Friday, 17 July – Mercy of God

17 July

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Exodus 11:10-12:14

Moses and Aaron worked many wonders in the presence of Pharaoh. But the Lord made Pharaoh’s heart stubborn, and he did not let the sons of Israel leave his country.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:

‘This month is to be the first of all the others for you, the first month of your year. Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, “On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock, one for each family: one animal for each household. If the household is too small to eat the animal, a man must join with his neighbour, the nearest to his house, as the number of persons requires. You must take into account what each can eat in deciding the number for the animal. It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may take it from either sheep or goats. You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel shall slaughter it between the two evenings. Some of the blood must then be taken and put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten. That night, the flesh is to be eaten, roasted over the fire; it must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled, but roasted over the fire, head, feet and entrails. You must not leave any over till the morning: whatever is left till morning you are to burn. You shall eat it like this: with a girdle round your waist, sandals on your feet, a staff in your hand. You shall eat it hastily: it is a passover in honour of the Lord. That night, I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, man and beast alike, and I shall deal out punishment to all the gods of Egypt, I am the Lord! The blood shall serve to mark the houses that you live in. When I see the blood I will pass over you and you shall escape the destroying plague when I strike the land of Egypt. This day is to be a day of remembrance for you, and you must celebrate it as a feast in the Lord’s honour. For all generations you are to declare it a day of festival, for ever.”’

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Matthew 12:1-8

Jesus took a walk one sabbath day through the cornfields. His disciples were hungry and began to pick ears of corn and eat them. The Pharisees noticed it and said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing something that is forbidden on the sabbath.’ But he said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his followers were hungry – how he went into the house of God and how they ate the loaves of offering which neither he nor his followers were allowed to eat, but which were for the priests alone? Or again, have you not read in the Law that on the sabbath day the Temple priests break the sabbath without being blamed for it? Now here, I tell you, is something greater than the Temple. And if you had understood the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless. For the Son of Man is master of the sabbath.’

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What I want is mercy, not sacrifice.

There was once a story about how St Martin de Porres was reprimanded by his Superior for bringing an injured man into his monastery. This is because he had disobeyed the instruction given to not allow any stranger in, for fear of being infected by the bubonic plague, which was at its height at that point. His reply to the Superior is instructive for all of us:

“Forgive my error, and please instruct me, for I did not know that the precept of obedience took precedence over that of charity.”

The above quotation can certainly direct us in our daily lives and show us the teaching of Jesus in the Gospel passage of today.

God desires us to lean towards His mercy for He loves us. There are certainly laws and regulations within the Catholic Church which many have issues with. Accusations that the Church’s Magisterium is unbending or inflexible may be levelled but we need to realise that these were formulated on the basis of love. Whenever there is a disagreement with these rules, we need to ask ourselves the reason for our response. We need to examine the reasons closely and understand if it is due to our emotions or past hurts that are driving us to behave in a certain manner. The Church is animated by God, the Holy Spirit, who guides Her everyday.

I believe that obedience which results from an act of charity and mercy is what God desires from us. It is not blind obedience which God desires from us but a sincere acknowledgement of our weaknesses and failings, which makes us conscious of our need for His mercy that will result in a genuine desire to know God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Father, we pray for wisdom to discern the meaning of the events in our lives

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all Spiritual Directors

Thursday, 16 July – I AM

16 July

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Exodus 3:13-20

Moses, hearing the voice of God coming from the middle of the bush, said to him, ‘I am to go, then, to the sons of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you.” But if they ask me what his name is, what am I to tell them?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I Am who I Am. This’ he added ‘is what you must say to the sons of Israel: “I Am has sent me to you.”’ And God also said to Moses, ‘You are to say to the sons of Israel: “The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.” This is my name for all time; by this name I shall be invoked for all generations to come.

‘Go and gather the elders of Israel together and tell them, “The Lord, the God of your fathers, has appeared to me, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; and he has said to me: I have visited you and seen all that the Egyptians are doing to you. And so I have resolved to bring you up out of Egypt where you are oppressed, into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land where milk and honey flow.” They will listen to your words, and with the elders of Israel you are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, “The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has come to meet us. Give us leave, then, to make a three days’ journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifice to the Lord our God.” For myself, knowing that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless he is forced by a mighty hand, I shall show my power and strike Egypt with all the wonders I am going to work there. After this he will let you go.’

