Tag Archives: acceptance

5 September, Tuesday – See Good Things in the Land of the Living

5 Sept – St Teresa of Kolkata

Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910 – 1997)

Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born on 26 August 1910 at Skopje in Macedonia. She left home at the age of 18 to join the Sisters of Loreto in Ireland, where she received the name Sister Mary Teresa, after St Thérèse of Lisieux. In 1931 she was assigned to the order’s Calcutta house and taught at their school there. where she eventually became headmistress.

She received a new vocation to help the poor and destitute, and in 1948, obeying this call, she left the convent and took up a new life caring for them wherever they might be: lying sick in the street or even dying in dustbins. Some of her former pupils joined her, one by one, and the new congregation of the Missionaries of Charity was established in the Diocese of Calcutta in 1950, spreading across India and eventually onto every continent, even behind the Iron Curtain. Many related orders followed, involving men and women, clergy and laity, and both the active and the contemplative life. Mother Teresa died on 5 September 1997 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 19 October 2003 and canonized by Pope Francis on 4 September 2016.

Mother Teresa’s widespread appeal comes from the directness of her inspiration, and her direct response to it. She went out and did things where they were needed. When we think of big problems we inevitably think that they can only be solved by a big campaign. Perhaps that is true, perhaps not; but while the campaign is getting going, why not go out and help one person in the name of Mother Teresa? If there are 1,000 hungry people in your city, why not make it 999? If each of us did that – well, in most countries where this is being read, there are more Catholics than there are people in need.

As Monsignor Ronald Knox has said:
“I am not advocating world-movements or public meetings… my appeal is rather to the individual conscience than to the public ear; my hope is rather to see the emergence of a Saint, than that of an organization…

“There is no harm in besieging heaven for the canonization of such and such holy persons now dead. But should we not do well to vary these petitions of ours by asking for more Saints to canonize?”

(From Universalis)

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1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, 9-11

You will not be expecting us to write anything to you, brothers, about ‘times and seasons’, since you know very well that the Day of the Lord is going to come like a thief in the night. It is when people are saying, ‘How quiet and peaceful it is’ that the worst suddenly happens, as suddenly as labour pains come on a pregnant woman; and there will be no way for anybody to evade it.

But it is not as if you live in the dark, my brothers, for that Day to overtake you like a thief. No, you are all sons of light and sons of the day: we do not belong to the night or to darkness, so we should not go on sleeping, as everyone else does, but stay wide awake and sober. God never meant us to experience the Retribution, but to win salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that, alive or dead, we should still live united to him. So give encouragement to each other, and keep strengthening one another, as you do already.

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Luke 4:31-37

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

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

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Dwell in the house of the Lord ….
In the past, I frequently found myself indulging in the self-talk that I will have a breakthrough in my life; that all my problems will be no more once I have reached my Father’s house, our eternal home. I thought that I had to endure life and all the pains it brings upon me, while I am still alive. But in today’s Psalms, we are reassured that we will see the great work of the Lord in the land of the living. It certainly takes a lot more faith to expect great things to happen in our lives while we are here on earth as mortal beings, living a life we already know. Today, we need to learn to confront and diminish anything that keeps us from claiming this promise that we will be blessed in the here and now.
Today’s readings remind us that we need to be alert and sober, stout-hearted even while others we know might be asleep and aloof. Clearly, we are called not to just set a standard; we are also called to lead and encourage others to live a life that prepares us to meet our Maker. We are called to bring others along, to follow the good deeds, to adhere to the call of His kingdom.
It is in those moments when we are tempted to do it on our own, when we really need to call our colleagues, friends and family members so as to share in His kingdom. He never meant for anyone one of us to perish and we are His instruments wherever we are planted, without any exceptions whatsoever.
In my dealings in church ministry, I have felt countless times the Lord urging me to reach out to others; to be patient with them, to believe in them. In some cases, He has even prompted me to slow down with certain brothers and sisters, knowing full well that everyone is at a different stage in their faith journey. It should never be about achieving targets and completing tasks for we Catholics are formed amidst people. While we realise and wholly accept this, let us not refrain from the temptation of judging others, dismissing others and even making assumptions that we are more spiritually superior that the others.
We need to walk with each other, stopping, pausing, reflecting, coaxing and challenging each other as Christ did with a heart full of love and wisdom, choosing the right approach for each person and situation. In a recent homily, a priest exhorted that Jesus loves the greatest sinner the most, so who are we to not accept His most beloved on our quest for holiness for His kingdom? If, in the past, we have done this, let us make a new start today, knowing that our Father wills us to walk together with our brothers and sisters, and not as lone individals towards Him.
Today, let us think of all the times we have failed to encourage others in our midst. Let us also receive with a contrite heart, the encouragement of others when we have failed to live as we have been called to. No finger pointing, no favourites, no judgments. We are all His and He loves us all.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)
Prayer: Lord, we pray that you give the right dose of boldness and patience to lead people towards your Kingdom. We ask you to make a way for us to reach others.
Thanksgiving: Thank you for your great love that though we ‘sleep’ sometimes, you have sent your most precious Son to suffer and die for us sinners so that we may be yours forever.

