Tag Archives: benjamin mao

23 August, Friday – The Greatest Commandment

Aug 23 – Memorial for St. Rose of Lima, virgin

A beautiful girl and devoted daughter, Rose (1586-1617) was so devoted to her vow of chastity, she used pepper and lye to ruin her complexion so she would not be attractive. She lived and meditated in a garden, raising vegetables and making embroidered items to sell to support her family and help the other poor. She was the founder of social work in Peru.

“Our Lord and Savior lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: ‘Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.’”

from the writings of St. Rose of Lima

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Ruth 1:1, 3-6, 14-16, 22

In the days of the Judges famine came to the land and a certain man from Bethlehem of Judah went – he, his wife and his two sons – to live in the country of Moab. Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died, and she and her two sons were left. These married Moabite women: one was named Orpah and the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years. Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died and the woman was bereft of her two sons and her husband. So she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law and went back to her people. But Ruth clung to her.

Naomi said to her, ‘Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her god. You must return too; follow your sister-in-law.’

But Ruth said, ‘Do not press me to leave you and to turn back from your company, for ‘wherever you go, I will go, wherever you live, I will live.

Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.’

This was how Naomi, she who returned from the country of Moab, came back with Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

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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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“wherever you go, I shall go, wherever you live, I shall live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”

Today, there is an acronym, GOAT, that means, the Greatest Of All Time. We use it for athletes, celebrities, people who shock and surprise us with their skills/knowledge/talents/intelligence, and even for our friends. What does it mean to be great? We seem to always be debating on who’s the greatest, yet, every 5-10 years, it seems that newer names are coming up and some who were mentioned previously, not being heard of anymore. Why do we have such discussions and debates? How does the answer affect us?

Today let us reflect on what is the greatest value to us of all time, we refer to value as a principle or virtue. Which is ours and why? For me, it is a dying to myself, a lowering of my pride, because of love, that I look at the bigger picture rather than who’s at fault. This is something I find extremely hard for me — conflict with my loved ones, conflict at the workplace. Yes, I may be at fault, but why do I need to only be the one accepting responsibility, don’t others know and understand they have a part to play too? A controlling of emotions versus being controlled by your emotions, an understanding of what do you want to achieve. It’s about that greater goal, whether to resolve the conflict or avoid it, whether to forgive, communicate, and be at peace or harbour resentment and hurts?

The choice is ours. Ultimately, we struggle to choose because many times, we do not know yet where we are heading, and we simply prioritise what we need presently as opposed to where we hope to be in the future. The greatest commandment that Christ gives us in the Gospel today is “You must love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind.”. Will this ever be considered as the GOAT? Why or why not? What if we knew that for whatever reason we provide, as the answer, God still actually loves us with all His heart, with all His soul and with all His mind?

Many times, we find ourselves asking the word ‘why’. Maybe God has also asked Himself, why should he still continue to love us? Why doesn’t He just severely punish us for all the sins we are committing, the blasphemy, the lack of respect, obedience, reverence and countless others? Why are we still able to make the same mistakes, the same sins over and over again? Then maybe we think that God only says those to scare us, actually He won’t do anything. But just maybe, that’s how much He loves us. The truth is, He doesn’t need our love but He still asks us to love Him because when we do, we will receive much more.

So why not start loving Him today?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: (say your own prayer today, let us receive Him and His love into our hearts)

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your Word, your Commandments and putting us first. Thank you for being patient with us. Thank you for always welcoming us home. Amen.

22 August, Thursday – The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Aug 22 – Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Whoever, therefore, reverences the Queen of heaven and earth – and let no one consider himself exempt from this tribute of a grateful and loving soul – let him invoke the most effective of Queens, the Mediatrix of peace; let him respect and preserve peace, which is not wickedness unpunished nor freedom without restraint, but a well-ordered harmony under the rule of the will of God; to its safeguarding and growth the gentle urgings and commands of the Virgin Mary impel us. – Pope Pius XII

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Isaiah 9:1-7

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.

For all the footgear of battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
is burnt,
and consumed by fire.
For there is a child born for us,
a son given to us
and dominion is laid on his shoulders;
and this is the name they give him:
Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God,
Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace.
Wide is his dominion
in a peace that has no end,
for the throne of David
and for his royal power,
which he establishes and makes secure
in justice and integrity.
From this time onwards and for ever,
the jealous love of the Lord of Hosts will do this.

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Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

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You see before you the Lord’s servant, let it happen to me as you have said

For some reason, I’ve always found it harder to relate, connect, pray to our Mother. I just have this inclination to pray to God directly. I find it hard to pray the rosary too. I believe I understand Mary’s important role in our faith and I know she will always be praying and interceding for all of us. I’m always amazed at the number of people attending the Novena devotion at Novena Church in Singapore, every Saturday. The amount of people, even non-Catholics, attend in flocks with fervent hearts to ask our Mother to intercede for them. For some reason, I’m not sure why I do not seem to have that desire; or maybe it’s because I haven’t really asked or haven’t reached a stage of desperation or despair.

What really resounds with me when it comes to our Mother, is the Magnificat. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour…”. This reminder of the beauty of her surrender to God is shown in her glorification of God in all things and through all things. Especially, in the impossible where she will bear a son, and not just an ordinary child but the Son of God. Not by any recognisable medical way but through the grace of the Holy Spirit. All this and still her reply was “let it be done unto me according to your will”. Indeed, the definition of obedience exemplified.

This is also the prayer I hold close to my heart. A prayer when I learn not to seek or ask of what I need, but what God needs of me. To know that as long as I live my life in faith, love, a life in the spirit, then it’s one that will be as close as His plan for me. To know that He will provide not just what I need, but what’s best for me.