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Matthew 11:28-30

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

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Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.

We live in a world where we need to keep ourselves very busy. There can be no idle moment because we adhere to the mantra that “Time is money”. However, we need to remind ourselves that as Christians, our time should be spent in Christ. Jesus wants us to embrace Him not because He is selfish and wants us all for himself, but because He loves us and wants the best for us. Time spent with Christ is worth all the gold in the world and the recognition which we crave for because Jesus is our God.

As we move on in our lives, we discover that there are different expectations made from us. We may feel inadequate whenever we assume new positions of responsibility or duty but, like Moses, we can be assured that God is always with us. God said His name was I AM. This is a great assurance to us because we can draw strength from the fact that Jesus appreciates us for who we are and does not want us to suffer alone. God wants us to trust Him and when we do so, we discover the abundance of eternal life, which is our inheritance.

Our role as Christians is to centre ourselves in the mystery of God’s love for us. This requires from us a genuine response of saying ‘Yes’ to the Lord. Let us take time to reflect on what is hindering us from approaching Him and ask Him to heal us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Father, we pray for the courage to admit our weaknesses

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all missionaries

Wednesday, 15 July – Divine Wisdom

15 July – St Bonaventure

He was born at Bagnoregio in Etruria in about 1218. He became a Franciscan in 1243 and studied philosophy and theology at the University of Paris. He became a famous teacher and philosopher, part of the extraordinary intellectual flowering of the 13th century. He was a friend and colleague of St Thomas Aquinas.

At this time the friars were still a new and revolutionary force in the Church, and their radical embracing of poverty and rejection of institutional structures raised suspicion and opposition from many quarters. Bonaventure defended the Franciscan Order and, after he was elected general of the order in 1255, he ruled it with wisdom and prudence. He is regarded as the second founder of the Order.

He declined the archbishopric of York in 1265 but was made cardinal bishop of Albano in 1273, dying a year later in 1274 at the Council of Lyons, at which the Greek and Latin churches were (briefly) reconciled.

Bonaventure wrote extensively on philosophy and theology, making a permanent mark on intellectual history; but he always insisted that the simple and uneducated could have a clearer knowledge of God than the wise.

He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1588 by Pope Sixtus V.

– Universalis

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Exodus 3:1-6,9-12

Moses was looking after the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, priest of Midian. He led his flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in the shape of a flame of fire, coming from the middle of a bush. Moses looked; there was the bush blazing but it was not being burnt up. ‘I must go and look at this strange sight,’ Moses said, ‘and see why the bush is not burnt.’

Now the Lord saw him go forward to look, and God called to him from the middle of the bush. ‘Moses, Moses!’ he said. ‘Here I am,’ Moses answered. ‘Come no nearer,’ he said. ‘Take off your shoes, for the place on which you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your fathers,’ he said, ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ At this Moses covered his face, afraid to look at God.

And the Lord said, ‘The cry of the sons of Israel has come to me, and I have witnessed the way in which the Egyptians oppress them, so come, I send you to Pharaoh to bring the sons of Israel, my people, out of Egypt.’

Moses said to God, ‘Who am I to go to Pharaoh and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?’ ‘I shall be with you,’ was the answer ‘and this is the sign by which you shall know that it is I who have sent you… After you have led the people out of Egypt, you are to offer worship to God on this mountain.’

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Matthew 11:25-27

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

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I must go look at this strange sight

Human wisdom is a gift from God which allows us to discover how he has worked wonders in the created world live in and to continue to use it to glorify His name to others. The mysterious sight of the burning bush which does not burn up may seem illogical to our human senses but we must understand that God is not bound by the laws of science in working His wonders because He is God the creator.

