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8 April, Sunday – The Divine Mercy

8 Apr – Divine Mercy Sunday

The Congregation for Divine Worship decreed in 2003 that “throughout the world, the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday, a perennial invitation to the Christian world to face, with confidence in divine benevolence, the difference and trials that humankind will experience in the years to come”.

Devotion to the Divine Mercy was promoted by St. Faustina Kowalski, canonized on 30 Apr 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

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Acts 4:32-35

The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul; no one claimed for his own use anything that he had, as everything they owned was held in common.

The apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great power, and they were all given great respect.

None of their members was ever in want, as all those who owned land or houses would sell them, and bring the money from them, to present it to the apostles; it was then distributed to any members who might be in need.

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1 John 5:1-6

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten by God; and whoever loves the Father that begot him loves the child whom he begets.

We can be sure that we love God’s children if we love God himself and do what he has commanded us; this is what loving God is – keeping his commandments; and his commandments are not difficult, because anyone who has been begotten by God has already overcome the world; this is the victory over the world – our faith.

Who can overcome the world? Only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God: Jesus Christ who came by water and blood, not with water only, but with water and blood; with the Spirit as another witness – since the Spirit is the truth.

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John 20:19-31

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:

‘You believe because you can see me.
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.

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“…when Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you, too, will be revealed with him in glory.”

In the first reading, we read about the early Christians, how they were on fire, their hearts filled with love, giving, caring, celebrating the Risen Lord. And like many of us today, we are in the season of celebration, we have the victory that Christ has won for us, the eternal life, our salvation, the forgiveness of our sins. But it is also very important that we do not take our faith for granted.

Many times, we are trapped in seeking the reward that we fail to seek the giver. Today is also Divine Mercy Sunday. Often, we seek the forgiveness, we seek heaven and eternal paradise but how often have we forgotten about Jesus, about God our Father? Even for myself, many times I’ve missed the point. It’s not about the sufferings, not about our sins nor the cross we have to carry. It is about Jesus, not just about His death but about His life. I believe that His resurrection isn’t complete till we have resurrected with Him, in Him.

This Divine Mercy Sunday, let us not just pray for mercy given unto us but that we may be like Christ — givers of mercy. For it is more than if we are saved but to want to save others also. To bring love to the people we meet. For Jesus, too, came to save and not to be saved, He came to love and not to be loved.

So once again, let us not focus on the reward, for we may find an empty tomb in front of us. But if we truly know who Jesus is, we know that He already has a place for us in heaven, in His heart. Let us not live for the reward but for the people in our lives, especially our loved ones; to be merciful and loving towards them. Christ has died for us, let us now live for Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we will not focus on the reward alone but on you. For you are the example, the Divine Mercy. Help us to be more like you, in the way where we can bring you to many others in our lives. For many to encounter you through us. Make our hearts like yours.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your life. Thank you Lord, for taking on that journey in which you have given us hope, love and your life.

7 April, Saturday – Reckless Love

7 Apr – Saturday in the Octave of Easter

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Acts 4:13-21

The rulers, elders and scribes were astonished at the assurance shown by Peter and John, considering they were uneducated laymen; and they recognised them as associates of Jesus; but when they saw the man who had been cured standing by their side, they could find no answer. So they ordered them to stand outside while the Sanhedrin had a private discussion. ‘What are we going to do with these men?’ they asked. ‘It is obvious to everybody in Jerusalem that a miracle has been worked through them in public, and we cannot deny it. But to stop the whole thing spreading any further among the people, let us caution them never to speak to anyone in this name again.’

So they called them in and gave them a warning on no account to make statements or to teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John retorted, ‘You must judge whether in God’s eyes it is right to listen to you and not to God. We cannot promise to stop proclaiming what we have seen and heard.’ The court repeated the warnings and then released them; they could not think of any way to punish them, since all the people were giving glory to God for what had happened.

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Mark 16:9-15

Having risen in the morning on the first day of the week, Jesus appeared first to Mary of Magdala from whom he had cast out seven devils. She then went to those who had been his companions, and who were mourning and in tears, and told them. But they did not believe her when they heard her say that he was alive and that she had seen him.

After this, he showed himself under another form to two of them as they were on their way into the country. These went back and told the others, who did not believe them either.

