Thursday, 12 November – Right Under Your Nose

12 November – Saint Josaphat

He was born in the Ukraine of Orthodox parents. In 1595 the Union of Brest brought the Ruthenian Church into communion with Catholic Rome while still preserving its own liturgy. The result was a schism within the church itself, with one party wanting to remain Orthodox and in the orbit of Moscow and Constantinople, while the other accepted the Union. Matters were complicated by the presence of the Greek Uniates, a remnant of a century-old attempt at church union (who remain a living church to this day).

Josaphat joined the first monastery of the order of St Basil to be united to the Catholic Church: he was the first person to do so. He was ordained priest and, eventually and reluctantly, appointed bishop of Polotsk in 1617. Although Sigismund III Vasa, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, supported the union, the local aristocracy were against it because it threatened their control of ecclesiastical benefices. Plotting with the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, who visited the Ukraine in 1621, they stirred up trouble and as a result Josaphat was murdered by a mob in 1623 while on a pastoral visit to Vitebsk.

– Universalis

________________

Wisdom 7:22-8:1

Within Wisdom is a spirit intelligent, holy,
unique, manifold, subtle,
active, incisive, unsullied,
lucid, invulnerable, benevolent, sharp,
irresistible, beneficent, loving to man,
steadfast, dependable, unperturbed,
almighty, all-surveying,
penetrating all intelligent, pure
and most subtle spirits;
for Wisdom is quicker to move than any motion;
she is so pure, she pervades and permeates all things.
She is a breath of the power of God,
pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;
hence nothing impure can find a way into her.
She is a reflection of the eternal light,
untarnished mirror of God’s active power,
image of his goodness.
Although alone, she can do all;
herself unchanging, she makes all things new.
In each generation she passes into holy souls,
she makes them friends of God and prophets;
for God loves only the man who lives with Wisdom.
She is indeed more splendid than the sun,
she outshines all the constellations;
compared with light, she takes first place,
for light must yield to night,
but over Wisdom evil can never triumph.
She deploys her strength from one end of the earth to the other,
ordering all things for good.

________________ 

Luke 17:20-25

Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was to come, Jesus gave them this answer, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God does not admit of observation and there will be no one to say, “Look here! Look there!” For, you must know, the kingdom of God is among you.’

He said to the disciples, ‘A time will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man and will not see it. They will say to you, “Look there!” or, “Look here!” Make no move; do not set off in pursuit; for as the lightning flashing from one part of heaven lights up the other, so will be the Son of Man when his day comes. But first he must suffer grievously and be rejected by this generation.’

________________

…when the kingdom of God was to come

When are we going?” “Is it time yet?” Each year, I’d pester my parents with these incessant questions. When I was a young child, I looked forward to holidays by the beach.

My uncle worked in the government sector and one of the benefits was being able to utilise one of the company’s huge 2-storey holiday bungalows in Changi. It could fit in 4 families in its huge space. It was literally maybe 15 metres to the beach and the sprawling garden in front of the bungalows were tree-lined and very serene. We would pack ourselves away for a week; together with my uncles, aunts and cousins. Mom and her sisters would be cooking up a storm, while the kids and uncles played carrom, Monopoly or just ran around outside. And there was always the barbeque to look forward to.

One of my fondest memories was that of our then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew jogging past our bungalow with his entourage of bodyguards. He was very obliging and waved to us children. The PM’s private bungalow was located next to ours.

So each year, I’d ask the question “When are we going?”

Like children, the Pharisees were impatient and asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was coming. In their minds, the coming of God would be at a specific date and time. God would be heralded by sounding trumpets with fanfare, a huge production to welcome the Messiah King. However, this was not so. The Pharisees failed to understand what Jesus was telling them. The kingdom of God is among you. It was right in front of them; present in, and through the very person of Jesus.

He is the living embodiment of God’s loving power – revealed in His teachings, in the healing of the sick, in His compassion for sinners and outcasts, in His freeing of the people who were under bondage of evil spirits. These were clear examples that God’s reign is among us.

Many times, we seek the things of great significance in the furthest, most out of the way places. However, the very things we seek are sometimes right under our noses. God is already deeply rooted in our hearts, through the presence of Jesus who dwells within us.

Can we see the very presence of Jesus in our daily lives? Through the person who lent you a listening ear when you were at a low point of your life? The colleague whom you could not quite see eye to eye with, who helps you out on a project with impossible deadlines? The people in your church who gathered around you when you had to care for an ailing parent? And you, my brothers and sisters, you were the face of Jesus when you put food on the table for that needy family. Whenever people reflect love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, joy, peace in their lives…… there the Kingdom of God lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, give us eyes to see and ears to hear. Let us be fully aware of your presence in our everyday existence. Let us also be the embodiment very presence of God when we show love and mercy to our fellow brothers and sisters.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for reminding us that you are present in our lives in more ways than we realize.  Especially in the people you send into our lives – through their words of encouragement, their silent acts of love. Thank you for assuring us of your constant presence in our midst.

