Tag Archives: benjamin mao

20 September, Thursday – Proclamation by Action

20 September – Memorial for St. Andrew Kim Taegon and Companions, Korean Martyrs; Memorial for Sts. Laurent Imbert, Bishop Jacques Chastan, Priest (Martyrs of College General, Penang, Malaysia)

There are 103 martyrs in this group, consisting of priests, missionaries and lay people who died in the early days of the Church in Korea. Most were murdered during waves of persecutions in 1839, 1846 and 1867.

Andrew Kim Taegon’s father was a martyr. Andrew was baptised at age 15, then travelled 1,300 miles to the nearest seminary in Macao. He was Korea’s first native priest, and the first priest to die for the faith in Korea.

Laurent Imbert was a missionary to China. He taught at the College General, Penang from 1821 to 1822. He was named Vicar Apostolic of Korea on 26 April 1836. He and St. Jacques (or Jacob) were arrested for the crime of evangelisation, and then tortured and martyred.

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 15:1-11

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

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

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

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Luke 7:36-50

One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to a meal. When he arrived at the Pharisee’s house and took his place at table, a woman came in, who had a bad name in the town. She had heard he was dining with the Pharisee and had brought with her an alabaster jar of ointment. She waited behind him at his feet, weeping, and her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them away with her hair; then she covered his feet with kisses and anointed them with the ointment.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who this woman is that is touching him and what a bad name she has.’ Then Jesus took him up and said, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Speak, Master’ was the reply. ‘There was once a creditor who had two men in his debt; one owed him five hundred denarii, the other fifty. They were unable to pay, so he pardoned them both. Which of them will love him more?’ ‘The one who was pardoned more, I suppose’ answered Simon. Jesus said, ‘You are right.’

Then he turned to the woman. ‘Simon,’ he said ‘you see this woman? I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. For this reason I tell you that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love. It is the man who is forgiven little who shows little love.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Those who were with him at table began to say to themselves, ‘Who is this man, that he even forgives sins?’ But he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’

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“ I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

In today’s Gospel, we read of the sinful woman being forgiven by Christ. A tendency we would usually have is to focus on the imperfections, mistakes, unworthiness and weaknesses of another. We judge many for their lack of virtues, based on our own perceptions.

Today, we have an insight of how Christ’s sees. Not with the same judgment, but truly, with love. Jesus doesn’t just see and take offense in the many sins the woman has committed, but focuses on her contrite and repentant heart. Mistakes we will always made, but it’s truly in the realising, the awareness and in the seeking reconciliation that we can then move forward.

It is this proclamation that the readings speak of. It is more than a proclamation by mouth, but really, through action. An act with love, to love. We see in the Gospel of the sinful woman washing Jesus’ feet with ointment, kissing and weeping over them. And also in the first reading, where it speaks of Christ’s death and resurrection and His appearances. These are actions that proclaim love.

St Paul, in the first reading, also writes of a special gift — Grace. “For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain.” Because of original sin, there was really nothing we could do, that could ‘qualify’ us for the kingdom. It is this grace, this salvation, this victory that Christ has won for us through His death, that has given us the opportunity to be reunited with Him and the Father.

There is nothing we can do that can earn our place, nothing we can do to ‘repay’ our Father. And it is precisely this that we are not called to focus on ‘giving back’ but really just giving, just loving for eternity is already ours, and we are called to live this kingdom life here on earth. My friends, eternity is now, this life, this faith is real; His love and forgiveness is real. Let us not wait till we are ready, but let’s make an effort to be ready now, let us proclaim this faith by action, by our life. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the grace to see as you see. That we can focus on the actions of the present and not the past. That we see the heart.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for showing us the way. For your wisdom, for teaching us through your life as an example. Thank you for this grace that all of us are so undeserving of, thank you for this gift. Thank you for your love. Amen.

19 September, Wednesday – The Gift of Love

19 September – Memorial for St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr

Januarius (d. 305) was arrested on account of his profession of the Christian religion during persecution of Christians. He was cast into the fiery furnace, through which he passed wholly unharmed. On the following day, along with a number of fellow martyrs, he was exposed to the fury of wild beasts, which laid themselves down in tame submission at his feet.

