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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.

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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.

27 January, Friday – Telling Life Stories

27 Jan – Memorial for St. Angela Merici, virgin

St. Angela Merici (1474-1540) became a Franciscan tertiary at the age of 15. She received a vision telling her that she would inspire devout women in their vocation.

In Crete, during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, she was struck blind. Her friends wanted to return home, but she insisted on going on, visiting the shrines with as much devotion and enthusiasm as if she had her sight. On the way home, while praying before a crucifix, her sight was restored at the same place where it had been lost.

In 1535, she gathered a group of girl students and began what would become the “Institute of St. Ursula” (the Ursuline Sisters), founded to teach children, beginning with religion and later expanding into secular topics; her first schools were in Desenazno and Brescia.

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Hebrews 10:32-39

Remember all the sufferings that you had to meet after you received the light, in earlier days; sometimes by being yourselves publicly exposed to insults and violence, and sometimes as associates of others who were treated in the same way. For you not only shared in the sufferings of those who were in prison, but you happily accepted being stripped of your belongings, knowing that you owned something that was better and lasting. Be as confident now, then, since the reward is so great. You will need endurance to do God’s will and gain what he has promised.

Only a little while now, a very little while,
and the one that is coming will have come; he will not delay.
The righteous man will live by faith,
but if he draws back, my soul will take no pleasure in him.

You and I are not the sort of people who draw back, and are lost by it; we are the sort who keep faithful until our souls are saved.

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Mark 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time: he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’

He also said, ‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’

Using many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, so far as they were capable of understanding it. He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.

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Not the sort of people who draw back

I am quite sure many of us have heard the phrase ‘It is better to have tried and failed, than to never have tried at all’. I do not think that any of us would like to fail in any projects or any sort of work that we do. Successful people always share about their failures and wrong decisions, and then where they get to now is all due to the persistence in moving forward at what they do. Isn’t that all too familiar with today’s reading? We are reminded that the reward at the end of it all with God is great and we need endurance in doing God’s work here on earth.

With such a diversified environment, there are many challenges in keeping our faith strong and focused. Even when we are feeling dejected, alone and like a big failure, we do not draw back to hide in the hole. The only worse situation is to never grow from it, to never learn from it, and to let it remain unconquered. The pain and suffering Jesus endured for us, eventually dying on the cross, is pure strength in faith and loyalty to God the Father, to finish the will of the Father whatever and however He is to receive it.

We are to learn to express ourselves to others about our faith and strong belief in the best possible manner. Sometimes the way we understand the faith is not the way others see it. It takes time, focus and patience to bring a message to someone who does not believe in Christ. It is not just music, it is not just talks, it is not only about the Bible and so on. It takes the daily chores of the other person into consideration and to help them live the Bible. Jesus spoke to his disciples in parables because that is how they would be able to relate their lives with the works of our Lord. To convince someone a change of heart for the Lord is no easy task, it also requires a continuing prayer life, sensitive emotions, persistence and acceptance of failure.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Only with your guidance O Lord, bless us with a strong mental and physical health, so that we continue to share Jesus with the world, living the Bible.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for getting me through each day, rejoicing when it is good, and gracing me with persistence and hope when it is bad.

24 January, Tuesday – Sitting with foes

24 Jan – Memorial for St. Francis de Sales, bishop and doctor of the Church

St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) was born in a castle to a well-placed family. His parents intended him to become a lawyer, enter politics, and carry on the family line and power. He studied at La Roche, Annecy, Clermont College in Paris, and law at the University of Padua. He became a Doctor of Law, returned home, and found a position as Senate advocate.

It was at this point that he received a message telling him to “Leave all and follow Me”. He took this as a call to the priesthood, a move his family fiercely opposed. However, he pursued a devoted prayer life, and his gentle ways won over the family.

He became a priest, and a provost in the diocese of Geneva, Switzerland, a stronghold of Calvinists. He was a preacher, writer and spiritual director in the district of Chablais. His simple, clear explanations of Catholic doctrine and his gentle way with everyone, brought many back to the Roman Church.

He was ordained Bishop of Geneva at the age of 35. He travelled and evangelized throughout the Duchy of Savoy, working with children whenever he could. He was a friend of St. Vincent de Paul. He turned down a wealthy French bishopric. He helped found the Order of the Visitation with St. Jeanne de Chantal. He was a prolific correspondent. He was declared a Doctor of the Church.