Lastly, he showed himself to the Eleven themselves while they were at table. He reproached them for their incredulity and obstinacy, because they had refused to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. And he said to them, ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.’

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“Why this uproar among the nations, this impotent muttering of the peoples? Kings on earth take up position, princes plot together against the Lord and his Anointed.”

Such is the love of Christ, a reckless love. One who leaves the ninety-nine to find the lost one; one who runs out as soon as He sees a glimpse of a desire for reconciliation. One who focuses on the last, the lost, the least. One who washes the feet of His disciples, one who is born in a manger. One who has to die on the cross for His people.

But even after everything, it is always so hard to believe, as seen in the readings where many don’t believe that Jesus is the Christ, that He has risen from the dead. We’d rather choose to continue to wait for His second coming rather than to embrace this life we have in front of us.

For our actions, sacrifices and devotions alone are of no use unless they help us to encounter the Risen Lord in our lives, through the people we meet and the circumstances we face. For God is not dead, He is alive and more than just living in this world, living in us.

Sometimes it’s really so hard to believe that Christ is real when our world is in the state it is in. Where it is no more about what we can do for the world, but how to make the world work for us. And we wonder why, after everything, we can’t simply fill the voids of peace, freedom, unity and love.

As the disciples continue to proclaim the Good News, we know the amount of resistance, negativity and the harsh consequences they have to face; but they know it is worth it because of this reckless love of Christ.

I guess love comes with a degree of uncertainty. It may not be love if it is something we are entering, fully aware of its outcomes and circumstances. Love, in that sense, is never certain; but what is already certain is Christ’s love for us. May we always cling on to this hope, this love that despite whatever comes our way, we already have been given this grace, this life, our salvation.

Christ has died for us. Let us now live for Him. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for all those who have not yet come to know you, that you will reveal yourself to them through the people you place in their lives and circumstances that they will go through. We pray for all Catholics, that we may grow this courage of standing up for our faith and spreading the Good News so that all may come to know you and your love for all of us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for everything you have done for us. Thank you Lord, for showing us what it means to love and how we should live and treat others by your example. Thank you Lord, for your reckless love. Amen

6 April, Friday – Salvation

6 Apr – Friday in the Octave of Easter

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Acts 4:1-12

While Peter and John were talking to the people the priests came up to them, accompanied by the captain of the Temple and the Sadducees. They were extremely annoyed at their teaching the people the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead by proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. They arrested them, but as it was already late, they held them till the next day. But many of those who had listened to their message became believers, the total number of whom had now risen to something like five thousand.

The next day the rulers, elders and scribes had a meeting in Jerusalem with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, Jonathan, Alexander and all the members of the high-priestly families. They made the prisoners stand in the middle and began to interrogate them, ‘By what power, and by whose name have you men done this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, addressed them, ‘Rulers of the people, and elders! If you are questioning us today about an act of kindness to a cripple, and asking us how he was healed, then I am glad to tell you all, and would indeed be glad to tell the whole people of Israel, that it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence, today. This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone. For of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.’

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John 21:1-14

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. It was by the Sea of Tiberias, and it happened like this: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two more of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing.’ They replied, ‘We’ll come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat but caught nothing that night.

It was light by now and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. Jesus called out, ‘Have you caught anything, friends?’ And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’ So they dropped the net, and there were so many fish that they could not haul it in. The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ At these words ‘It is the Lord’, Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water. The other disciples came on in the boat, towing the net and the fish; they were only about a hundred yards from land.

As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there, and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it. Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘Who are you?’; they knew quite well it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after rising from the dead.

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“This is the stone which you, the builders, rejected but which has become the cornerstone. Only in him is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.”

So much hope in the readings today. The hope that will take us out of our comfort zones, a hope that is greater than life. The hope of salvation. The salvation that has been won for us by our Risen Lord.

Today, in the first reading, we see the disciples, with conviction and boldness proclaiming the Good News freely, even while they were arrested. A gift far greater than ourselves, a gift so uncontainable that it overflows. For it isn’t about the physical healings or miracles that the disciples caught so many fish, or that the net didn’t break, but to know that we have found the meaning to our lives — a purpose, a mission, a calling, a love.

God gives to each and every one of us, the greatest gift of Himself, through Jesus.

