Tag Archives: austin leong

9 December, Saturday – Celebrate Jesus

Dec 9 – Memorial for St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, hermit, layman

John (1474-1548) was born an impoverished free man in a strongly class-conscious society. He was a farm worker, a field labourer, and a mat maker. He became a married layman with no children. Even as a pagan, he was a mystical and religious man and became an adult convert to Christianity at around age 50, taking the name Juan Diego. He was widowed in 1529.

He was a visionary to whom the Virgin Mary appeared at Guadalupe on 9 December 1531, leaving him the image known as Our Lady of Guadalupe. On 20 December 2001, a second miracle attributed to Juan Diego’s intervention was decreed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and was approved by Pope John Paul II. He was canonized on 31 July 2002.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 30:19-21, 23-26

Thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:

People of Zion, you will live in Jerusalem and weep no more. He will be gracious to you when he hears your cry; when he hears he will answer. When the Lord has given you the bread of suffering and the water of distress, he who is your teacher will hide no longer, and you will see your teacher with your own eyes. Whether you turn to right or left, your ears will hear these words behind you, ‘This is the way, follow it.’ He will send rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the bread that the ground provides will be rich and nourishing. Your cattle will graze, that day, in wide pastures. Oxen and donkeys that till the ground will eat a salted fodder, winnowed with shovel and fork. On every lofty mountain, on every high hill there will be streams and watercourses, on the day of the great slaughter when the strongholds fall. Then moonlight will be bright as sunlight and sunlight itself be seven times brighter – like the light of seven days in one – on the day the Lord dresses the wound of his people and heals the bruises his blows have left.

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Matthew 9:35-10:1, 5, 6-8

Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness.

And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.’

He summoned his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and sickness. These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them as follows: ‘Go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils. You received without charge, give without charge.’

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Go rather to the lost sheep

We are eighteen days to Christmas. This is the season to be jolly, perhaps? Everywhere around the city I live in is filled with Christmas cheer, the malls are decorated with all the festive ornaments, getting shoppers into the mood of buying and giving and sharing. Televisions are showing Christmas handicrafts and Christmas feast ideas to bring to family gatherings. Buy the gifts, get ready the food, bring out the bright clothes, decorate the house, write the cards. Are these the important preparations about Christmas?

This is also the period where companies hold their annual dinners, before the office closes for the new year. With all this good cheer going around us, what are our personal faith preparations like to welcome the birthday of Jesus? We recall the very beautiful story of the Nativity, the difficulties that Mary and Joseph had to go through for Jesus’ safe birth. Let us never forget that amongst all these bright and colourful distractions, the brightest star comes from baby Jesus — the birth of our saviour. Indeed, it is a call for celebration, in faith but not materialism. In today’s Gospel, we are called to go to the lost sheep. Being believers of Christ, we are disciples of our Lord, and we go and reach out to the needy and the lost. These are the people who truly need the colours of life this season. Bring a smile and the warmth of Christmas to someone lonely in the coming week.

As for me, it has been a year of peace and lots of thanksgiving. As my wife will be working over Christmas and Boxing Day, I would like to step out and give to the lost, that they may experience some form of peace to end the year.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: O Lord, let us take each step at a time to know You. To know Jesus, who has come into the world to save us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for bringing your disciples to guide me when I am lost, someone to cure my soul when I am down.

7 December, Thursday – Rest On Rock

Dec 7 – Memorial for St. Ambrose, bishop and doctor of the Church

Ambrose (c.340–397) was born to the Roman nobility. He was the brother of St. Marcellina and St. Satyrus. He was educated in the classics, Greek, and philosophy at Rome, Italy. He was a poet and a noted orator. He was a convert to Christianity, and governor of Milan, Italy.

When the Bishop of Milan died, a dispute over his replacement led to violence. Ambrose intervened to calm both sides; he impressed everyone involved so much that though he was still an unbaptized catechumen, he was chosen as the new bishop. He resisted, claiming that he was not worthy, but he assented to prevent further violence. On Dec 7, 374, he was baptized, ordained as a priest, and consecrated as bishop. He immediately gave away his wealth to the Church and the poor, both for the good it did, and as an example to his flock.

He was a noted preacher and teacher, a Bible student of renown, and writer of liturgical hymns. He stood firm against paganism and Arianism. His preaching helped convert St. Augustine of Hippo, whom Ambrose baptized and brought into the Church. Ambrose’s preaching brought Emperor Theodosius to do public penance for his sins.