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Hebrews 10:1-10

Since the Law has no more than a reflection of these realities, and no finished picture of them, it is quite incapable of bringing the worshippers to perfection, with the same sacrifices repeatedly offered year after year. Otherwise, the offering of them would have stopped, because the worshippers, when they had been purified once, would have no awareness of sins. Instead of that, the sins are recalled year after year in the sacrifices. Bulls’ blood and goats’ blood are useless for taking away sins, and this is what he said, on coming into the world:

You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation,
prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin;
then I said,
just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book,
‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’

Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.

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Mark 3:31-35

The mother and brothers of Jesus arrived and, standing outside, sent in a message asking for him. A crowd was sitting round him at the time the message was passed to him, ‘Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you.’ He replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking round at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.’

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Sitting in a circle about him

When you are in the hospitality industry, particularly one who works in the kitchen, you often get requests from people around you to hold a party at home. It is always a pleasure to host a party with the guests sitting around as you enjoy the company of people that come to share a meal. The challenge, somehow, is to invite people whom you are close with, or even knowing some of the friends whom have been known to be quiet and alone most times.

In today’s Gospel, if we are to take the bible story literally, Jesus seems to be a rather rude person, ignoring the arrival of his own birth mother, Mary and his brothers. Of course, this is not the sentiment. He is in the presence of those around Him. Jesus has made himself available to everyone, to every individual who is invited and willing to eat at the same table as Him. Surely, Mother Mary will not be disappointed about this because she understands Jesus’ ministry here on Earth. Jesus is all about being inclusive, not exclusive, when it comes to being with God. God does not discriminate and definitely does not alienate.

This brings us to challenge the way we show our presence for those who actually are in need of Christ’s presence. Yes, so often we talk and laugh with our fellow buddies and close friends, but have we talked about inviting the socially awkward whom we laugh about? Sometimes, even if I would like to, the other friends of mine will shun the idea of having the other person over.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to make those around us more inclusive and reach out to people who have depression.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord, for family, for friends, for all the wonderful relationships around me.

23 January, Monday – Second Salvation

23 January 2017

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Hebrews 9:15,24-28

Christ brings a new covenant, as the mediator, only so that the people who were called to an eternal inheritance may actually receive what was promised: his death took place to cancel the sins that infringed the earlier covenant. It is not as though Christ had entered a man-made sanctuary which was only modelled on the real one; but it was heaven itself, so that he could appear in the actual presence of God on our behalf.

And he does not have to offer himself again and again, like the high priest going into the sanctuary year after year with the blood that is not his own, or else he would have had to suffer over and over again since the world began.

Instead of that, he has made his appearance once and for all, now at the end of the last age, to do away with sin by sacrificing himself. Since men only die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, too, offers himself only once to take the faults of many on himself, and when he appears a second time, it will not be to deal with sin but to reward with salvation those who are waiting for him.

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Mark 3:22-30

The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem were saying, ‘Beelzebul is in him’ and, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts devils out.’ So he called them to him and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot last.

And if a household is divided against itself, that household can never stand. Now if Satan has rebelled against himself and is divided, he cannot stand either – it is the end of him. But no one can make his way into a strong man’s house and burgle his property unless he has tied up the strong man first. Only then can he burgle his house.

‘I tell you solemnly, all men’s sins will be forgiven, and all their blasphemies; but let anyone blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and he will never have forgiveness: he is guilty of an eternal sin.’ This was because they were saying, ‘An unclean spirit is in him.’

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Death took place to cancel the sins

I have been in a long-distance relationship for the past three years and it is going strong. There have been countless ‘hellos’ and ‘goodbyes’ at the airports. We come and then we go, spending a period of time together and then we look forward to the next trip. With our Lord God, time seems to be of an infinite nature. He does not count the years or by when that He has to achieve a milestone, or perform a miracle or sending a saviour to us. In His time, God sent Jesus to suffer and die for our sins. Jesus, of flesh and blood, living among us to be crucified and to have the sins from generations past forgiven through His passion on the cross.