4 Aug, Friday – Being Accepted

Aug 4 – Memorial for St. John Mary Vianney, priest

In his youth, John Mary Vianney (1786-1859) taught other children their prayers and catechism. As a priest, was assigned to a parish which suffered from very lax attendance. He began visiting his parishioners, especially the sick and poor, spent days in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, did penance for his parishioners, and led his people by example. Crowds came to hear him preach, and to make their reconciliation because of his reputation with penitents.

He has been declared patron saint for all priests.

– Patron Saint Index

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Leviticus 23:1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34-37

The Lord spoke to Moses. He said:

‘These are the Lord’s solemn festivals, the sacred assemblies to which you are to summon the sons of Israel on the appointed day.

‘The fourteenth day of the first month, between the two evenings, is the Passover of the Lord; and the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of Unleavened Bread for the Lord. For seven days you shall eat bread without leaven. On the first day you are to hold a sacred assembly; you must do no heavy work. For seven days you shall offer a burnt offering to the Lord. The seventh day is to be a day of sacred assembly; you must do no work.’

The Lord spoke to Moses. He said:

‘Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them:

‘“When you enter the land that I give you, and gather in the harvest there, you must bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest, and he is to present it to the Lord with the gesture of offering, so that you may be acceptable. The priest shall make this offering on the day after the sabbath.

‘“From the day after the sabbath, the day on which you bring the sheaf of offering, you are to count seven full weeks. You are to count fifty days, to the day after the seventh sabbath, and then you are to offer the Lord a new oblation.

‘“The tenth day of the seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. You are to hold a sacred assembly. You must fast, and you must offer a burnt offering to the Lord.

‘“The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of Tabernacles for the Lord, lasting seven days. The first day is a day of sacred assembly; you must do no heavy work. For seven days you must offer a burnt offering to the Lord. On the eighth day you are to hold a sacred assembly, you must offer a burnt offering to the Lord. It is a day of solemn meeting; you must do no heavy work.

‘“These are the solemn festivals of the Lord to which you are to summon the children of Israel, sacred assemblies for the purpose of offering burnt offerings, holocausts, oblations, sacrifices and libations to the Lord, according to the ritual of each day.”’

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Matthew 13:54-58

Coming to his home town, Jesus taught the people in their synagogue in such a way that they were astonished and said, ‘Where did the man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? This is the carpenter’s son, surely? Is not his mother the woman called Mary, and his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Jude? His sisters, too, are they not all here with us? So where did the man get it all?’ And they would not accept him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country and in his own house’, and he did not work many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

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A prophet is only despised in his own country

I know of a friend who comes from a very small town in South-East Asia, where the community is so small that everyone seems to know each other’s affairs, whether it is about one’s family or about one’s job or love life. There is pretty much no privacy between them. He tried to head back home after his overseas studies but career progression there was not very encouraging. The economic and political climate was not presenting many opportunities for him, and he was not accepted for some reason. All that led him to venture and build his career outside of town.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that love and understanding between one another requires mutual acceptance. Jesus, we know, is a generous Son of God who gradually reveals Himself, as part of His mission here on Earth. Perhaps Jesus’ earthly family was not of some high status, being just a common Jewish family. His mission to bring God’s purpose into their lives was not taken much into consideration. When we are not afraid to ask from God to open up our hearts and minds to see how Jesus is trying to immerse into our lives, we will begin to see the miracles that are to happen in His own time.

Let us allow ourselves to reflect and take a look into our very busy, hectic lives. Do we accept and invite Jesus into the busy lifestyle that we have? Are we living justly in the eyes of God? Let us not be part of the hypocritical crowd who put in the conditions to accept Christ, where it comes to the point where God has to be of a certain ‘criteria’ before we say okay to accepting Him. He is not a God where we choose and judge how good He is before we accept Him. We embrace our Lord because of the faith and belief that He works miracles in our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We pray for those who are not being accepted by society for their disabilities, status or social discrimination, that we are able to open our hearts wide enough to make them feel included.

