carried out the task and was allowed to enter the convent at the age of 36. She remained there until her death at the age of 70.

She is widely honoured as a patron saint of impossible or lost causes.

________________

Acts 25:13-21

King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea and paid their respects to Festus. Their visit lasted several days, and Festus put Paul’s case before the king. ‘There is a man here’ he said ‘whom Felix left behind in custody, and while I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and elders of the Jews laid information against him, demanding his condemnation. But I told them that Romans are not in the habit of surrendering any man, until the accused confronts his accusers and is given an opportunity to defend himself against the charge. So they came here with me, and I wasted no time but took my seat on the tribunal the very next day and had the man brought in. When confronted with him, his accusers did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected; but they had some argument or other with him about their own religion and about a dead man called Jesus whom Paul alleged to be alive. Not feeling qualified to deal with questions of this sort, I asked him if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem to be tried there on this issue. But Paul put in an appeal for his case to be reserved for the judgement of the august emperor, so I ordered him to be remanded until I could send him to Caesar.’

________________

John 21:15-19

After Jesus had shown himself to his disciples and eaten with them, he said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.

‘I tell you most solemnly,
when you were young
you put on your own belt
and walked where you liked;
but when you grow old
you will stretch out your hands,
and somebody else will put a belt round you
and take you where you would rather not go.’

In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me.’

________________

Follow me

I have always admired the way a child follows the directions and instructions of their parents. Some may say it amounts to blind obedience but I believe that there lies within the child, a total trust in the parent to care and protect him/her from the interferences of the world. Sometimes, I believe that this is the type of faith we need to have in Jesus as we learn in today’s readings.

St Peter must have been going through a difficult time in this Reconciliation with Jesus. Indeed, there is a possibility that he may have felt total embarrassment that Jesus had to ask Him the same question three times. The number of times, in my opinion, was not an accident but to allow St Peter to make peace with Jesus for the three times He denied Jesus. St Peter had to restore the trust in God which he denied during the time of the Passion. Is this something which is worth being upset about as indicated in the Gospel?

I believe that making our peace with God is always something difficult because we need to come to terms with our own failings while asking God to heal us. This is definitely a painful experience in our faith journey because we have to acknowledge our own failings. However, such an acknowledgement will make us better believers and followers, because we can truly understand the struggles which the people around us go through. In doing so, they can realise our own failings and use us as examples on their Christian journey towards remaining faithful to God and to receiving our eternal reward.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear Lord, let us acknowledge our failings and allow us to remain faithful to your Word.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who heal us from our past hurts.

Thursday, 21 May – Faithful to Christ

21 May – St Christopher Magallanes and his companions

Cristóbal Magallanes Jara was born in the state of Jalisco in Mexico in 1869. He was ordained priest at the age of 30 and became parish priest of his home town of Totatiche. He took a special interest in the evangelization of the local indigenous Huichol people and founded a mission for them. When government persecution of the Catholic Church began and the seminaries were closed, he opened a small local “auxiliary seminary.” He wrote and preached against armed rebellion but was falsely accused of promoting the Cristero rebellion. He was arrested on 21 May 1927 while on the way to celebrate Mass at a farm. He was executed without a trial, but not before giving his remaining possessions to his executioners and giving them absolution.

With him are celebrated 24 other Mexican martyrs of the early 20th century.

________________

Acts 22:30, 23:6-11

Since the tribune wanted to know what precise charge the Jews were bringing, he freed Paul and gave orders for a meeting of the chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin; then he brought Paul down and stood him in front of them. Now Paul was well aware that one section was made up of Sadducees and the other of Pharisees, so he called out in the Sanhedrin, ‘Brothers, I am a Pharisee and the son of Pharisees. It is for our hope in the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.’ As soon as he said this a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was split between the two parties. For the Sadducees say there is neither resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, while the Pharisees accept all three. The shouting grew louder, and some of the scribes from the Pharisees’ party stood up and protested strongly, ‘We find nothing wrong with this man. Suppose a spirit has spoken to him, or an angel?’ Feeling was running high, and the tribune, afraid that they would tear Paul to pieces, ordered his troops to go down and haul him out and bring him into the fortress.

Next night, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘Courage! You have borne witness for me in Jerusalem, now you must do the same in Rome.’