There is a sincere effort by people to continue to plan out our lives to follow a certain order and routine to achieve certain life goals. Indeed perhaps this is a good application of the creative genius of the human mind. However, as children of God, we must always submit to the will of God in all our decisions. This may sometimes mean going against the face of logic and advice from others to engage in a behaviour which seems contradictory. Jesus shares with us in the Gospel that the mysteries of the Faith are often revealed to mere children. As an example, the Marian apparitions in Lourdes and Fatima were all to children and this is because they possessed within them a sincere faith untainted by human doubt and questions.

This world often asks us to balance competing needs made on us but as Christians, we are called to be totally dedicated to God. This dedication is something which we must follow throughout our lives with childlike faith for God loves us and his plans are always for us to grow and blossom.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Father, give us the courage to surrender our will to you

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all priests who help others find direction in their lives.

Tuesday, 14 July – Metanoia

14 July – St Camillus of Lellis

He was born in Italy of a noble family. He became a soldier but his taste for gambling and riotous living eventually lost him everything. At the age of 25 he converted as the result of hearing a sermon. He twice tried to join the Capuchin friars but was rejected because of his poor health. Having had experience of hospitals from the inside, he determined to improve them, and he devoted the rest of his life to the care of the sick. He offered himself to the hospital of San Giacomo in Rome and eventually became its bursar. Hospitals were as filthy, and hospital staff as brutal and inadequate, then as they are in many places today. He introduced many reforms and founded a congregation of priests and lay brothers, the Servants of the Sick (later known as the Camillians) to serve the sick both spiritually and physically. He was ordained priest in 1584. He resigned as head of his congregation in 1607 but continued to look after and visit the sick almost until the day of his death.

– Universalis

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Exodus 2:1-15 

There was a man of the tribe of Levi who had taken a woman of Levi as his wife. She conceived and gave birth to a son and, seeing what a fine child he was, she kept him hidden for three months. When she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him; coating it with bitumen and pitch, she put the child inside and laid it among the reeds at the river’s edge. His sister stood some distance away to see what would happen to him.

Now Pharaoh’s daughter went down to bathe in the river, and the girls attending her were walking along by the riverside. Among the reeds she noticed the basket, and she sent her maid to fetch it. She opened it and looked, and saw a baby boy, crying; and she was sorry for him. ‘This is a child of one of the Hebrews’ she said. Then the child’s sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and find you a nurse among the Hebrew women to suckle the child for you?’ ‘Yes, go’ Pharaoh’s daughter said to her; and the girl went off to find the baby’s own mother. To her the daughter of Pharaoh said, ‘Take this child away and suckle it for me. I will see you are paid.’ So the woman took the child and suckled it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter who treated him like a son; she named him Moses because, she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.’

Moses, a man by now, set out at this time to visit his countrymen, and he saw what a hard life they were having; and he saw an Egyptian strike a Hebrew, one of his countrymen. Looking round he could see no one in sight, so he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. On the following day he came back, and there were two Hebrews, fighting. He said to the man who was in the wrong, ‘What do you mean by hitting your fellow countryman?’ ‘And who appointed you’ the man retorted, ‘to be prince over us, and judge? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Moses was frightened. ‘Clearly that business has come to light’ he thought. When Pharaoh heard of the matter he would have killed Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and made for the land of Midian.

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Matthew 11:20-24

Jesus began to reproach the towns in which most of his miracles had been worked, because they refused to repent.

‘Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard on Judgement day with Tyre and Sidon as with you. And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted as high as heaven? You shall be thrown down to hell. For if the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have been standing yet. And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard with the land of Sodom on Judgement day as with you.’

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And who appointed you to be prince over us and judge?

Judging others seems almost to be a part of human nature. Be it sizing up the other party in an interview, the way others dress at the workplace or even the capability of others compared to us, these are all episodes in which we can learn more about ourselves. Whilst we may engage in the act of judging others, it may be prudent if we discover why we go about on this path. The readings of today remind us of the fundamental need for God to work within us – Repentance.

Repentance is not an abstract concept consigned to the printed words of our Bibles. Instead it is an act which we need to engage in time and again for us to discover what it means to be a child of God. It involves us acknowledging that we have done wrong, even if we do not recognise the effects of this on us. Moses believed he could get away with murder until his sin was revealed by another person. Jesus lamented that the cities refused to repent and hence they brought down punishment upon themselves. We need to see within ourselves the desire to be with God and continue to want to choose him. Ultimately, we have in our possession the ability to choose our own behaviour and hence accept the rewards which come along with it.