How amazing that in a world where definitions and boundaries are constantly changing, in our search for perfection, yet it is the stone that the builders rejected, that has become the cornerstone. In a world where it seems that the greater one’s knowledge, the more powerful, apparently, so powerful that we are blinded by its ‘power’.

The failure to recognise that deep within us, is a calling, not just to be the best at what we do, or the best version of ourselves, but it is to be that for OTHERS. And in that, we will find the greater purpose and meaning in life.

“Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” – Matthew 20:28

Jesus has set the example by paying the greatest price because of His love for us. May we see beyond ourselves. May we not simply seek to understand, but may we have faith, may we believe, may we proclaim that God is just not a God over our problems, but a God over our lives, our cornerstone.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for people in leadership positions in our country and all around the world. In a world that is seemingly in a disastrous mess, help them to find your message, so as to lead us out of this ‘slavery’ and into freedom, your kingdom.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for this hope you bring to all of us, that no matter how bad or wrong we are, you still provide for us a place we can call home.

5 April, Thursday – Peace

5 Apr – Thursday in the Octave of Easter

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Acts 3:11-26

Everyone came running towards Peter and John in great excitement, to the Portico of Solomon, as it is called, where the man was still clinging to Peter and John. When Peter saw the people he addressed them, ‘Why are you so surprised at this? Why are you staring at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or holiness? You are Israelites, and it is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, who has glorified his servant Jesus, the same Jesus you handed over and then disowned in the presence of Pilate after Pilate had decided to release him. It was you who accused the Holy One, the Just One, you who demanded the reprieve of a murderer while you killed the prince of life. God, however, raised him from the dead, and to that fact we are the witnesses; and it is the name of Jesus which, through our faith in it, has brought back the strength of this man whom you see here and who is well known to you. It is faith in that name that has restored this man to health, as you can all see.

‘Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing; this was the way God carried out what he had foretold, when he said through all his prophets that his Christ would suffer. Now you must repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, and so that the Lord may send the time of comfort. Then he will send you the Christ he has predestined, that is Jesus, whom heaven must keep till the universal restoration comes which God proclaimed, speaking through his holy prophets. Moses, for example, said: The Lord God will raise up a prophet like myself for you, from among your own brothers; you must listen to whatever he tells you. The man who does not listen to that prophet is to be cut off from the people. In fact, all the prophets that have ever spoken, from Samuel onwards, have predicted these days.

‘You are the heirs of the prophets, the heirs of the covenant God made with our ancestors when he told Abraham: in your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed. It was for you in the first place that God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.’

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Luke 24:35-48

The disciples told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.

They were still talking about all this when he himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’ In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost. But he said, ‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.’ And as he said this he showed them his hands and feet. Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded; so he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ And they offered him a piece of grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes.

Then he told them, ‘This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms has to be fulfilled.’ He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.

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It was for you in the first place, that God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you as every one of you turns from his wicked ways.”

The Lord declares in Isaiah 55:8, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways your ways”.

Today’s reading struck me in an unusual way.

Many times, we find ourselves trying to prove that we are right. “See, I told you!”, “Told you but you don’t want to listen.”, “You deserve it for not listening”, “I already told you this will happen, but still…”

We put him on the cross and crucified Him. We doubted and continue to doubt after we have seen His miracles. But Jesus comes, not to show nor prove that He is God, but still even after everything, He reaches out to all of us to love us.

Appearing to apostles in the Gospel and reaching out to those who persecuted Him in the first reading, our God is more than one who desires punishment for us, but one who desires to share this peace, His peace. A peace the world cannot give.

We find ourselves impatient to wait for the next opportunity to pounce to show how good we are, that our ways are the best and how we always knew better. Why? Why do we need to do so?

Is being right more important than being at peace? Is being right the way for us to be at peace?

Even as I’m reflecting, it is truly amazing how I’m just unable to comprehend the extent of the love of God. So immense, uncontainable, immeasurable… beautiful. And a God so great, did all this for us, for me, for you. That’s how much I am worth, that’s how much you are worth.

Let us not allow the world to take this away from us, this grace that God has blessed us all with, that we can call ourselves sons and daughters of the Father. Let our lives always be this celebration of how great you are. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, grant us this peace, your peace. To always look to you. To have faith in all our despair, for you came to love, you died in order that we may live. Help us to live.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always reaching out to us first, despite all we have done and are still doing towards you. Thank you Lord, for being our model, our answer, our light in our darkness. Thank you Lord.