During his time as bishop, he also called and chaired several theological councils, many devoted to fighting heresy. He welcomed St. Ursus and St. Alban of Mainz when they fled Naxos to escape Arian persecution, and then sent them on to evangelize in Gaul and Germany. He was proclaimed a great Doctor of the Latin Church by Pope Boniface VIII in 1298.

The title “Honey Tongued Doctor” was initially bestowed on Ambrose because of his speaking and preaching ability; this led to the use of a beehive and bees in his iconography, symbols which also indicate wisdom. This led to his association with bees, beekeepers, chandlers, wax refiners, etc.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 26:1-6

That day, this song will be sung in the land of Judah:

We have a strong city;
to guard us he has set
wall and rampart about us.
Open the gates! Let the upright nation come in,
she, the faithful one
whose mind is steadfast, who keeps the peace,
because she trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord for ever,
for the Lord is the everlasting Rock;
he has brought low those who lived high up
in the steep citadel;
he brings it down, brings it down to the ground,
flings it down in the dust:
the feet of the lowly, the footsteps of the poor
trample on it.

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Matthew 7:21,24-27

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘It is not those who say to me, “Lord, Lord,” who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven. ‘Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against that house, and it did not fall: it was founded on rock. But everyone who listens to these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and struck that house, and it fell; and what a fall it had!’

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Founded on rock

I had an informal meeting over coffee with our boss the other day, and we were discussing the downfall of a business and the impatience of quick expansions, which could easily lead to many business risks. That includes loan repayments, wage payments and cashflow issues. These problems arise due to an over-eagerness to expand without carefully thinking through things and not giving oneself time to build a stable foundation.

One might ask how would the Bible provide teachings on business? It does not, however, businesses are built on human decisions and it requires human wisdom and attitudes to create opportunities. The Good News guides us on bringing ourselves to make decisions that are right or wrong. It emphasizes on our attitude to life and to people, building that strong character to move forward with confidence and strength. We use that same principle and apply it to business decisions, and that somehow leads us to a positive future ahead. It didn’t take our God a few days to guide His people out of slavery. God indeed didn’t change the hearts of many within days. It takes time and a lot of trust to build a rock-hard foundation. In today’s Gospel, we are told to not set our life on sand, because whatever stands on it gets eroded away.

Our Lord Jesus is not a teacher who sets us on soft unsteady ground, but one who tirelessly sets us on strong foundations. Do not opt for short cuts, where important factors have not been considered, but to stand up for firm well-calculated decisions. In this way, we move in a steady manner, which God provides in His time, and successes will follow. Trust in Him, He is always there for you.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Walk away from uncertain and weak platforms, and take the longer path of stable foundations. We pray for our wisdom and for the Holy Spirit to work in us, leading us to make the right decisions.

Thanksgiving: We thank all who live around us as testimony to Jesus’ examples of love and faith to God the Father.

6 December, Wednesday – Please Share

Dec 6 – Memorial for St. Nicholas, bishop

Nicholas (d. 346) was a priest and abbot, and the bishop of Myra, Lycia (modern Turkey). He was generous to the poor, and a special protector of the innocent and wrong. Many stories grew up around him prior to his becoming Santa Claus.

One story is that upon hearing that a local man had fallen on such hard times that he was planning to sell his daughters into prostitution, Nicholas went by night to the house and threw three bags of gold in through the window, saving the girls from an evil life. These three bags, gold generously given in time of trouble, became the three golden balls that indicate a pawn broker’s shop.

Another story is that he raised to life three young boys who had been murdered and pickled in a barrel of brine to hide the crime. These stories led to his patronage of children in general, and of barrel-makers besides.

Another St. Nicholas story is that he induced some thieves to return their plunder, which led to his protection against theft and robbery, and his patronage of them – he is not helping them to steal, but to repent and change. In the past, thieves have been known as Saint Nicholas’ clerks or Knights of St. Nicholas.