Let us pray for the grace to check our deepest being for the areas in which we need to discover what we are holding back from God. He wants to work with us if we allow Him to. Will we be ready to accept this challenge?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Father, we pray for the docility to accept correction.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all priests who possess the ability to forgive sins.

Monday, 13 July – Steadfast Love

13 July – St Henry

He was born in Bavaria in 973 and succeeded to the dukedom at the age of 22. He became Holy Roman Emperor in 1014. He was noted for his support for the reform of the Church and for his encouragement of its missionary activity. He set up many bishoprics, and he and his wife Cunegunda founded many monasteries. He died in 1024 and was canonized by Pope Eugenius III in 1146.

– Universalis

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Exodus 1:8-14,22

There came to power in Egypt a new king who knew nothing of Joseph. ‘Look,’ he said to his subjects ‘these people, the sons of Israel, have become so numerous and strong that they are a threat to us. We must be prudent and take steps against their increasing any further, or if war should break out, they might add to the number of our enemies. They might take arms against us and so escape out of the country.’ Accordingly they put slave-drivers over the Israelites to wear them down under heavy loads. In this way they built the store-cities of Pithom and Rameses for Pharaoh. But the more they were crushed, the more they increased and spread, and men came to dread the sons of Israel. The Egyptians forced the sons of Israel into slavery, and made their lives unbearable with hard labour, work with clay and with brick, all kinds of work in the fields; they forced on them every kind of labour.

Pharaoh then gave his subjects this command: ‘Throw all the boys born to the Hebrews into the river, but let all the girls live.’

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Matthew 10:34-11:1

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be those of his own household.

‘Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.

‘Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.

‘Anyone who welcomes a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes a holy man will have a holy man’s reward.

‘If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.’

When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples he moved on from there to teach and preach in their towns.

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Our help is in the name of the Lord

The Book of Exodus is a wonderful book of how God has set aside his Chosen people and to show his might to the enemies of Israel. The setting of today is how Pharaoh is jealous of the huge size of the Israelite population and subjects them to immense cruelty. The feeling of envy which he showed to the Israelites is indeed terrible because it led to tremendous consequences of suffering for the people. However, the lessons are instructive for us to know that suffering is indeed part of the journey of being a Christian.

One of the things we can be assured of is the length and toughness of suffering which all of us will have to go through. Sometimes we are the source of it and other times it is due to others who want to inflict pain on us for reasons we will never know. I believe that what matters is how we respond to such a circumstance which distinguishes us as Christians. Harbouring hurt takes tremendous energy and it will consume the very being within us, make us feel tired and perhaps cause even greater harm to others. The response in the Responsorial Psalm encourages us to continue to trust in God because our help is in Him.

As we continue on our journey in life, we must remember that suffering for the sake of the Gospel is part of the journey. It may be tough at times, but this is something which we must bear even if it happens within our own houses. Let us continue to offer all our concerns to Christ who will always be with us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Father, we pray for the strength to see you in the midst of our woes.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who hold a lively Faith.

Sunday, 12 July – Be Not Afraid

12 July 

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Amos 7:12-15

Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, said to Amos, ‘Go away, seer;’ get back to the land of Judah; earn your bread there, do your prophesying there. We want no more prophesying in Bethel; this is the royal sanctuary, the national temple.’ ‘I was no prophet, neither did I belong to any of the brotherhoods of prophets,’ Amos replied to Amaziah ‘I was a shepherd, and looked after sycamores: but it was the Lord who took me from herding the flock, and the Lord who said, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

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Ephesians 1:3-14

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ.
Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ,
to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence,
determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ
for his own kind purposes,
to make us praise the glory of his grace,
his free gift to us in the Beloved,
in whom, through his blood, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.
Such is the richness of the grace
which he has showered on us
in all wisdom and insight.
He has let us know the mystery of his purpose,
the hidden plan he so kindly made in Christ from the beginning
to act upon when the times had run their course to the end:
that he would bring everything together under Christ, as head,
everything in the heavens and everything on earth.
And it is in him that we were claimed as God’s own,
chosen from the beginning,
under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things
as he decides by his own will;
chosen to be,
for his greater glory,
the people who would put their hopes in Christ before he came.
Now you too, in him,
have heard the message of the truth and the good news of your salvation,
and have believed it;
and you too have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit of the Promise,
the pledge of our inheritance
which brings freedom for those whom God has taken for his own, to make his
glory praised.