________________

John 17:20-26

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:
‘Holy Father,
I pray not only for these,
but for those also
who through their words will believe in me.
May they all be one.
Father, may they be one in us,
as you are in me and I am in you,
so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.
I have given them the glory you gave to me,
that they may be one as we are one.
With me in them and you in me,
may they be so completely one
that the world will realise that it was you who sent me
and that I have loved them as much as you loved me.
Father, I want those you have given me
to be with me where I am,
so that they may always see the glory you have given me
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Father, Righteous One,
the world has not known you,
but I have known you,
and these have known that you have sent me.
I have made your name known to them
and will continue to make it known,
so that the love with which you loved me may be in them,
and so that I may be in them.’

________________

May they all be one.

We live in a world of fragmentation and division where everyone wants to be special and different from the rest. This occurs through either a decision to adopt a particular type of dress sense that is out of the norm or, to think in a manner which is unconventional. In doing so, we try to assert our individualism in this world. The readings of today remind us of the importance of remaining faithful to the teachings of the Church and of our belief in Christ.

In the First Reading, St Paul certainly was a man who knew very well the divisions of the doctrine within the Sanhedrin and used it to great effect to save his life. We should not let such divisions occur within our Catholic Church, especially to allow others to come and divide us in our beliefs towards Christ. We need to be careful of people within the Church who seek to destroy it by confusing our understanding of what the doctrines require. Indeed, we can discern the truth of the statements being made by asking the Holy Spirit to guide us in our thinking.

In order to distinguish between the truth and novel inventions seeking to destroy our understanding in the Church, we must remain faithful to prayer, the teachings of our pastors and a continued reading of Sacred Scripture. These actions will allow us to discover what it means to be true Christians, abiding in the knowledge of what God wants us to do.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear Lord, let us always remain faithful to your Holy Word.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who continue to transmit the faith.

Wednesday, 20 May – What Is Love?

20 May – St Bernadino of Siena

Bernardino (“Little Bernard”) was born in Tuscany. His parents died when he was a child. While still a student at the University of Siena he took charge of the hospital there when an epidemic killed most of the staff. Later he looked after a bedridden aunt until her death; and then, at the age of 22, he became a Franciscan.

Inspired by St Vincent Ferrer, he was an energetic and popular preacher and spent years travelling on foot through Italy preaching to enormous audiences. He denounced usury, promoted peace among the warring Italian cities, and worked hard for the reform and discipline of the Franciscan order, and for church unity.

Bernardino’s achievements before he became a Franciscan show what the young can achieve if given the chance. Let us try not to confirm them in a culture of enforced irresponsibility, but to encourage each of them to give to others whatever they have been called into this world to give.

– Universalis

________________

Acts 20:28-38

Paul addressed these words to the elders of the church of Ephesus:

‘Be on your guard for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you the overseers, to feed the Church of God which he bought with his own blood. I know quite well that when I have gone fierce wolves will invade you and will have no mercy on the flock. Even from your own ranks there will be men coming forward with a travesty of the truth on their lips to induce the disciples to follow them. So be on your guard, remembering how night and day for three years I never failed to keep you right, shedding tears over each one of you. And now I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace that has power to build you up and to give you your inheritance among all the sanctified.

‘I have never asked anyone for money or clothes; you know for yourselves that the work I did earned enough to meet my needs and those of my companions. I did this to show you that this is how we must exert ourselves to support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, who himself said, “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.”’

When he had finished speaking he knelt down with them all and prayed. By now they were all in tears; they put their arms round Paul’s neck and kissed him; what saddened them most was his saying they would never see his face again. Then they escorted him to the ship.

________________

John 17:11-19

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:
‘Holy Father,
keep those you have given me true to your name,
so that they may be one like us.
While I was with them,
I kept those you had given me true to your name.
I have watched over them
and not one is lost
except the one who chose to be lost,
and this was to fulfil the scriptures.
But now I am coming to you
and while still in the world I say these things
to share my joy with them to the full.
I passed your word on to them,
and the world hated them,
because they belong to the world
no more than I belong to the world.
I am not asking you to remove them from the world,
but to protect them from the evil one.
They do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth;
your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
I have sent them into the world,
and for their sake I consecrate myself
so that they too may be consecrated in truth.’

________________

There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.

We live in a world of material privileges. Credit card discounts, voucher promotions or even promotional code discounts; all these are ways to entice us into purchasing something. However, the readings of today remind us that we have received the greatest gift — the Love of Jesus Christ.

As Christians, God has shown us the perfect and total way of loving, which is that of sacrifice. By giving up the little material comforts we have for Christ, we will definitely appreciate the sacrifice of love that Christ has shown. This is not done because we want to show Jesus that we truly love Him, but that through our actions to our neighbours, we will demonstrate the great Love He has shown.