 

Wednesday, 11 November – Walking in Faith

11 November – St Martin of Tours

He was born in the Roman province of Pannonia (approximating to the western half of modern Hungary) in about 316 and was educated at Pavia in Italy. He was baptized, left the army and after spending some time as a hermit on an island off the Ligurian coast, founded a monastery at Ligugé in western France, where he lived a monastic life guided by St Hilary. Later he was ordained priest and became bishop of Tours. In his actions he gave an example of what a good shepherd should be. He founded other monasteries, educated the clergy, and preached the Gospel to the poor. He died in 397.

The famous story about St Martin is that while a soldier in Amiens he gave half of his military cloak to a beggar and later had a dream in which the beggar revealed himself as Christ.

– Universalis

________________

Wisdom 6:1-11

Listen, kings, and understand;
rulers of remotest lands, take warning;
hear this, you who have thousands under your rule,
who boast of your hordes of subjects.
For power is a gift to you from the Lord,
sovereignty is from the Most High;
he himself will probe your acts and scrutinise your intentions.

If, as administrators of his kingdom, you have not governed justly
nor observed the law,
nor behaved as God would have you behave,
he will fall on you swiftly and terribly.
Ruthless judgement is reserved for the high and mighty;
he lowly will be compassionately pardoned,
the mighty will be mightily punished.
For the Lord of All does not cower before a personage,
he does not stand in awe of greatness,
since he himself has made small and great
and provides for all alike;
but strict scrutiny awaits those in power.

Yes, despots, my words are for you,
that you may learn what wisdom is and not transgress;
for they who observe holy things holily will be adjudged holy,
and, accepting instruction from them, will find their defence in them.
Look forward, therefore, to my words;
yearn for them, and they will instruct you.

________________ 

Luke 17:11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered one of the villages, ten lepers came to meet him. They stood some way off and called to him, ‘Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.’ When he saw them he said, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ Now as they were going away they were cleansed. Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. This made Jesus say, ‘Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner.’ And he said to the man, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’

________________

Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.

I went for the Sacrament of Reconciliation on All Saints’ Day and ended up having a short conversation with my parish priest, who, before giving me absolution, asked when was the last time I took a holiday. He felt that I was getting burnt out from work and he said that I should seriously take some time off for myself just to recharge spiritually. This was after I had told him that I hadn’t even touched my leave allocation for my current year and still had a few days leave from 2014 to clear.

As I went back to my pew to say my penance and await the start of mass, I looked at the huge stained glass mural behind the altar and began to marvel at the piece. Mind you, it has been there for years and each time I look at it, I wonder how the artists could have conceived such a wonderful piece. That particular Sunday, however, I simply marvelled and gave thanks to the Lord for forgiving me and for sending me His message through my priest. And while one piece of advice was to not take leave just to serve in retreats, I could hear Him speak to my heart, telling me that I needed to exercise my faith more deeply and that I should spend more time with Him.

Most times, after exiting the confessional, I tend to just head straight to the pew and say my penance without really reflecting on His message for me. And just like the nine lepers who went away and never came back, we sometimes tend to take the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness for granted. So while we may know that He has forgiven us, I myself have never truly thanked Him each time. Whether it is a sign of a dwindling prayer life or just ‘spiritual dryness’ in general, I recognise that I am not being burnt out by work. The flame in me is beginning to wane because I have not tended to my spiritual self and have not been feeding it properly. I guess all the accumulated leave (I will have 48 days next year) will come in handy either for a spiritual pilgrimage or a silent retreat. I have wanted to do the Walk of St James after reading about it and perhaps next year is as good a time as any as I celebrate the big 5-0.

Brothers and sisters, for those of us serving in ministry and, especially for those ministering to fellow Christians who are wounded and hurt, we must always remember to tend to ourselves and to always give thanks to the Lord for his tender mercies and abundant graces. We must be like the leper who turned back to praise God whenever we are forgiven for He has never abandoned us and has always walked with us, at times, carrying us upon His shoulders. I am reminded of my vision of Christ during a retreat I attended in Sept 2011, when He lovingly put His arm around my sagging shoulders and said ‘Come, walk with me.’ Since then, I have always found comfort in that vision and I walk forward each day safe in the knowledge that He is looking out for me, no matter what hurdles come my way.     

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for your loving kindness and mercy. Though we sometimes take your forgiveness for granted, we know that you are always waiting for us with open arms, ever ready to embrace us in spite of our sinfulness, warts and all.

Thanksgiving: We thank you dear Lord, for sustaining us and giving us spiritual nourishment for we are poor in spirit.

 

Tuesday, 10 November – Call of Duty

10 November – Pope St Leo the Great

He was born in Etruria and became Pope in 440. He was a true shepherd and father of souls. He constantly strove to keep the faith whole and strenuously defended the unity of the Church. He repelled the invasions of the barbarians or alleviated their effects, famously persuading Attila the Hun not to march on Rome in 452 and preventing the invading Vandals from massacring the population in 455. He left many doctrinal and spiritual writings behind and a number of them are included in the Office of Readings to this day. He died in 461.

– Universalis

________________

Wisdom 2:23-3:9

God made man imperishable,
he made him in the image of his own nature;
it was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world,
as those who are his partners will discover.