A fourth story is that during a voyage to the Holy Lands, a fierce storm blew up, threatening the ship. He prayed about it, and the storm calmed – hence the patronage of sailors and those like dockworkers who work on the sea.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 25:6-10
On this mountain,
the Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples
a banquet of rich food.
On this mountain he will remove
the mourning veil covering all peoples,
and the shroud enwrapping all nations,
he will destroy Death for ever.
The Lord will wipe away
the tears from every cheek;
he will take away his people’s shame
everywhere on earth,
for the Lord has said so.
That day, it will be said: See, this is our God
in whom we hoped for salvation;
the Lord is the one in whom we hoped.
We exult and we rejoice
that he has saved us.
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Matthew 15:29-37
Jesus reached the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and he went up into the hills. He sat there, and large crowds came to him bringing the lame, the crippled, the blind, the dumb and many others; these they put down at his feet, and he cured them. The crowds were astonished to see the dumb speaking, the cripples whole again, the lame walking and the blind with their sight, and they praised the God of Israel.
But Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I feel sorry for all these people; they have been with me for three days now and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them off hungry, they might collapse on the way.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Where could we get enough bread in this deserted place to feed such a crowd?’ Jesus said to them, ‘How many loaves have you?’ ‘Seven’ they said ‘and a few small fish.’ Then he instructed the crowd to sit down on the ground, and he took the seven loaves and the fish, and he gave thanks and broke them and handed them to the disciples who gave them to the crowds. They all ate as much as they wanted, and they collected what was left of the scraps, seven baskets full.
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He gave thanks and broke them

These days, when I attend a gathering with friends, I also get to meet their children. It is very heart warming when you have the kid willingly share his or her snack with you. Some may be reluctant to share at first because they are perhaps shy, but after warming up to them, most of the time they are willing to break whatever they have in half and share it with you. This simple, innocent act of kindness is being taught to them at this very young age — teaching them to be generous, to share with others.

That is exactly what Jesus is reminding us in today’s reading and Gospel. The Lord removes our sorrows, He feeds us, He enriches our body and soul, He graces us with kindness and goodness that no one else can. A kid’s generous act towards us is just how Jesus provides to the people, filled with abundance and generosity. As we follow the life of Jesus, He does not fill the people’s lives with gold and wealth, but feeds them, heals them, and actually fills the hearts with the basics of living. As for those with authority, He guides them with the use of their power to feed and aid the needy.

Let us reflect on God’s actions, and then compare our weekly goals and motivations in life. Are we for others and God, or are we for ourselves? Have we broken bread and shared it with others this week? Did the sharing just end every time after Sunday’s Holy Communion? We should keep in mind the priest’s words at the end of mass, that we are to go and share the Good News.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We pray for those who are homeless, that they will find shelter during the night and feel safe.

Thanksgiving: Thank you to those who have helped us by giving up and sharing their time for us, and that such faith and friendship can never be measured with wealth.

5 December, Tuesday – Look Your Best In Faith

5 December

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Isaiah 11:1-10

A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse,
a scion thrusts from his roots:
on him the spirit of the Lord rests,
a spirit of wisdom and insight,
a spirit of counsel and power,
a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
(The fear of the Lord is his breath.)
He does not judge by appearances,
he gives no verdict on hearsay,
but judges the wretched with integrity,
and with equity gives a verdict for the poor of the land.
His word is a rod that strikes the ruthless,
his sentences bring death to the wicked.

Integrity is the loincloth round his waist,
faithfulness the belt about his hips.

The wolf lives with the lamb,
the panther lies down with the kid,
calf and lion feed together,
with a little boy to lead them.
The cow and the bear make friends,
their young lie down together.
The lion eats straw like the ox.
The infant plays over the cobra’s hole;
into the viper’s lair
the young child puts his hand.
They do no hurt, no harm,
on all my holy mountain,
for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters swell the sea.

That day, the root of Jesse
shall stand as a signal to the peoples.
It will be sought out by the nations
and its home will be glorious.

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Luke 10:21-24

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

Then turning to his disciples he spoke to them in private, ‘Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’

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He does not judge by appearances

Modern society is too often being judged by appearances. Despite knowing that it is almost impossible to ‘judge a book by its cover’ these days, we still take notice of the clothes that people put on. Have you ever been treated differently because of the way you are dressed? I have definitely felt that, but not in a bad way. In my current job and role, it requires me to travel interstate very often, and so I often come across airport checks and building security. For more formal meetings and stakeholder appointments, I travel in a shirt and pants look, but if I am to travel to inspect sites where a lot of construction is going on, I will be in my boots, T-shirt and trade pants. Being in the latter attire somehow attracts a lot more checks and security questions. I am never offended as security does perform random checks (maybe they’re not so random after all), and never minded them. I even stop for a chat with them. What triggers me is that people are still judging by our appearances. It could be because we are more easy-going, easier to approach as compared to a uptight looking business man? We certainly cannot ignore that fact.