With such an act of love, how do we as children of God respond and give ourselves back to God in love as well? Today’s reading and Gospel tells us of how God removes the evil in our lives. We are reminded of his power to expel evil and also the sins that we commit in our daily lives. Surely we do not take all these for granted. We respond by showing acts of love to those around us; the persistence of maintaining unconditional love to others, beginning from home, to family members and to those who are in need.

Jesus came and died for our sins, the Holy Spirit came down upon us to grace us with the gifts to do good. Are we prepared to meet and welcome God in the second coming? It was only about two thousand years ago that Jesus lived among us. Week after week, we are given all the opportunities to do God’s work. Let us not get caught up with the materialism of this world, but to be aware of the good that we have to do, so that we are to be rewarded by our Father in heaven, to save us from all temptations, to be ready and welcome His second coming.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Oh Lord Jesus, please continue to guide us in doing good. We can be filled with hatred and disappointments day after day; be with us so that we know that Your greater love can make us conquer the little things, for the greater good in life.

Thanksgiving: I am grateful for your son Jesus Christ, let us sing a new song to the Lord for he has worked wonders.

22 January, Sunday – Breaking the Bad

22 Jan – Memorial for St. Vincent, deacon and martyr

Vincent of Saragossa (d. 304) was a friend of St. Valerius of Saragossa in Spain, and served as his deacon. He was imprisoned and tortured in Valencia, some of it by burning on a gridiron, for his faith. He converted the jailer and was finally offered release if he would give up the sacred texts to the fire, but he refused. He was martyred during the persecutions of Diocletian.

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Isaiah 8:23-9:3

In days past the Lord humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in days to come he will confer glory on the Way of the Sea on the far side of Jordan, province of the nations.

The people that walked in darkness
has seen a great light;
on those who live in a land of deep shadow
a light has shone.
You have made their gladness greater,
you have made their joy increase;
they rejoice in your presence
as men rejoice at harvest time,
as men are happy when they are dividing the spoils.

For the yoke that was weighing on him,
the bar across his shoulders,
the rod of his oppressor –
these you break as on the day of Midian.

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1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17

I appeal to you, brothers, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to make up the differences between you, and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, to be united again in your belief and practice.

From what Chloe’s people have been telling me, my dear brothers, it is clear that there are serious differences among you.

What I mean are all these slogans that you have, like: ‘I am for Paul’, ‘I am for Apollos’, ‘I am for Cephas’, ‘I am for Christ.’ Has Christ been parcelled out? Was it Paul that was crucified for you? Were you baptised in the name of Paul?

For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the Good News, and not to preach that in the terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed.

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Matthew 4:12-23

Hearing that John had been arrested, Jesus went back to Galilee, and leaving Nazareth he went and settled in Capernaum, a lakeside town on the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali. In this way the prophecy of Isaiah was to be fulfilled:

‘Land of Zebulun! Land of Naphtali!
Way of the sea on the far side of Jordan,
Galilee of the nations!
The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light;
on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death
a light has dawned.’

From that moment Jesus began his preaching with the message, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; they were making a cast in the lake with their net, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ And they left their nets at once and followed him. Going on from there he saw another pair of brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they were in their boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. At once, leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.

He went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness among the people.

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These you break

At the beginning of this new year, some of us may have set out resolutions to keep up with for the rest of the year, while some of us probably gave up on writing down any because we hardly follow through with them anyway. It is not resolutions that are important for us Christians, but the work on our relations with God that is to set out how our year will turn out to be. Will this coming year be a mundane year, just like the previous one? Is this going to be a tough, uphill battle with many uncertainties coming our way? Have we set ourselves up to build a stronger and more intimate relationship with God?

In today’s first reading, God the Father is being praised for the joy and happiness which he has brought to His nations and people. He has come to lift the burden upon men, that he breaks away the hardships that we put on our shoulders. He does this because God wants to have a relationship with us, that he only wants good for us. For a healthy outcome in a relationship, there is some form of desire of good for the other, a stage of letting go the hardships and breaking away from the comfort for ourselves. So that we may be less burdened but to live a more fulfilling life ahead of us with the good relationships that we form.

Getting back to the Gospel of today, Jesus calls out to the first disciples. Very ordinary fishermen who left their daily work and followed Jesus. We are the very ordinary people whom He has called out. Perhaps, not in the sense of calling us to vocation, but His calling to always build a strong relationship with Jesus, to be able to follow Him throughout our daily tasks and work.