But the souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God,
no torment shall ever touch them.
In the eyes of the unwise, they did appear to die,
their going looked like a disaster,
their leaving us, like annihilation;
but they are in peace.
If they experienced punishment as men see it,
their hope was rich with immortality;
slight was their affliction, great will their blessings be.
God has put them to the test
and proved them worthy to be with him;
he has tested them like gold in a furnace,
and accepted them as a holocaust.
When the time comes for his visitation they will shine out;
as sparks run through the stubble, so will they.
They shall judge nations, rule over peoples,
and the Lord will be their king for ever.
They who trust in him will understand the truth,
those who are faithful will live with him in love;
for grace and mercy await those he has chosen.

________________ 

Luke 17:7-10

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal immediately”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper laid; make yourself tidy and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink yourself afterwards”? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”’

________________

…we have done no more than our duty.

At events involving my President or members of my senior management, I always make sure that I am around to receive, greet and attend to them until they leave. And while they always tell me it is not necessary to see them off, I feel it is my duty to ensure that they leave an event or official function with a proper sendoff. For me, it is neither a chore nor a way of gaining ‘brownie points’; it is my duty.

Some of my peers have remarked that I am always busy running around and, in some cases, have sympathised with me on the sacrifice of time that I have to make. Sometimes, there is a hint of pity in their tone but I always say that I am just doing my job. And while I have heard of counterparts in other organisations who do not even receive a word of thanks or acknowledgement from their bosses, I am lucky that mine always gives me a ‘Thank you’ or a squeeze on the arm to acknowledge my efforts.

And so, my brothers and sisters, just as we are each called to perform our daily duties, we must also bear in mind our duty to ourselves. Many of us go about our work mechanically, never once asking ourselves if indeed we are happy doing it. Because apart from our remuneration, we also crave a word of thanks or a gesture from our bosses. And when that is lacking, we feel taken for granted, wallowing in self-pity.

Today, Jesus is reminding us that whatever we do, be it at home, in the office or in ministry, we are servants called to work in the Lord’s vineyard. We must approach our work without any sense of entitlement or inflated expectations. For ‘it was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world’ (Wis 2:24A) and we should obey the Lord and be attentive to His commands; for He is putting us to the test and our reward will not be of this earth but in His kingdom, where we will ‘shine out’ and ‘live with him in love’.

Brothers and sisters, as the Lord puts us through the furnace here on earth and moulds us daily into His image, let us not seek the glory and recognition of others. Instead, let us be content and to trust in Him so that when the time comes, we will receive the grace and mercy that He has already given us in abundance…and more.  

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord God, help us to go through each day answering your call in humble obedience, not craving the praise and recognition of others. 

Thanksgiving: Heavenly father, we give thanks and praise to you for your abundant blessings, graces and mercy.

 

Monday, 9 November – Holy Work of Art

9 November – Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

The Lateran Basilica was built by the Emperor Constantine on the Lateran Hill in Rome in about 324. The feast of its dedication has been celebrated in Rome on this date since the twelfth century. In honour of the basilica, “the mother and head of all the churches of the City and the World,” the feast has been extended to the whole Roman Rite as a sign of unity and love towards the See of Peter, which, as St Ignatius of Antioch said in the second century, “presides over the whole assembly of charity.”

– Universalis

________________

Ezekiel 47:1-2,8-9,12

The angel brought me to the entrance of the Temple, where a stream came out from under the Temple threshold and flowed eastwards, since the Temple faced east. The water flowed from under the right side of the Temple, south of the altar. He took me out by the north gate and led me right round outside as far as the outer east gate where the water flowed out on the right-hand side. He said, ‘This water flows east down to the Arabah and to the sea; and flowing into the sea it makes its waters wholesome. Wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live. Fish will be very plentiful, for wherever the water goes it brings health, and life teems wherever the river flows. Along the river, on either bank, will grow every kind of fruit tree with leaves that never wither and fruit that never fails; they will bear new fruit every month, because this water comes from the sanctuary. And their fruit will be good to eat and the leaves medicinal.’

________________ 

1 Corinthians 3:9-11,16-17

You are God’s building. By the grace God gave me, I succeeded as an architect and laid the foundations, on which someone else is doing the building. Everyone doing the building must work carefully. For the foundation, nobody can lay any other than the one which has already been laid, that is Jesus Christ.

Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.

________________ 

John 2:13-22

Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money changers sitting at their counters there. Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.’ Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: Zeal for your house will devour me. The Jews intervened and said, ‘What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?’ Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary: are you going to raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said.

________________

You are God’s building

Today’s feast commemorates the anniversary of the dedication of the Pope’s Cathedral in Rome. It may seem strange as to why we should be celebrating a feast which is so distant and far away. I believe the celebration of this feast will remind us of at least two of the four marks of the Church which is — One and Catholic.

We may be separated by geography from Rome, but we are certainly one whole. Christ is the Head of the Church and we, as its members of this body, will then have the privilege of being part of a faith which all believers accept to be true. Catholic, which means universal, makes us part of a Church to which we can find parishes throughout the world. Unlike our separated brethren, it is possible to find a Catholic Church in every major city and even in rural villages. But the feast of today is not intended to be a celebration of bricks and mortar but, rather, it is one where we celebrate the living stones which make it up, that is, all the believers.