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Mark 6:7-13

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses. They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Do not take a spare tunic.’ And he said to them, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set off to preach repentance; and they cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.

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His help is near for those who fear him and his glory will dwell in our land

The Christian is expected to be a counter-witness to the world because the values for which it stands for and what Christ expects from us is totally different. The readings of today remind us that our faith will never be misplaced as long as we are prepared to hold firm to our beliefs. Prophet Amos stood up for God because he was inspired by God to proclaim the Word to the Israelites. He suffered tremendous persecution during his time because of his beliefs but he continued to do the task which God had asked him to do.

I have always wondered what it is that keeps us from being courageous witnesses of God’s love to the people around us. Is it a fear of embarrassing ourselves? The concern that we have in terms of saving our reputation or just a total irrational fear? St John Paul II’s famous phrase “Be not afraid” is indeed valid when he was alive and even now. Fear is often a paralysing effect on our lives and it impedes us from achieving our full spiritual union with God. St Paul reminds us in the 2nd reading that we are claimed as God’s own. As we go about our daily lives, we sometimes get caught up with the way of the world. This will be a window for sin to enter our hearts and we must take the necessary steps to avoid such a situation.

We can take this opportunity to reflect on the purpose of our lives and how God must be put as the centre of our lives. He must animate all our actions and let us remember that He wants the best for us. However, we must co-operate with him to find fulfilment and happiness in all that we do.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Father, we pray for courage to proclaim your Good News in spite of our own weaknesses.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who hold the faith despite persecution.

Saturday, 11 July – God’s Plans For Us

11 July – St Benedict

Benedict was born in Nursia, in Umbria, and studied in Rome; but he was unable to stomach the dissolute life of the city, and he became a solitary hermit at Subiaco. His reputation spread, and some monks asked him to be their abbot, but they did not like the discipline he imposed and tried to poison him.

Benedict organised various small communities of monks and nuns in various places, including the great monastery of Monte Cassino. He drew up a set of rules to guide the communal life of monasteries, and, though not the first monastic rule ever, the Rule of St Benedict has proved so wise and balanced that it has served as the foundation of practically every attempt at communal living ever since. It recognises that people aim at perfection but often fall well short of it, and aims to be a “rule for beginners” in which even the least perfect and least able can grow in spiritual stature. To visit a Benedictine monastery of almost any kind is to find oneself spending time among a group of people who, by their strivings to live and grow together, have become more and more themselves, as God intended them, instead of being crushed into false uniformity by some idealistic and authoritarian regime.

For those of us in the world, too, the Rule of St Benedict has much to say: it drags our eyes up to the stars but keeps our feet firmly on the ground; it calls us to perfection but keeps us sane.

– Universalis

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Genesis 49:29-33,50:15-26

Jacob gave his sons these instructions, ‘I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me near my fathers, in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave in the field at Machpelah, opposite Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite as a burial-plot. There Abraham was buried and his wife Sarah. There Isaac was buried and his wife Rebekah. There I buried Leah. I mean the field and the cave in it that were bought from the sons of Heth.’

When Jacob had finished giving his instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, and breathing his last was gathered to his people.

Seeing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, ‘What if Joseph intends to treat us as enemies and repay us in full for all the wrong we did him?’ So they sent this message to Joseph: ‘Before your father died he gave us this order: “You must say to Joseph: Oh forgive your brothers their crime and their sin and all the wrong they did you.” Now therefore, we beg you, forgive the crime of the servants of your father’s God.’ Joseph wept at the message they sent to him.