Thanksgiving: We must not forget the friends and family who surround us, and those who invite us into their social and faith circle, so that we grow to be a loving person.

15 October, Saturday – Wisdom discerns what is best for us

15 October – Memorial for St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor

Also known as Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Jesus (1515–1582) was born to the Spanish nobility, the daughter of Don Alonso Sanchez de Cepeda and Dona Beatriz. She grew up reading the lives of the saints, and playing at “hermit” in the garden.

Crippled by disease in her youth, which led to her being well educated at home, she was cured after prayer to St. Joseph. Her mother died when she was 12, and Teresa prayed to Our Lady to be her replacement. Her father opposed her entry into religious life, so she left home without telling anyone, and entered a Carmelite house at 17. Seeing her conviction to her call, her father and family consented.

Soon after taking her vows, Teresa became gravely ill, and her condition was aggravated by the inadequate medical help she received; she never fully recovered her health. She began receiving visions and was examined by Dominicans and Jesuits, including St. Francis Borgia, who pronounced her visions to be holy and true.

She considered her original house too lax in its rule, so she founded a reformed convent of St. John of Avila. She founded several houses, often against fierce opposition from local authorities. She was a mystical writer, and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 27 September 1970 by Pope Paul VI. She is known for ‘holy wit’.

“God, deliver me from sullen saints.” – St. Teresa of Avila

– Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 1:15-23

I, having once heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus, and the love that you show towards all the saints, have never failed to remember you in my prayers and to thank God for you. May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers. This you can tell from the strength of his power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven, far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named not only in this age but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.

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Luke 12:8-12

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I tell you, if anyone openly declares himself for me in the presence of men, the Son of Man will declare himself for him in the presence of the angels. But the man who disowns me in the presence of men will be disowned in the presence of God’s angels.

‘Everyone who says a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

‘When they take you before synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say, because when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say.’

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A spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed.

 Our family is going through a tough period now. A time where we are learning to let go of our own selfish intentions – though filled with loving intent. Coming to terms with the impending departure of a loved one is never easy. Especially so when we are close to, and love the person so dearly. The pain is immense and we wonder how we will ever get through it.

Today’s reflection is dedicated to my loving cousin. She is such a woman of faith and trust in our Lord. She was diagnosed with Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumours or GISTs some six years ago. This type of tumour is uncommon and there is no effective known treatment for this. As traditional chemotherapy has not worked well against GISTs, no standard chemo regimens were recommended. My cousin was given 12 -18 months before the inevitable. The advice was to go on a clinical trial. But that’s all it was – a trial. She participated in the clinical trial but never completed it. The drugs affected her health and heart, so she stopped taking them. Yet she was the only one who survived. The others on the clinical trial have since passed on. Each time she heard about the passing of someone on the trial, her heart sank. Nonetheless, our Lord cannot be outdone in His generosity. He has blessed her in ways beyond our comprehension and expectations. Six glorious years have passed since her dismal diagnosis. She travelled, ate well, spent precious time with loved ones and, above all, continued to serve the Lord in whatever way she could.

Today, the news is a little less upbeat. The cancer is back and is spreading fast and furious. Just two month ago, we were enjoying each other’s company on a cousins-only vacation. Today, the excruciating pain engulfs her entire body and she is unable to eat. However, she remains strong in spirit, is alert when the pain is controlled and continues to trust and praise God. She is fully aware of what is happening to her body, and she is not afraid. A priest that went to see her recently asked that in her agony and pain, she lift up her prayers for all priests, especially for him! He needed her intercession. I learnt that day that the prayers of those suffering are very powerful. She good naturedly agreed and has been praying for the priests and those who asked her to pray for them. How selfless and trusting she is of Our Lord! She always knew that whatever time given was by God’s grace and she was going to spend each moment to the very fullest. At the same time, she is at peace with God and is prepared for the day when the Lord calls her home.

For the rest of us, the mere thought of death frightens us. Hence we never ever give it a thought. Even those of us suffering terminal illnesses, choose not to address it – the eventuality. Those of us grieving over the loss of loved ones, or people like me, who refuse to come to terms with the eventual departure of a loved one.  We are so blinded and engulfed by our own selfish sadness that we fail to see God’s hand in this. We hold onto to our sick loved one, even when the person is at peace and ready. But God has given us a spirit of wisdom, to seek God, to trust and give us hope. To see beyond our current circumstance. To see what God wants of us, to see what hope his calls holds for you, what rich glories he has promised.