St Paul reminds us in the second reading that we are God’s temple, and that His spirit lives within us. This feast reminds us that we also need to honour the spirit of God within us and not subject it to grief as a result of sin and evil. As we continue with our lives, let us pause to ask God to rekindle within us the spirit of fervour within us to continue to serve Him. Just as we celebrate this great feast of a building, let us pray for the living buildings of our bodies that we may continue to worship God in sincerity and love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we give thanks for such a wonderful faith which we possess. 

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to God for the gift of faith.

 

Sunday, 8 November – Giving Till It Hurts

8 November

________________

1 Kings 17:10-16

Elijah the Prophet went off to Sidon. And when he reached the city gate, there was a widow gathering sticks; addressing her he said, ‘Please bring me a little water in a vessel for me to drink.’ She was setting off to bring it when he called after her. ‘Please’ he said ‘bring me a scrap of bread in your hand.’ ‘As the Lord your God lives,’ she replied ‘I have no baked bread, but only a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jug; I am just gathering a stick or two to go and prepare this for myself and my son to eat, and then we shall die.’ But Elijah said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, go and do as you have said; but first make a little scone of it for me and bring it to me, and then make some for yourself and for your son. For thus the Lord speaks, the God of Israel:

“Jar of meal shall not be spent,
jug of oil shall not be emptied,
before the day when the Lord sends
rain on the face of the earth.”’

The woman went and did as Elijah told her and they ate the food, she, himself and her son. The jar of meal was not spent nor the jug of oil emptied, just as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.

________________ 

Hebrews 9:24-28

It is not as though Christ had entered a man-made sanctuary which was only modelled on the real one; but it was heaven itself, so that he could appear in the actual presence of God on our behalf. And he does not have to offer himself again and again, like the high priest going into the sanctuary year after year with the blood that is not his own, or else he would have had to suffer over and over again since the world began. Instead of that, he has made his appearance once and for all, now at the end of the last age, to do away with sin by sacrificing himself. Since men only die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, too, offers himself only once to take the faults of many on himself, and when he appears a second time, it will not be to deal with sin but to reward with salvation those who are waiting for him.

________________ 

Mark 12:38-44

In his teaching Jesus said, ‘Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted obsequiously in the market squares, to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets; these are the men who swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers. The more severe will be the sentence they receive.’

He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the treasury, and many of the rich put in a great deal. A poor widow came and put in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’

________________

[B]ut she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.

There was once a priest who mentioned in his homily that to love is to give, and it is to give up. Love requires us to be generous with the people all around us, and this sometimes means that we will have to give up the possessions we have. These possessions do not only refer to material possessions, i.e. money and property, but also emotions, peoples and other feelings which we may have. The readings of today remind us of the importance of such an approach.

The widow in the first reading was generous to the prophet Elijah. She was willing to offer the little water and even the food, if she had any. It was this intent and spirit of generosity which made Elijah assure her that she will have enough food to last her throughout the terrible drought that befell the land of Israel, during the reign of King Ahab. Generosity should not take place only when we have plenty, but also when we have nothing. I believe that the true mark of a Christian is when he can offer to share whatever little he has with the people around them.

Jesus reminds us in the Gospel that being generous is not a way for us to win favour with man, but for us to exercise a spirit of love to the people around us. This means that if it is material possessions that hinder us from a deeper relationship with God, then we need to learn to give that up, so that we can truly discover what God wants of us. Perhaps it is more difficult for us to give up an emotion; a feeling of resentment or hurt which has been inflicted on us which we must give up. Holding on to these feelings will not allow us to progress in our Christian journey of deepening our relationship with God. Let us take time today to pray to God to bring up all things that hinder us from being close to him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please give us a spirit of generosity to all whom we meet 

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to God for all the things we have.

Saturday, 7 November – Serving 1, Not 2 Masters

7 November

________________

Romans 16:3-9,16,22-27

My greetings to Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked death to save my life: I am not the only one to owe them a debt of gratitude, all the churches among the pagans do as well. My greetings also to the church that meets at their house.

Greetings to my friend Epaenetus, the first of Asia’s gifts to Christ; greetings to Mary who worked so hard for you; to those outstanding apostles Andronicus and Junias, my compatriots and fellow prisoners who became Christians before me; to Ampliatus, my friend in the Lord; to Urban, my fellow worker in Christ; to my friend Stachys; Greet each other with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.

I, Tertius, who wrote out this letter, greet you in the Lord. Greetings from Gaius, who is entertaining me and from the whole church that meets in his house. Erastus, the city treasurer, sends his greetings; so does our brother Quartus.

Glory to him who is able to give you the strength to live according to the Good News I preach, and in which I proclaim Jesus Christ, the revelation of a mystery kept secret for endless ages, but now so clear that it must be broadcast to pagans everywhere to bring them to the obedience of faith. This is only what scripture has predicted, and it is all part of the way the eternal God wants things to be. He alone is wisdom; give glory therefore to him through Jesus Christ for ever and ever. Amen.

________________ 

Luke 16:9-15

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?

‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and laughed at him. He said to them, ‘You are the very ones who pass yourselves off as virtuous in people’s sight, but God knows your hearts. For what is thought highly of by men is loathsome in the sight of God.’