4 April, Wednesday – Hope

4 Apr – Wednesday in the Octave of Easter

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Acts 3:1-10

Once, when Peter and John were going up to the Temple for the prayers at the ninth hour, it happened that there was a man being carried past. He was a cripple from birth; and they used to put him down every day near the Temple entrance called the Beautiful Gate so that he could beg from the people going in. When this man saw Peter and John on their way into the Temple he begged from them. Both Peter and John looked straight at him and said, ‘Look at us.’ He turned to them expectantly, hoping to get something from them, but Peter said, ‘I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!’ Peter then took him by the hand and helped him to stand up. Instantly his feet and ankles became firm, he jumped up, stood, and began to walk, and he went with them into the Temple, walking and jumping and praising God. Everyone could see him walking and praising God, and they recognised him as the man who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. They were all astonished and unable to explain what had happened to him.

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Luke 24:13-35

Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.

Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’

Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.

When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’

They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.

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“Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer before entering into his glory?”

Blessed Easter! Christ is risen!

Today we read a very familiar Gospel text — the Road to Emmaus. It is probably almost impossible to relate to how the disciples must have been feeling then, where it seems that all that had been prophesised, their master, Lord, Messiah and hope was gone, lost.

Did we go through everything for nothing? Did we give up everything for nothing? What’s next? Where do we go from here?

And while it may seem that they made the right choices, followed the right person, how is it that they still ended up in that situation? Where did we go wrong?

In the Gospel, it says, “Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but their eyes were prevented from recognising him.”

We have the privilege of knowing the entire salvation history and we are told that salvation has already been won for us. But sometimes because of this, we tend to limit God to a certain way, He’s only in the good, He’s in church, in the adoration room, present in good people, people who are active in ministry. That God only works when a session is run a certain way, we limit God and put Him in a box. We are closed, we are blinded even while we may be active, while we may know who we are serving. And when things don’t go our way, or when we can’t create that environment/attitude or culture, we lack the faith that God is still present and working even in the most unfortunate/unlikely/impossible situations.

“Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer before entering into his glory?”

As with the first reading, Christ can work even through each and every one of us, curing a lame man. Many times, we see suffering as the absence of Christ, like He doesn’t care about us and hence we are suffering. Perhaps we should close our eyes and open our hearts to see that even in our ‘sufferings’, Christ is very much present. Suffering is never the end, just like the Road to Emmaus, we are meant to return home to Jerusalem, to Christ. We are on this journey, a journey filled with many obstacles, but never alone. Let us allow the Risen Lord to touch our hearts and open our eyes always. Lead us Lord. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, open our hearts and our eyes, that we may your glory in all our sufferings. Help us to always cling on to you. Lead us Lord, love us Lord.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for always assuring us that you are working through us, living within us, amongst us.

30 October, Monday – Giving Life

30 October 2017

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Romans 8:12-17

My brothers, there is no necessity for us to obey our unspiritual selves or to live unspiritual lives. If you do live in that way, you are doomed to die; but if by the Spirit you put an end to the misdeeds of the body you will live.

Everyone moved by the Spirit is a son of God. The spirit you received is not the spirit of slaves bringing fear into your lives again; it is the spirit of sons, and it makes us cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself and our spirit bear united witness that we are children of God. And if we are children we are heirs as well: heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, sharing his sufferings so as to share his glory.

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Luke 13:10-17

One sabbath day Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who for eighteen years had been possessed by a spirit that left her enfeebled; she was bent double and quite unable to stand upright. When Jesus saw her he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are rid of your infirmity’ and he laid his hands on her. And at once she straightened up, and she glorified God.

But the synagogue official was indignant because Jesus had healed on the sabbath, and he addressed the people present. ‘There are six days’ he said ‘when work is to be done. Come and be healed on one of those days and not on the sabbath.’ But the Lord answered him. ‘Hypocrites!’ he said ‘Is there one of you who does not untie his ox or his donkey from the manger on the sabbath and take it out for watering? And this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan has held bound these eighteen years – was it not right to untie her bonds on the sabbath day?’ When he said this, all his adversaries were covered with confusion, and all the people were overjoyed at all the wonders he worked.