Today, we are told of how the Lord mixes us up, people of many differences, who are to live in harmony. The Lord has the power and ability to bring differences together and they are not judged by the status of the individual, but merely the humility and faith each one of us has. It would be extremely open-minded for us to really say, ‘I accept you, whoever you are’. I will take your education and wealth level into consideration, to judge you and size you up as to whether I would like to befriend you. Jesus never does that. Today’s Gospel tells us of how the Holy Spirit reveals itself inside of us. He does not judge us by appearances, not how clever we are, not how much power we hold, but by how much faithfulness we show unto others. The innocence of the eyes and of the things we hear are attractive to our Lord, because we see and listen to God’s voices more clearly and don’t allow ourselves to be distracted by the knowledge of the world.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We reach out to you O Lord, for you are our saviour, always watching over us in times of danger. And let us not be afraid to call out your name.

Thanksgiving: Give thanks to the Holy Father who, in his deep faith in Christ, guides his flock closer to you Lord Jesus.

4 December, Monday – Humbling Help

Dec 4 – Memorial for St. John Damascene, priest, doctor of the Church

John was born in Damascus about 675. After holding public office for a time, he withdrew to the monastery of Sabas near Jerusalem. He wrote The Fount of Wisdom, in which he presented a comprehensive teaching on Christian doctrine, which had great influence on later theology. He died about 750.

– the Weekday Missal

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Isaiah 2:1-5

The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In the days to come the mountain of the Temple of the Lord shall tower above the mountains and be lifted higher than the hills.

All the nations will stream to it, peoples without number will come to it; and they will say:

  ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple of the God of Jacob that he may teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths; since the Law will go out from Zion, and the oracle of the Lord from Jerusalem.’

He will wield authority over the nations and adjudicate between many peoples; these will hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spears into sickles.

Nation will not lift sword against nation, there will be no more training for war.

O House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

 

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Matthew 8:5-11

When Jesus went into Capernaum a centurion came up and pleaded with him. ‘Sir,’ he said ‘my servant is lying at home paralysed, and in great pain.’ ‘I will come myself and cure him’ said Jesus. The centurion replied, ‘Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; just give the word and my servant will be cured. For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.’ When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘I tell you solemnly, nowhere in Israel have I found faith like this. And I tell you that many will come from east and west to take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven.’

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No more training for war

As we are surrounded by media coverage of war, political disagreements, domestic violence and occasional terror attacks, both domestic and international, we cannot help but wonder how dangerous the world can be. We must be there to embrace peace as best as we can. How will it be like when there is no need to train for war? We Singaporean boys will not need to spend our two years training as soldiers. Unfortunately, this will never be the case as there is always greed and hunger for power around the world. No matter how philantrophic one is, a businessman will always be a businessman, greedy politicians will always surface, asking for more than the previous one.

How has today’s faithful soldier taught us about faith? Despite all the hatred and political unrest between states and cultures, the Centurion approached Jesus in time of need and help. Think back on the time when someone has asked you for help, or you have required help from someone. It definitely would not have been a random person, but someone who you have faith in having the ability to assist you. It is that little faith that we have in others that gradually grows to harmony and peace. Jesus found the approach by the Centurion a very humbling one. In terms of authority and power, the Centurion is very much a middle management staff and yet he approached Jesus, a Jew, for the miracles that he believed in.

At Holy Communion, we say, “Lord, I am not worthy for you to enter under my roof.” Before we receive Jesus into our body, we are to humble and make clean ourselves, and with the faith that we have, no matter how small, we are inviting Him to whole-heartedly enter into our lives. We look forward to a new week ahead of us, knowing that God is in us to go through it all, with no fears and no hesitation to ask for the Lord’s help when we are lost.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Make us humble, O Lord, that we do not look inwards to ourselves, but to look outwards, doing good unto others.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to those who have helped us, we pray for the faith of others.

3 December, Sunday – Abilities & Attitudes

3 Dec – 1st Sunday of Advent

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Isaiah 63:16-17, 64:1, 3-8

You, Lord, yourself are our Father, ‘Our Redeemer’ is your ancient name.

Why, Lord, leave us to stray from your ways and harden our hearts against fearing you?

Return, for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your inheritance.

Oh, that you would tear the heavens open and come down!

– at your Presence the mountains would melt. No ear has heard, no eye has seen any god but you act like this for those who trust him.

You guide those who act with integrity and keep your ways in mind.

You were angry when we were sinners; we had long been rebels against you.

We were all like men unclean, all that integrity of ours like filthy clothing.