________________

….but God knows your hearts

In today’s reading, Jesus tells us that we cannot be both wealthy and serve the Lord, as if God and money are in opposing teams. It calls to mind the parable of the rich young man who did not want to give up his wealth when Jesus asked him to give it all up and to follow Him.

Often, something else becomes the master of our lives. For those of us who consider Jesus as that master, they are already on the right path. But some of us have other masters or idols — it could be material wealth, as stated in the gospel; or it could be possessions, an addiction, or anything that we cannot give up and perhaps idolise. It could even be a person as well. At a retreat, one priest said that these are the drama series that the elderly watch habitually and, for the young adults, it is the handphones they cannot seem to put down. Even while worshipping in church, we observe people who are using their phones when it should be time that we dedicate towards worshipping God. Why do we allow our attention and time to be divided, to the extent that God is not at the centre of our lives, and no longer the focus during the Eucharistic celebration?

During our time of worship at mass and in our personal prayer time, what is robbing us from this union with our Lord? If we somethimes feel that we do not have the time for prayer nor for our families, what is getting in the way of this? If Jesus asks us to let go of everything and everyone today, will we still hold something back? That is the thing we need to be aware of as the other master. We need to remember at all times, that everything we have is a gift from God — people, possessions, desires, dreams  — all good things come from God. Hence the very things that hold us back may not necessarily be bad; though it could be for some of us. However, God has blessed us with wisdom so that we can let go and let God.

We can fool others by portraying a certain image of ourselves but we need to be reassured that we need not wear a mask and the Lord who created us knows us as we are –He knows our hearts.

Being in a relationship is a sort of esteemed status and often, I have encountered people advising me to find someone who would ‘love me’. The terms of love and what this love means is not seen as what God intended for a man and his wife. Cohabitation, pre-marital unions, same sex relationships are sadly considered as a means to happiness. If we are in these relationships, we know that we are not living in a state of grace and that, by our own doing, we are applying ungodly masters in our lives.

Today, let us give to God the other master which we are serving. Let us decide to be virtuous and righteous by everything we think, say and do. Let us remember that our Saviour King was born in a stable to a carpenter and his wife — a humble state which He assumed so that we could be made rich. Born of human parents and suffering death on the cross, He showed us that He held nothing back, so that we could be together with Him in eternity and so that we are made one with Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Father, teach us to let you be the Lord of our lives by letting go of anything that comes in between us and the plans that you have for us. Show us what it means to be in loving obedience to you.

Thanksgiving: Lord, every day we will bless your name and we will praise your name forever. Great are you and highly to be praised.

 

Friday, 6 November – You Are Full of Goodness

6 November

________________

Romans 15:14-21

My brothers, I am quite certain that you are full of good intentions, perfectly well instructed and able to advise each other. The reason why I have written to you, and put some things rather strongly, is to refresh your memories, since God has given me this special position. He has appointed me as a priest of Jesus Christ, and I am to carry out my priestly duty by bringing the Good News from God to the pagans, and so make them acceptable as an offering, made holy by the Holy Spirit.

I think I have some reason to be proud of what I, in union with Christ Jesus, have been able to do for God. What I am presuming to speak of, of course, is only what Christ himself has done to win the allegiance of the pagans, using what I have said and done by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus all the way along, from Jerusalem to Illyricum, I have preached Christ’s Good News to the utmost of my capacity. I have always, however, made it an unbroken rule never to preach where Christ’s name has already been heard. The reason for that was that I had no wish to build on other men’s foundations; on the contrary, my chief concern has been to fulfil the text: Those who have never been told about him will see him, and those who have never heard about him will understand.

________________ 

Luke 16:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘There was a rich man and he had a steward denounced to him for being wasteful with his property. He called for the man and said, “What is this I hear about you? Draw me up an account of your stewardship because you are not to be my steward any longer.” Then the steward said to himself, “Now that my master is taking the stewardship from me, what am I to do? Dig? I am not strong enough. Go begging? I should be too ashamed. Ah, I know what I will do to make sure that when I am dismissed from office there will be some to welcome me into their homes.”

Then he called his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?” “One hundred measures of oil” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond; sit down straight away and write fifty.” To another he said, “And you, sir, how much do you owe?” “One hundred measures of wheat” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond and write eighty.”

‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness. For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.’

________________

Those who have never been told about him will see him, and those who have never heard about him will understand.

If we are to consider ourselves as belonging to God, then we cannot deny that we are full of Goodness. This may sound like we are an improved milk formula, but let us take a minute to reflect on the goodness within us. How can we exploit this goodness for God’s kingdom?

In today’s gospel, the squandering steward chose to prove his worthiness and capability to his master by acting prudently as the situation demanded, so that he could remain secure in his position as the steward, and so that his future could be secured. There is a cue we can take from this once dishonest steward.

If we have ‘squandered’ away our morals or talents, we can start to make amends by living a life of dignity and offering our talents for the glory of God, and to the service of others. Have we been too laid back with the call of our Father? Is He calling us for a greater intimacy with Him? Is He calling us to become a religious or to enter into married life? What is holding us back from this invitation? Surely we can find a prudent way to answer His call, which is the perfect path for us. God will not call us to do something wrong or deceitful. We have to learn to trust Him and follow Him.