So brothers and sisters, today we pray that we might have eyes to see prophetically.  To see as God sees. To have the courage to ask God what He wants to show us during this time of crisis, to open our eyes to understand the purposes of our calling. Two days ago, my cousin sent me a message to say that she missed me and wanted to see me for a quiet and personal chat. We have a date tomorrow. I believe that through all of her suffering, there is also a role for me in all of this. I just have to let the Lord show me what my purpose is.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

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Prayer: Lord, may we be filled with the spirit of wisdom to see what Jesus is seeing, doing, revealing and saying. Open our eyes to see as you see. Open our ears to hear what you are saying and give us the courage to say “Yes!” to what you are asking of us.

Thanksgiving: Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of wisdom – for our living, for our service and for our worship.

26 September, Monday – Humility

26 September – Memorial for Sts. Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs

Cosmas and Damian were twin brothers, physicians who accepted no payment. Their charity brought many to Christ. Although they were tortured during the persecutions of Diocletian, the two suffered no injury.

– Patron Saints Index

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Job 1:6-22

One day the Sons of God came to attend on the Lord, and among them was Satan. So the Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you been?’ ‘Round the earth,’ he answered ‘roaming about.’ So the Lord asked him, ‘Did you notice my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth: a sound and honest man who fears God and shuns evil.’ ‘Yes,’ Satan said ‘but Job is not God-fearing for nothing, is he? Have you not put a wall round him and his house and all his domain? You have blessed all he undertakes, and his flocks throng the countryside. But stretch out your hand and lay a finger on his possessions: I warrant you, he will curse you to your face.’ ‘Very well,’ the Lord said to Satan ‘all he has is in your power. But keep your hands off his person.’ So Satan left the presence of the Lord.
On the day when Job’s sons and daughters were at their meal and drinking wine at their eldest

brother’s house, a messenger came to Job. ‘Your oxen’ he said ‘were at the plough, with the donkeys grazing at their side, when the Sabaeans swept down on them and carried them off. Your servants they put to the sword: I alone escaped to tell you.’ He had not finished speaking when another messenger arrived. ‘The fire of God’ he said ‘has fallen from the heavens and burnt up all your sheep, and your shepherds too: I alone escaped to tell you.’ He had not finished speaking when another messenger arrived. ‘The Chaldaeans,’ he said ‘three bands of them, have raided your camels and made off with them. Your servants they put to the sword: I alone escaped to tell you.’ He had not finished speaking when another messenger arrived. ‘Your sons and daughters’ he said ‘were at their meal and drinking wine at their eldest brother’s house, when suddenly from the wilderness a gale sprang up, and it battered all four corners of the house which fell in on the young people. They are dead: I alone escaped to tell you.’

Job rose and tore his gown and shaved his head. Then falling to the ground he worshipped and said:

‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
naked I shall return.
The Lord gave, the Lord has taken back.
Blessed be the name of the Lord!’

In all this misfortune Job committed no sin nor offered any insult to God.

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Luke 9:46-50

An argument started between the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus knew what thoughts were going through their minds, and he took a little child and set him by his side and then said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.’

John spoke up. ‘Master,’ he said ‘we saw a man casting out devils in your name, and because he is not with us we tried to stop him.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘You must not stop him: anyone who is not against you is for you.’

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“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I shall return. The Lord gave, the Lord has taken back. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Two beautiful readings that bring out what really life is about. It’s never about what we have on earth but who we have as our eternal Father. The understanding of our identity, the purpose of our lives, the only one aim we all should have is to return to unity with God, our Father, with the world in love.

Putting ourselves in the shoes of Job, sometimes our lives are so smooth that we simply cannot comprehend why God would want us to suffer after everything we’ve done for Him. But truly there are indeed many times that we need to be reminded of who gave us this life and our possessions. If all these can save us from eternal damnation, maybe it’s good that we all continuously suffer on earth.

Or we can look at it from the point of view of the Gospel where it says, “For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.” Maybe our “sufferings” have much wisdom for us to digest, to see the world in a new light, to appreciate the things/people that we have taken for granted of, to treasure life and to show love. For when we are at our lowest, not only is the way only up, but that’s exactly where we find Christ because that’s where He lives, not in the limelight and the material distractions that we have, but in the simple, in the ordinary, in our hearts, where we can truly be ourselves.