Timotheus, the governor who pronounced the sentence of death upon Januarius, was struck with blindness but was immediately healed by the powerful intercession of the saint, a miracle which converted nearly five thousand men on the spot. The ungrateful judge, only roused to further fury by these occurrences, caused the execution of Januarius by the sword to be forthwith carried out. The body was ultimately removed by the inhabitants of Naples to that city, where the relic became very famous for its miracles.

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13

Be ambitious for the higher gifts. And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them.

If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.

Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.

Love does not come to an end. But if there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail; or the gift of languages, it will not continue for ever; and knowledge – for this, too, the time will come when it must fail. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect; but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will disappear. When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and think like a child, and argue like a child, but now I am a man, all childish ways are put behind me. Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known.

In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.

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Luke 7:31-35

Jesus said to the people: ‘What description can I find for the men of this generation? What are they like? They are like children shouting to one another while they sit in the market-place:

‘“We played the pipes for you,
and you wouldn’t dance;
we sang dirges,
and you wouldn’t cry.”

‘For John the Baptist comes, not eating bread, not drinking wine, and you say, “He is possessed.” The Son of Man comes, eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Yet Wisdom has been proved right by all her children.’

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“…and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

The word that comes to mind after reading the readings for the day is — ‘Transactional’. In a world that inducts one from birth into a reward system, it sees us distorting the meaning and definition of love. Such that our faith today seems more like one that can be exploited and abused to fulfil our immediate desires such as financial needs, political power; basically everything else that we can’t obtain from the ‘outside world’.

One makes use of the hospitality, compassion and sometimes even scripture to get what they want. To take advantage of one’s ‘loving’ nature to satisfy one’s selfish desires and pleasures.

Indeed, our faith without love is truly nothing. We see that among the many who attend daily masses, those who are active in various ministries and especially those who hold leadership positions in the church; many fail to be a witness and an example that would lead others to Christ. And, in the whole spirit of welcoming and accepting one as he/she is, we allow them to continue their ways at the expense of so many other lives and souls.

This is the church. So broken and imperfect. I’m not sure if I led a decent life outside, I would still be actively involved. Sometimes, politics is more evident than in the corporate workplaces; what’s worse is that everyone else is a volunteer. Yes, this is our church, this is my church. For it is even in this ‘pathetic’ state that Christ still chooses us and adopts us as His children, to guarantee us a place in His kingdom, even as we continue to choose sin over love. He still gives Himself to us through the sacraments and the Eucharist week after week, in spite of how unworthy and unprepared or even, when we simply just make it a routine.

My friends, this is love. This is the gift of love. The definition of love. A gift of oneself completely for the good of the other. A love that is unconditional, definitely not transactional for it can’t be measured, can only be given.

Many times we also look to take, look to receive. May we always fix our gaze on you, for what you took is the weight of our sin on the cross, the crucifixion and death, and still you wait to receive us with open arms. Help us learn to make a gift of ourselves, a gift of love. Let our love be a testimony of our faith and our faith in You translate to loving all we meet. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for a renewal, a revival, a re-evangelising of hearts. That in a world filled with distractions, we are able to see you and your working in our lives. That our faith is more than a knowing, it is a call to love. Not to love as the world loves but to love as You love. I love you Lord.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for your love and your life. Thank you for showing us what it means to make a gift of one’s self. Thank you for the church, for still making the church Your bride.

29 May, Tuesday – Our Reward

29 May

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1 Peter 1:10-16

It was this salvation that the prophets were looking and searching so hard for; their prophecies were about the grace which was to come to you. The Spirit of Christ which was in them foretold the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would come after them, and they tried to find out at what time and in what circumstances all this was to be expected. It was revealed to them that the news they brought of all the things which have now been announced to you, by those who preached to you the Good News through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, was for you and not for themselves. Even the angels long to catch a glimpse of these things.

Free your minds, then, of encumbrances; control them, and put your trust in nothing but the grace that will be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. Do not behave in the way that you liked to before you learnt the truth; make a habit of obedience: be holy in all you do, since it is the Holy One who has called you, and scripture says: Be holy, for I am holy.

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Mark 10:28-31

‘What about us?’ Peter asked Jesus. ‘We have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.

‘Many who are first will be last, and the last first.’