Today, as we celebrate your queenship, we celebrate our faith and surrender all the uncertainties in life, all the worries and the impossible to God and we ask for your intercession. “Let not my will but Yours be done.” Amen!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour; Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid; for behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; Because He who is mighty has done great things for me, and Holy is His Name; And His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him. He has shown might with His arm, He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has given help to Israel, His servant, mindful of His mercy – Even as He spoke to our father – to Abraham and to his posterity forever.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for our Mother. Thank you for showing us the perfect example of obedience. Thank you, Mother, for your constant intercession for all of us. Amen.

21 August, Wednesday – An Agreement

Aug 21 – Memorial for St. Pius X, pope

Pius X (1835-1914) encouraged frequent Holy Communion. He reformed the liturgy, promoted clear and simple homilies, and brought Gregorian chant back to services. He also reorganised the Roman curia, the administrative elements of the Church, and worked against the modern antagonism of the state against the Church. His other contributions to the Church included: initiating the codification of canon law, promoting Bible reading by all the faithful, and supporting foreign missions. His will read: “I was born poor; I lived poor; I wish to die poor.”

 – Patron Saint Index

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Judges 9:6-15

All the leading men of Shechem and all Beth-millo gathered, and proclaimed Abimelech king by the terebinth of the pillar at Shechem.

News of this was brought to Jotham. He came and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted aloud for them to hear:

‘Hear me, leaders of Shechem, that God may also hear you!

‘One day the trees went out to anoint a king to rule over them. They said to the olive tree, “Be our king!”

‘The olive tree answered them, “Must I forego my oil which gives honour to gods and men, to stand swaying above the trees?”

‘Then the trees said to the fig tree, “Come now, you be our king!”

‘The fig tree answered them, “Must I forego my sweetness, forego my excellent fruit, to stand swaying above the trees?”

‘Then the trees said to the vine, “Come now, you be our king!”

‘The vine answered them, “Must I forego my wine which cheers the heart of gods and men, to stand swaying above the trees?”

‘Then all the trees said to the thorn bush, “Come now, you be our king!”

‘And the thorn bush answered the trees, “If in all good faith you anoint me king to reign over you, then come and shelter in my shade. If not, fire will come from the thorn bush and devour the cedars of Lebanon.”’

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Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day, and sent them to his vineyard. Going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them, “You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage.” So they went. At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went out and did the same. Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more men standing round, and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” “Because no one has hired us” they answered. He said to them, “You go into my vineyard too.” In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his bailiff, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first.” So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. They took it, but grumbled at the landowner. “The men who came last” they said “have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” He answered one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?” Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.’

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I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius?

At this point in my life, I am struggling with this constant comparison of my own valuation of my work and salary with that of others. I have always felt that I’ve deserved much more than the salary I’m getting now, based on my skillset and my attitude towards my work. It’s always going to be unmotivating whenever such thoughts come to my mind. The reality is, however, that I agreed to it, whether it’s the lack of negotiation skills or the need for the job, I accepted that offer, whether willingly or unwillingly. This is the agreement I have with regards to my current job and the required job scope that I am to fulfil and it is an agreement that I should uphold, in order not to be unjust to my employer.

Everything comes with a price and everyone wants more. In the first reading, we read of how the trees are afraid to give of themselves for the greater good of others. And how, if we are to make the thorn bush king, then not only do we solely enjoy its benefits, we also accept the consequences and outcomes that come along with the decision. Our failure is that many times we fail to see, or face, the consequences of our actions; we merely do what we want to do, follow who we want to follow, buy what we want to buy and yet solely expect our current responsibilities not to be affected in any way. We also see how others are unjust to us, but fail to recognise how we have been unjust to others. We determine our own value and the value that we should receive.

Our God, however, sees us all as equals as the landowner in the Gospel today. He loves us all equally despite the different lives that we live, because we are worth it. Our God is one who is committed to us, who accepts and believes in us, who died for us, that we will be saved. And that is truly God’s desire for us as in the Gospel, where it isn’t about how much you are paid, but the response that we have toward God’s calling in our lives. Heaven isn’t for the rich nor has a minimum salary earning to enter. Heaven is for all who respond and serve in God’s vineyard, NO MATTER HOW LATE, for He is waiting to share this eternal reward with all who keep their agreement, keep this hope, keep this faith.

May we be reminded that our worth isn’t in what we do or how much we earn, but by who we are, what we stand for, who we live for, who we serve. We are not just meant to realise or be wise but to have the conviction to respond to His plan for us, not to work for the one denarius, but to know that we are in His vineyard and that’s all that matters. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the awareness to see beyond material goods and the ways of the world, to be able to see your hand in our lives. That you will provide us with good bosses and colleagues to help us on our journey as we continue to lead lives that are just first, before looking at the other. Help us to know that we will only be contented when we choose to be contented. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the opportunity to read this reflection today. Thank you for speaking to us in your own special way. Thank you for my current job, family, friends, my current financial position and everything that I’ve been ungrateful for. Thank you for also providing me with the opportunity to respond. Amen.

17 April, Wednesday – The Betrayal

17 April 2019

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Isaiah 50:4-9

The Lord has given me
a disciple’s tongue.
So that I may know how to reply to the wearied
he provides me with speech.
Each morning he wakes me to hear,
to listen like a disciple.
The Lord has opened my ear.

For my part, I made no resistance,
neither did I turn away.
I offered my back to those who struck me,
my cheeks to those who tore at my beard;
I did not cover my face
against insult and spittle.

The Lord comes to my help,
so that I am untouched by the insults.
So, too, I set my face like flint;
I know I shall not be shamed.