The steward in today’s gospel realised that it was worth coaxing his master, as a means to change his reputation and alter his status. Are we sometimes too proud to admit that we need a change of heart? That we need to let go of certain ways so that we too can gain a renewed image, just like the steward did when he became the prudent one, rather than the dishonest one?

Today, let us pledge to do all it takes to return to His loving embrace. Let us look into our lives and ensure that our lives are ‘honesty proof’, that we are honest in all our dealings and relationships so that others who come in contact with us will know Our God whom they have not seen or heard of.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer:Father God, help us to recognise your mercy and give us the wisdom to return to you. Help us to be vessels in which your love is perfected and for this we need your help to be with us as we strive daily to keep your word, O Lord. 

Thanksgiving: All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God. Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands; break into song; sing praise.

 

Thursday, 5 November – 1 Beloved Sinner vs 99 Righteous People

5 November

________________

Romans 14:7-12

The life and death of each of us has its influence on others; if we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord, so that alive or dead we belong to the Lord. This explains why Christ both died and came to life, it was so that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. This is also why you should never pass judgement on a brother or treat him with contempt, as some of you have done. We shall all have to stand before the judgement seat of God; as scripture says: By my life – it is the Lord who speaks – every knee shall bend before me, and every tongue shall praise God. It is to God, therefore, that each of us must give an account of himself.

________________ 

Luke 15:1-10

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘What man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” he would say “I have found my sheep that was lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.

‘Or again, what woman with ten drachmas would not, if she lost one, light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly till she found it? And then, when she had found it, call together her friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” she would say “I have found the drachma I lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.’

________________

If we live, we live for the Lord and if we die, we die for the Lord.

St Paul certainly has a way of capturing the essence of our identity in Christ and our place in God’s family. If we live, we live for the Lord and if we die we die for the Lord, so then if we live or we die we are the Lord’s. Why then do we judge others and look down on others?

Personally I think unresolved hurts and baggage, pride and self-righteousness can cause us to judge others and look down on them. I sometimes find myself looking down on others only to realise that people of status and virtue are truly humble and are ‘real’. It requires a change of heart on my part to see everyone as a child of God, and to ask for the grace to see them as those made in His image and likeness.

One of my friends was relating her anger and disappointment about a guy she dated, concluding that she hates all men. During the discussion, we both discovered that even those who persecute us and hurt us deeply are made in His perfect image. Being made in the image of Christ warrants love, grace and acceptance. We are His, so we have to love like Him, live like Him and even be prepared to die like Him. There is no better way for us to do this than by worshipping him on bended knee and confessing His majesty.

When we are tempted to judge the sinners among us, let us remember that we are not without sin ourselves; we are, but with different sins. We are not in a competition for ‘righteousness’ because we were made righteous by the Lamb of God and not by our own merit. The parable of the one lost sheep is a great reminder of how the Lord is after each of our hearts. He wants us to be repentant and completely in union with Him. Even if he has 99 cardinals and priests at his altar, he has, and continues to pursue the sinful me/us.

His love for us is so great that He has prepared a place in His perfect Home for us. He is truly interested in the ‘happily ever after’ with each of us – the sinner, the righteous, we are all His. He wants us all safe, just as a shepherd herds His sheep and the widow looks for that one lost coin — He is after us at all cost. How do we know this? He continues to do it for us every minute of the day, even while we sleep and if, for some reason, we are not able to see His hands in our life, it is impossible to deny what he did for us that day at Calvary.

Today, let us get real with our walk with Christ. Is there any area in our life where we do not feel His presence, His gentle touch and His coaxing voice? Let us allow Him in, for right now is the perfect time. Any delay on our part only causes more pain within us and creates a barrier between the Lord and us.

What is happening in our relationships? Is there someone that we are judging or have judged? Let us pray for this son or daughter of God, that we are able love and respect this person. It is clearly not our place to decide that this person whom we look down upon, whether in the past, currently or in the future, is not worthy of our acceptance. For each of us is made worthy by Christ.

Do we apply the same standards of the 1 coin and 1 sheep with our family members? Or are we tempted to say that we have just grown apart? Are we ‘unfriending’ our friends because we are self-righteous to an extent that this has become our right?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, cleanse us from the habit of judgment and condemnation. Help us to remember that you did not judge us and help to be more like you in our relationships. Guard all our relationships so that in those relationships, it will be reflected that we are truly yours.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we want to gaze upon your loveliness and be residents of your holy temple. As we wait on you, we believe that we shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living. Thank you for consistently pursuing us with your perfect Love.

 

Wedesday, 4 November – Love is the Law

4 November – St Charles Borromeo

Charles (1538-1584) was born to a wealthy, noble family, the third of six children, and the son of Count Giberto II Borromeo and Marghertita de’ Medici. He was the nephew of Pope Pius IV. He suffered from a speech impediment, but studied in Milan, and at the University of Pavia, at one point studying under the future Pope Gregory XIII.