We have all withered like leaves and our sins blew us away like the wind.

No one invoked your name or roused himself to catch hold of you.

For you hid your face from us and gave us up to the power of our sins.

And yet, Lord, you are our Father; we the clay, you the potter, we are all the work of your hand.

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1 Corinthians 1:3-9

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace.

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

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Mark 13:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. It is like a man travelling abroad: he has gone from home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own task; and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake. So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!’

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You will not be without any of the gifts

Today is the first day in the season of Advent. The opening and beginning in preparation for the coming of our Lord baby Jesus. If we are to look back to the year twenty-seventeen, and realise that we have not done much in terms of God’s work, being busy with our very own agenda, and have not given much charity, we may want to organise ourselves this Advent to enrich our daily living with works of the Spirit.

Last week, God reminded us that, however we have treated our neighbours, we do it unto Him. Today’s reading and Gospel reassures us that, as our heart lies in the Spirit of Christ, we are not short of the ability to do God’s work. We are filled with the Holy Spirit, the gifts from our Lord are ever so powerful and generous for us to show His work onto others. We are called to enrich others as the Lord has enriched us with His love and generosity. Following the reading, now that we know we have the abilities through the Spirit, we will need the attitude. The attitude to want to do the right thing, to always be present and being ready to invite God into our lives where we make the best decisions and actually do the work. To ‘Sleep’ is to switch off and not be prepared for what is ahead of us, such that we may feel lost and dejected. To be ‘Awake’ is to have our hearts prepared in receiving Christ into our lives, that we are always open in our hearts in seeing Jesus in every situation. We are not to be blinded by distractions and temptations that lead us away from the Spirit.

If I am to look back on the past two years, I thought twenty-sixteen was a year where God provided me with the right foundation and stepping stone in my career and personal life; that, I am very thankful for. But twenty-seventeen was an even more eventful year where those foundations and stones built in the previous year began to take place and enable me to see the generosity that He has provided me with. This Advent, I would like to move forward more through preparing myself in being His fully-awake servant, that more works of charity will come out of my daily habits. If you have been experiencing a rather difficult year, let this Advent be an encouraging one, that the coming of Jesus gives you hope and joys, to never forget that He has implanted the abilities in us. And now is for us to raise the right attitude in ourselves.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We pray for those who are having difficult moments in their household, that the Spirit of Advent shows them a new beginning, that it is never too late with Christ.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for a generous and loving God, who watches over us and builds our pathways the way He wants them to be.

7 October, Saturday – We Are Protected

Oct 7 – Memorial for Our Lady of the Rosary

This day was originally observed as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory. Its date was chosen to commemorate the European victory at the third naval Battle of Lepanto in 1571. This battle marked the high point of Turkish (Muslim) advance on European soil with the Balkans and the regions west and north of the Black Sea returning to Western (Christian) hands in the succeeding centuries. This victory, after two earlier defeats at the same location, was attributed to Our Lady of the Rosary as special processions were made on that same day in Rome for the sake of this crucial victory.

Pope Pius V ordered that a commemoration of the rosary should be made upon that day, and at the request of the Dominican Pope Gregory XIII in 1573 allowed this feast to be kept in all churches which possessed an altar dedicated to the rosary. In 1671, the observance of this festival was extended by Pope Clement X to the whole of Spain, and somewhat later Pope Clement XI, after the important victory over the Turks gained by Prince Eugene on 6 August 1716 at Peterwardein in Hungary, commanded the feast of the rosary to be celebrated by the universal Church.

– Wikipedia

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Baruch 4:5-12, 27-29

Take courage, my people, constant reminder of Israel. You were sold to the nations, but not for extermination. You provoked God; and so were delivered to your enemies, since you had angered your creator by offering sacrifices to demons, not to God.

You had forgotten the eternal God who reared you. You had also grieved Jerusalem who nursed you, for when she saw the anger fall on you from God, she said: Listen, you neighbours of Zion: God has sent me great sorrow. I have seen my sons and daughters taken into captivity, to which they have been sentenced by the Eternal. I had reared them joyfully; in tears, in sorrow, I watched them go away. Do not, any of you, exult over me, a widow, deserted by so many; I suffer loneliness because of the sins of my own children, who turned away from the Law of God. Take courage, my children, call on God: he who brought disaster on you will remember you. As by your will you first strayed away from God, so now turn back and search for him ten times as hard; for as he brought down those disasters on you, so will he rescue you and give you eternal joy.