The love of Jesus is self-sacrificial and is unlike that of this world, which is selfish. Through continued reflection on the image of Christ, we will discover within ourselves the capacity to love our neighbours as ourselves. This is not an easy task but we certainly can make it there with continued prayer.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear Lord, do let us discover what it means to be another person in Christ.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who show us what it means to love unceasingly.

Tuesday, 19 May – Prisoners of Love

19 May

________________

Acts 20:17-27

From Miletus Paul sent for the elders of the church of Ephesus. When they arrived he addressed these words to them:

‘You know what my way of life has been ever since the first day I set foot among you in Asia, how I have served the Lord in all humility, with all the sorrows and trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. I have not hesitated to do anything that would be helpful to you; I have preached to you, and instructed you both in public and in your homes, urging both Jews and Greeks to turn to God and to believe in our Lord Jesus.

‘And now you see me a prisoner already in spirit; I am on my way to Jerusalem, but have no idea what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit, in town after town, has made it clear enough that imprisonment and persecution await me. But life to me is not a thing to waste words on, provided that when I finish my race I have carried out the mission the Lord Jesus gave me – and that was to bear witness to the Good News of God’s grace.

‘I now feel sure that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will ever see my face again. And so here and now I swear that my conscience is clear as far as all of you are concerned, for I have without faltering put before you the whole of God’s purpose.’

________________

John 17:1-11

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:
‘Father, the hour has come:
glorify your Son
so that your Son may glorify you;
and, through the power over all mankind that you have given him,
let him give eternal life to all those you have entrusted to him.
And eternal life is this:
to know you,
the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
I have glorified you on earth
and finished the work that you gave me to do.
Now, Father, it is time for you to glorify me
with that glory I had with you
before ever the world was.
I have made your name known
to the men you took from the world to give me.
They were yours and you gave them to me,
and they have kept your word.
Now at last they know
that all you have given me comes indeed from you;
for I have given them the teaching you gave to me,
and they have truly accepted this, that I came from you,
and have believed that it was you who sent me.
I pray for them;
I am not praying for the world
but for those you have given me,
because they belong to you:
all I have is yours
and all you have is mine,
and in them I am glorified.
I am not in the world any longer,
but they are in the world,
and I am coming to you.’

________________

And now you see me a prisoner already in Spirit

Someone once commented to me that it is the bars which we set in our hearts that prevent us from seeing God. He was referring to the chains of our past hurts and pains that prevent us from knowing God. I believe that the readings of today allow us to discover the importance of entrusting our lives to God.

In the first reading, St Paul knew that he faced an uncertain future and that what lay ahead was the assurance that God would be with him at every step. This entailed allowing God to be the Master of his life which is the only guaranteed certainty.

The question we need to ask ourselves is whether we are ok to accept this guarantee. It is a life-changing promise but one which allows us to discover the beauty of Christ. In our lives, we depend on confirmation emails, reminder messages or confirmation codes to assure us that our decision is confirmed.

Jesus confirms us in our lives but it is we who need to enable him to work through us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that you allow us to co-operate with you in our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who are living witnesses of your Life.

Monday, 18 May – Courageous Witness

18 May – Pope St. John I

He was born in Tuscany and elected pope in 523. It was a time of high political and religious tension. Theodoric the Ostrogoth, the ruler of Italy, was an Arian, while many of his subjects were Catholics. Initially tolerant, he became increasingly suspicious of the Catholics’ influence and political allegiance – above all, because they naturally had strong links with the Catholicism of the surviving eastern Roman Empire in Constantinople. Moreover, Arians in the eastern Roman Empire were being persecuted by the Catholic emperor, Justin, and they appealed to Theodoric for help.

Pope John I was sent on an embassy to the emperor, to ask for better treatment for the Arians. In this he succeeded; but the enthusiasm with which he was greeted in Constantinople excited Theodoric’s suspicions, and when he returned to Italy Theodoric had him imprisoned and he died from ill-treatment there a few days later.

Pope John I’s career reminds us what tolerance is and is not. Arianism was a dangerous heresy (by making the Son subordinate to the Father it made the Atonement virtually pointless) and there could be no compromise with it – but this did not mean that Arians themselves were to be persecuted for their beliefs. Then, as so often now, it was the state and not the Church that tried to use force to impose uniformity.

