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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.

3 October, Tuesday – We Go Wherever You Go

3 October 2017

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Zechariah 8:20-23

The Lord of Hosts says this: ‘There will be other peoples yet, and citizens of great cities. And the inhabitants of one city will go to the next and say, “Come, let us go and entreat the favour of the Lord, and seek the Lord of Hosts; I am going myself.” And many peoples and great nations will come to seek the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favour of the Lord.’

The Lord of Hosts says this: ‘In those days, ten men of nations of every language will take a Jew by the sleeve and say, “We want to go with you, since we have learnt that God is with you.”’

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Luke 9:51-56

As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem and sent messengers ahead of him. These set out, and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem. Seeing this, the disciples James and John said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?’ But he turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village.

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We want to go with you

I know of many parents these days who warn their child at school to be selective of whom they hang out with, to befriend those who have good results, staying away from those naughty and mischievous kids in order not to get influenced by their bad habits and behaviour. As for my childhood friendships, I believe we form friendships through common interests and the amount of time we spent playing together as well as studying together. Those were the times when we felt that this group of us would go through life till we grew old. Well, a handful of us did and we are still rather close mates after thirty-two years. But I could recall a few extremely close schoolmates just headed on different paths at various stage of their studies.

Therefore, as we grow older with more responsibilities, we choose our paths where we see fit and try to live a fruitful life every day. Don’t we begin to ask ourselves whom we want to go with? Do we build friendships to gain both popularity and money that perhaps will bring us some fortune for short term gains? Or do we build relationships that give us a lifetime of happiness and faithful support?

Today’s Gospel truly reminds us once again to be forgiving and not someone who thinks about revenge and rage. Such negative responses are not reflections of God’s intentions and love. The wrath of God that people once feared has been replaced by the Love and Grace of Jesus Christ the Son. When we feel weak and tired, are we still able to pick ourselves up, to go where the Lord leads us, to make the decision to want to go wherever he presents to us?

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: O Lord, give us the wisdom of right and wrong, of whom to be wary of and of course of whom to follow. Let us be just like the lay fishermen who dropped everything to follow Jesus.

Thanksgiving: May we thank you Lord for a peaceful early of the week, that we work hard for the week ahead, filled with your grace and wisdom.

1 October, Sunday – Will Do For You

1 October 2017

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Ezekiel 18:25-28

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows: ‘You object, “What the Lord does is unjust.” Listen, you House of Israel: is what I do unjust? Is it not what you do that is unjust? When the upright man renounces his integrity to commit sin and dies because of this, he dies because of the evil that he himself has committed. When the sinner renounces sin to become law-abiding and honest, he deserves to live. He has chosen to renounce all his previous sins; he shall certainly live; he shall not die.’

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Philippians 2:1-11

If our life in Christ means anything to you, if love can persuade at all, or the Spirit that we have in common, or any tenderness and sympathy, then be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind. That is the one thing which would make me completely happy. There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everybody is to be self-effacing. Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, So that nobody thinks of his own interests first but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead. In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus:

His state was divine,
yet he did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave,
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings in the heavens,
on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

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Matthew 21:28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people, ‘What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He went and said to the first, “My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not go,” but afterwards thought better of it and went. The man then went and said the same thing to the second who answered, “Certainly, sir,” but did not go. Which of the two did the father’s will?’ ‘The first’ they said. Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you, a pattern of true righteousness, but you did not believe him, and yet the tax collectors and prostitutes did. Even after seeing that, you refused to think better of it and believe in him.’

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Thinks of other people’s interest

I recall those years when I was much younger and a teenager who wasn’t too disciplined. Whenever I was asked to help or given some household errands to run, I would feel reluctant. However, because we did not have any domestic helpers at home and since both my parents worked hard to put food on the table, there was no one else to complete the errands but ourselves. As reluctant as I was, it would still be done and surprisingly, I would feel good to have done it. Well, that is because most of those errands involved buying food and ordering takeaways.

As I got older, I continued to have random thoughts about the purpose of the things that I had to do. Was I doing this for my parents, because I respected them and loveed them for the care they had given me? Was I doing this because it showed faith and thanksgiving to our Lord Jesus? Was I doing this just for the sake of money and survival? Was I doing this because I made the other person feel good about themselves at the end of the day? I believe when we grow up to become responsible adults, we begin to be accountable for our own actions, and if we tend to look beyond ourselves, we should be responsible about how our actions can affect others interest.

