Tag Archives: austin leong

13 February, Tuesday – Know What Is Enough

13 February 

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James 1:12-18

Happy the man who stands firm when trials come. He has proved himself, and will win the prize of life, the crown that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

Never, when you have been tempted, say, ‘God sent the temptation’; God cannot be tempted to do anything wrong, and he does not tempt anybody. Everyone who is tempted is attracted and seduced by his own wrong desire. Then the desire conceives and gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it too has a child, and the child is death.

Make no mistake about this, my dear brothers: it is all that is good, everything that is perfect, which is given us from above; it comes down from the Father of all light; with him there is no such thing as alteration, no shadow of a change. By his own choice he made us his children by the message of the truth so that we should be a sort of first-fruits of all that he had created.

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Mark 8:14-21

The disciples had forgotten to take any food and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. Then he gave them this warning, ‘Keep your eyes open; be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.’ And they said to one another, ‘It is because we have no bread.’ And Jesus knew it, and he said to them, ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you not yet understand? Have you no perception? Are your minds closed? Have you eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear? Or do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?’ They answered, ‘Twelve.’ And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?’ And they answered, ‘Seven.’ Then he said to them, ‘Are you still without perception?’

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Are your minds closed?

To act on temptation is to entertain the thought of wrong desires, which when acted upon will cause oneself to sin. With the accumulation of sins, death will take place in us. As tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, we begin the season of Lent, in preparation for Good Friday. We close our hearts to the temptations around us. We embrace the Lenten season looking back at all the faults and temptations that have caused us to sin and hurt those around us. The love of God, sending his Son Jesus to die for our sins, to wipe away all those wrong desires we have made, how great is that?

Are our minds closed to what Our Father in heaven has done for us? Are we like the disciples of Jesus who just could not trust what was in front of them, but had fear when Jesus worked miracles in front of them? What is considered to be enough? We are weak, and it takes prayers to build that faith and be strong in it to turn away temptation.

I do not deny the amount of temptation in more ways than one, which leads to selfishness and certainly does not build a better community. Look away from temptation, be among the righteous people. May our thoughts be all about building a strong person to stand up to trials, because we truly know Jesus provides and we should live that life that is deserving of all that is from Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: I may have belittled the power of you Lord Jesus, overwhelmed by things that are mere wrong desires. Make me turn away from them so I can be focused on being that person with a good and faithful heart.

Thanksgiving: Alleluia Alleluia, Praise the Lord for he is good. Praise the Lord who provides. Praise the Lord who forgives.

12 February, Monday – Christ Ignores Impatience

12 February 

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James 1:1-11

From James, servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Greetings to the twelve tribes of the Dispersion.

My brothers, you will always have your trials but, when they come, try to treat them as a happy privilege; you understand that your faith is only put to the test to make you patient, but patience too is to have its practical results so that you will become fully-developed, complete, with nothing missing.

If there is any one of you who needs wisdom, he must ask God, who gives to all freely and ungrudgingly; it will be given to him. But he must ask with faith, and no trace of doubt, because a person who has doubts is like the waves thrown up in the sea when the wind drives. That sort of person, in two minds, wavering between going different ways, must not expect that the Lord will give him anything.

It is right for the poor brother to be proud of his high rank, and the rich one to be thankful that he has been humbled, because riches last no longer than the flowers in the grass; the scorching sun comes up, and the grass withers, the flower falls; what looked so beautiful now disappears. It is the same with the rich man: his business goes on; he himself perishes.

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Mark 8:11-13

The Pharisees came up and started a discussion with Jesus; they demanded of him a sign from heaven, to test him. And with a sigh that came straight from the heart he said, ‘Why does this generation demand a sign? I tell you solemnly, no sign shall be given to this generation.’ And leaving them again and re-embarking, he went away to the opposite shore.

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His business goes on, he himself perishes

When I drive to work in the heavy morning traffic, stuck in a jam with the news on the radio, I happen to observe a lot of things through my rear view mirror. You actually see the impatience and grumpy faces of some drivers. If you can imagine, every time we come to a red light, you allow more cars into the line and I see the drivers behind waving their hands in big gestures. I would always laugh to myself and think to myself, those few cars would not have made a difference. What is point of getting all worked up?