My vindicator is here at hand. Does anyone start proceedings against me?
Then let us go to court together.
Who thinks he has a case against me?
Let him approach me.

The Lord is coming to my help,
who will dare to condemn me?

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Matthew 26:14-25

One of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?’ They paid him thirty silver pieces, and from that moment he looked for an opportunity to betray him.

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus to say, ‘Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the passover?’ ‘Go to so-and-so in the city’ he replied ‘and say to him, “The Master says: My time is near. It is at your house that I am keeping Passover with my disciples.”’ The disciples did what Jesus told them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came he was at table with the twelve disciples. And while they were eating he said ‘I tell you solemnly, one of you is about to betray me.’ They were greatly distressed and started asking him in turn, ‘Not I, Lord, surely?’ He answered, ‘Someone who has dipped his hand into the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of Man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!’ Judas, who was to betray him; asked in his turn, ‘Not I, Rabbi, surely?’ ‘They are your own words’ answered Jesus.

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Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

I wonder how Judas must have been feeling when he said “Surely not I, Rabbi?”, and to think that Jesus wouldn’t already know?

I think the many times that I’ve sinned, sometimes maybe I’m more willing to sin because I haven’t faced the consequences or may have forgotten what it means to go against Christ. Such times are filled with guilt, remorse, regret, where I can’t be myself, where I’m not at peace with myself, where I’m not free. I add on to my burdens and it weighs down on my shoulders to know that I’m such a person and, deep down in my heart, I know that I’ve turned away from the person that Christ desires for me to be. It affects me and, in turn, affects the people around me.

I wonder whether Judas, Peter or anyone who has turned their backs against Christ may and probably would have experienced these feelings as well. We are not able to change what we have done but what we are able to do is to repent and return to Christ. This is usually the season where the church is packed, suddenly there is no space to sit or even to stand on services like Good Friday or Easter Vigil.

The challenge is for us not to make it an adhoc experience but a call to conversion. A betrayal would occur because we choose one thing over another, in this case, Judas chose the thirty pieces of silver over Jesus. And like the many times that we sin, it’s because we also choose something over Jesus, whether pleasure, work, friends, parties, money or fame. This conversion requires us to realign our mission and purpose to make Jesus the centre of our lives, to allow all that we do and say to flow from and through Him.

Just as the betrayal, though led to the death of Christ, it also led to His resurrection and hence our salvation. The betrayal isn’t the end — we do not need to condemn ourselves or always live in shame, for Christ is ever ready to forgive us, as long as we first learn to forgive ourselves and others, to embrace all that we’ve done wrong to ensure we do not repeat our mistakes. There is hope and light at the end of the tunnel. We just need to look ahead instead of behind, we need to move towards the light instead of remaining in darkness, we need to reclaim our identity instead of allowing the world to decide for us. We need courage and faith instead of money and freedom. We need to live instead of survive.

We need Jesus. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we may have your strength to resist and fight temptations. Help us to always turn and look to you. Help us not be distracted by what is seemingly good and pleasurable. Help us to not just focus on the worldly but the eternal. Help us in our conversion, that our hearts may be like yours.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for this hope that you give, to know that there is salvation. Thank you for your love. Amen.

16 April, Tuesday – Glory of Christ

16 April 2019

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Isaiah 49:1-6

Islands, listen to me,
pay attention, remotest peoples.
The Lord called me before I was born,
from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.

He made my mouth a sharp sword,
and hid me in the shadow of his hand.
He made me into a sharpened arrow,
and concealed me in his quiver.

He said to me, ‘You are my servant (Israel)
in whom I shall be glorified’;
while I was thinking, ‘I have toiled in vain,
I have exhausted myself for nothing’;

and all the while my cause was with the Lord,
my reward with my God.
I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord,
my God was my strength.

And now the Lord has spoken,
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
to gather Israel to him:

‘It is not enough for you to be my servant,
to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel;
I will make you the light of the nations
so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’

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John 13:21-33,36-38

While at supper with his disciples, Jesus was troubled in spirit and declared, ‘I tell you most solemnly, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, wondering which he meant. The disciple Jesus loved was reclining next to Jesus; Simon Peter signed to him and said, ‘Ask who it is he means’, so leaning back on Jesus’ breast he said, ‘Who is it, Lord?’ ‘It is the one’ replied Jesus ‘to whom I give the piece of bread that I shall dip in the dish.’ He dipped the piece of bread and gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. At that instant, after Judas had taken the bread, Satan entered him. Jesus then said, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly.’ None of the others at table understood the reason he said this. Since Judas had charge of the common fund, some of them thought Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’, or telling him to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the piece of bread he went out. Night had fallen.

 When he had gone Jesus said:

‘Now has the Son of Man been glorified,
and in him God has been glorified.
If God has been glorified in him,
God will in turn glorify him in himself,

and will glorify him very soon.

‘My little children,
I shall not be with you much longer.
You will look for me,
And, as I told the Jews,

where I am going, you cannot come.’

Simon Peter said, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now; you will follow me later.’ Peter said to him, ‘Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ ‘Lay down your life for me?’ answered Jesus. ‘I tell you most solemnly, before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.’

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Now has the Son of Man been glorified, and in him God has been glorified

Today we hear of the how and who was to betray Jesus. In fact, I believe that all of us would have betrayed Him before by sinning against Him. There are times also when we sin because of the glory that we want to attain for ourselves. Many times, it seems reasonable and fair that we are ‘rewarded’ for the hard work and hours of service that we have given to Christ. It seems that even after everything that we have done, instead of being appreciative, others merely feedback how we are not good enough.