– Universalis

________________

Acts 19:1-8

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul made his way overland as far as Ephesus, where he found a number of disciples. When he asked, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ they answered, ‘No, we were never even told there was such a thing as a Holy Spirit.’ ‘Then how were you baptised?’ he asked. ‘With John’s baptism’ they replied. ‘John’s baptism’ said Paul ‘was a baptism of repentance; but he insisted that the people should believe in the one who was to come after him – in other words, Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus, and the moment Paul had laid hands on them the Holy Spirit came down on them, and they began to speak with tongues and to prophesy. There were about twelve of these men.

He began by going to the synagogue, where he spoke out boldly and argued persuasively about the kingdom of God. He did this for three months.

________________ 

John 16:29-33

His disciples said to Jesus, ‘Now you are speaking plainly and not using metaphors! Now we see that you know everything, and do not have to wait for questions to be put into words; because of this we believe that you came from God.’ Jesus answered them:

‘Do you believe at last?
Listen; the time will come – in fact it has come already –
when you will be scattered,
each going his own way and leaving me alone.
And yet I am not alone,
because the Father is with me.
I have told you all this
so that you may find peace in me.
In the world you will have trouble,
but be brave: I have conquered the world.’

________________

In the world you will have trouble, but be brave: I have conquered the world

We seem to live in a world of tremendous troubles. Be it problems at work, at home or in our relationships, there seems to be no end to the issues we encounter. It is easy for us to blame God for our troubles but perhaps we should consider a different perspective.

This perspective is that of using the lens of God to view the issue at hand. This means that we need to offer our day’s challenges to God at the start of the day. Asking God the Holy Spirit to show us the direction what we need to do and to have the courage to do it. In order for us to do so, we should be open to the Spirit’s prompting through reflective contemplation. This means we have to take time in silence to listen to Him as he speaks to us.

Let us take time to ask God to make us open to his prompting and boldly move forward with the plans he has for us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who spread the Word of God.

Sunday, 17 May – Joyful Pain

17 May

________________

Acts 1:15-17,20-26

One day Peter stood up to speak to the brothers – there were about a hundred and twenty persons in the congregation: ‘Brothers, the passage of scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit, speaking through David, foretells the fate of Judas, who offered himself as a guide to the men who arrested Jesus – after having been one of our number and actually sharing this ministry of ours. Now in the Book of Psalms it says:

Let someone else take his office.

‘We must therefore choose someone who has been with us the whole time that the Lord Jesus was travelling round with us, someone who was with us right from the time when John was baptising until the day when he was taken up from us – and he can act with us as a witness to his resurrection.’

Having nominated two candidates, Joseph known as Barsabbas, whose surname was Justus, and Matthias, they prayed, ‘Lord, you can read everyone’s heart; show us therefore which of these two you have chosen to take over this ministry and apostolate, which Judas abandoned to go to his proper place.’ They then drew lots for them, and as the lot fell to Matthias, he was listed as one of the twelve apostles.

________________

1 John 4:11-16

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.

________________

John 17:11-19

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:
‘Holy Father,
keep those you have given me true to your name,
so that they may be one like us.
While I was with them,
I kept those you had given me true to your name.
I have watched over them
and not one is lost
except the one who chose to be lost,
and this was to fulfil the scriptures.
But now I am coming to you
and while still in the world I say these things
to share my joy with them to the full.
I passed your word on to them,
and the world hated them,
because they belong to the world
no more than I belong to the world.
I am not asking you to remove them from the world,
but to protect them from the evil one.
They do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth;
your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
I have sent them into the world,
and for their sake I consecrate myself
so that they too may be consecrated in truth.’

________________

I have watched over them and not one is lost except the one who chose to be lost

Experiencing the feeling of being lost in a foreign country is not a pleasant one. There is the fear of being robbed, of not reaching a particular objective one has set out to reach; even of getting lost and not being found. Would this be the case of the individual asking for trouble himself or just a case of bad luck? I believe the similarities between our behaviour in this case and the message behind today’s readings are a reminder to us on the importance of staying close to God.

Judas chose to be lost because he made the decision to betray Christ and then commit suicide. At first glance, it may seem like a case of guilt. However, I find that it is actually a lack of belief and faith in Christ’s love. Judas chose to believe himself instead of the mercy of God. This could have been resolved in a different way like how St Peter went through the painful experience of forgiveness.

Denying Jesus three times in Our Lord’s time of need would seem to be an unforgivable offence but our Lord chose to reconcile Peter to union with His love. Our love with Christ is a painful one because we need to surrender our hurts and past hurts to Christ. But this process of purification will eventually lead to an anticipation of being in communion with God.

As long as we make the effort to stay with Christ, he will never forget us. Let us take time now to stay in love with God despite our shortcomings.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear Lord, let us remain faithful to you.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who bring us to love with God.