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“Many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”

Many times I’ve come across sayings such as “if Jesus were to appear in front of me…” or “if I’m able to see a miracle, I will change my life…”. I’m not sure if you have heard or said some of these words before. Because many of us think that we have never had a tangible encounter with Christ, we find it hard to ‘give up’ our lives to someone we do not know, to a future that is uncertain, to a reward that may actually be nothing.

As we read in the first reading, many of the prophets in the Old Testament were unable to meet Christ face to face nor see his miracles, yet they preached and sacrificed their lives to prepare the way. They believed, and they hoped.

We also know of the disciples of Jesus, who even though they left their nets and followed Him, witnessed His miracles, ate and drank with Him; when it actually mattered the most, they left Him and even denied Him. But it’s also then that we see the faithfulness of some of the women of Jerusalem, where it was uncertain if Jesus would actually rise from the dead, if He was actually the Christ, yet they still stuck by Him all the way.

Indeed, we do not realise how blessed we are to already know that we have this salvation which has already been won for us by Jesus Christ. We also do not know of how envious many souls and angels are when they see us being able to receive the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist at every mass.

When we think of reward, it is usually linked with doing well in, or for a particular task. But this reward is not just for the first or the last, but really for each and everyone of us, an invitation to His heavenly kingdom, to receive the salvation that has already been won for us.

Let us continue to grow this faith and our trust in the Lord, to be able to surrender our possessions and intellect, to allow Him to lead and guide, to walk in His footsteps. For Christ came to serve, and not to be served. Christ came not to do His will but for His Father’s will to be done. Let it not be ‘I’, but Christ who lives in me.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for courage, to learn how to die to ourselves and our desires so that you will be able to use us to build your kingdom. Help us to glorify you in all we say and do.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your messengers in the past and in the present. Bless us with your wisdom for us to make good choices and to be able to listen to your voice.

28 May, Monday – Eternal Life

28 May

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1 Peter 1:3-9

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy has given us a new birth as his sons, by raising Jesus Christ from the dead, so that we have a sure hope and the promise of an inheritance that can never be spoilt or soiled and never fade away, because it is being kept for you in the heavens. Through your faith, God’s power will guard you until the salvation which has been prepared is revealed at the end of time. This is a cause of great joy for you, even though you may for a short time have to bear being plagued by all sorts of trials; so that, when Jesus Christ is revealed, your faith will have been tested and proved like gold – only it is more precious than gold, which is corruptible even though it bears testing by fire – and then you will have praise and glory and honour. You did not see him, yet you love him; and still without seeing him, you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described, because you believe; and you are sure of the end to which your faith looks forward, that is, the salvation of your souls.

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Mark 10:17-27

Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’

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“Go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

Today, we read of a familiar struggle, which is to follow Christ completely. It is just so hard to wrap our heads around to comprehend the response that Christ requires of us. It seems completely absurd and basically the reverse of most of what we are trying to do each day.

Especially the verse, “Go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Who, in their right frame of mind, would ever do such a thing? What about our basic needs then? How are we going to survive?

Well, more than just taking it literally, it is really to know our purpose in life, the meaning of our lives, the reason why we work so hard, all the sacrifices. And I believe it’s deeper than wanting to lead a ‘comfortable’ life. We all long for something. Something possibly the things of the world cannot give. We can neither earn it, nor buy it.

We read in the first reading where it speaks about our inheritance as Christians, an inheritance won for all of us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The inheritance of salvation and eternal life. A place where we all belong, to a Father who awaits us and who will never leave us; a place filled with glory, joy and love; a place we can truly call home.

Christ calls us to live as such, not for us to suffer, but for us to not be distracted and to focus on the ultimate goal of our lives; and in trying to achieve that, to go forth and share this home, this inheritance with the rest of the world. Not to simply keep the commandments, laws and teachings of the church but to allow them to transform our lives so that we may be examples of Christ’s love, joy and peace to all.

Let us not confuse the riches of the world with God, such that we allow it to become the reason why we live. Let us use the riches that we are blessed with to show that God lives. And indeed He is alive, amongst us and within us — “and you are sure of the goal of your faith, that is, the salvation of your souls.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for faithfulness. For many times we replace you with many other worldly things and pleasures. Help us to keep our focus on the purpose and meaning of our lives and help us to build your kingdom here on earth, and for your will to be done in our lives. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your inheritance which you have so generously shared with all of us despite our unworthiness. Thank you for helping us to see what really matters.