This leads to James’ reminder to us in today’s reading. We all have our bad days, our frustrating moments that get us all worked up, inadvertently affecting those around us as well. We could vent our anger on an innocent party, whose feelings you would have hurt for the day. We are reminded to be patient and control our feelings that could hurt, and around situations that we have difficulty with. It teaches us that putting our faith and patience ahead of ourselves would make us become fully developed and complete, with nothing missing. This sort of wisdom gets forgotten in our fast-paced, impatient world.

Wisdom that we receive through faith enables us to differentiate between right and wrong, and only to know how to approach the people around us. Like Jesus, He does not entertain the signs that are being requested by the Pharisees. This is because He is not an entertainer, He does not show signs to prove His power. He reveals Himself to those with genuine faith. To those who carry on this faith through a long period of time, through hardships and deep trust in God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: O Jesus, always be there to remind me how selfless I have to be, to be patient with the miracles you promised for my own good. That I only deserve You when my faith has been tested.

Thanksgiving: Be grateful for the gifts, for the riches, for things that last, for things that matter.

11 February, Sunday – Ask Without Attitude

11 February
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Leviticus 13:1-2,44-46

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘If a swelling or scab or shiny spot appears on a man’s skin, a case of leprosy of the skin is to be suspected. The man must be taken to Aaron, the priest, or to one of the priests who are his sons.

‘The man is leprous: he is unclean. The priest must declare him unclean; he is suffering from leprosy of the head. A man infected with leprosy must wear his clothing torn and his hair disordered; he must shield his upper lip and cry, “Unclean, unclean.” As long as the disease lasts he must be unclean; and therefore he must live apart: he must live outside the camp.’

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1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1

Whatever you eat, whatever you drink, whatever you do at all, do it for the glory of God. Never do anything offensive to anyone – to Jews or Greeks or to the Church of God; just as I try to be helpful to everyone at all times, not anxious for my own advantage but for the advantage of everybody else, so that they may be saved. Take me for your model, as I take Christ.

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Mark 1:40-45

A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: ‘If you want to’ he said ‘you can cure me.’ Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to!’ he said. ‘Be cured!’ And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured. Jesus immediately sent him away and sternly ordered him, ‘Mind you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering for your healing prescribed by Moses as evidence of your recovery.’ The man went away, but then started talking about it freely and telling the story everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived. Even so, people from all around would come to him.

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If you want to

How often do we require the help of someone but are afraid to impose on them? Then we humbly say, ‘Only if you want to’ so the other person does not have to feel obligated nor to agree if it isn’t inconvenient for them as well. I think that this is a very respectful approach to asking for help, to not think of oneself, but to also be considerate of the other’s feelings.

Today’s readings lead us to look at both sides of the exchange; being the sick and unclean who humbly seeks help and acceptance, and the ever generous love of Christ. The leper represents anyone of us who is bearing the difficulties and humiliation from the world, one who is not accepted and categorized as not ‘normal’. Have you come across someone who is in need and yet is arrogant about it? Like they deserve to be served, or they think they actually have the privilege to get the service or help they require. I have experienced this so many times and it puts me off when I am being approached with such an attitude. These are just like the unclean persons whom you want to be outside of the community. However, the Lord, whose Heart is so generous and giving, teaches us to give and not to return a service offensively. I must admit, that is a very difficult thing to do.

 I often say this to my wife when she has had a terrible day, or even when she anticipates the ungrateful patients that she is about to see at her workplace. I tell her to do it for God. We may not like the attitude of the people, but perhaps helping them out could somehow relieve those around them as well. Some may say, easy to say but very hard to do. Therefore, the next time we require the help of another, ask with humility, only if you want to.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

 Prayer: O Lord Almighty, grace us with the generosity that your Son, Jesus has shown to His children, that we may just be filled with a Christ-like attitude.

Thanksgiving: We never forget the days and days of joy when we felt at peace in the deep presence of Jesus. May you always be there for us the week ahead.

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.