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“The Spirit Himself joins with our spirit to bear witness that we are children of God. … provided that we share his suffering, so as to share in his glory”

Building from the Gospel reading yesterday, today we read in the Gospel how Jesus was again put to the ‘test’ of healing a crippled woman on the Sabbath.

I think that many times in our lives, we are so caught up with what we need to do, what we need to plan for — the future, all the possible uncertainties and the need to have a solution/answer for everything — that we overlook why we do it in the first place. Example, could we remember clearly, when was the first time we fell in love with God, that we experienced Him tangibly? How then did respond to Him? Why are we not responding now?

For most of us, even myself, we have experienced many instances where we are simply caught up in a routine. So much so that we lose the passion we once had, the love of Christ that we once had, all being reduced to simply following instructions/rules and keeping to a structure or routine of work. We fail to serve with love. We fail to respond with love. We don’t feel loved or, quite simply, we haven’t opened up our hearts to receive His love.

What Christ is trying to tell us today is not that the commandments/observances of our faith is secondary to love, but rather, they both go hand in hand. In love, we should be able to carry out all those ‘requirements’ or ‘expectations’, which should eventually help us to love better. These too can help us to live our own lives to the fullest and in that, we realise we can also give life to others. While it may be a reverse for some, where in giving life to others, we find that we too are able to live ours to the fullest.

For Christ, it was not just about keeping to the observances of our faith, but really understanding our faith and who God is and who we are all created to be.

Maybe, instead of continuing to struggle with sin, we can also understand our sins and why we fall. Hence, it may be more possible to overcome them when temptations arise again in the future. Let it not be because it is what God says, but may it be because we have chosen to love the people around us, that we have chosen to love God and that we realise how sin prevents us from living our lives to the fullest.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we see our faith as more than a subject or a course but our very nature, your very nature. For our faith not to be reduced to a burden or load, but a blessing, and one that can allow us to live our lives to the full. We pray for perseverance, courage to overcome sin and to love all. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your spirit, our constant empowerment, hope and refuge. Thank you for accepting us and loving us as we are. Thank you for your wisdom and grace.

29 October, Sunday – The Greatest Commandment

29 October 2017

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Exodus 22:20-26

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell the sons of Israel this:

‘“You must not molest the stranger or oppress him, for you lived as strangers in the land of Egypt. You must not be harsh with the widow, or with the orphan; if you are harsh with them, they will surely cry out to me, and be sure I shall hear their cry; my anger will flare and I shall kill you with the sword, your own wives will be widows, your own children orphans.

‘“If you lend money to any of my people, to any poor man among you, you must not play the usurer with him: you must not demand interest from him.

‘“If you take another’s cloak as a pledge, you must give it back to him before sunset. It is all the covering he has; it is the cloak he wraps his body in; what else would he sleep in? If he cries to me, I will listen, for I am full of pity.”’

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1 Thessalonians 1:5-10

You observed the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction, and you were led to become imitators of us, and of the Lord; and it was with the joy of the Holy Spirit that you took to the gospel, in spite of the great opposition all round you. This has made you the great example to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia since it was from you that the word of the Lord started to spread – and not only throughout Macedonia and Achaia, for the news of your faith in God has spread everywhere. We do not need to tell other people about it: other people tell us how we started the work among you, how you broke with idolatry when you were converted to God and became servants of the real, living God; and how you are now waiting for Jesus, his Son, whom he raised from the dead, to come from heaven to save us from the retribution which is coming.

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Matthew 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’

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“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.”

As with the Gospel from the previous week, we read again how Jesus was once again being put to the test. We see how there’s a special connotation when we use the word ‘test’. Sometimes, we simply just want to push our boundaries and make life difficult for others even when the result or outcome may not even be applicable or affect us. Sometimes, we just want to prove people wrong and try to make our lives/rules or, in this context, the commandments, easier to follow.

Sometimes we even make ‘bets’ with God, “If you help me to get through this, I will do something for you”, or “If I’m able to witness a miracle, I’ll convert”, or “If you are real God, ….” and much more.