27 May, Sunday – The Holy Trinity

May 27 – The Most Holy Trinity

Feast of the Holy Trinity, also called Trinity Sunday, feast in honour of the Trinity. It is celebrated in the Christian churches on the Sunday following Pentecost (the 50th day after Easter). It is known that the feast was celebrated on this day from as early as the 10th century. Celebration of the feast gradually spread in the churches of northern Europe, and in 1334 PopeJohn XXII approved it for the entire church. In the liturgical Church Year, – –

  • Brittanica.com

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Deuteronomy 4:32-34,39-40

Moses said to the people: ‘Put this question to the ages that are past, that went before you, from the time God created man on earth: Was there ever a word so majestic, from one end of heaven to the other? Was anything ever heard? Did ever a people hear the voice of the living God speaking from the heart of the fire, as you heard it, and remain alive? Has any god ventured to take to himself one nation from the midst of another by ordeals, signs, wonders, war with mighty hand and outstretched arm, by fearsome terrors – all this that the Lord your God did for you before your eyes in Egypt?

‘Understand this today, therefore, and take it to heart: the Lord is God indeed, in heaven above as on earth beneath, he and no other. Keep his laws and commandments as I give them to you today, so that you and your children may prosper and live long in the land that the Lord your God gives you for ever.’

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Romans 8:14-17

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 co-heirs with Christ, sharing his sufferings so as to share his glory.

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Matthew 28:16-20

The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’

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“Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”

The greatest symbol of love is undoubtedly the immense love between God the Father and Christ the Son, coming in the form of the Holy Spirit. As we celebrate the Holy Trinity, we celebrate God’s unending love for us. For, more than creating and dying for us, He promises to be with us always, to the end of time.

We read in the first reading about how we are created and how we are chosen by God. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I look at myself with all the ‘stains’ and brokenness, I’m not sure if I would even choose myself. And many times, when we choose something/someone, there would probably be the intention of the person/situation also being beneficial to us in some way. But God chooses us in order that we may prosper and live in the land that He has given, only if we follow and keep to His commandments.

Also, in St Paul’s letter to the Romans, it speaks about receiving. Not a spirit of slavery, but a spirit of adoption. That we are God’s children and how it is through the sharing in His suffering that we share His glory.

This overflowing love of God is simply uncontainable — that the fruit of this love is to share it with the world, with everyone we meet. To go forth and to proclaim the Good News, not that we have to suffer as Christians, but that we have the greatest gift already given to us, Christ Himself and now the Holy Spirit.

For God’s desire for each and every one of us is to experience this love that He has for all of us. For us to never be alone. To know that He is always with us. To know that we are called to be one through Him, with Him and in Him for eternity.

Let us take courage then to carry out His Mission, Our Mission to “Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we may never be discouraged and may the Holy Trinity always be the example for us, teaching us how to live and love. Amen

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the gift of your love and assurance that You will always be with us till the end of time.

6 February, Tuesday – Hypocrisy

6 Feb – Memorial for Sts. Paul Miki and Companions, martyrs (in Japan)

Paul Miki (1562-1597) was one of the Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan. He was born into a rich family and educated by Jesuits in Azuchi and Takatsuki. He joined the Society of Jesus and preached the gospel for his fellow citizens. The Japanese government feared Jesuit influences and persecuted them. He was jailed among others.

He and his Christian peers were forced to walk 600 miles from Kyoto while singing ‘Te Deum’ as a punishment for the community. Finally they arrived at Nagasaki, the city which had the most conversions to Christianity, and he was crucified on 5 February 1597. He preached his last sermon from the cross, and it is maintained that he forgave his executioners stating that he himself was Japanese. Alongside him died Joan Soan (de Goto) and Santiago Kisai, of the Society of Jesus, in addition to 23 clergy and laity, all of whom were canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1862.

On 15 August 1549, St. Francis Xavier, Father Cosme de Torres, SJ, and Father John Fernandez arrived in Kagoshima, Japan, from Spain with hopes of bringing Catholicism to Japan. On Sep 29, St. Francis Xavier visited Shimazu Takahisa, the daimyo of Kagoshima, asking for permission to build the first Catholic mission in Japan. The daimyo agreed in hopes of creating a trade relationship with Europe.

