Tag Archives: austin leong

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.

31 July, Monday – Mustard Seed Leader

Jul 31 – Memorial for St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest

St. Ignatius (1491-1556) was wounded in the leg by a cannonball at the siege of Pampeluna on 20 May 1521, an injury that left him partially crippled for life. During his recuperation, the only books he had access to were The Golden Legend, a collection of lives of the saints, and the Life of Christ by Ludolph the Carthusian. These books, and the time spent in contemplation, changed him.

On his recovery, he took a vow of chastity, hung his sword before the altar of the Virgin of Montserrat, and donned a pilgrim’s robes. He lived in a cave for a year, contemplating the way to live a Christian life. His meditations, prayers, visions and insights led to forming the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus.

– Patron Saint Index

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Exodus 32:15-24, 30-34

Moses made his way back down the mountain with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, tablets inscribed on both sides, inscribed on the front and on the back. These tablets were the work of God, and the writing on them was God’s writing engraved on the tablets.

Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting. ‘There is the sound of battle in the camp’, he told Moses. Moses answered him:

‘No song of victory is this sound, no wailing for defeat this sound; it is the sound of chanting that I hear.’

As he approached the camp and saw the calf and the groups dancing, Moses’ anger blazed. He threw down the tablets he was holding and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He seized the calf they had made and burned it, grinding it into powder which he scattered on the water; and he made the sons of Israel drink it. To Aaron Moses said, ‘What has this people done to you, for you to bring such a great sin on them?’ ‘Let not my lord’s anger blaze like this’ Aaron answered. ‘You know yourself how prone this people is to evil. They said to me, “Make us a god to go at our head; this Moses, the man who brought us up from Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” So I said to them, “Who has gold?,” and they took it off and brought it to me. I threw it into the fire and out came this calf.’

On the following day Moses said to the people, ‘You have committed a grave sin. But now I shall go up to the Lord: perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.’ And Moses returned to the Lord. ‘I am grieved,’ he cried ‘this people has committed a grave sin, making themselves a god of gold. And yet, if it pleased you to forgive this sin of theirs…! But if not, then blot me out from the book that you have written.’ The Lord answered Moses, “It is the man who has sinned against me that I shall blot out from my book. Go now, lead the people to the place of which I told you. My angel shall go before you but, on the day of my visitation, I shall punish them for their sin.’

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Matthew 13:31-35

Jesus put another parable before the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.’

He told them another parable, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’

In all this Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables; indeed, he would never speak to them except in parables. This was to fulfil the prophecy:

I will speak to you in parables and expound things hidden since the foundation of the world.

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Lead the people to the place

Saint Ignatius of Loyola was the founder of the Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuits. I got to know of this religious order a lot more when I studied in Australia. The student club had quite a few activities with the order. We invited priests for sessions, they celebrated masses for us and led us in some of the camps. The seminarians joined us and they saw us graduate from universities while we saw them get ordained. We shared our struggles and temptations with one another. We even came across friends who felt that priesthood was not for them after being in the order for two years. We even have friends who joined the order and are doing amazing work for the community. It is also through this order that I learnt the Ignatian way of reflection and silence. There was, in fact, a moment where if I were to consider a vocation, the Jesuits may not be for me because everyone I know who is in the order is extremely smart and academic. I certainly felt inadequate. But, whatever it is, becoming a priest is a calling from the Lord.

To be a leader of the people requires a lot of courage, and a whole lot of faith in the Almighty. Moses tried to be a leader and worked in the name of God, who had led the people out of Egypt and also constantly had to build trust with his people. When the Israelites carved out a golden calf, Moses got really disappointed and began to doubt his leadership. He looked unto the Lord again for strength, for the assurance to continue the journey and left the judgment to God the Father.

What do we do when we face disappointment these days? Do we give up or lift those difficulties to the Lord and trust to leave the impossible to Him? Never be afraid to cry out to our Father. He watches over us and constantly reminds us that patience will lead us to the situations that we deserve. Be prepared to lead, not as a leader of materialistic earthly pleasures, but one who leads by example in faith and performs the works of the Lord.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Let us keep in mind that we are just that little mustard seed that requires faithful nurturing, to grow into the biggest tree.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for leaders who care for our growth, leaders who are not manipulating us for their own advantage.