For is it then that we can also see who is with us and who is merely using us. For “anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me”.

Let us invite Christ in our lives in order that we may invite all, to see the Christ in others as well as to be Christ to others. We will be the greatest when we recognise that we have the greatest gift of all, who is Christ Himself, when He gave His life for us. Let us now live for Him, to glorify Him. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

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Prayer: Dear Lord, many times we are so caught up with doing and finishing what we have to do, we occupy ourselves with so many things till we leave you out. Help us to drop those in order that we may see you clearer and depend on you, in order that we will lead all to glorify you. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your example, that you are not a king that is associated with wealth, fame or power. Thank you Lord for your humility, for understanding, for listening and for your love.

23 September, Friday – In Memoriam

23 September – Memorial for St. Pius of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio), Priest

Pio (1887-1968) was ordained when he was 22. He founded the House for the Relief of Suffering in 1956, a hospital that serves 60,000 a year. In the 1920s he started a series of prayer groups that continue today with over 400,000 members worldwide.

His canonisation miracle involved the cure of Matteo Pio Colella, age 7, the son of a doctor who works in the House for Relief of Suffering, the hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo founded by Padre Pio. On the night of 20 June 2000, Matteo was admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital with meningitis. By morning doctors had lost hope for him as nine of the boy´s internal organs had ceased to give signs of life.

That night, during a prayer vigil attended by Matteo´s mother and some Capuchin friars of Padre Pio´s monastery, the child’s condition improved suddenly. When he awoke from the coma, Matteo said that he had seen an elderly man with a white beard and a long, brown habit, who said to him: “Don´t worry, you will soon be cured.”

– Patron Saints Index

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven:

A time for giving birth,
a time for dying;
a time for planting,
a time for uprooting what has been planted.

A time for killing,
a time for healing;
a time for knocking down,
a time for building.

A time for tears,
a time for laughter;
a time for mourning,
a time for dancing.

A time for throwing stones away,
a time for gathering them up;
a time for embracing,
a time to refrain from embracing.

A time for searching,
a time for losing;
a time for keeping,
a time for throwing away.

A time for tearing,
a time for sewing;
a time for keeping silent,
a time for speaking.

A time for loving,
a time for hating;
a time for war,
a time for peace.

What does a man gain for the efforts that he makes? I contemplate the task that God gives mankind to labour at. All that he does is apt for its time; but though he has permitted man to consider time in its wholeness, man cannot comprehend the work of God from beginning to end.

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Luke 9:18-22

One day when Jesus was praying alone in the presence of his disciples he put this question to them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ And they answered, ‘John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ It was Peter who spoke up. ‘The Christ of God’ he said. But he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.

‘The Son of Man’ he said ‘is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’

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He has made everything appropriate to its time

A dear priest and family friend passed away recently. Reverend Father Phillips Muthu passed away, aged 56, from a heart attack on 10 September 2016. He was at the time, the sole Catholic priest in the state of Terengganu, Malaysia.

Prior to that, Fr. Phillips had been the parish priest of Assumption Church in Petaling Jaya, which is where my parents got acquainted with him. While I cannot claim a close acquaintance with Fr. Phillips, I am well acquainted with his works and gentle temperament. Everyone who knew him loved him, young and old alike. He had a special interest in migrants and the youth, and had just returned from Poland, where he had accompanied a contingent of youth for World Youth Day. Ironically the last thing that he did before going out for a brisk walk that fateful Saturday evening, was to hold a cathecism and youth programme for children at a chapel in the town of Chukai. Being the sole catholic priest in Terengganu meant that Fr. Phillips had to travel between towns to celebrate mass.

Being based in Singapore, I only ever got the chance to attend mass with my parents when I came home to visit. My late father had been critically ill at the time when they first got to know Fr. Phillips, and had talked to him about conversion and baptism. Fr. Phillips was very encouraging and had welcomed my parents to his church with open arms. Open arms would also describe Fr. Phillips’ way with the children of his parish. Children would flock to him after mass, where he would reach out and bless each one of them, give an encouraging pat on the back, or a comforting hug, but each one always had a smile from him. I have a picture burned in my memory of him surrounded by little ones, and it brought to mind Jesus being surrounded by the little children.