It is difficult but, like Jesus, we need to once again understand our mission and who it is we are serving. Even after everything that Jesus had done for Judas, even after all the preaching and miracles that Judas had seen and heard first hand from Jesus, it wasn’t enough for Judas; he did not hesitate in betraying Jesus. Thus, we see the power of money, fame and pride that causes us to betray Jesus, that causes us to sin. It’s not just solely about the severity of the sin or betrayal, but we see that even Peter’s denial of Jesus is as equally hurtful and a sin itself. There are times when I’ve seen others comparing their sins, “at least my sin is not as bad as yours”, “you make me feel less of a sinner”, what should matter is that we have sinned against God and that is a betrayal in itself, regardless of how small or big it seems to be.

But the glory of Christ is different from the glory that man desires. We read of how God is glorified by the death of Jesus. How can something so painful, humiliating and so wrong be something that brings glory? The glory of Christ is such that even on the cross, Jesus cries to ask for forgiveness for all of us, for we do not know what we are doing. The glory is in accomplishing the mission that His Father has set for Him. The glory is in glorifying God.

God understands that in doing His mission, we will be persecuted, misunderstood, even at times humiliated and He knows because He himself has gone through such. He promises us, as in the first reading, that He has a plan for each and every one of us and that He is with us each step of the way. May we always be aware of His presence among us, to listen to his voice, that in all things that we do and say, it is for His glory and His glory alone. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for teaching us Your way, what it means to love and forgive. Thank you for showing us the way. May we strive and learn to be like you, glorying Our Father in all that we say and do.

15 April, Monday – Growing in Riches

15 April 2019

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Isaiah 42:1-7

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom my soul delights.
I have endowed him with my spirit
that he may bring true justice to the nations.

He does not cry out or shout aloud,
or make his voice heard in the streets.
He does not break the crushed reed,
nor quench the wavering flame.

Faithfully he brings true justice;
he will neither waver, nor be crushed
until true justice is established on earth,
for the islands are awaiting his law.

Thus says God, the Lord,
he who created the heavens and spread them out,
who gave shape to the earth and what comes from it,
who gave breath to its people
and life to the creatures that move in it:

‘I, the Lord, have called you to serve the cause of right;
I have taken you by the hand and formed you;
I have appointed you as covenant of the people and light of the nations,

‘to open the eyes of the blind,
to free captives from prison,
and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.’

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John 12:1-11

Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom he had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there; Martha waited on them and Lazarus was among those at table. Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair; the house was full of the scent of the ointment. Then Judas Iscariot – one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him – said, ‘Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor?’ He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contributions. So Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone; she had to keep this scent for the day of my burial. You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.’

Meanwhile a large number of Jews heard that he was there and came not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. Then the chief priests decided to kill Lazarus as well, since it was on his account that many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus.

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You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me

Today, the message that I’ve gotten out of the readings is that of growing in riches. In our present world, we focus on growing in riches, in terms of financially, growing in reputation such as to seemingly be able to live a ‘comfortable’ and secured life in the future.

What is comfortable? What is secure? In today’s Gospel, we read of how the chief priests planned to put Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, to death as many of the Jews were leaving them and following Jesus. And in contrast, we see Mary using costly perfume and anointing Jesus’ feet with her hair. We even hear of how Judas Iscariot feels that the expensive perfume should be sold and money given to the poor.

Sometimes, we can be too focused on the ‘mission’ that we are blinded and fail to acknowledge the giver of the mission in the first place. In losing the reason why we are alive, we then equate it to the need to grow in riches because we want to lead a comfortable and secure life. While it is important that we look after our lives financially, the true growth — which is our mission — is to be a witness and a disciple of Jesus, to lead all to Him. We will then focus on growing in riches, as in the first reading, growing in relationship with Christ and His people, growing in faith, growing in humility, growing in sight, in listening and in formation to understand and live out our mission better.

Recently, I was asked to lead a short sharing about the raising of Lazarus from the dead and on that day itself, I felt out of sorts and wasn’t in a good disposition — my mind and heart were all over the place. It was just minutes before my sharing that I prayed. Lord, I’m sorry and I am a sinner, I do not deserve this opportunity but the people who will be hearing the sharing deserve to know of your love, how great you are and to know you are real. Please take over me. And when it was time, it was He who led the sharing and the words from my own mouth even inspired me. Thank you Jesus. I grew.

As we continue to prepare our hearts for His passion, death and resurrection this week, may we also continue to grow in the riches of our faith, that we may be poor in spirit, in order to be rich in you.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that you continue to reveal yourself to us and lead us to the path that leads to you. Help us to be constantly reminded of our call as your disciples and not be distracted by the missions of the world.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for this time of prayer, thank you for allowing us to go deeper into your word. Thank you for being there especially in our times of need.

14 April, Sunday – My Lord, my King

14 April 2019

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Isaiah 50:4-7

The Lord has given me
a disciple’s tongue.
So that I may know how to reply to the wearied
he provides me with speech.
Each morning he wakes me to hear,
to listen like a disciple.
The Lord has opened my ear.

For my part, I made no resistance,
neither did I turn away.
I offered my back to those who struck me,
my cheeks to those who tore at my beard;
I did not cover my face
against insult and spittle.

The Lord comes to my help,
so that I am untouched by the insults.
So, too, I set my face like flint;
I know I shall not be shamed.

_______________________

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.

______________________

Luke 22:14-23:56

Key: N. Narrator. J. Jesus. O. Other single speaker. C. Crowd, or more than one speaker.