We do not need to set unfulfilled resolutions year after year; we just need to break away from our undesirable habits, let our hearts give thanks and praise the Lord everyday. Call out to him to share that yoke with you. In this way, you will be fulfilling more resolutions than you think, and perhaps by the end of the year, when you think back, you would have had a healthy relationship with God and those around you. It could turn out to be a productive and eventful year.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: O Lord, dwell in me that I may look up and march through my day with you.

Thanksgiving: I give thanks to be able to wake up today to conquer my day with you.

17 September, Saturday – The Richness Within

17 September – Memorial for St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor

Robert (1542-1621) wrote the most complete work of his day to defend Catholicism against Protestant attack. He also wrote a children’s catechism and a catechism for teachers. As cardinal-priest, he gave most of his money to the poor. At one point he used the tapestries in his living quarters to clothe the poor, saying that “the walls won’t catch cold”.

He was involved in settling various disputes including that of King James I and the Vatican in 1607 and 1609 concerning control of the Church in England, action against Galileo Galilei with whom he established a friendly correspondence, but was forced to deliver the order for the scientist to submit to the Church, and issues concerning clerical discipline and Vatican authority. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 17 September 1931.

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1 Corinthians 15:35-37,42-49

Someone may ask, ‘How are dead people raised, and what sort of body do they have when they come back?’ They are stupid questions. Whatever you sow in the ground has to die before it is given new life and the thing that you sow is not what is going to come; you sow a bare grain, say of wheat or something like that, It is the same with the resurrection of the dead: the thing that is sown is perishable but what is raised is imperishable; the thing that is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; the thing that is sown is weak but what is raised is powerful; when it is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit.

If the soul has its own embodiment, so does the spirit have its own embodiment. The first man, Adam, as scripture says, became a living soul; but the last Adam has become a life-giving spirit. That is, first the one with the soul, not the spirit, and after that, the one with the spirit. The first man, being from the earth, is earthly by nature; the second man is from heaven. As this earthly man was, so are we on earth; and as the heavenly man is, so are we in heaven. And we, who have been modelled on the earthly man, will be modelled on the heavenly man.

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Luke 8:4-15

With a large crowd gathering and people from every town finding their way to him, Jesus used this parable:

‘A sower went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some fell on the edge of the path and was trampled on; and the birds of the air ate it up. Some seed fell on rock, and when it came up it withered away, having no moisture. Some seed fell amongst thorns and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some seed fell into rich soil and grew and produced its crop a hundredfold.’ Saying this he cried, ‘Listen, anyone who has ears to hear!’

His disciples asked him what this parable might mean, and he said, ‘The mysteries of the kingdom of God are revealed to you; for the rest there are only parables, so that

they may see but not perceive,
listen but not understand.

‘This, then, is what the parable means: the seed is the word of God. Those on the edge of the path are people who have heard it, and then the devil comes and carries away the word from their hearts in case they should believe and be saved. Those on the rock are people who, when they first hear it, welcome the word with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of trial they give up. As for the part that fell into thorns, this is people who have heard, but as they go on their way they are choked by the worries and riches and pleasures of life and do not reach maturity. As for the part in the rich soil, this is people with a noble and generous heart who have heard the word and take it to themselves and yield a harvest through their perseverance.’

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Embodies the spirit

Today’s first reading is actually a very good reflection written by Saint Paul. It shows that the greatness of the Lord cannot be appreciated and understood without first being understood on earth. We were being created in the image of God, and life is being given to us. Sometimes it makes me wonder if Earth is the transitional world, where we are given the opportunity to go good, to do the best we can in the name of our Lord with the talents and help surrounding us. This is regardless of which country we are born into, or the richness that we have from the start. It has never been about the aesthetics of life, but how we are living it. But if we have been given more and graced with much fortunate events, then I believe we would be expected to give more and make someone else’s life better.