30 July, Sunday – Buy What Is Valuable

30 July 2017

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1 Kings 3:5, 7-12

The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, ‘Ask what you would like me to give you.’ Solomon replied, ‘O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in succession to David my father. But I am a very young man, unskilled in leadership. Your servant finds himself in the midst of this people of yours that you have chosen, a people so many its number cannot be counted or reckoned. Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil, for who could govern this people of yours that is so great?’ It pleased the Lord that Solomon should have asked for this. ‘Since you have asked for this’ the Lord said ‘and not asked for long life for yourself or riches or the lives of your enemies, but have asked for a discerning judgement for yourself, here and now I do what you ask. I give you a heart wise and shrewd as none before you has had and none will have after you.’

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Romans 8:28-30

We know that by turning everything to their good, God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those he has called according to his purpose. They are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son, so that his Son might be the eldest of many brothers. He called those he intended for this; those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory.

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Matthew 13:44-52

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.

‘Again, 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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One of great value

A luxury branded handbag has great quality and is really expensive to buy. The material is of premium quality, the workmanship requires skilled labour and we all hope it almost lasts forever for the price that we pay. A similar bag, designed and made using machines, with rough stitches and perhaps made of inferior quality is sold at a much cheaper price, but it still doesn’t look too shabby when worn with the right dress. Which is of greater value to you?

In today’s first reading, Solomon is the rightful successor as King — he has the glories and luxuries of being king on an earthly kingdom. However, when he spoke to the Lord in his dream, and when offered the ‘premium’ opportunity to ask freely from the Lord, he humbled himself as a servant to the Lord. The humility to ask for discernment between good and evil so he will be a king that has values, and not to be one who chases the riches and victories of wars.

When we are able to open our hearts to be of one spirit with the Lord, we will begin to see the values in the kingdom of Heaven and will do anything to attain them. What I would like to share is that, we face very different situations in our lives, all kinds of struggles that could put our emotions and spirit down, but we also experience the joys and love of those around us. By being conscious of our Lord’s presence, we always seek for the Kingdom in our everyday lives, and in the Spirit, we are able to point out what is most valuable as we face our issues daily. Do we walk past it and wait for something easier to deal with? Or do we drop everything to achieve what matters most to us? What, and who, do we actually value?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: O loving Lord, open our hearts, humble our minds, so that we pray and ask for valuable gifts that make you proud, so that we are able to discern between good and evil.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Almighty Father, for all the wisdom that you have graced us with. We will continue to use our wisdom to better the lives of those unfortunate ones.

1 June, Thursday – Work never ends with God

Jun 1 – Memorial for St. Justin, martyr

He was born at the beginning of the second century in Nablus, in Samaria, of a pagan Greek family. He was an earnest seeker after truth, and studied many systems of philosophy before being led, through Platonism, to Christianity. While remaining a layman, he accepted the duty of making the truth known, and travelled from place to place proclaiming the Gospel. In 151, he travelled from Ephesus to Rome, where he opened a school of philosophy and wrote defences and expositions of Christianity, which have survived to this day and are the earliest known writings of their kind. In the persecution of 165, in the reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, he was denounced as a Christian, arrested and beheaded. The transcript of his trial by the prefect of Rome, Rusticus, has also survived — it can be found in today’s Office of Readings.

Justin treats the Greek philosophy that he studied as mostly true, but incomplete. In contrast to the Hebrew tendency to view God as making revelations to them and to no-one else, he follows the parable of the Sower, and sees God as sowing the seed of wisdom throughout the world, to grow wherever the soil would receive it. When we dispute with people who disagree with us, we would do well to assume that they too are seeking wisdom and have found truth of a kind. Since there is only one God and one Truth, it is our task not to contradict or belittle their achievement, but to show them how their strivings and searches are ultimately fulfilled in Christ. This is harder to do – not least, because we have to take the trouble to understand our own faith thoroughly – but it is ultimately more worthwhile.

– Universalis

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Acts 22:30,23:6-11

Since the tribune wanted to know what precise charge the Jews were bringing, he freed Paul and gave orders for a meeting of the chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin; then he brought Paul down and stood him in front of them. Now Paul was well aware that one section was made up of Sadducees and the other of Pharisees, so he called out in the Sanhedrin, ‘Brothers, I am a Pharisee and the son of Pharisees. It is for our hope in the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.’ As soon as he said this a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was split between the two parties. For the Sadducees say there is neither resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, while the Pharisees accept all three. The shouting grew louder, and some of the scribes from the Pharisees’ party stood up and protested strongly, ‘We find nothing wrong with this man. Suppose a spirit has spoken to him, or an angel?’ Feeling was running high, and the tribune, afraid that they would tear Paul to pieces, ordered his troops to go down and haul him out and bring him into the fortress.