  N. When the hour came, Jesus took his place at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them,
  J. I have longed to eat this passover with you before I suffer; because, I tell you, I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.
  N. Then, taking a cup, he gave thanks and said,
  J. Take this and share it among you, because from now on, I tell you, I shall not drink wine until the kingdom of God comes.
  N. Then he took some bread, and when he had given thanks, broke it and gave it to them, saying,
  J. This is my body which will be given for you; do this as a memorial of me.
  N. He did the same with the cup after supper, and said,
  J. This cup is the new covenant in my blood which will be poured out for you.
  And yet, here with me on the table is the hand of the man who betrays me. The Son of Man does indeed go to his fate even as it has been decreed, but alas for that man by whom he is betrayed!
  N. And they began to ask one another which of them it could be who was to do this thing.
  A dispute arose also between them about which should be reckoned the greatest, but he said to them,
  J. Among pagans it is the kings who lord it over them, and those who have authority over them are given the title Benefactor. This must not happen with you. No; the greatest among you must behave as if he were the youngest, the leader as if he were the one who serves. For who is the greater: the one at table or the one who serves? The one at table, surely? Yet here am I among you as one who serves!
  You are the men who have stood by me faithfully in my trials; and now I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father conferred one on me: you will eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.
  Simon, Simon! Satan, you must know, has got his wish to sift you all like wheat; but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail, and once you have recovered, you in your turn must strengthen your brothers.
  N. He answered,
  O. Lord, I would be ready to go to prison with you, and to death.
  N. Jesus replied,
  J. I tell you, Peter, by the time the cock crows today you will have denied three times that you know me.
  N. He said to them,
  J. When I sent you out without purse or haversack or sandals, were you short of anything?
  N. They answered,
  C. No.
  N. He said to them,
  J. But now if you have a purse, take it; if you have a haversack, do the same; if you have no sword, sell your cloak and buy one, because I tell you these words of scripture have to be fulfilled in me: He let himself be taken for a criminal. Yes, what scripture says about me is even now reaching its fulfilment.
  N. They said,
  C. Lord, there are two swords here now.
  N. He said to them,
  J. That is enough!
  N. He then left to make his way as usual to the Mount of Olives, with the disciples following. When they reached the place he said to them,
  J. Pray not to be put to the test.
  N. Then he withdrew from them, about a stone’s throw away, and knelt down and prayed, saying,
  J. Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine.
  N. Then an angel appeared to him, coming from heaven to give him strength. In his anguish he prayed even more earnestly, and his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.
  When he rose from prayer he went to the disciples and found them sleeping for sheer grief. He said to them,
  J. Why are you asleep? Get up and pray not to be put to the test.
  N. He was still speaking when a number of men appeared, and at the head of them the man called Judas, one of the Twelve, who went up to Jesus to kiss him. Jesus said,
  J. Judas, are you betraying the son of Man with a kiss?
  N. His followers, seeing what was happening, said,
  C. Lord, shall we use our swords?
  N. And one of them struck out at the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. But at this Jesus spoke:
  J. Leave off! That will do!
  N. And touching the man’s ear he healed him.
  Then Jesus spoke to the chief priests and captains of the Temple guard and elders who had come for him. He said,
  J. Am I a brigand, that you had to set out with swords and clubs? When I was among you in the Temple day after day you never moved to lay hands on me. But this is your hour; this is the reign of darkness.
  N. They seized him then and led him away, and they took him to the high priest’s house. Peter followed at a distance. They had lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and Peter sat down among them, and as he was sitting there by the blaze a servant-girl saw him, peered at him, and said,
  O. This person was with him too.
  N. But he denied it.
  O. Woman, I do not know him.
  N. Shortly afterwards someone else saw him and said,
  O. You are another of them.
  N. But Peter replied,
  O. I am not, my friend.
  N. About an hour later another man insisted, saying,
  O. This fellow was certainly with him. Why, he is a Galilean.
  N. Peter said,
  O. My friend, I do not know what you are talking about.
  N. At that instant, while he was still speaking, the cock crew, and the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter, and Peter remembered what the Lord had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows today, you will have disowned me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.
  Meanwhile the men who guarded Jesus were mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and questioned him, saying,
  C. Play the prophet. Who hit you then?
  N. And they continued heaping insults on him.
  When day broke there was a meeting of the elders of the people, attended by the chief priests and scribes. He was brought before their council, and they said to him,
  C. If you are the Christ, tell us.
  N. He replied,
  ? If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the Power of God.
  N. Then they all said,
  C. So you are the Son of God then?
  N. He answered:
  J. It is you who say I am.
  N. They said,
  C. What need of witnesses have we now? We have heard it for ourselves from his own lips.
  N. The whole assembly then rose, and they brought him before Pilate.
  They began their accusation by saying,
  C. We found this man inciting our people to revolt, opposing payment of the tribute to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ, a king.
  N. Pilate put to him this question:
  O. Are you the king of the Jews?
  N. He replied,
  J. It is you who say it.
  N. Pilate then said to the chief priests and the crowd,
  O. I find no case against this man.
  N. But they persisted,
  C. He is inflaming the people with his teaching all over Judaea; it has come all the way from Galilee, where he started, down to here.
  N. When Pilate heard this, he asked if the man were a Galilean; and finding that he came under Herod’s jurisdiction he passed him over to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.
  Herod was delighted to see Jesus; he had heard about him and had been wanting for a long time to set eyes on him; moreover, he was hoping to see some miracle worked by him. So he questioned him at some length; but without getting any reply. Meanwhile the chief priests and the scribes were there, violently pressing their accusations. Then Herod, together with his guards, treated him with contempt and made fun of him; he put a rich cloak on him and sent him back to Pilate. And though Herod and Pilate had been enemies before, they were reconciled that same day.
  Pilate then summoned the chief priests and the leading men and the people. He said,
  O. You brought this man before me as a political agitator. Now I have gone into the matter myself in your presence and found no case against the man in respect of all the charges you bring against him. Nor has Herod either, since he has sent him back to us. As you can see, the man has done nothing that deserves death, So I shall have him flogged and then let him go.
  N. But as one man they howled,
  C. Away with him! Give us Barabbas!
  N. (This man had been thrown into prison for causing a riot in the city and for murder.)
  Pilate was anxious to set Jesus free and addressed them again, but they shouted back,
  C. Crucify him! Crucify him!
  N. And for the third time he spoke to them,
  O. Why? What harm has this man done? I have found no case against him that deserves death, so I shall have him punished and then let him go.
  N. But they kept on shouting at the top of their voices, demanding that he should be crucified. And their shouts were growing louder.
  Pilate then gave his verdict: their demand was to be granted. He released the man they asked for, who had been imprisoned for rioting and murder, and handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they pleased.
  As they were leading him away they seized on a man, Simon from Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and made him shoulder the cross and carry it behind Jesus. Large numbers of people followed him, and of women too, who mourned and lamented for him. But Jesus turned to them and said,
  J. Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep rather for yourselves and for your children. For the days will surely come when people will say, ‘Happy are those who are barren, the wombs that have never borne, the breasts that have never suckled!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’; to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if men use the green wood like this, what will happen when it is dry?
  N. Now with him they were also leading out two other criminals to be executed.
  When they reached the place called The Skull, they crucified him there and the two criminals also, one on the right, the other on the left. Jesus said,
  J. Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.
  N. Then they cast lots to share out his clothing.
  The people stayed there watching him. As for the leaders, they jeered at him, saying,
  C. He saved others, let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.
  N. The soldiers mocked him too, and when they approached to offer vinegar they said,
  C. If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.
  N. Above him there was an inscription: ‘This is the King of the Jews.’
  One of the criminals hanging there abused him, saying,
  O. Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us as well.
  N. But the other spoke up and rebuked him:
  O. Have you no fear of God at all? You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
  N. He replied,
  J. Indeed, I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise.
  N. It was now about the sixth hour and, with the sun eclipsed, a darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. The veil of the Temple was torn right down the middle; and when Jesus had cried out in a loud voice, he said,
  J. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.
  N. With these words he breathed his last.
  All kneel and pause a moment
  When the centurion saw what had taken place, he gave praise to God and said,
  O. This was a great and good man.
  N. And when all the people who had gathered for the spectacle saw what had happened, they went home beating their breasts.
  All his friends stood at a distance; so also did the women who had accompanied him from Galilee, and they saw all this happen.
  Then a member of the council arrived, an upright and virtuous man named Joseph. He had not consented to what the others had planned and carried out. He came from Arimathaea, a Jewish town, and he lived in the hope of seeing the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. He then took it down, wrapped it in a shroud and put him in a tomb which was hewn in stone in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day and the sabbath was imminent.
  Meanwhile the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus were following behind. They took note of the tomb and of the position of the body.
  Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. And on the sabbath day they rested, as the Law required.