As with today’s first reading and Gospel, God looks to those who have that change of heart to do good. Our Lord and creator knows us pretty well. The Lord does not look at the surface of who we are, but to look deep into our hearts for our intentions and struggles to renounce sin. It is very comforting to know this in spite of all the difficult decisions we have to make each day just to survive. But if we believe in God and constantly make the effort to actually be the good person God wants us to be, He will see it and reward us. We do not live on Earth alone. Despite the struggles to love a difficult neighbour, we still need the help of others to move forward ourselves. Thus, there is certainly no excuse not to do what pleases the Lord, for He is simple and encouraging for us to always be by his side, renouncing sin and turning towards doing good.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Oh Lord, always be in our thoughts and hearts that we aim to do good wholeheartedly and that our actions bring peace and love to those around us.

Thanksgiving: O Gracious Lord, thank you for watching over us and recognising our efforts to not sin again, forgiving us, filling us with your Holy Spirit.

5 Aug, Saturday – The World Does Not Play Fair

Aug 5 – Memorial for Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome

First raised at the order of Pope Liberius in the mid-fourth century, the Liberian Basilica was rebuilt by Pope Sixtus III shortly after the Council of Ephesus affirmed Mary’s title as Mother of God in 431. Rededicated at that time to the Mother of God, St. Mary Major is the largest church in the world honouring God through Mary.

St. Mary Major is one of the four Roman basilicas known as patriarchal cathedrals in memory of the first centres of the Church. This basilica represents the See of Antioch, where Mary is supposed to have spent most of her life.

– http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/SaintOfDay/default.asp?id=1098.

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Leviticus 25:1, 8-17

The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai. He said:

‘You are to count seven weeks of years – seven times seven years, that is to say a period of seven weeks of years, forty-nine years. And on the tenth day of the seventh month you shall sound the trumpet; on the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout the land. You will declare this fiftieth year sacred and proclaim the liberation of all the inhabitants of the land. This is to be a jubilee for you; each of you will return to his ancestral home, each to his own clan. This fiftieth year is to be a jubilee year for you: you will not sow, you will not harvest the ungathered corn, you will not gather from the untrimmed vine. The jubilee is to be a holy thing to you, you will eat what comes from the fields.

‘In this year of jubilee each of you is to return to his ancestral home. If you buy or sell with your neighbour, let no one wrong his brother. If you buy from your neighbour, this must take into account the number of years since the jubilee: according to the number of productive years he will fix the price. The greater the number of years, the higher shall be the price demanded; the less the number of years, the greater the reduction; for what he is selling you is a certain number of harvests. Let none of you wrong his neighbour, but fear your God; I am the Lord your God.’

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Matthew 14:1-12

Herod the tetrarch heard about the reputation of Jesus, and said to his court, ‘This is John the Baptist himself; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.’

Now it was Herod who had arrested John, chained him up and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. For John had told him, ‘It is against the Law for you to have her.’ He had wanted to kill him but was afraid of the people, who regarded John as a prophet. Then, during the celebrations for Herod’s birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and so delighted Herod that he promised on oath to give her anything she asked. Prompted by her mother she said, ‘Give me John the Baptist’s head, here, on a dish.’ The king was distressed but, thinking of the oaths he had sworn and of his guests, he ordered it to be given her, and sent and had John beheaded in the prison. The head was brought in on a dish and given to the girl who took it to her mother. John’s disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went off to tell Jesus.

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Let no one wrong his brother

As I was growing up, we were taught to play fair — that everyone gets a chance, and when you have gotten your turn, you are to give way for others to play so everyone gets a turn. We were told to share our toys, we learnt that sharing is caring. We were taught to be nice and be friendly so that we would have friends who would grow to help us along the way.

However, the hard truth when we grow up and begin to notice the competition in order to survive makes us reconsider the values that we were brought up with. Of course, I do not mean to turn from a good schoolkid to a mean and selfish person when we grow up. The world does not play fair. As most of us reflect on this today, we would agree that sometimes when we play by the book, we lose out to others, leading to frustration and perhaps eventually, finding something to blame the failure on.