Next night, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘Courage! You have borne witness for me in Jerusalem, now you must do the same in Rome.’

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John 17:20-26

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:

‘Holy Father,
I pray not only for these,
but for those also
who through their words will believe in me.
May they all be one.
Father, may they be one in us,
as you are in me and I am in you,
so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.
I have given them the glory you gave to me,
that they may be one as we are one.
With me in them and you in me,
may they be so completely one
that the world will realise that it was you who sent me
and that I have loved them as much as you loved me.
Father, I want those you have given me
to be with me where I am,
so that they may always see the glory you have given me
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Father, Righteous One,
the world has not known you,
but I have known you,
and these have known that you have sent me.
I have made your name known to them
and will continue to make it known,
so that the love with which you loved me may be in them,
and so that I may be in them.’

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I want those you have given me to be with me where I am

At what age should we be settled with our dream job? Is there such a thing as a dream job? Or are we still searching, being unsettled because we just can’t seem to be satisfied with our employer? Perhaps we are really happy with our work and never grew tired of getting out of bed each morning facing our jobs. I think there are many aspects to a great work environment. It includes the job scope, the team of people we work with, the challenge we faces each day, the encouraging bosses we all would like to have.

So, what is the job of a Christian like? How should we behave just so that Jesus and you are one? In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks boldly to our Father that those who believe in Him be as one with the Almighty Lord. As the Father is in Him, and by acknowledging Jesus in us, we are all as one. Jesus is not only the Saviour who takes away all our sins, but more importantly, He has removed the barrier that prevents us from getting close to God the Father, because in fact, God is right within us.

Being a true believer of Christ and bearing witness to both His death and resurrection is unlike our jobs where we may have the weekend off or are able to take annual leave. Being a Christian is an all-day everyday, every moment ‘job’. Our work as God’s children never ends. Just like in today’s reading, after the Lord witnessed the courage displayed by Paul, the next mission to Rome was added to the agenda. Be not afraid to take on the work of God, because He is in us; having deep faith will get you through it all.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Let us be not afraid of unchartered waters. Give us the courage to take on much faith work, so that the Love of God is recognised through our actions and love towards our neighbours.

Thanksgiving: Give thanks for the opportunities to have work, as many are still facing unemployment. We are grateful for the stability that you have provided us.

31 May, Wednesday – Obedience of Mary

May 31 Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This day is called the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary because on it Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, whom, as the angel had told her, God had blessed with a son in her old age.

Patron Saint Index

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Romans 12:9-16

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

Bless those who persecute you: never curse them, bless them. Rejoice with those who rejoice and be sad with those in sorrow. Treat everyone with equal kindness; never be condescending but make real friends with the poor.

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Luke 1:39-56

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’
And Mary said:

‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.

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Visit from the mother of my Lord?

Ave Maria! O Mary Mother of God. So beautiful and so gentle, interceding for our prayers to your son Jesus.

A priest once told us during a faith information session that the Catholic Church is being held by two pillars. One of which is God, and the other is Mary. In many Christian teachings, Mary has been sidelined and forgotten in the very life of Jesus. Despite being a rather significant character in the Bible, she has not been honoured much more by some.

In today’s Gospel, Marys visitation to her cousin Elizabeth gives great joy to those around. Her singing of praises of the Lord amplifies her humility in accepting the gift in her womb; the gift so beautiful that the child in Elizabeths womb leapt. Mary is indeed a woman of the Lord to look up to. Her strength in faith goes beyond her acceptance of being the vessel to our Lord Jesus. I am sure we have heard much of Marys apparition in various places, and to chosen people. There have been much miracles and messages from our Mother who continuously warns us about the ways of this secular world and making it more beautiful through immense prayers.

Let us dedicate the week to the Mother of our Lord. Perhaps you have been silent in accepting who she is, finding it difficult to include her in your prayer life, that a relationship with her just isnt important at all. Read todays Gospel again and take her praises as an example of how intimate her relationship is with God, her son being Jesus the Saviour. Reflect on her heartache on seeing her own Son dying on the cross, for accusations that were never fully justified. Blessed Mary, so patient, so faithful, so obedient to the Father.