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And for this God raised him high, and gave him the name which is above all other names

And so, we enter Holy Week. Possibly the only week where we experience from a humiliating and painful suffering to redemption and a resounding victory over death. We read of the Passion of Christ today, also possibly the most read ‘story’ and the one we remember most clearly, especially in this season. But today, more than focusing on the feelings involved, the sins we have committed and how we nailed Christ to the cross, I would like to share on who Christ was and is, throughout all this time. The references come from the first and second readings.

In the first reading, we get a glimpse of who God is, “for me to know how to give a word of comfort to the weary”, “to listen like a disciple”, “I have offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; I have not turned my face away from insult and spittle” for “Lord Yahweh comes to my help, this is why insult has not touched me… I shall not be put to shame”. The work of God and serving Him is greater than the persecutions that will come our way. Already we know that serving God comes with trials, sacrifices and burdens that seem to take a toll on us, maybe even far more than if we do not serve Him at all. Many times we compare ourselves to others and feel that we are not ‘rewarded’ enough for the work that we put in. Well, we know what Jesus went through when He came to serve His Father.

In the second reading, we read how Christ being in the form of God, did not consider His equality but gave fully of Himself for undeserving men and women like you and me, and accepted death on the cross. This is a God that placed and places us far beyond our wrongdoings, places us far beyond the hurts and pains and sins that we have committed against Him. He even placed us higher than Himself when He paid the price for us.

Whether it’s entering Jerusalem on a donkey, born in a manger, more than the palms that we are waving today, may we understand the meaning of love, His love for us. This is a King who gave up everything in the hope that one day, we may be one with Him and in Him, that all of us will be united in heart and mind. This is a King who is a witness to the mission set out for all us, “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 acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

May this week be a reclaiming of our identity as God’s beloved and to receive His love like never before during this Holy Week. May we allow the Holy Spirit to inspire us, that we may be more and more like you, Jesus, my Lord, my King.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we may fully immerse ourselves in all the events happening this week. May this week be a re-encountering of your love for all of us, to not take you for granted and to know you are real.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for all you have done and all that you are still doing in our lives. Thank you for always offering us a way to return to you. Amen.

11 December, Tuesday – Searching

11 December – Memorial for St. Damasus I, Pope

Damasus (306-384) was raised in a pious family. His father was a priest in Rome, and Damasus served for a time as deacon in his father’s church, St. Laurence. He was ordained a priest and became assistant to Pope Liberius. He was elected the 37th pope in a disputed election in which a minority chose the anti-pope Ursinus. The two reigned simultaneously in Rome which eventually led to violence between their supporters and Damasus’ false accusation of a crime.