He became a civil and canon lawyer at the age of 21, and a cleric at Milan, taking the habit on Oct 13, 1547. He became Abbot of three different abbeys until Jan 13, 1560. He was protonotary apostolic participantium and referendary of the papal court to Pope Pius IV. He was also a member of the counsulta for the administration of the Papal States on Jan 20, 1560. He was appointed abbot commendatario for an abbey in Portugal, and an abbey in Flanders on Jan 27, 1560.

On Jan 31, 1560, he was apostolic administrator of Milan, Italy. On Feb 8, 1560, then a papal legate to Bologna and Romandiola for two years beginning on Apr 26, 1560. He was made a deacon on Dec 21, 1560, and appointed Vatican Secretary of State. He was made an honorary citizen of Rome on Jul 1, 1561, and founded the “Accademia Vaticana” in 1562.

He was finally ordained on Sep 4, 1563, and helped reopen the Council of Trent, and participated in its sessions during 1562 and 1563. He was ordained Bishop of Milan on Dec 7, 1563 and was President of the commission of theologians charged by the pope to elaborate the Catechismus Romanus. He also worked on the revision of the Missal and Breviary, and was a member of a commission to reform church music.

He participated in the conclave of cardinals in 1565-66 that chose Pope Pius V, and he asked the new pope to take the name. Due to his enforcement of strict ecclesiastical discipline, some disgruntled monks in the order of the Humiliati hired a lay brother to murder him on the evening of Oct 26, 1569. He was shot at, but not hit.

He also participated in the conclave in 1572 that chose Pope Gregory XIII. He worked with the sick, and helped bury the dead during the plague outbreak in Milan in 1576. He established the Oblates of St. Ambrose on Apr 26, 1578, and was a teacher, confessor, and parish priest to St. Aloysius Gonzaga, giving him his first communion on Jul 22, 1580.

Charles spent his life and fortune in the service of the people of his diocese. He directed and fervently enforced the decrees of the Council of Trent, fought tirelessly for peace in the wake of the storm caused by Martin Luther, founded schools for the poor, seminaries for clerics, hospitals for the sick, conducted synods, instituted children’s Sunday school, did great public and private penance, and worked among the sick and dying, leading his people by example.

He is the patron saint for bishops; catechists; catechumens; seminarians; spiritual directors; and spiritual leaders.

Prayer to St. Charles Borromeo

O Saintly reformer, animator of spiritual renewal of priests and religious, you organized true seminaries and wrote a standard catechism. Inspire all religious teachers and authors of catechetical books. Move them to love and transmit only that which can form true followers of the Teacher who was divine. Amen.

– Patron Saint Index

________________

Romans 13:8-10

Avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love. If you love your fellow men you have carried out your obligations. All the commandments: You shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet, and so on, are summed up in this single command: You must love your neighbour as yourself. Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.

________________ 

Luke 14:25-33

Great crowds accompanied Jesus on his way and he turned and spoke to them. ‘If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

‘And indeed, which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers would all start making fun of him and saying, “Here is a man who started to build and was unable to finish.” Or again, what king marching to war against another king would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other who advanced against him with twenty thousand? If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace. So in the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.’

________________

Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.

Love is so often misunderstood. To us Catholics, we know that Love won when Jesus died on the cross for us. The love we know, is to give up one’s life for the other, the love that we are called to offer even to our enemies.

In today’s reading, we are told that love is the fulfilment of the law. The 10 Commandments are summed up in 2 commandments – love towards God and love towards our neighbours.

In a recent homily, the priest said that love can hurt, a little contrasting towards the love we all cling on to as depicted in 1 Cor 13. Nevertheless, the priest sure drove home a very important message on love. In human relationships, we sometimes encounter challenging phases – children who are living in addiction, young children whose parents constantly yell at each other, conflicts at home, in the workplace and in church.

Jesus has set the tone for us on how to love, by his example and in today’s readings. Today’s gospel reminds us to renounce our possessions, at times our ill habits such as arrogance and selfish pride can be an obstacle towards loving others as we ought to.

How has our quest for success and achieving our dreams and goals stopped us from loving others in the same measure as we love ourselves? Are we adamant of getting a promotion or increment at any cost, that we would try and undermine the reputation of a co-worker and play the office politics? As singles, are we so hung up on our dreams of a ‘happily ever after’ that we are focussed solely on ourselves and our love interests that we are too busy to serve others?

A friend of mine recently invited a single lady friend of hers to join her and a fiancé for a movie and dinner outing on a Friday night. At first glance, that does not seem like a lot; but it is her effort to love her friend in a way that she would have felt cherished.

What is stopping us from loving our spouses, children, in-laws, parents and friends in a way that would make them feel cherished and loved? Gary Chapman, in his book, ‘5 love languages’ tells us the importance of this because we all ‘read’ into love differently.

When we need to reconcile with someone, it matters not who is at fault or who started it. It does not even matter if the issue that hurt the other party is something we consider trivial. Our job is to forgive, reconcile, heal, release and find ways to love this person we have hurt. This is when love truly hurts, because it takes a lot to admit to something that seems like a ‘non-issue’ to us, let alone seek forgiveness for it. Yet, we rely on this God of Love to see us through, when we struggle with love and when we hurt while we continue love.