(Todays OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: O Blessed Mother, forgive my wrongs for not making you part of my prayer life. Pray for us, that we make take on your example in being someone so obedient to God.

Thanksgiving: We truly give thanks for your acceptance to the Lord, taking on the immaculate conception, that you have brought us the greatest gift of all.

28 May, Sunday – We gather for Christ

28 May 2017 Seventh Sunday of Easter; World Communication Sunday

The Spirit Of Prayer And Praise
Christ prayed in the Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is the source of the prayer and praise of the whole Church. The Spirit of God is resting on us as we offer this sacrifice of praise today.
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Acts of the Apostles 1:12-14

After Jesus was taken up into heaven the apostles went back from the Mount of Olives, as it is called, to Jerusalem, a short distance away, no more than a sabbath walk; and when they reached the city they went to the upper room where they were staying; there were Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Jude son of James. All these joined in continuous prayer, together with several women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
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1 Peter 4:13-16

If you can have some share in the sufferings of Christ, be glad, because you will enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed. It is a blessing for you when they insult you for bearing the name of Christ, because it means that you have the Spirit of glory, the Spirit of God resting on you. None of you should ever deserve to suffer for being a murderer, a thief, a criminal or an informer; but if anyone of you should suffer for being a Christian, then he is not to be ashamed of it; he should thank God that he has been called one.
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John 17:1-11

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:

‘Father, the hour has come:
glorify your Son
so that your Son may glorify you;
and, through the power over all mankind that you have given him,
let him give eternal life to all those you have entrusted to him.
And eternal life is this:
to know you,
the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
I have glorified you on earth
and finished the work that you gave me to do.
Now, Father, it is time for you to glorify me
with that glory I had with you
before ever the world was.
I have made your name known
to the men you took from the world to give me.
They were yours and you gave them to me,
and they have kept your word.
Now at last they know
that all you have given me comes indeed from you;
for I have given them the teaching you gave to me,
and they have truly accepted this, that I came from you,
and have believed that it was you who sent me.
I pray for them;
I am not praying for the world
but for those you have given me,
because they belong to you:
all I have is yours
and all you have is mine,
and in them I am glorified.
I am not in the world any longer,
but they are in the world,
and I am coming to you.’

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Father, it is time for you to glorify me.

One thing that I miss for the past ten years is being part of a prayer group, whether it is a group from a parish, or young adults, or a group made up of Catholic families in the neighbourhood. When I was in primary school, my family was pretty active being part of the estates Renew prayer group. We gathered every few weeks to share, reflect and study the Gospel and/or readings. I recalled that some sharings led to aggressive points of view that just didnt leave a good impression of the neighbour. I also broke my neighbours ceramic stool at one of those nights.

Before settling permanently for the past two years, I was working in various cities. I did go for Sunday masses, but was never able to commit to a prayer group, because I felt like a temporary resident wherever I was. Jesus is the reason there is Christianity, Christ Jesus is the one who brought the glory of the Father to us. We are to remind ourselves that Christianity is never about oneself, never about being alone. Gods love involves our hearts and of others. Gods love is so generous that it is to be shared for everybody.

In todays reading of the gathering of the disciples in the upper room, we see a community there. It may have been a lost and questioning community, but Mother Mary was there. They gathered to talk about Jesus, and of God. They asked questions, they doubted, they had the virgin Mary among them. As with the Gospel, Jesus is glorified to be with His Father, but He never leaves us feeling empty. Until today, there are many communities for us to share the love of Jesus, the stories of living as a Christian.

Moving forward, I now look forward to finding or forming a prayer group where we are able to share and reflect on the Christian values, where we not only have God as the centre of our family, but also the centre of our work life and community. To share within Gods words and promises to share to our partners and children.

(Todays OXYGEN by Austin Leong)
Prayer: Dear Lord, may the Holy Spirit guide each and every one of us to search for a community where we can grow in faith and make our lives more meaningful, to be proud Christians.

Thanksgiving: We thank all those volunteers and support givers to Churches that are managing the low numbers of parishioners, that the community be strong and active in their neighbourhood.