In today’s readings, the Lord spoke to Moses about being fair and loving to his fellow brothers, that rewards were proportionate to the harvest. In contrast, the Gospel never fail to reminds us of the evil and presence of people who are always looking out for themselves, executing decisions that are purely for selfish gain, with no fruitful outcome for others. We can summarise the mission for the past week — that we are to live to be of value to others, pray for wisdom that we do not neglect the unfortunate, but to accept them for who they are. Better yet, to invite them to turn their hearts towards God. Despite a rough world out there, we can still play fair on the platform of faith.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Gather our thoughts O Lord, that the past week has been good and that you have journeyed with us to keep us safe. If we have not been prayerful, we set aside this weekend to do Your work, in Your name.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord, for the times when I was tempted to treat others unfairly just for my own gain, but decided not to do so, because I am being reminded of Jesus and His love for others.

4 Aug, Friday – Being Accepted

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

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

He has been declared patron saint for all priests.

– Patron Saint Index

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

The Lord spoke to Moses. He said:

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

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

The Lord spoke to Moses. He said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Matthew 13:54-58

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

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A prophet is only despised in his own country

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

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

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

3 Aug, Thursday – Discipline, Time & Sacrifice

Exodus 40:16-21, 34-38

Moses did exactly as the Lord had directed him. The tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year. Moses erected the tabernacle. He fixed the sockets for it, put up its frames, put its crossbars in position, set up its posts. He spread the tent over the tabernacle and on top of this the covering for the tent, as the Lord had directed Moses. He took the Testimony and placed it inside the ark. He set the shafts to the ark and placed the throne of mercy on it. He brought the ark into the tabernacle and put the screening veil in place; thus he screened the ark of the Lord, as the Lord had directed Moses.

The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because of the cloud that rested on it and because of the glory of the Lord that filled the tabernacle.

At every stage of their journey, whenever the cloud rose from the tabernacle the sons of Israel would resume their march. If the cloud did not rise, they waited and would not march until it did. For the cloud of the Lord rested on the tabernacle by day, and a fire shone within the cloud by night, for all the House of Israel to see. And so it was for every stage of their journey.

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Matthew 13:47-53

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea that brings in a haul of all kinds. When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in a basket and throw away those that are no use. This is how it will be at the end of time: the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the just to throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.

‘Have you understood all this?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ And he said to them, ‘Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old.’

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Every stage of their journey

There is a single characteristic that I believe creates success. In my opinion, it is one of the most important characteristics that can be applied in various situations and circumstances, even more so when it comes to our faith journey. If you are still trying to guess, no, it is not love, it is not honesty, neither is it about patience. It is all about being consistent, because it defines the focus to be able to keep delivering the same expectations people have about you. Of course, we always have to improve and make greater impressions, however, having consistency draws the attention and evokes trust in others that you will always be there.

Ever since the beginning of man, God has always been there for us. He watches over us at every era of time. Through both the New and Old testaments, the Lord showed unto us consistency of love and assurance, fulfilling what was said in the Old Testament and continues to promise to us the salvation through His Son, Jesus. Consistency requires discipline, time and, most of all, it requires sacrifice. Consistency is about keeping true to your word that something is to be delivered; not just for today, not just for the coming weeks, not just for months but what is ahead into the future, because you believe it will last forever; you believe someone depends on you. When one feels that starting up is the hardest thing to do, be assured this will be over once you get into the habit of it. But to maintain and keep it ongoing for its survival requires consistent management and attention.

Let us look into what remains consistent in our daily lives. We are punctual in getting our three main meals. We probably set aside our time to exercise three times a week; we consistently post a photo on Instagram every two days. I would guess we go for mass at least once a week. Do we spend enough time with the Lord? Do we consistently spend time and energy with the unfortunate? Have we built a community with those who need our help? Have we made the right choices as to what we hold true and consistent?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: O Lord, we pray to be successful neighbours, that we are consistent in giving back to the society in Jesus name.

Thanksgiving: May I be blessed with the spirit of giving, and be grateful for all who has come to aid me when I am in need.