As I reflect further on today’s reading, it points out to me that indeed it is not about the biggest house or most luxurious car one own when your heart is just mediocre. What we perhaps aim to live is about life-giving. As I grew older, and begin to realise what touches us, in our hearts, is truly not about what materials we buy but what relationships we have with others. This may only happen to me, but do try this, when you open your Facebook account and begin to look at the friends and their behaviours and the stories being posted, you will tend to realise that those with more ‘likes’ is a lot about family, love, emotions with loved ones, precious moments with family, post that require encouragement as compared to posts on new cars, new house, food posts, vacation posts and any luxury items. Essentially, as we build our earthly family, we tend to know what is important and what matters to us. We grow from young adults, to being a responsible spouse, to being a parent, to being responsible for the elderly and sometimes, posts that opens up for us to face the death of a loved one.

A lot of successful businessmen says, it is not about what you have or built, but it is very much about how you get there. Thus, the greatness lies in what have we done to touch the lives of others, but not how much have we possessed for ourselves.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: O Lord, I know we can get busy with work and family and looking out for non-important things, make me put in the time and effort that enrich the life of my family and the lives of others.

Thanksgiving: Praise you O Lord Jesus Christ for a fulfilling week, that it has been peaceful and loving.

16 September, Friday – The Church Ain’t No Lie

15 September – Memorial for St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr; and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr

Cornelius (d. 253) was elected after a year-and-a-half period during which persecutions were so bad that papal ascension was a quick death sentence. He worked to maintain unity in a time of schism and apostasy. He called a synod of bishops to confirm him as rightful pontiff, as opposed to the anti-pope Novatian. Cornelius was eventually exiled by Roman authorities to punish Christians in general, who were said to have provoked the gods to send plague against Rome.

Cyprian (190-258) was baptised when he was 56. By the time he was bishop, he had been a Christian for only 3 years! When the Roman emperor Decius persecuted Christians, Cyprian lived in hiding, covertly ministering to his flock; his enemies condemned him for being a coward and not standing up for his faith. He supported St. Cornelius against the anti-pope Novatian. He too was exiled and martyred when the Decius’ successor continued with persecution of Christians.

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1 Corinthians 15:12-20

Now if Christ raised from the dead is what has been preached, how can some of you be saying that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ himself cannot have been raised, and if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is useless and your believing it is useless; indeed, we are shown up as witnesses who have committed perjury before God, because we swore in evidence before God that he had raised Christ to life. For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins. And what is more serious, all who have died in Christ have perished. If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people.

But Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep.

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Luke 8:1-3

Jesus made his way through towns and villages preaching, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God. With him went the Twelve, as well as certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments: Mary surnamed the Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and several others who provided for them out of their own resources.

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In fact been raised from the dead

Christ rising from the dead is the greatest mystery in our faith. Paul is right that the preaching in the Church is useless if the belief of Christ’s resurrection is not true at all. Our believe in eternal life will not be true and all hopes have perished right at he moment our life in this moment ends. Many people still believes that Christianity as a religion is all a lie, all fabricated to build community of believers out of nothing, making it seem like a worldwide influence that has riches in different parts of the world and promoting false hope and blind faith followers.

However, just by looking at how much the Church has done for the world, it has reached to the rich as well as the very poor. It has reached to all ages, both men and women. What the Church has set up since the beginning of church building by the apostles, has always been bringing Christ to us. Of course, being men, we are not perfect and we are unfortunate to have leaders who have fallen into temptations. Strict rules and old traditions that might not fit this century being put aside, the Church has grown to reach every single one of us. It is not about the riches, but the richness of faith. Support groups being set up to fulfil an obligation for the needy. I do realise that every new building, every new church, every new missionary trip support has always been the people and believers who have come out to get things going. It is indeed difficult to deny that this faith is a hoax when you look into the developments of the Church and what has been done by her across the world.

Jesus Christ is in fact being raised from the dead and sent his Holy Spirit down on us. He is one who have saved us from death, bringing us back to the Father in eternal life. Giving us the hope and love we so often preach about, and by loving God and others just as He command. Praise you Lord Jesus Christ, and to Mother Mary for watching over us.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Your will be done, do not lead us into temptations and deliver us from evil.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Church which is forever evolving, and that leaders who are tempted be strong and repentant, so they may reach to the community with the fullness of heart.