For me, how I ‘test’ God is, even though I am aware of the sin I’ll be committing, I still choose to willingly commit it, thinking that God will still forgive me after I’ve gone for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

But at the end of the day, Jesus makes it clear that it isn’t about keeping every one of the commandments. For even more than that, for the commandments to be kept, we must first “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind” and “love your neighbour as yourself”. We see how, in the New Testament, Jesus helps us to summarise the 10 Commandments into these two simple commandments. The key word being LOVE.

Why is there so much emphasis then on LOVE? To do things with great love, to love our enemies, to look out for the last, the lost and the least. And I guess, deep down, it is because we all want and desire to be loved, not for what we can offer or how we look, but because of who we are.

Should this be what we desire, then this is what we should also give/share with all. God has given us His greatest love in the form of Jesus — where He gave Himself to us, in order that we may all be saved. And in that LOVE, FREEDOM as well, to sometimes choose to go against Him.

We give because we have already been given, we love because we are first loved by Him. Let us treasure this FREEDOM that we are given, not to ‘test’ God, but to allow His face and His glory to shine through all of us, onto everyone around us as we too make a gift of ourselves, so that all may experience His love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the grace to love. To love without condition. To love as you love. To do your will and build your kingdom here on earth, in our homes and in our hearts. Let all that we do be done in love, with love, to love and for love. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your love. For giving us this freedom. For being patient and understanding in our journey towards holiness. Thank you for the many graces and blessings that you have already bestowed upon us.

29 August, Tuesday – Our Mission in Life

Aug 29 – Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist (not used in 2010)

To endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather is was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward. Since death was ever at hand, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: “You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake.” He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that His chosen ones should suffer for Him: “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.”

– from a homily by Saint Bede the Venerable on the death of John the Baptist

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Jeremiah 1:17-19

The word of the Lord was addressed to me, saying:

‘Brace yourself for action.
Stand up and tell them
all I command you.
Do not be dismayed at their presence,
or in their presence I will make you dismayed.

‘I, for my part, today will make you
into a fortified city,
a pillar of iron,
and a wall of bronze
to confront all this land:
the kings of Judah, its princes,
its priests and the country people.
They will fight against you
but shall not overcome you,
for I am with you to deliver you –
it is the Lord who speaks.’

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Mark 6:17-29

Herod sent to have John arrested, and had him chained up in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife whom he had married. For John had told Herod, ‘It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife.’ As for Herodias, she was furious with him and wanted to kill him; but she was not able to, because Herod was afraid of John, knowing him to be a good and holy man, and gave him his protection. When he had heard him speak he was greatly perplexed, and yet he liked to listen to him.

An opportunity came on Herod’s birthday when he gave a banquet for the nobles of his court, for his army officers and for the leading figures in Galilee. When the daughter of this same Herodias came in and danced, she delighted Herod and his guests; so the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me anything you like and I will give it you.’ And he swore her an oath, ‘I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.’ She went out and said to her mother, ‘What shall I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the Baptist.’ The girl hurried straight back to the king and made her request, ‘I want you to give me John the Baptist’s head, here and now, on a dish.’ The king was deeply distressed but, thinking of the oaths he had sworn and of his guests, he was reluctant to break his word to her. So the king at once sent one of the bodyguard with orders to bring John’s head. The man went off and beheaded him in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard about this, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

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“They will not defeat you, for I will be with you to protect you. I, the LORD, have spoken.”

Today we celebrate the Passion of St John the Baptist. More remembered as the voice that cries out in the wilderness to make the way for the Lord, the baby in womb who leapt for joy when Mary visited, the one who baptised many, including Jesus. One who was steadfast in his faith, bold in reaching out to countless with his preaching.

In St John the Baptist, we have a role model that defines our mission in life too. When we say we evangelise, it’s not just to our friends, people who would listen, people whom we are comfortable with, but it’s to the exact opposite of the above.

The consequences or how his future was going to turn out like didn’t matter to St John for what was most important, was the encounter of Jesus. The relationship St John had was so strong that nothing could hold him back from sharing the beautiful gift with all. Do we have that conviction or that relationship with God? Why not?

We read in the Gospel that Herod was protecting St John, loved listening to him even though he felt uncomfortable. And I believe it’s because St John spoke the truth, though sometimes very uncomfortable, it’s something we cannot avoid forever but better if we can confront it, grudges, regrets, misunderstandings, unresolved hurts. Herod knew John was a holy man but eventually still succumb to a vow and took his life in such a cruel way.