A promising beginning to those missions, perhaps as many as 300,000 Christians by the end of the 16th century, met complications from competition between the missionary groups, political difficulty between Spain and Portugal, and factions within the government of Japan. Christianity was suppressed. By 1630, Christianity was driven underground.

The first Martyrs of Japan are commemorated on Feb 5 when, on that date in 1597, 26 missionaries and converts were killed by crucifixion. 250 years later, when Christian missionaries returned to Japan, they found a community of Japanese Christians that had survived underground.

– Wikipedia

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1 Kings 8:22-23, 27-30

In the presence of the whole assembly of Israel, Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord and, stretching out his hands towards heaven, said, ‘O Lord, God of Israel, not in heaven above nor on earth beneath is there such a God as you, true to your covenant and your kindness towards your servants when they walk wholeheartedly in your way. Yet will God really live with men on the earth? Why, the heavens and their own heavens cannot contain you. How much less this house that I have built! Listen to the prayer and entreaty of your servant, O Lord my God; listen to the cry and to the prayer your servant makes to you today. Day and night let your eyes watch over this house, over this place of which you have said, “My name shall be there.” Listen to the prayer that your servant will offer in this place.

‘Hear the entreaty of your servant and of Israel your people as they pray in this place. From heaven where your dwelling is, hear; and, as you hear, forgive.’

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Mark 7:1-13

The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus, and they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and the Jews in general, follow the tradition of the elders and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow; and on returning from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves. There are also many other observances which have been handed down to them concerning the washing of cups and pots and bronze dishes. So these Pharisees and scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?’ He answered, ‘It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture:

This people honours me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me. The worship they offer me is worthless, the doctrines they teach are only human regulations.

You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.’ And he said to them, ‘How ingeniously you get round the commandment of God in order to preserve your own tradition! For Moses said: Do your duty to your father and your mother, and, Anyone who curses father or mother must be put to death. But you say, “If a man says to his father or mother: Anything I have that I might have used to help you is Corban (that is, dedicated to God), then he is forbidden from that moment to do anything for his father or mother.” In this way you make God’s word null and void for the sake of your tradition which you have handed down. And you do many other things like this.’

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“This people honours me only with lip service, while their hearts are far from me. Their reverence of me is worthless; the lessons they teach are nothing but human commandments.”

As the youth coordinator in my parish, I’m guilty at times of being a hypocrite, by not practising all that I preach. Working in church, I’ve seen so many similarities of how we are like the Pharisees and scribes.

People joining church activities, communities or ministries, either to make their resume look nice, to find friends of similar interests so that one will not be alone, to ‘earn’ their way into heaven, to network for their business and many many others. Most of the time, it isn’t to grow our relationship with Christ, to deepen our spiritual lives.

We go around preaching and sharing like we know the truth. It really isn’t difficult to give people an impression that one is a good Catholic.

At a superficial level, we may feel that people who are actively involved in the parish are actually really faithful, convicted and have a passion for Christ. But there’s also a group of such people that may actually be most broken, insecure and alone.

At the end of the day, we all will be able to tell because it is more than just the words but the way we live our lives. Are we reflecting Christ to the people we meet daily? The irony is that while most of us are so preoccupied with how others see us, none of us really ask ourselves the question if we have been Christ to the other? Most of the time, pride gets in the way.

The parish isn’t a museum of saints but a hospital for sinners. Indeed, we house some of the most broken, insecure, unaware, ungrateful, prideful and whatever else people; but we house them because Christ allows it to be so. When the world rejects, Christ welcomes.

Despite all the hypocrisy, though our hearts and intentions are far away from Him, He continues to run after us, to reach out for us, to create a place for us to dwell. Let us lower our walls and throw away the lies. Let us allow Christ in, let us give Him the wheel to our lives, for the true encounter and healing only happens when we allow Christ to take control of our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for courage, perseverance and patience to stand up for our faith, to trust in You even when things are not going our way. To be patient for You will know when the time is right. Help us to see beyond the things that will pass, help us not to focus on the gifts but the giver.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your unfailing love. Thank you for constantly having this hope in us. Amen

5 February, Monday – Recognising

5 Feb – Memorial for St. Agatha, virgin and martyr

We have little reliable information about this martyr who has been honoured since ancient times, and whose name is included in the canon of the Mass. Young, beautiful and rich, Agatha (d.250) lived a life consecrated to God. When Decius announced the edicts against Christians, the magistrate Quinctianus tried to profit by Agatha’s sanctity; he planned to blackmail her into sex in exchange for not charging her. Handed over to a brothel, she refused to accept customers.