His brothers came themselves and fell down before him. ‘We present ourselves before you’ they said ‘as your slaves.’ But Joseph answered them, ‘Do not be afraid; is it for me to put myself in God’s place? The evil you planned to do me has by God’s design been turned to good, that he might bring about, as indeed he has, the deliverance of a numerous people. So you need not be afraid; I myself will provide for you and your dependants.’ In this way he reassured them with words that touched their hearts.

So Joseph stayed in Egypt with his father’s family; and Joseph lived a hundred and ten years. Joseph saw the third generation of Ephraim’s children, as also the children of Machir, Manasseh’s son, who were born on Joseph’s lap. At length Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die; but God will be sure to remember you kindly and take you back from this country to the land that he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ And Joseph made Israel’s sons swear an oath, ‘When God remembers you with kindness be sure to take my bones from here.’

Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten; they embalmed him and laid him in his coffin in Egypt.

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Matthew 10:24-33

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘The disciple is not superior to his teacher, nor the slave to his master. It is enough for the disciple that he should grow to be like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, what will they not say of his household?

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

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

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The evil you planned to do me has, by God’s design, been turned to good

My former parish priest used to share in his homily that God can write straight on crooked lines. It appears that despite all the great plans and intentions of Man, God can still intervene and create a situation in which we can never expect. The readings of today share with us the wonderful plan of God, which can fit in the lives of those around us.

Joseph’s siblings were rightfully scared that he would hurt them because of the bad things which they had done to him in the past. However, through Divine Providence, they learnt about the importance of the mercy of God in their lives. God cannot be outdone in mercy and this is why we need to realise the importance of co-operating with God’s will. There needs to be an action on our part to want to agree to work with God. This means we need to be willing to be upfront with the belief of our Catholic Faith even if it hurts publicly. We will need to show to others the importance of remaining steadfast in a world where every moral standard is changing.

God comes to us as we are with our flaws and weaknesses. Our flawed self can show to others that Christians understand the difficulties whom others face. He only wants us to accept Him for who He is by giving up our former ways of a sinful life and to love Him. Are we ready to do so?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the courage to surrender our will to you.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who love us just as we are.

Friday, 10 July – Loving God Through Our Lives

10 July 

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Genesis 46:1-7,28-30

Israel left Canaan with his possessions, and reached Beersheba. There he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God spoke to Israel in a vision at night, ‘Jacob, Jacob’, he said. ‘I am here’, he replied. ‘I am God, the God of your father’, he continued. ‘Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I myself will go down to Egypt with you. I myself will bring you back again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.’ Then Jacob left Beersheba. Israel’s sons conveyed their father Jacob, their little children and their wives in the waggons Pharaoh had sent to fetch him.

Taking their livestock and all that they had acquired in the land of Canaan, they went to Egypt, Jacob and all his family with him: his sons and his grandsons, his daughters and his grand-daughters, in a word, all his children he took with him to Egypt.

Israel sent Judah ahead to Joseph, so that the latter might present himself to him in Goshen. When they arrived in the land of Goshen, Joseph had his chariot made ready and went up to meet his father Israel in Goshen. As soon as he appeared he threw his arms round his neck and for a long time wept on his shoulder. Israel said to Joseph, ‘Now I can die, now that I have seen you again, and seen you still alive.’

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Matthew 10:16-23

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Remember, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; so be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves.

‘Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you. ‘Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved. If they persecute you in one town, take refuge in the next; and if they persecute you in that, take refuge in another. I tell you solemnly, you will not have gone the round of the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.’

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The Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you

Fear of public speaking is certainly an issue which many people grapple with. I believe that for us as Catholic Christians, it is perhaps the fear of publicly proclaiming the Word of God to the people around us. The readings today share with us that such a fear is unfounded and that we have Jesus with us who will guide us in what to do.

Jesus has shown us the importance of trusting in Him. Unfortunately, not all of us can remember this point well. Sometimes we go about our own actions and think that this is probably what God wants us to do, resulting in us engaging in behaviours which may not be the most prudent, nor the wisest to engage in. It is prudent for us to pause and ask ourselves if what we are doing is grounded in a solid foundation of love for God and love for our neighbour. The importance of this cannot be overstated because it will allow us to bear with the pain and suffering of persecution which is mentioned in the Gospel. Deepening our prayer life will allow us to trust in God and this will help guide our actions in our daily life.