He had done so much and was in the pinkest of health, and so it was with great shock and disbelief when the news of his untimely death first broke. Many hearts were broken and tears were shed, for a priest who cared about his congregation, for a friend who cared about your well-being, for a father figure who loved each one like his own. His passing was all too soon, for his time with us felt like just a fleeting breath. In his passing though, we recognize and acknowledge all that he had done for his parishes, and for his people, and we thank God for the blessings bestowed upon us through Fr. Phillips’s presence. God giveth, and God taketh; in Fr. Phillips, God had given us a man after God’s own heart to do His will, and in so doing, perhaps Fr. Phillips’ work on earth here was deemed done by God. Everything happens in God’s time, and though we struggle in our despair to come to grips with his passing, at the end of the day we give thanks to God Almighty and look to celebrate Fr. Phillips through his life.

As with all our loved ones who have gone before us, he is now in a better place with God. May he rest in peace forevermore.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Thanksgiving: Lord, we pray for the family, parishes and friends of Fr Phillips, that they may find comfort in You, and in knowing that he is with you, watching over us. May he rest in peace.

Prayer: We give you thanks Lord, for the life of Fr. Phillips who devoted himself to Your service and Your people. We pray that he will always be a shining example of Christ’s servant, and that we will be able to continue his good works.

13 August, Saturday – Free Will

13 August – Memorial for St. Pontian, Pope, Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest, Martyr

Pontian was among the first victims of an anti-Christian new emperor. Rounded up with the antipope Hippolytus, Pontian was deported to the labour mines. While imprisoned, Hippolytus reconciled his differences with Pontian and even ordered his followers to bring themselves back to the Church. Before he succumbed to the harsh treatment of the mines, Hippolytus became a true confessor of Christ. Pontian, in the mines only two months, was brutally beaten to death by his jailers.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ezekiel 18:1-10,13,30-32

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows:

‘Why do you keep repeating this proverb in the land of Israel: “The fathers have eaten unripe grapes; and the children’s teeth are set on edge”?

‘As I live – it is the Lord who speaks – there will no longer be any reason to repeat this proverb in Israel. See now: all life belongs to me; the father’s life and the son’s life, both alike belong to me. The man who has sinned, he is the one who shall die.

‘The upright man is law-abiding and honest; he does not eat on the mountains or raise his eyes to the idols of the House of Israel, does not seduce his neighbour’s wife or sleep with a woman during her periods. He oppresses no one, returns pledges, never steals, gives his own bread to the hungry, his clothes to the naked. He never charges usury on loans, takes no interest, abstains from evil, gives honest judgement between man and man, keeps my laws and sincerely respects my observances–such a man is truly upright. It is the Lord who speaks.

‘But if anyone has a son prone to violence and bloodshed, then this son shall certainly not live; having committed all these appalling crimes he will have to die, and his blood be on his own head.

House of Israel, in future I mean to judge each of you by what he does–it is the Lord who speaks. Repent, renounce all your sins, avoid all occasions of sin! Shake off all the sins you have committed against me, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why are you so anxious to die, House of Israel? I take no pleasure in the death of anyone–it is the Lord who speaks. Repent and live!’

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Matthew 19:13-15

People brought little children to Jesus, for him to lay his hands on them and say a prayer. The disciples turned them away, but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children alone, and do not stop them coming to me; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ Then he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

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I take no pleasure in the death of anyone – it is the Lord who speaks.

In my line of work, there comes a time where we need to decide if a student who obtained less than desirable grades and exhibited behaviour which does not meet expectations, is a result of us, as teachers, failing the student; or is it because the student chose his own path. Indeed, this is something which we see in the readings of today where God reminds the Prophet Ezekiel of the importance of choosing the straight and narrow.

Doing what is needed to fulfil one’s Christian’s duties is certainly not something which we find easy to do. The ways of the world do make us falter but I believe that Jesus has shown us the way in which we need to stay close to Him. This is to adopt a child-like attitude towards things. A child-like attitude requires us to trust in God and to work our way towards achieving what God desires of us in our lives. In practical terms, this means we need to identify the strengths and talents we have in our lives and then decide how best we can use it to glorify God. However, is this something which we are open to?

As we continue with our lives, we need to accept our frailties and weaknesses. However, what makes us a better Christian is how we recover from it. God reminds us in the first reading that He wants us to live and not die. Just like the teacher in the first paragraph, we need to accept the fact that students choose their own behaviour. We can counsel, lecture, pray and even ignore but ultimately, the decision lies with the individual on his choice of behaviour. Let us ask God for the wisdom to guide us in deciding what is the decision we should make.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the wisdom to choose the path which leads to life.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to all who offer Spiritual Direction.