15 September, Thursday – You Are Not Unworthy

15 September – Memorial for Our Lady of Sorrows

Different sorrows of Mary have been honoured in the Church’s history, but since the 14th century these seven have come to be regarded as the seven ‘dolors’ (sorrows) of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

1. The Prophecy of Simeon
2. The Flight into Egypt
3. The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days
4. Meeting Jesus on the Way to Calvary
5. The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus
6. Jesus Taken Down from the Cross
7. Jesus Laid in the Tomb

By commemorating Our Lady of Sorrows, we call to mind the sufferings that Mary endured as part of her vocation as the Mother of the Redeemer. No one is closer to Christ than Mary, consequently no one has participated more intimately in the redemptive suffering of Christ than His Mother Mary.

– http://www.catholic.net/RCC/Periodicals/Faith/1998-03-04/sorrows.html

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1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you – believing anything else will not lead to anything.

Well then, in the first place, I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared first to Cephas and secondly to the Twelve. Next he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died; then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles; and last of all he appeared to me too; it was as though I was born when no one expected it.

I am the least of the apostles; in fact, since I persecuted the Church of God, I hardly deserve the name apostle; but by God’s grace that is what I am, and the grace that he gave me has not been fruitless. On the contrary, I, or rather the grace of God that is with me, have worked harder than any of the others; but what matters is that I preach what they preach, and this is what you all believed.

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John 19:25-27

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son.’ Then to the disciple he said, ‘This is your mother.’ And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home.

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I am the least of the apostles

Every Sunday, after the recessional hymn, I would walk to our Mother Mary, say a short prayer and touch her feet before leaving the church. Someone once asked me, why do you touch her feet? Well, I could have touch her hands, and show love, respect and reverence in another manner. The feet is closest to the ground and and perhaps the body part that has the most contact to uncleaned places when we walk about getting to our destination. By giving reverence at the feet, it shows humility and respect for the other, where the dirt and places that the other has been to does not matter to you because you accept and clean them up as they are.

In today’s first reading, Saint Paul finds himself unworthy of being an apostle as he compared himself to be of least importance, yet Jesus appeared to him. This led to me reflecting again on how important prayers can be. When we face a crossroad in life decisions, or met up with a challenge, we are always told to go with the gut feeling, pray about it, do what God tells you to do. It is just not so straight forward after all, is it? We are always given the freedom to choose, we pray not for an answer in the dreams, but we pray for the peace in our heart that the challenge is right for me, or I will do the alternative that cold be walking away from it. Regardless, Jesus is always there for us. Saint Paul felt the graces of God upon him to achieve his mission for the Lord. Likewise, we are to pray for the courage when taking up a challenge in life, at work, for the family or for the better of society. It is never going to be easy but the constant encouragement and graces we receive from heaven will see us through it.

The most ordinary and lowest of people with great faith will be given more. Therefore, when we do realise the blessings and peace that we have in our lives, we must maintain and continue to deepen our faith and the works of the Lord, so that He sees that and grant us with eternal life. Show great love and your debts will be forgiven.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We pray that Jesus’ love be felt and experienced in this world and conflicts across all borders be at peace soon so that all will live a faithful and happy life.

Thanksgiving: Thank You O Lord for seeing me through countless of challenges no matter how little they may be.

14 September, Wednesday – Do For Him

14 September – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

The feast was celebrated in Rome before the end of the 7th century. Its purpose is to commemorate the recovering of that portion of the Holy Cross which was preserved at Jerusalem, and which had fallen into the hands of the Persians. Emperor Heraclius recovered this precious relic and brought it back to Jerusalem on 3 May 629.

– Patron Saints Index

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Numbers 21:4-9

On the way through the wilderness the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’

At this God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. The people came and said to Moses, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede for us with the Lord to save us from these serpents.’ Moses interceded for the people, and the Lord answered him, ‘Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.’ So Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard, and if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived.

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Philippians 2:6-11

His state was divine,
yet Christ Jesus 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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John 3:13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who came down from heaven,
the Son of Man who is in heaven;
and the Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.’

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God loved the world so much

We meet with many struggles at the different stages of our lives here on Earth. These struggles are depicted both in the old and new testaments. Up until today, people continue to struggle for their freedom. On a more peaceful and personal level, perhaps from where I come from, we struggle with meeting expectations to be seen as successful. At these tough moments, where we come across an obstacle in our life, we question why we are being led to this stage. We prayed to get out of a sticky situation, and then we blame God again for leading us to the next obstacle. We are hard to please isn’t it?