His pontificate suffered from the rise of Arianism, and from several schisms including break-away groups in Antioch, Constantinople, Sardinia, and Rome. However, it was during his reign that Christianity was declared the religion of the Roman state. He enforced the 370 edict of Emperor Valentinian controlling gifts to prelates, and opposed Arianism and Apollinarianism. He supported the 374 council of Rome which decreed the valid books of the Bible, and the Grand Council of Constantinople in 381 which condemned Arianism.

He was the patron of his secretary, St. Jerome, and commissioned him to make the translation of scripture now known as the Vulgate. Damasus restored catacombs, shrines, and the tombs of martyrs, and wrote poetry and metrical inscriptions about and dedicated to martyrs. They state that he would like to be buried in the catacombs with the early martyrs, but that the presence of one of his lowly status would profane such an august place. Ten of his letters, personal and pontifical, have survived.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 40:1-11

‘Console my people, console them’
says your God.
‘Speak to the heart of Jerusalem
and call to her
that her time of service is ended,
that her sin is atoned for,
that she has received from the hand of the Lord
double punishment for all her crimes.’

A voice cries, ‘Prepare in the wilderness
a way for the Lord.
Make a straight highway for our God
across the desert.
Let every valley be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low.
Let every cliff become a plain,
and the ridges a valley;
then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed
and all mankind shall see it;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

A voice commands, ‘Cry!’
and I answered, ‘What shall I cry?’”
– ‘All flesh is grass
and its beauty like the wild flower’s.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on them.
(The grass is without doubt the people.)
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God remains for ever.’

Go up on a high mountain,
joyful messenger to Zion.
Shout with a loud voice,
joyful messenger to Jerusalem.
Shout without fear,
say to the towns of Judah,
‘Here is your God.’

Here is the Lord coming with power,
his arm subduing all things to him.
The prize of his victory is with him,
his trophies all go before him.
He is like a shepherd feeding his flock,
gathering lambs in his arms,
holding them against his breast
and leading to their rest the mother ewes.

__________________

Matthew 18:12-14

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Tell me. Suppose a man has a hundred sheep and one of them strays; will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go in search of the stray? I tell you solemnly, if he finds it, it gives him more joy than do the ninety-nine that did not stray at all. Similarly, it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.’

____________________

“It is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.”

What is it we are searching for? What is it that we truly desire? We study, work, argue, fight, politic all because we desire to — survive? So that we may lead a comfortable life? Are we then ever comfortable?

Especially as we prepare for the coming of Christ this Christmas, what is it we are preparing for? Are we even searching? What are we searching for? Where are we searching?

As in the Gospel today, God desires for us to be with Him. He searches for us but He also respects us, waiting for us to open the door of our hearts, of our lives to Him. As with the parables of The Lost Coin, The Prodigal Son, The Lost Sheep, it’s not about if we are lost, but whether we desire to return, to allow ourselves to be found. Or do we continuously run further away because we can’t face ourselves for all that we’ve done? As with the parables, God rejoices when we return but, more than that, deep down within ourselves, we know that is what we have always been searching for.

To me, I believe, it is love. To know that we matter, to know that there is someone out there who cares for us, not because of what we have, not because of what we can do but because he/she simply just wants to. It is also those people who are easiest to take for granted, our parents, teachers, our loved ones, our God. They are always there for us, but always hurting the most while waiting for us to return.

In chasing after so many of our desires, we lose ourselves, our values, our dignity, our integrity, our true and initial desire. Let us slow down, to recollect what is it we actually want, what is it we actually need, who we actually are.

Let us search for our true selves, let us be open, to allow Christ into our lives this Christmas. Let us be found.

(Today’s Oxygen by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer:  Dear Lord, we pray that we may not be distracted in our search for our true desire, the purpose of our lives. We also pray that we may encounter you in a very special way this Christmas. Help us to return to you.

Thanksgiving:  Thank you Lord, for always being present. For your love and mercy. For desiring our return. Thank you for accepting us for who we are.

1 October, Monday – Humility

1 October – Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor, Patroness of Missions

Born to a pious middle-class French family of tradesmen, Francoise-Marie Therese Martin (1873–1897) was the daughter of Blessed Louis Martin and Blessed Marie-Azelie Guerin Martin, and all four of her sisters became nuns. Her mother died when Francoise-Marie was only four, and the family moved to Lisieux, Normandy, France to be closer to family.

She was cured from an illness at the age of 8 when a statue of the Blessed Virgin smiled at her. She was educated by the Benedictine nuns of Notre-Dame-du-Pre, and confirmed there at the age of 11. Just before her 14th birthday, she received a vision of the Child Jesus. She immediately understood the great sacrifice that had been made for her, and developed an unshakeable faith.

She tried to join the Carmelites, but was turned down due to her age. She was a pilgrim to Rome for the Jubilee of Pope Leo XIII whom she met and who knew of her desire to become a nun. She joined the Carmelites at Lisieux on 9 April 1888 at the age of 15, taking her final vow on 8 September 1890 at the age of 17.

She is known by all for her complete devotion to spiritual development and to the austerities of the Carmelite Rule. Due to health problems resulting from her ongoing fight with tuberculosis, her superiors ordered her not to fast. She became novice mistress at the age of 20, and at age 22 was ordered by her prioress to begin writing her memories and ideas. The material would turn into the book History of a Soul.

She defined her path to God and holiness at The Little Way, which consisted of child-like love and trust in God. She had an ongoing correspondence with the Carmelite missionaries in China, often stating how much she wanted to come work with them. Many miracles are attributed to her and she was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1997 by Pope John Paul II.