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Luke 10:17-24

The seventy-two came back rejoicing. ‘Lord,’ they said ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.’

It was then that, filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, he said, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

Then turning to his disciples he spoke to them in private, ‘Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’

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Nothing shall ever hurt you

 Today, we celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Rosary. I am embarrassed to admit that it has been a long while since I prayed the rosary. I used to have the habit of praying the rosary on the train and buses, then the occasional rosary sessions with the neighbours. Then I downloaded a free rosary app which I hardly use, and which today, clearly reminds me that I should return to one of the most powerful weapons of the faith.

We as Catholics get criticised about our relationship with Mother Mary and, being Christians, there is nothing else as a reference other than the Holy Bible. From apparitions to miracles, to the power of the rosary, these were never recognised with others. The humility of Mother Mary carries on into the faith, always protecting us from the side and guiding us towards her Son Jesus.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says to the disciples, “Happy the eyes that see, to hear what you hear.” How grateful are we to know Mary the Mother of God, as some have never gotten to experience her loveliness. To reject her is also to reject God’s love as Mary was chosen to be the mother of Jesus. Knowing that my faith involves not only Jesus but also every one of Christ’s brothers and sisters, the Saints, the Prophets and our beloved religious pastors, I truly feel protected and loved in this community. Truly, knowing that nothing shall ever hurt us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We lift up all our prayers to Our Lady of Rosary, who always watches over us and encourages us to be closer to her son, Jesus.

Thanksgiving: Let us give thanks to the Church community who provides a very wholesome environment for our families to grow and be safe in.

6 October, Friday – Turn Away, Turn Right

Oct 6 – Memorial for St. Bruno, Priest

Bruno (1030–1101) was educated in Paris and Rheims, France. He was ordained in 1055. He taught theology, and one of his students later became Blessed Pope Urban II. He presided over the cathedral school at Rheims from 1057 to 1075. He criticised the worldliness he saw in his fellow clergy. He opposed Manasses, Archbishop of Rheims, because of his laxity and mismanagement. He was chancellor of the Archdiocese of Rheims.

Following a vision he received of a secluded hermitage where he could spend his life becoming closer to God, he retired to a mountain near Chartreuse in Dauphiny in 1084 and with the help of St. Hugh of Grenoble, he founded what became the first house of the Carthusian Order. He and his brothers supported themselves as manuscript copyists.

He became assistant to Pope Urban in 1090, and supported his efforts at reform. Retiring from public life, he and his companions built a hermitage at Torre where the monastery of Saint Stephen was built in 1095. Bruno combined in the religious life living as a hermit and living in a community; his learning is apparent from his scriptural commentaries.

– Patron Saint Index

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Baruch 1:15-22

Integrity belongs to the Lord our God; to us the look of shame we wear today, to us, the people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem, to our kings and princes, our priests, our prophets, as to our ancestors, because we have sinned in the sight of the Lord, have disobeyed him, and have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God telling us to follow the commandments which the Lord had ordained for us. From the day when the Lord brought our ancestors out of the land of Egypt until today we have been disobedient to the Lord our God, we have been disloyal, refusing to listen to his voice. And so the disasters, and the curse which the Lord pronounced through his servant Moses the day he brought our fathers out of Egypt to give us a land where milk and honey flow, have seized on us, disasters we experience today. Despite all the words of those prophets whom he sent us, we have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God, but, each following the dictates of his evil heart, we have taken to serving alien gods, and doing what is displeasing to the Lord our God.

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Luke 10:13-16

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. And still, it will not go as hard with Tyre and Sidon at the Judgement as with you. And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted high as heaven? You shall be thrown down to hell.

‘Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me.’

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We have been disloyal

Some have said, ‘what you have not tried, you will not desire’; that is also to say, what we have tried and liked, we desire even more. We face multiple temptations each day, and hundreds of thoughts race through our little minds on what we should do. Do we entertain the thought and fall victim to unfaithful desires? Or do we hold off and not be bothered by the desires that it could bring us? Clearly, we face them all the time. It may not be so serious as to saying that each temptation that we indulge in is sinful, but it does challenge us on an everyday basis in terms of making good decisions.

In today’s reading, we as followers of Christ have shown disobedience since the Father has led the people out of captivity. It is like children being set free being exposed to the secular influences — that we pick up our thoughts and beliefs, not from the Word of God, but through all the media that is out there for us to fall prey to. What I intend to share in today’s reflection is that, we face all sorts of opportunities to sin every day. How do we set ourselves apart from others, to be able to make decisions that are pleasing to God? We are to build in ourselves the maturity of the Spirit in us, so that we are able to have self-control, which ultimately leads to righteous actions.