The love of God must animate all our actions. We need not always speak out loud to the people around us, of how God has worked wonders within us; although, that is certainly one way. The way we treat our parents, siblings, relatives, friends, colleagues and strangers is perhaps the most visible way we can share the Gospel message to the people around us. Let us ask God to help us with this wonderful task.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer:Dear Lord, we pray for the love to share your Word to all around us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all missionaries.

Thursday, 9 July – Freely, Freely

9 July – St Augustine Zhao Rong & his companions

Augustine Zhao Rong was one of the Chinese soldiers who escorted Bishop John Gabriel Taurin Dufresse to his execution. Moved by his patience, he asked to be baptized, and in due course was sent to the seminary and ordained a priest. He was arrested and savagely tortured. He died in 1815.

With him are celebrated 119 of his companions in martyrdom in China between 1648 and 1930 (including Bishop Dufresse).

Official persecution of Christians by the Emperors ceased in 1842, but violent anti-religious sentiments persisted, and in the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, Christians were particularly attacked and many thousands were killed.

– Universalis

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Genesis 44:18-21,23-29,45:1-5

Judah went up to Joseph and said, ‘May it please my lord, let your servant have a word privately with my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself. My lord questioned his servants, “Have you father or brother?” And we said to my lord, “We have an old father, and a younger brother born of his old age. His brother is dead, so he is the only one left of his mother, and his father loves him.” Then you said to your servants, “Bring him down to me that my eyes may look on him.” But you said to your servants, “If your youngest brother does not come down with you, you will not be admitted to my presence again.” When we went back to your servant my father, we repeated to him what my lord had said. So when our father said, “Go back and buy us a little food,” we said, “We cannot go down. If our youngest brother is with us, we will go down, for we cannot be admitted to the man’s presence unless our youngest brother is with us.” So your servant our father said to us, “You know that my wife bore me two children. When one left me, I said that he must have been torn to pieces. And I have not seen him to this day. If you take this one from me too and any harm comes to him, you will send me down to Sheol with my white head bowed in misery.” If I go to your servant my father now, and we have not the boy with us, he will die as soon as he sees the boy is not with us, for his heart is bound up with him. Then your servants will have sent your servant our father down to Sheol with his white head bowed in grief.’

Then Joseph could not control his feelings in front of all his retainers, and he exclaimed, ‘Let everyone leave me.’ No one therefore was present with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers, but he wept so loudly that all the Egyptians heard, and the news reached Pharaoh’s palace.

Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph. Is my father really still alive?’ His brothers could not answer him, they were so dismayed at the sight of him. Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come closer to me.’ When they had come closer to him he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not grieve, do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here, since God sent me before you to preserve your lives.’

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Matthew 10:7-15

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘As you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils. You received without charge, give without charge. Provide yourselves with no gold or silver, not even with a few coppers for your purses, with no haversack for the journey or spare tunic or footwear or a staff, for the workman deserves his keep.

‘Whatever town or village you go into, ask for someone trustworthy and stay with him until you leave. As you enter his house, salute it, and if the house deserves it, let your peace descend upon it; if it does not, let your peace come back to you. And if anyone does not welcome you or listen to what you have to say, as you walk out of the house or town shake the dust from your feet. I tell you solemnly, on the day of Judgement it will not go as hard with the land of Sodom and Gomorrah as with that town.’

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You received without charge, give without charge.

The talents we have received in our lives may all appear to be of our own doing. Be it the wondrous intelligence we have, the great culinary skills or even that of a good voice, we often believe that these traits are our own gifts and sometimes forget that it is God who has granted us the use of these gifts.

One may then wonder why God has put at our disposal these gifts? These gifts are given to us to glorify the name of God to the people around us. Through our intellect, we can share with others the reasons for believing in God and the use of culinary skills could be the starting point for a discussion over a meal on how God has worked within our lives. The voice we possess could be the way in which others hear the Gospel through the joyful proclamation of the mercies and grace which God has granted to us.