“You know well enough that our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.”
– Saint Therese of Lisieux

– Patron Saint Index

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Job 1:6-22

One day the Sons of God came to attend on the Lord, and among them was Satan. So the Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you been?’ ‘Round the earth,’ he answered ‘roaming about.’ So the Lord asked him, ‘Did you notice my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth: a sound and honest man who fears God and shuns evil.’ ‘Yes,’ Satan said ‘but Job is not God-fearing for nothing, is he? Have you not put a wall round him and his house and all his domain? You have blessed all he undertakes, and his flocks throng the countryside. But stretch out your hand and lay a finger on his possessions: I warrant you, he will curse you to your face.’ ‘Very well,’ the Lord said to Satan ‘all he has is in your power. But keep your hands off his person.’ So Satan left the presence of the Lord.

On the day when Job’s sons and daughters were at their meal and drinking wine at their eldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job. ‘Your oxen’ he said ‘were at the plough, with the donkeys grazing at their side, when the Sabaeans swept down on them and carried them off. Your servants they put to the sword: I alone escaped to tell you.’ He had not finished speaking when another messenger arrived. ‘The fire of God’ he said ‘has fallen from the heavens and burnt up all your sheep, and your shepherds too: I alone escaped to tell you.’ He had not finished speaking when another messenger arrived. ‘The Chaldaeans,’ he said ‘three bands of them, have raided your camels and made off with them. Your servants they put to the sword: I alone escaped to tell you.’ He had not finished speaking when another messenger arrived. ‘Your sons and daughters’ he said ‘were at their meal and drinking wine at their eldest brother’s house, when suddenly from the wilderness a gale sprang up, and it battered all four corners of the house which fell in on the young people. They are dead: I alone escaped to tell you.’

Job rose and tore his gown and shaved his head. Then falling to the ground he worshipped and said:

‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
naked I shall return.
The Lord gave, the Lord has taken back.
Blessed be the name of the Lord!’

In all this misfortune Job committed no sin nor offered any insult to God.

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Luke 9:46-50

An argument started between the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus knew what thoughts were going through their minds, and he took a little child and set him by his side and then said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.’

John spoke up. ‘Master,’ he said ‘we saw a man casting out devils in your name, and because he is not with us we tried to stop him.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘You must not stop him: anyone who is not against you is for you.’

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“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I shall return. The Lord gave, the Lord has taken back. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Two beautiful readings that bring out what really life is about. It’s never about what we have on earth but who we have as our eternal Father. The understanding of our identity, the purpose of our lives, the only one aim we all should have is to return to unity with God, our Father, with the world in love.

Putting ourselves in the shoes of Job, sometimes our lives are so smooth that we simply cannot comprehend why God would want us to suffer after everything we’ve done for Him. But truly there are indeed many times that we need to be reminded of who gave us this life and our possessions. If all these can save us from eternal damnation, maybe it’s good that we all continuously suffer on earth.

Or we can look at it from the point of view of the Gospel where it says, “For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.” Maybe our “sufferings” have much wisdom for us to digest, to see the world in a new light, to appreciate the things/people that we have taken for granted of, to treasure life and to show love. For when we are at our lowest, not only is the way only up, but that’s exactly where we find Christ because that’s where He lives, not in the limelight and the material distractions that we have, but in the simple, in the ordinary, in our hearts, where we can truly be ourselves.

For is it then that we can also see who is with us and who is merely using us. For “anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me”.

Let us invite Christ in our lives in order that we may invite all, to see the Christ in others as well as to be Christ to others. We will be the greatest when we recognise that we have the greatest gift of all, who is Christ Himself, when He gave His life for us. Let us now live for Him, to glorify Him. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, many times we are so caught up with doing and finishing what we have to do, we occupy ourselves with so many things till we leave you out. Help us to drop those in order that we may see you clearer and depend on you, in order that we will lead all to glorify you. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your example, that you are not a king that is associated with wealth, fame or power. Thank you Lord for your humility, for understanding, for listening and for your love.

22 September, Saturday – A Conversion, Claiming Our Identity

22 September

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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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“what is sown is perishable, but what is raised is imperishable; what is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; what is sown is weak, but what is raised is powerful; what is sown is a natural body and what is raised is a spiritual body.”

Throughout the week, we have been hearing what we can do to claim this identity, but knowing all these is not good enough until we allow Christ to transform us, to accept and to receive this grace, this mercy — that we are all sinners and unworthy but very much perfectly loved by this God.

Many times, we serve or pray, trying to atone or to make up for past sins and trying to be holy in order to be worthy. Yet, we simply can’t, and we find ourselves struggling even more because our strength, motivations, intentions in themselves aren’t perfect to begin with.

In the first reading today, we read about a raising. This raising that can only be done by God — raising the dead to life. Once again, we are called to this dying of self. However, we don’t just ‘die’. As in the Gospel, we need to allow the seed — the Word of God — to take root in our life, to really experience this conversion, to experience God and His love, to internalise, to allow Him to be in our thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Together with the support of the greater community and our family in Christ, we need to claim our identity and believe in the eternal resurrection — that one day, all that we do here on earth would be to glorify God and His people; because we love God and His people, because we love His creation — His people. That it is no more I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.

This is the main goal of our lives, the hardest to reach and sustain. And it is precisely now that we allow God to work, to trust and hope in Him, that as long as we give our very best, He will not be outdone in generosity.

“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.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, may there be a conversion in our hearts, in our lives. Help us to realise, see and understand what is important in our lives, what we are living for. Help us not to just focus on what you can do but to focus on you in everything we do. Help us to, one day, say with conviction and love that you are our Father and that we are yours.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your word and this beautiful image of how you will raise us up into your kingdom. That we have the hope of being with you, in unity for eternity.