12 August, Friday – He makes all things beautiful

12 August – Memorial for St. Jane Frances de Chantal

Jane married Baron de Chantal. She restored order in the household, which was on the brink of ruin, and brought back prosperity. During her husband’s absence at the court, or with the army, when reproached for her extremely sober manner of dressing, her reply was: “The eyes which I must please are a hundred miles from here.” She found more than once that God blessed with miracles the care she gave the suffering members of Christ.  Baron de Chantal was accidentally killed by a harquebus while out shooting. Left a widow at 28, with four children, the broken-hearted baroness took a vow of chastity.

She founded the Congregation of the Visitation, whose aim was to receive, with a view to their spiritual advancement, young girls and even widows who had not the desire or strength to subject themselves to the austere ascetical practices in force in all the religious orders at that time. The remainder of the saint’s life was spent under the protection of the cloister in the practice of the most admirable virtues. It was firmness and great vigour which prevailed in St. Jane Frances; she did not like to see her daughters giving way to human weakness. Her trials were continuous and borne bravely, and yet she was exceedingly sensitive.

– http://www.wf-f.org/StJaneFdeChantal.html

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Ezekiel 16:1-15,60,63

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows, ‘Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her filthy crimes. Say, “The Lord says this: By origin and birth you belong to the land of Canaan. Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. At birth, the very day you were born, there was no one to cut your navel-string, or wash you in cleansing water, or rub you with salt, or wrap you in napkins. No one leaned kindly over you to do anything like that for you. You were exposed in the open fields; you were as unloved as that on the day you were born.

‘“I saw you struggling in your blood as I was passing, and I said to you as you lay in your blood: Live, and grow like the grass of the fields. You developed, you grew, you reached marriageable age. Your breasts and your hair both grew, but you were quite naked. Then I saw you as I was passing. Your time had come, the time for love. I spread part of my cloak over you and covered your nakedness; I bound myself by oath, I made a covenant with you – it is the Lord who speaks – and you became mine. I bathed you in water, I washed the blood off you, I anointed you with oil. I gave you embroidered dresses, fine leather shoes, a linen headband and a cloak of silk. I loaded you with jewels, gave you bracelets for your wrists and a necklace for your throat. I gave you nose-ring and earrings; I put a beautiful diadem on your head. You were loaded with gold and silver, and dressed in fine linen and embroidered silks. Your food was the finest flour, honey and oil. You grew more and more beautiful; and you rose to be queen. The fame of your beauty spread through the nations, since it was perfect, because I had clothed you with my own splendour – it is the Lord who speaks.

‘“You have become infatuated with your own beauty; you have used your fame to make yourself a prostitute; you have offered your services to all comers. But I will remember the covenant that I made with you when you were a girl, and I will conclude a covenant with you that shall last for ever. And so remember and be covered with shame, and in your confusion be reduced to silence, when I have pardoned you for all that you have done – it is the Lord who speaks.”’

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Matthew 19:3-12

Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and to test him they said, ‘Is it against the Law for a man to divorce his wife on any pretext whatever?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that the creator from the beginning made them male and female and that he said: This is why a man must leave father and mother, and cling to his wife, and the two become one body? They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’

They said to him, ‘Then why did Moses command that a writ of dismissal should be given in cases of divorce?’ ‘It was because you were so unteachable’ he said ‘that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but it was not like this from the beginning. Now I say this to you: the man who divorces his wife – I am not speaking of fornication – and marries another, is guilty of adultery.’

The disciples said to him, ‘If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is not advisable to marry.’ But he replied, ‘It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted. There are eunuchs born that way from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs made so by men and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’

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but I will remember the covenant that I made with you when you were a girl

God moulded the earth and all its beings in beauty, enthroned with a majestic manner, He would reserve for His own – birds, cattle and mainly girls and boys like you and me. We are indeed beautiful, the ones that detest us, the times we doubt, during our weakest moments, really all the time. Yet we are fond of the feelings of being less than worthy, and often think of others in the same light. In today’s reading in the book of Ezekiel, God reminds us of the splendour of His mercy and His love for us as a Father – making a new covenant with us, keeping the one He made and forgiving our sins.