Again, as from the past 2 reflections, what is really important to us, keeping to a vow that could have been made rashly, protecting one’s image, or like St John, speaking the truth, to know our mission in life. Our Lord has already given us His life and His love, it’s time for us to do the same for all. Let us stay true to our faith, to the creed we profess, to live a life of love. May we learn from St John the Baptist. St John the Baptist, pray for us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we will continue to grow our relationship with you. To grow in conviction as we live out our mission. Empower us in our struggles, in our efforts to step out of our comfort zones. May we be beacons of hope, examples of love by our lives.

Thanksgiving:  Thank you Lord for the gift of St John the Baptist. Thank you for helping us see that it is possible to love you as much in all our imperfect capacity. Thank you Lord for always being there.

28 August, Monday – Hypocrites

Aug 28 – Memorial for St. Augustine, bishop, doctor

After investigating and experimenting with several philosophies, Augustine (354-430) became a Manichaean for several years; it taught of a great struggle between good and evil, and featured a lax moral code. A summation of his thinking at the time comes from his Confessions: “God, give me chastity and continence – but not just now.”

Augustine finally broke with the Manichaeans and was converted by the prayers of his mother and the help of St. Ambrose of Milan, who baptised him. Upon the death of his mother he returned to Africa, sold his property, gave the proceeds to the poor, and founded a monastery. He founded religious communities and fought heresies. His later thinking can also be summed up in a line from his writings: Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.

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1 Thessalonians 1:1-5,8-10

From Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, to the Church in Thessalonika which is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; wishing you grace and peace.

We always mention you in our prayers and thank God for you all, and constantly remember before God our Father how you have shown your faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ.

We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen, because when we brought the Good News to you, it came to you not only as words, but as power and as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction. And you observed the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction, since it was from you that the word of the Lord started to spread – and not only throughout Macedonia and Achaia, for the news of your faith in God has spread everywhere. We do not need to tell other people about it: other people tell us how we started the work among you, how you broke with idolatry when you were converted to God and became servants of the real, living God; and how you are now waiting for Jesus, his Son, whom he raised from the dead, to come from heaven to save us from the retribution which is coming.

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Matthew 23:13-22

Jesus said: ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to.

‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who travel over sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when you have him you make him twice as fit for hell as you are.

‘Alas for you, blind guides! You who say, “If a man swears by the Temple, it has no force; but if a man swears by the gold of the Temple, he is bound.” Fools and blind! For which is of greater worth, the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? Or else, “If a man swears by the altar it has no force; but if a man swears by the offering that is on the altar, he is bound.” You blind men! For which is of greater worth, the offering or the altar that makes the offering sacred? Therefore, when a man swears by the altar he is swearing by that and by everything on it. And when a man swears by the Temple he is swearing by that and by the One who dwells in it. And when a man swears by heaven he is swearing by the throne of God and by the One who is seated there.’

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“someone who swears by heaven is swearing by the throne of God and by the One who is seated there.”

Today’s Gospel is a bit hard to digest, however I feel that the message that I’m called to share is that of, ‘Do we know who we are following?’, ‘Why do we do what we do?’

I currently work in the parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) and was previously working at Church of the Holy Spirit as the Youth Coordinator. Over the years, I’ve seen many who hold positions in the church and they, most of them are not your best role models or disciples for that matter. Maybe some are even worse off than those who don’t even come to church. Me included, there are countless of times where I look in the mirror and just see a hypocrite. Preaching one thing but not only do I not follow, I do the exact opposite.

We don’t need to hold a position to be considered to be a leader but the nature of our faith, as Catholics, people will already be judging us, our lifestyle and so on. And the reality is many have left the church because of priests, leaders within the church, bad experiences, where the expectations that one has of the church isn’t met.

The truth is we are all broken people and more so a good number of those who go to church. It’s quite easy to understand that people who are doing well, most of the time, wouldn’t exactly need God in their life? So the church is probably more broken than we ever imagine, but the beauty of it is that, God sees all and still chooses us to be His ministers, His disciples.

However, what is really key is that we need to know who we are following, who we are leading people to. And we should lead all to God, to only cling on Christ, to depend/rely on Him and not man, for man will continue to fall. Christ is the perfect role model and one we all should strive towards.