1 Aug, Tuesday – Repent And Reconcile

Aug 1 – Memorial for St. Alphonsus Liguori, bishop, religious founder, doctor

Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) vowed early to never to waste a moment of his life, and lived that way for over 90 years. As a lawyer, he had his own practice by age 21, and was a leading lawyer in Naples. He never attended court without having attended Mass first.

As he matured and learned more of the world, he liked it less, and finally felt a call to religious life. He was ordained at age 29. As preacher and home missioner around Naples, St. Alphonsus was noted for his simple, clear, direct style of preaching, and his gentle, understanding way in the confessional. He was often opposed by Church officials for a perceived laxity toward sinners, and by government officials who opposed anything religious. He founded the Redemptoristines women’s order and the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists).

As bishop, St. Alphonsus worked to reform the clergy and revitalise the faithful in a diocese with a bad reputation. The royal government threatened to disband his Redemptorists, claiming that they were covertly carrying on the work of the Jesuits, who had been suppressed. Calling on his knowledge of the Congregation, his background in theology, and his skills as a lawyer, St. Alphonsus defended the Redemptorists so well that they obtained the king’s approval.

– Patron Saint Index

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Exodus 33:7-11, 34:5-9, 28

Moses used to take the Tent and pitch it outside the camp, at some distance from the camp. He called it the Tent of Meeting. Anyone who had to consult the Lord would go out to the Tent of Meeting, outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the Tent, all the people would rise. Every man would stand at the door of his tent and watch Moses until he reached the Tent; the pillar of cloud would come down and station itself at the entrance to the Tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. When they saw the pillar of cloud stationed at the entrance to the Tent, all the people would rise and bow low, each at the door of his tent. The Lord would speak with Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would turn back to the camp, but the young man who was his servant, Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the Tent.

And the Lord descended in the form of a cloud, and Moses stood with him there.

He called on the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness; for thousands he maintains his kindness, forgives faults, transgression, sin; yet he lets nothing go unchecked, punishing the father’s fault in the sons and in the grandsons to the third and fourth generation.’ And Moses bowed down to the ground at once and worshipped. ‘If I have indeed won your favour, Lord,’ he said ‘let my Lord come with us, I beg. True, they are a headstrong people, but forgive us our faults and our sins, and adopt us as your heritage.’

Moses stayed there with the Lord for forty days and forty nights, eating and drinking nothing. He inscribed on the tablets the words of the Covenant – the Ten Words.

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Matthew 13:36-43

Leaving the crowds, Jesus went to the house; and his disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain the parable about the darnel in the field to us.’ He said in reply, ‘The sower of the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed is the subjects of the kingdom; the darnel, the subjects of the evil one; the enemy who sowed them, the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels. Well then, just as the darnel is gathered up and burnt in the fire, so it will be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that provoke offences and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. Then the virtuous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

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Forgive us our faults and our sins

It certainly has been a while since my last confession. I feel that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is undervalued and has never been emphasized enough in our faith journey. Perhaps it is just me not being disciplined in fulfilling the Sacrament, only to be reminded of it and going for penitential services a week before Good Friday and Christmas. However, this was not so when I was in primary and secondary school. I may not have gone for reconciliation every Sunday before mass, but I am rather certain that I might have gone at least five times a year.

Our God is one who is kind, compassionate and filled with tenderness. He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for our sins, giving man the salvation as promised. How have we behaved then, in the manner of our faith? Have we been praying fervently? Do we spend quiet time with our Lord each day, giving thanks at the end of the day? Before we reach out to ask from the Father, do we first ask for mercy for the wrongs that we have committed? Are we the weed? Or the wheat? Our Father allows evil to dwell among the good until the day of judgment. This as I see it, is to allow our sinful hearts to be able to reconcile with Him before that very day, so we become wheat that angels gather for the Kingdom of Heaven.

As we journey through the week, and get into the grind of our work and activities, let us not forget our merciful Father who is always there for us to speak with. He is available to us all the time, and that we are wary of the faults that we make, asking for forgiveness so that we reflect the love of our Lord Jesus to those whom we encounter during the week.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Forgive me Lord for I have sinned. For your merciful heart protects and loves us just like a child, that our sins be forgiven, as we pray deeply, guiding us to be repentant.

Thanksgiving: We are so grateful for your big heart, for embracing us with so much love, O Jesus.