After rejecting Quinctianus’ advances, she was beaten, imprisoned, tortured, her breasts were crushed and cut off. She told the judge, “Cruel man, have you forgotten your mother and the breast that nourished you, that you dare to mutilate me this way?” One version has it that St. Peter healed her. She was then imprisoned again, then rolled on live coals; when she was near death, an earthquake struck. In the destruction that followed, a friend of the magistrate was crushed, and the magistrate fled. Agatha thanked God for an end to her pain, and died.

Legend says that carrying her veil, taken from her tomb in Catania, in procession has averted erupts of Mount Etna. Her intercession is reported to have saved Malta from Turkish invasion in 1551.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Kings 8:1-7, 9-13

Solomon called the elders of Israel together in Jerusalem to bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord up from the Citadel of David, which is Zion. All the men of Israel assembled round King Solomon in the month of Ethanim, at the time of the feast (that is, the seventh month), and the priests took up the ark and the Tent of Meeting with all the sacred vessels that were in it. In the presence of the ark, King Solomon and all Israel sacrificed sheep and oxen, countless, innumerable. The priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the Debir of the Temple, that is, in the Holy of Holies, under the cherubs’ wings. For there where the ark was placed the cherubs spread out their wings and sheltered the ark and its shafts. There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets Moses had placed in it at Horeb, the tablets of the covenant which the Lord had made with the Israelites when they came out of the land of Egypt; they are still there today.

Now when the priests came out of the sanctuary, the cloud filled the Temple of the Lord, and because of the cloud the priests could no longer perform their duties: the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s Temple.

Then Solomon said: ‘The Lord has chosen to dwell in the thick cloud. Yes, I have built you a dwelling, a place for you to live in for ever.’

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Mark 6:53-56

Having made the crossing, Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret and tied up. No sooner had they stepped out of the boat than people recognised him, and started hurrying all through the countryside and brought the sick on stretchers to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, to village, or town, or farm, they laid down the sick in the open spaces, begging him to let them touch even the fringe of his cloak. And all those who touched him were cured.

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“And all those who touched him were saved.”

What really stood out for me in today’s reading was the recognition. A recognition that Yahweh chose to dwell in the thick cloud, in the first reading. And in the Gospel where having reached Gennesaret, people at once recognise Jesus and at once brought the sick to Him.

Going deeper into today’s readings, we can ask ourselves — who was Jesus to those people? A healer? A miracle worker? The Christ? Do we recognise the healer? Or only the healing?

We read in Luke 17:11-19 about the healing of 10 men with leprosy and how only one returned to thank Jesus. And also in Luke 8:43-48, we read about the woman ‘touching’ Jesus’ garment amidst the crowd.

Who was really touched? Have we truly touched Jesus? Or has Jesus touched us?

It is indeed a struggle. For us, Christ mostly seems to be at the back seat of the car (hopefully not in the boot), when He is supposed to be at the wheel. But in our world today, we are just too caught up with so many things. There is always something else to do, something that can be improved on, something to follow up on. Will any of this ever end?

Maybe we can spend some time away from the all the stuff that weighs us down. To just simply recognise Christ in our lives, ever so patiently waiting at our door for us to open our hearts to Him. For Him to dwell.

Let us learn to be grateful for all that has happened in our lives and that is going to happen, to have faith that amidst everything that seems to separate us from Christ, we will break through those barriers and reach out to touch Him. Not because He has touched us but, more because we allowed Him to touch us.

May we continue to pray with the scriptures, in order that Your Word may continue to touch us, that our lives may continue to transform as we live lives that reflect your light and your love to all.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for sight. To see with the eyes of faith, eyes of truth, eyes of love. To see as you see Lord. Amen

Thanksgiving: Thank you for all your abundant blessings, especially all those up till now we still fail to realise and be grateful for. Thank you for always desiring us. Amen

4 February, Sunday – To Live

4 February
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Job 7:1-4,6-7

Job began to speak:

Is not man’s life on earth nothing more than pressed service, his time no better than hired drudgery?