And so I urge all of us, not just to listen, follow blindly or be disappointed by man for man is broken and imperfect but to always have our sight on Christ. If we always hold on to the truths of the Gospel and love as Christ loves, then we won’t be far from being the face of Christ to others. Let us bind ourselves to Christ and we can be sure of a place for us with Christ in heaven. May your kingdom come and your will be done in our lives as it is in heaven. God Bless

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for strength to overcome the temptations that seek to pull us away from you. May our words lead to actions and may we grow to be more and more like you.

Thanksgiving:  Thank you Lord for your love, for your constant forgiveness, for accepting us and loving us in all our brokenness, disobedience and rejection of you. Amen.

27 June, Tuesday – Love

Memorial for St. Cyril of Alexandria, bishop and Doctor of the Church

Cyril (376–444) was the nephew of Theophilus the Patriarch. He was a monk and a priest who became Bishop of Alexandria, Egypt in 412, and later the Patriarch of Alexandria. He suppressed the Novatians. He worked at the Council of Ephesus. He fought against Nestorius who taught the heresy that there were two persons in Christ.

He was a catechetical writer, and wrote a book opposing Julian the Apostate. He is a Greek Father of the Church, and is a Doctor of the Church.

  • – Patron Saint Index

27 June 2017

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Genesis 13:2, 5-18

Abram was a very rich man, with livestock, silver and gold. Lot, who was travelling with Abram, had flocks and cattle of his own, and tents too. The land was not sufficient to accommodate them both at once, for they had too many possessions to be able to live together. Dispute broke out between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and those of Lot’s. (The Canaanites and the Perizzites were then living in the land.) Accordingly Abram said to Lot, ‘Let there be no dispute between me and you, nor between my herdsmen and yours, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land open before you? Part company with me: if you take the left, I will go right; if you take the right, I will go left.’

Looking round, Lot saw all the Jordan plain, irrigated everywhere – this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah – like the garden of the Lord or the land of Egypt, as far as Zoar. So Lot chose all the Jordan plain for himself and moved off eastwards. Thus they parted company: Abram settled in the land of Canaan; Lot settled among the towns of the plain, pitching his tents on the outskirts of Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were vicious men, great sinners against the Lord.

The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted company with him, ‘Look all round from where you are towards the north and the south, towards the east and the west. All the land within sight I will give to you and your descendants for ever. I will make your descendants like the dust on the ground: when men succeed in counting the specks of dust on the ground, then they will be able to count your descendants! Come, travel through the length and breadth of the land, for I mean to give it to you.’

So Abram went with his tents to settle at the Oak of Mamre, at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.

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Matthew 7:6, 12-14

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls in front of pigs, or they may trample them and then turn on you and tear you to pieces.

‘So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.

‘Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’

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“So always treat others as you would like them to treat you.”

I believe that all of us, in some way, want to be accepted, to feel belonged, to be loved. But how many of us accept and love others back?

Indeed, where it says, “enter by the narrow gate; since the road that leads to destruction is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Many of us prefer the easy way out, choosing not to rock the boat and yet we wonder why we are still struggling with problems that are not going away; surrounded by people who don’t change, even wondering why God isn’t hearing our prayers. But I guess, sometimes, God places us in such situations where we are called to effect change.

However, many times, we resort to using either experience, authority or even qualifications as a means to effect change rather than love. How do we hope for others to speak to us? How do we hope for others to treat us? And hence in our Gospel today, we read “so always treat others as you would like them to treat you”.

This is the narrow road we are encouraged to take, for we will always question, why is it we need to love first, forgive first? And sometimes, how many more times do we need to do so for others to realise, for them to finally change. The beauty of our faith is that there is no answer to those questions except to continue to love. Love isn’t about allowing oneself to be used or taken advantage of; love is speaking and living the truth.

For we live our lives not based on what others say about us but what God says. Created with love, from love, we are also called to love. Not as how we know it but as how God has loved us by His example. Let us challenge ourselves to continue to persevere in love not to receive love in return but because we have already received through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us be Christ to others, to all. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for our own conversion, for the many times we have been selfish. We pray also for perseverance as we continue to do your will and build your kingdom, a kingdom of love.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for understanding us, for helping us to see beyond ourselves, to help us see what really matters, what is really important, what is it we actually live for and what gives us life.