Come this weekend, just be a little more fruitful in terms of building our faith when we find ourselves tempted for something worldly. Perhaps when you are online and thinking of buying something that you don’t really need, go get distracted by another website that actually tells you a little more about our faith. Or, if someone has made you mad over the past week, go have a lunch date with them and enjoy the weekend over a nice enjoyable meal and make peace. We are creatures that are weak at heart, but with the Lord’s guidance, He is able to make things beautiful around us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Think of the moments when the Lord has taken away painful moments and filled them with peaceful and beautiful ones. May those times be a reminder of how we can share Christ with others.

Thanksgiving: The gift of peace, love and joy is not only for the season of Christmas, but we thank the Lord for all these gifts because we believe that we will continue to experience all that when we repent and accept Him.

5 October, Thursday – At Your Doorstep

5 October 2017

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Nehemiah 8:1-12

When the seventh month came, all the people gathered as one man on the square before the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses which the Lord had prescribed for Israel. Accordingly Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, consisting of men, women, and children old enough to understand. This was the first day of the seventh month. On the square before the Water Gate, in the presence of the men and women, and children old enough to understand, he read from the book from early morning till noon; all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.

Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden dais erected for the purpose; beside him stood, on his right, Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; on his left, Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam. In full view of all the people – since he stood higher than all the people – Ezra opened the book; and when he opened it all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people raised their hands and answered, ‘Amen! Amen!’; then they bowed down and, face to the ground, prostrated themselves before the Lord. (Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabab, Hanan, Pelaiah, who were Levites, explained the Law to the people while the people remained standing.) And Ezra read from the Law of God, translating and giving the sense, so that the people understood what was read.

Then (Nehemiah – His Excellency – and) Ezra, priest and scribe (and the Levites who were instructing the people) said to all the people, ‘This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not be mournful, do not weep.’ For the people were all in tears as they listened to the words of the Law.

He then said, ‘Go, eat the fat, drink the sweet wine, and send a portion to the man who has nothing prepared ready. For this day is sacred to our Lord. Do not be sad: the joy of the Lord is your stronghold.’ And the Levites calmed all the people, saying, ‘Be at ease; this is a sacred day. Do not be sad.’ And all the people went off to eat and drink and give shares away and begin to enjoy themselves since they had understood the meaning of what had been proclaimed to them.

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Luke 10:1-12

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, “We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.” I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.’

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We wipe off the very dust

What gets you around the business community or let yourself be known around a particular industry is not about what you know, but it is all about who you know. Ever since our childhood days in school, we form friendships based on interest, or because of sitting next to each other in the classroom and many other varied reasons. A kid may have wanted to be part of the ‘in-crowd’, to be able to associate with the coolest kid in school. He would go back to school on Monday, to tell everyone that he was invited to Ryan’s birthday over the weekend. We already know the importance of having associations since young and the kind of people which we would like to be associated with may change at different stages in our life.

In today’s gospel, Jesus sends his followers out to make peace with the people in the towns. He sent them to find out who has the willing heart to welcome the greetings given by Him and that will be an acceptance by that household being associated with God. Being Catholics, we are associated with our Father since baptism. We always have the choice of breaking this relationship however, if we choose not to accept the ‘peace’, we deny our association with the Father, and we will probably be missing out on what the kingdom of God is like. Then, we will not be part of the ‘coolest gang in school’. Our Lord is not a forceful person; when one does not appreciate the peace and love brought into his home, He breaks off an association with them, wiping off the very dust at the door.

I am proud to be associated with our Lord, the church and my Christian community. As I grow older and more mature in faith, I find the importance to return the peace and love given to me by our Father, but also to share them, bringing the same peace and love to other peoples’ houses. However, we have to be aware of people who detest the religion and also of our associations with them. Our Father teaches us to be people of peace, love, patience and kindness as we ourselves are a testimony of God’s work in us. Choose wisely, but do not fear and be uncertain when you are confronted because we are in the ‘coolest family’.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, give me the strength and patience with those around me so that I may bring your genuine peace into their homes.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father for my friends. The friends who are dear to me and keep them safe in your embrace, so they may feel Your warmth and love.