28 January, Saturday – Keep Calm and Go Forward

28 Jan – Memorial for St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was the son of the Count of Aquino. He was born in the family castle in Lombardy near Naples, Italy. He was educated by Benedictine monks at Monte Cassino, and at the University of Naples. He secretly joined the mendicant Dominican friars in 1244. His family kidnapped and imprisoned him for a year to keep him out of sight and deprogram him, but they failed to sway him, and he rejoined his order in 1245.

He studied in Paris, France, from 1245-1248 under St. Albert the Great, then accompanied Albertus to Cologne, Germany. He was ordained in 1250, then returned to Paris to teach. He taught theology at the University of Paris. He wrote defenses of the mendicant orders, commentaries on Aristotle and Lombard’s Sentences, and some bible-related works, usually by dictating to secretaries. He won his doctorate, and taught at several Italian cities. He was recalled by the king and the University of Paris in 1269, then recalled to Naples in 1272 where he was appointed regent of studies while working on the Summa Theologica.

On 6 December 1273, he experienced a divine revelation which so enraptured him that he abandoned the Summa, saying that it and his other writings were so much straw in the wind compared to the reality of the divine glory. He died four months later while en route to the Council of Lyons, overweight and with his health broken by overwork.

His works have been seminal to the thinking of the Church ever since. They systematized Her great thoughts and teaching, and combined Greek wisdom and scholarship methods with the truth of Christianity. Pope Leo VIII commanded that his teachings be studied by all theology students. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1567.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Hebrews 11:1-2,8-19

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen. It was for faith that our ancestors were commended.

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the call to set out for a country that was the inheritance given to him and his descendants, and that he set out without knowing where he was going. By faith he arrived, as a foreigner, in the Promised Land, and lived there as if in a strange country, with Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. They lived there in tents while he looked forward to a city founded, designed and built by God.

It was equally by faith that Sarah, in spite of being past the age, was made able to conceive, because she believed that he who had made the promise would be faithful to it. Because of this, there came from one man, and one who was already as good as dead himself, more descendants than could be counted, as many as the stars of heaven or the grains of sand on the seashore.

All these died in faith, before receiving any of the things that had been promised, but they saw them in the far distance and welcomed them, recognising that they were only strangers and nomads on earth. People who use such terms about themselves make it quite plain that they are in search of their real homeland. They can hardly have meant the country they came from, since they had the opportunity to go back to it; but in fact they were longing for a better homeland, their heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, since he has founded the city for them.

It was by faith that Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He offered to sacrifice his only son even though the promises had been made to him and he had been told: It is through Isaac that your name will be carried on. He was confident that God had the power even to raise the dead; and so, figuratively speaking, he was given back Isaac from the dead.

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Mark 4:35-41

With the coming of evening, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind they took him, just as he was, in the boat; and there were other boats with him. Then it began to blow a gale and the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped. But he was in the stern, his head on the cushion, asleep. They woke him and said to him, ‘Master, do you not care? We are going down!’

And he woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Quiet now! Be calm!’ And the wind dropped, and all was calm again. Then he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?’ They were filled with awe and said to one another, ‘Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.’

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longing for a better homeland

Today, we still see news of asylum seekers trying to find a home, away from all their previous settlements due to war or political instability. They always look forward to a place where they can settle in peace and begin some sort of family life where they do not have to worry about just trying to stay alive each day. For them, there is nothing much to look back to, but seeking salvation in a country where they can start anew, with lots of hope ahead for them.

Someone of my background can never understand the hardships that they are going through, the faith that they have in them keeps them going forward. As with today’s reading, the Lord promises and delivers what is deserved over time. The unwavering faith in Abraham sets a good example of obedience and hope for everyone. We can always look around us and be sensitive to the needs of others, together with the works of the Holy Spirit in us; let us show unto others what faithfulness in God is about.

Despite all the hardships and difficulties that we are experiencing, we can rely on trusting God in calming the nerves. I think it is only very natural for us to feel jittery, anxious all the time and being so frightful of uncertainties ahead of us. Perhaps there is something for us to learn from those tough asylum seekers, that they do not look back but embrace what is ahead, where hope is, where home is, where the Lord is.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for those who are seeking home, who are trying to keep their family together due to violence or hatred, that being forgiving and loving is what Christ has promised us.

Thanksgiving: We truly give many thanks for peaceful surroundings, that we feel protected and encouraged to pass that peace onto others.