Today’s reading, we are reminded of God’s mercy towards us. The Lord has given us love, forgiveness, life eternal when we felt like we are too tired for anything else. He gave us Jesus, who died to be the saviour of the world. These are all heavenly things that is given to us because He love us so. He had made this world, created us to be the good people He likes to see us as. The cross and the passion are images and a message for us to be reminded of the world He has created it for. For us to embrace the positivity and yet reality of life with the purpose of being obedient and living fully in His name.

When there are others whom you have difficulty working with, when we reach a very sad and difficult issue to deal with in our everyday lives, when we are not able to meet the expectations of our loved ones, disappointing them, and always hoping not to lose them, we should try to turn to God asking for the heavenly gifts in getting us through. We remind ourselves that we are not doing it for our personal gain, we do it in the name of Jesus, that we are motivated to strive in work that pleases Him. In this way, we are able to know what is of more importance and continue to get motivated for a fulfilling life here on Earth.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

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Thanksgiving: We lift up our worries and struggles everyday, so that You may guide us to live a more fulfilling life with our loved ones.

Prayer: Let me look beyond the difficulties that I often encounter, but to give thanks and count the blessings of what You have given me.

13 September, Tuesday – Existence

13 September – Memorial for St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor

John’s (347-407) father died when he was young, and he was raised by a very pious mother. It was for his sermons that John earned the title “Chrysostom” (golden-mouthed). They were always on point, they explained the scriptures with clarity, and they sometimes went on for hours.

As bishop, he criticised the rich for not sharing their wealth, fought to reform the clergy, prevented the sale of ecclesiastical offices, called for fidelity in marriage, and encouraged practices of justice and charity. St. John’s sermons caused nobles and bishops to work to remove him from his diocese; twice exiled from his diocese. He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 451.

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 12:12-14,27-31

Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.

Nor is the body to be identified with any one of its many parts. Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it. In the Church, God has given the first place to apostles, the second to prophets, the third to teachers; after them, miracles, and after them the gift of healing; helpers, good leaders, those with many languages. Are all of them apostles, or all of them prophets, or all of them teachers? Do they all have the gift of miracles, or all have the gift of healing? Do all speak strange languages, and all interpret them? Be ambitious for the higher gifts.

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Luke 7:11-17

Jesus went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people. When he was near the gate of the town it happened that a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her. When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her. ‘Do not cry’ he said. Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you to get up.’ And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Everyone was filled with awe and praised God saying, ‘A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.’ And this opinion of him spread throughout Judaea and all over the countryside.

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God has visited his people

How do we really see God’s existence in our lives? Is preaching, writing blogs and getting thousands on a Christian social media channel the way to proving that God exists? Sometimes, even by going regularly to mass still bring doubts to parishioners that God exist and some might even say ‘because my parents want me to go to church..’ What will it take to trigger our believe in a God, in our faith, Jesus Christ? For many of us, we still would like to see a miracle in our lives to believe that God is with us, or as a prove that His powers are for us. Most times, we have that hope and good things shall happen to us as we prayed for it. It could take years or even a decade to see something hopeful. Better still, we are able to see a raising of the dead like the people of Nain and began praising that God has come to them.

We live in a community. The world is made up of different societies and groups of people in our surroundings. As in today’s reading, we are reminded of how God has existed among the differences but ultimately in one spirit. When I was young, we always hear people saying ‘God is Everywhere’. Indeed, he is among us existing in spirit in our teachers, our leaders, in helpers, in carers and all those with a loving spirit in working for the love of our Lord. Everyday solutions are miracles as well, times when we are down only to rely on a good news to make our day a little better.

We are only human that sometimes, during moments of difficulty and feeling of hopelessness, we doubt the existence of God. Be reminded that, we shall not let such feelings drag us down. We will keep up the faith through constant prayers and Eucharistic celebrations, an adoration of the Blessed Sacrament will calm down our anxiety and God will speak to us.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: May the Lord not give up on us when we doubt, but make us stronger in spirit and open our hearts for Jesus’ visit.

Thanksgiving: O loving God, we pray for the leaders, the Church and all those non-believers, that the spirit of God work in each one of them