4 October, Wednesday – On A Mission

Oct 4 – Memorial for St. Francis of Assisi

Francis Bernardone (1181–1226) was the son of Pietro Bernadone, a rich cloth merchant. Though he had a good education and became part of his father’s business, he also had a somewhat misspent youth. He was a street brawler and some-time soldier. He was captured during a conflict between Assisi and Perugia, and spent over a year as prisoner of war. During this time, he had a conversion experience, including a reported message from Christ calling him to leave this worldly life. Upon release, Francis began taking his religion seriously.

He took the Gospel as the rule of his life, Jesus Christ as his literal example. He dressed in rough clothes, begged for his sustenance, and preached purity and peace. His family disapproved, and his father disinherited him; Francis formally renounced his wealth and inheritance. He visited hospitals, served the sick, preached in the streets, and took all men and women as siblings.

He began to attract followers in 1209, and with papal blessing founded the Franciscans based on a simple statement by Jesus: “Leave all and follow me.” In 1212, Clare of Assisi became his spiritual student, which led to the founding of the Poor Clares. He visited and preached to the Saracens. He composed songs and hymns to God and nature. He lived with animals, worked with his hands, cared for lepers, cleaned churches, and sent food to thieves. In 1221 he resigned direction of the Franciscans.

While in meditation on La Verna (Mount Alvernia) in the Apennines in September 1224, Francis received the stigmata, which periodically bled during the remaining two years of his life. This miracle has a separate memorial on 17 September.

In the Middle Ages, people who were believed to be possessed by Beelzebub especially called upon the intercession of St. Francis, the theory being that he was the demon’s opposite number in heaven.

“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.” – St. Francis of Assisi

– Patron Saint Index

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Nehemiah 2:1-8

In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, the wine being my concern, I took up the wine and offered it to the king. Now I had never been downcast before. So the king said, ‘Why is your face so sad? You are not sick, surely? This must be a sadness of the heart.’ A great fear came over me and I said to the king, ‘May the king live for ever! How could my face be other than sad when the city where the tombs of my ancestors are lies in ruins, and its gates have been burnt down?’ ‘What’ the king asked ‘is your request?’ I called on the God of heaven and made this reply to the king, ‘If it pleases the king, and if you are satisfied with your servant, give me leave to go to Judah, to the city of my ancestors’ tombs, and rebuild it.’ The king, with the queen sitting there beside him, said, ‘How long will your journey take, and when will you return?’ So I named a date that seemed acceptable to the king and he gave me leave to go. I spoke to the king once more, ‘If it please the king, could letters be given me for the governors of Transeuphrates to allow me to pass through to Judah? And also a letter for Asaph, keeper of the king’s park, to supply me with timber for the gates of the citadel of the Temple, for the city walls and for the house I am to occupy?’ This the king granted me, for the kindly favour of my God was with me.

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Luke 9:57-62

As Jesus and his disciples travelled along they met a man on the road who said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’

Another to whom he said, ‘Follow me’, replied, ‘Let me go and bury my father first.’ But he answered, ‘Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.’

Another said, ‘I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say goodbye to my people at home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

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Your duty is to go and spread the news

I left home early for the airport to avoid the mad, morning peak-hour traffic jam, and got to the departure gate in anticipation of the work I have to do in another city — get a status report on the project and come back home all in one day. I start every week as if I am on a mission, to clear off my to-do list by the end of the week, leaving as little loose ends as possible when the weekend arrives. I feel that I must be pretty focused on what is ahead of me.

St Francis of Assisi was a man on a mission as well, who truly never lost sight of the deep faith he had for the Lord. He was full of humility and embraced poverty so that he was free of distractions, spreading the truth and Good News wherever he set foot. Then, how about our own missions? Have we sorted out our everyday distractions in order to be effectively on our faith mission? Or have we been so engrossed in the work and pleasures of our lifestyle that we have lost sight of the duty to go and spread the news?

In today’s Gospel, we are reminded of God’s calling in whatever vocation we have chosen. To be able to drop the unimportant issues as it has already been taken care of, and to follow Christ. So often, our attention gets called away to non-productive and even worse, unfaithful directions that cause us to procrastinate and derail our mission – that of spreading the news to others. Perhaps, as we approach this weekend, let us not only set aside one hour of Mass time on Sunday, but pick up an additional ministry within our Church community, to bring the Good News to someone else’s ears.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We pray for a more focused week, giving priority to the Lord and to keep away from negative secular motivations.

Thanksgiving: Give thanks for our health, wisdom and intellect; that we are able to sort right from wrong, to be able to share the Good News to others.