In the Gospel, Jesus speaks of the sin of divorce — which is adultery — and the vocation of both marriage and singlehood. Is it better to be single, is it best to get married? Neither vocation is for everyone; just what we are capable of living with. Can I imagine myself being single forever? Yes and no. ‘Yes’, because if that is God’s plan for me, it is the best and I want nothing else. ‘No’, because I hear God reminding me of His covenant. Above and beyond all that, no status in our lives ever matters – not richness, poverty, weakness nor power. The Father, who loves you and me, sees us as beautiful, perfect and greatly adored. When we cannot see this, we need to look to Him in childlike faith. When we fail to see our sisters and brothers in that light, we turn our hearts to Him in total surrender.

During my recent trip to Europe for World Youth Day, I had a very minor skin condition, which was peeling because of the dry weather. I found myself walking into one of the most magnificent churches and masses and feeling less than beautiful. Right then and there, I reflected on all those who had troubled skin and offered my prayers and I felt a gentle coaxing of my Father, telling me that I am beautiful while I was at St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest. Right after my visit there, the friend who went with me to the church said the exact words – you are beautiful. When we are reminded of our beautiful heart, soul and being should we be surprised and caught off guard? Sometimes we all need reminders. Who can we remind today that they are beautiful? Can we smile at the elderly gentleman on the street, acknowledge the disabled person with love? What about those we know and find hard to see the beauty in them as the Lord does? Tell someone they are beautiful today by your words, your actions, your touch. Better yet make it a practise everyday.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Father help us to see others through your merciful gaze.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father for making all things beautiful, for helping us see what beauty truly is.

14 July, Thursday – Praise, Surrender, Accept

14 July – Memorial for St. Camillus de Lellis, Priest

St. Camillus (1550-1614) used to be a gambling addict. He lost so much he had to take a job working construction on a building belonging to the Capuchins; they converted him. Because of a persistent injury, he moved into San Giacomo Hospital for the incurable, and eventually became its administrator.

Lacking education, he began to study with children when he was 32 years old. St. Camillus founded the Congregation of the Servants of the Sick (the Camellians) who care for the sick both in hospital and home. He honoured the sick as living images of Christ, and hoped that the service he gave them did penance for his wayward youth.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 26:7-9,12,16-19

The path of the upright man is straight,
you smooth the way of the upright.
Following the path of your judgements,
we hoped in you, O Lord,
your name, your memory are all my soul desires.

At night my soul longs for you
and my spirit in me seeks for you;
when your judgements appear on earth
the inhabitants of the world learn the meaning of integrity.

O Lord, you are giving us peace,
since you treat us
as our deeds deserve.

Distressed, we search for you, O Lord;
the misery of oppression was your punishment for us.

As a woman with child near her time
writhes and cries out in her pangs,
so are we, O Lord, in your presence:
we have conceived, we writhe
as if we were giving birth;
we have not given the spirit of salvation to the earth,
no more inhabitants of the world are born.

Your dead will come to life,
their corpses will rise;
awake, exult,
all you who lie in the dust,
for your dew is a radiant dew
and the land of ghosts will give birth.

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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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Distressed, we search for you O Lord.

Reflecting on today’s reading over and over again, I try to put myself in the shoes of Isaiah, one who praises and gives thanks, to actually know what our Lord has done for him and sings praises with so much love and admiration. Not that I do not genuinely praise our Lord or give thanks from deep within my heart every week as I worship Him. Today’s readings brought me back to the times where I would attend at least one ‘Praise and Worship’ session from a community every year, where leaders would help us focus on God within our hearts, and to give shouts of praise to the Lord without much reservation and lifting our arms to surrender to Him. There are moments where you can jump and shout your love for God, for everything that He has done for us.

The Gospel today assures us that our relationship with God isn’t only about feeling the high during worship, where we have so much love to be thankful for, but it is about pouring out all our difficulties and distressed moments. We praise, we surrender and we accept. The Father sent Jesus to lighten the burden of sin, the burden of anguish, the burden of fear but raises all of us through eternal hope.

Let us try to bring back the close moments we had with our Lord in the next few months. As we are back in the liturgy and season of Ordinary Time, do not make it an ordinary season of prayer and worship, but to increase our faith more, or spend more time with the Lord or ministry. In this way, we are keeping the Lord close to our lives everyday, going through happy moments with our family and friends, as well as disappointing times. Always remember to shoulder the yoke of our Lord God, because we are never alone.

(Today’s OXYGEN by  Austin Leong)

Prayer: We pray for those who have lost direction in their lives and finding difficulty in meeting the basics of living, may they get through this period and holding onto the hope presented to us from God.

Thanksgiving: I want to give thanks for all the mentors and educators, in enriching the lives of others in the form of education and guidance, so that the other becomes a more responsible person in society.