We need to realise that the talents we have are meant to be the leaven of God’s word in a world thirsty and hungry for the Good News. Jesus offers to each one of us a wonderful opportunity to enter into a journey of love and communion with Him. This journey will then become for each one of us the source of which we can continue to spread the Word of God to those around us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear Lord, let us discern on how to use the gifts we have to spread your Word.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all Spiritual Directors.

Wednesday, 8 July – Shine, Jesus Shine

8 July 

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Genesis 41:55-57,42:5-7,17-24

When the whole country of Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread. But Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, ‘Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.’ There was famine all over the world. Then Joseph opened all the granaries and sold grain to the Egyptians. The famine grew worse in the land of Egypt. People came to Egypt from all over the world to buy grain from Joseph, for the famine had grown severe throughout the world.

Israel’s sons with others making the same journey went to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan. It was Joseph, as the man in authority over the country, who sold the grain to all comers. So Joseph’s brothers went and bowed down before him, their faces touching the ground. When Joseph saw his brothers he recognised them. But he did not make himself known to them, and he spoke harshly to them. Then he kept them all in custody for three days.

On the third day Joseph said to them, ‘Do this and you shall keep your lives, for I am a man who fears God. If you are honest men let one of your brothers be kept in the place of your detention; as for you, go and take grain to relieve the famine of your families. You shall bring me your youngest brother; this way your words will be proved true, and you will not have to die!’ This they did. They said to one another, ‘Truly we are being called to account for our brother. We saw his misery of soul when he begged our mercy, but we did not listen to him and now this misery has come home to us.’ Reuben answered them, ‘Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you did not listen, and now we are brought to account for his blood.’ They did not know that Joseph understood, because there was an interpreter between them. He left them and wept.

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Matthew 10:1-7

Jesus summoned his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and sickness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, the one who was to betray him. These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them as follows:

‘Do not turn your steps to pagan territory, and do not enter any Samaritan town; go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’

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As you go, proclaim that the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.

If the JOYSG50 thanksgiving mass held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium was an indication of the future of the Catholic church in Singapore, then the kingdom of heaven is truly close a hand. 10,000 Singaporeans gathered to celebrate our past, sanctify our present and get a glimpse into the future as our beloved Archbishop hosted our Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet before celebrating the eucharist with all of us.

After mass, those who staed behind were treated to a 30-minute performance by a young school choir, complete with ballet dancers, P&W singers, dancing priests, singing nuns as well as priests who picked up electric guitars and rhythm guitars as part of the band. The rousing rendition of ‘Shine Jesus, Shine!’ saw our young Catholics lead the congregation in song and dance and we literally raised the roof.

I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit among us as we gathered as one body, young and old alike, to worship our heavenly Father. Never before had I seen our shepherds dancing and singing on stage and in the aisles with unrestrained joy. Truly, our God has touched the hearts of many and revived the church here in Singapore. Indeed, when Fr Simon Pereira spoke before the Archbishop, he reminded us that just as the community grew from over 2000 years ago, Singapore’s Catholic community began in 1821 with a mere 12 people. Today, the community numbers around 360,000 (Singaporeans, PR and migrants) and our churches are packed every Sunday.

The sight of so many young people praising and worshipping at the post-mass performance truly lifted my spirits and showed just how important it is for our youth to be able to worship freely and without fear. For this, we must thank our government for recognising the fact that the church has indeed been integral in Singapore’s evolution over the generations; not just in education, but also in many areas such as healthcare and community building.

Brothers and sisters, the light of Christ has been shining on Singapore since the early 1800s and continues to shine brightly today. We must ensure that as sons and daughters of Christ, we carry on the pioneering work of our Catholic forefathers and live out our faith in our daily lives. Whatever our calling, wherever we serve, we must always carry Christ in our hearts and live fearlessly as His disciples, spreading his Word and His message of love to others.   

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for your light to always shine upon us and through us. We ask that you always bless our priests and nuns who selflessly give their lives in service to you so that your light continues to shine forth on all of us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, heavenly Father, for your blessings upon the Catholic church in Singapore.