Today is the appropriate time to decide to love people and not things. To give to the needy, to share with others, to grow with others and to love others just as Christ had. It gets easier each time by the help of He who is Love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, help us to give up our materialistic habits, pride, arrogance, individualistic nature for the kind of love we long for, the love that is meant for us, when we start loving like you. Forgive us for the times we have failed to love but deliver us from our temptations when we are faced with love that hurts. 

Thanksgiving: Lord, we want to thank you for our loved ones, for our parents, spouses, in-laws, children, the special people in the world, the poor, the marginalised, for it is in others that we live in your love.

 

Tuesday, 3 November – Though Many, We Are One

3 November – St Martin de Porres

Martin (1579-1639) was the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman, Juan, and a young freed black slave, Anna Velasquez. He grew up in poverty and spent part of his youth with a surgeon-barber from whom he learned some medicine and care of the sick.

At the age of 11, he became a servant in the Holy Rosary Dominican priory in Lima, Peru. He was promoted to almoner and begged more than $2,000 a week from the rich to support the poor and sick in Lima. He was placed in charge of the Dominican’s infirmary, and was known for his tender care of the sick and for his spectacular cures. His superiors dropped the stipulation that “no black person may be received to the holy habit or profession of our order” and Martin took vows as a Dominican brother in 1603.

He established an orphanage and children’s hospital for the poor children of the slums. He set up a shelter for the stray cats and dogs and nursed them back to health. He lived in self-imposed austerity, never eating meat, fasting continuously, and spent much time in prayer and meditation with a great devotion to the Holy Eucharist. He was a friend of St. John de Massias.

He was venerated from the day of his death. Many miraculous cures, including raising the dead, have been attributed to Brother Martin, the first black saint from the Americas.

– Patron Saint Index

________________

Romans 12:5-16

All of us, in union with Christ, form one body, and as parts of it we belong to each other. Our gifts differ according to the grace given us. If your gift is prophecy, then use it as your faith suggests; if administration, then use it for administration; if teaching, then use it for teaching. Let the preachers deliver sermons, the almsgivers give freely, the officials be diligent, and those who do works of mercy do them cheerfully.

Do not let your love be a pretence, but sincerely prefer good to evil. Love each other as much as brothers should, and have a profound respect for each other. Work for the Lord with untiring effort and with great earnestness of spirit. If you have hope, this will make you cheerful. Do not give up if trials come; and keep on praying. If any of the saints are in need you must share with them; and you should make hospitality your special care.

Bless those who persecute you: never curse them, bless them. Rejoice with those who rejoice and be sad with those in sorrow. Treat everyone with equal kindness; never be condescending but make real friends with the poor. Do not allow yourself to become self-satisfied.

________________ 

Luke 14:15-24

One of those gathered round the table said to him, ‘Happy the man who will be at the feast in the kingdom of God!’ But he said to him, ‘There was a man who gave a great banquet, and he invited a large number of people. When the time for the banquet came, he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, “Come along: everything is ready now.” But all alike started to make excuses. The first said, “I have bought a piece of land and must go and see it. Please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen and am on my way to try them out. Please accept my apologies.” Yet another said, “I have just got married and so am unable to come.”

‘The servant returned and reported this to his master. Then the householder, in a rage, said to his servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” “Sir” said the servant “your orders have been carried out and there is still room.” Then the master said to his servant, “Go to the open roads and the hedgerows and force people to come in to make sure my house is full; because, I tell you, not one of those who were invited shall have a taste of my banquet.”’

________________

Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer

Today’s readings remind that each of us are different, we have different gifts and as uniquely as we are made, He still calls us to be One. Despite our unique gifts and talents, God has called us to be One. His sacrifice of His body and blood has made us One. The whole of the Catholic Church is one in the Eucharist and because of it.

In today’s reading we are invited by our Lord to rejoice in hope, endure in affliction and persevere in prayer.

Rejoice in Hope – the hope we know is a gift of the Holy Spirit. There were times in the past when I could not understand why and how I could hope, yet there was alwayas a steady hope in me. With the strength of the Lord, I continued to have this hope in my Lord. There was a joy I had which I could not pinpoint to any other area of my life, but towards God.

Endure in affliction – Affliction is very subjective because more often than not, I find myself in afflictions which are self-inflicted and there are those rare moments when I am challenged with one because the Lord is working within me and moulding me. Either way, endurance is a quality that we all need — in our families, in our workplace, with our spouses and in-laws, in ministry life and at work. I would like to see my ‘afflictions’ as a phase from which God will bail me out from. “It is when I am weak that I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10).

Persevere in prayer – This requires some child-like trust.  Do we have what it takes to stay close to God through our prayer life as if all our prayers will be answered? For years, I have been asking God to lead the right man to me. And at the appropriate time, God will come through for me like He always has.

Today, let us ask God for a breakthrough in our lives that we are able to rejoice in hope, endure in times of affliction and persevere in prayer for the rest of our days, and in all areas of our life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord God, help us to love each other sincerely, help us to love like you. In your great mercy, make us worthy to be able to eat at your table and be one with you in paradise. 

Thanksgiving: In you, O Lord, I have found my peace. My soul is like a weaned child, like a weaned child on its mother’s lap. I cannot stop thanking you for making me your own. All praise to your Majesty, Lord.