Like the slave, sighing for the shade, or the workman with no thought but his wages, months of delusion I have assigned to me, nothing for my own but nights of grief.

Lying in bed I wonder, ‘When will it be day?’ Risen I think, ‘How slowly evening comes!’ Restlessly I fret till twilight falls.

Swifter than a weaver’s shuttle my days have passed, and vanished, leaving no hope behind.

Remember that my life is but a breath, and that my eyes will never again see joy.

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1 Corinthians 9:16-19,22-23

I do not boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty which has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it! If I had chosen this work myself, I might have been paid for it, but as I have not, it is a responsibility which has been put into my hands. Do you know what my reward is? It is this: in my preaching, to be able to offer the Good News free, and not insist on the rights which the gospel gives me.

So though I am not a slave of any man I have made myself the slave of everyone so as to win as many as I could. For the weak I made myself weak. I made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost; and I still do this, for the sake of the gospel, to have a share in its blessings.

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Mark 1:29-39

On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went with James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew. Now Simon’s mother-in-law had gone to bed with fever, and they told him about her straightaway. He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up. And the fever left her and she began to wait on them.

That evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by devils. The whole town came crowding round the door, and he cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another; he also cast out many devils, but he would not allow them to speak, because they knew who he was.

In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, ‘Everybody is looking for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.’ And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devils.

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“To the weak, I made myself weak, to win the weak.”

Today’s readings allow us to once again pay attention to ourselves, our motives and intentions, to once again reflect on why we are doing what we do, our purpose in life, the reason we live. To remember where we came from but, more importantly, to whom we belong to.

We see in the first reading where Job questions most of our struggles. “Why am I stuck in this job?”, “How long more must I endure this suffering?”, “How much finances is considered enough?”. Unfortunately, many of us didn’t choose our jobs because we would enjoy working there for our fulfilment but because of the salary and future prospects. After awhile we get stuck in the rat race and routines in life and we ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this in the first place?”

The Gospel today gives us Christ as the example, for when Jesus was curing the sick and driving out devils in Capernaum, many were flocking to Him. Human as He is, I’m sure He too could have been easily distracted by all the fame and power that He had. To a certain extent, He would have been very comfortable where He was. However, we can see that even Jesus had to make time for prayer, for clarity, to be reminded of His mission, His will and the will of the Father. After which, we see Jesus quietly leaving Capernaum and travelling through Galilee.

St Paul beautifully writes in the second reading, “To the weak, I made myself weak, to win the weak”. It really isn’t about ourselves, it isn’t about our pride — what we have accomplished — but as Catholics, whether we have been a disciple. Christ, once again, is our model where fully God, He came down to earth; fully human as well, in order to reach out to us, in order to save us, in order to defeat sin, in order that we may have salvation, to be able to be reunited with Him in eternity.

Christ has already paid our price by His death. Let us now celebrate this life that we are given, for there is nothing we can do to earn our place nor our salvation. Let us not allow death, but Christ to determine how we live. Let us live as Christ lives, let us love as He loves.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for courage and faith as we journey through the unknown. Help us to recollect our intentions, purpose and calling in life. Help us to not just focus on the healing but the healer, not on your plan but on you. Help us to know you more and by knowing you, find our meaning of life, that we will glorify you by our lives. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your sacrifice, for coming to be with us; for your unconditional love and for this covenantal relationship. Amen.

31 October, Tuesday – Perseverance

31 October 2017

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Romans 8:18-25

I think that what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us. The whole creation is eagerly waiting for God to reveal his sons. It was not for any fault on the part of creation that it was made unable to attain its purpose, it was made so by God; but creation still retains the hope of being freed, like us, from its slavery to decadence, to enjoy the same freedom and glory as the children of God. From the beginning till now the entire creation, as we know, has been groaning in one great act of giving birth; and not only creation, but all of us who possess the first-fruits of the Spirit, we too groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free. For we must be content to hope that we shall be saved – our salvation is not in sight, we should not have to be hoping for it if it were – but, as I say, we must hope to be saved since we are not saved yet – it is something we must wait for with patience.

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Luke 13:18-21

Jesus said, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it with? It is like a mustard seed which a man took and threw into his garden: it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air sheltered in its branches.’

Another thing he said, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God with? It is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’

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“In hope, we already have salvation; in hope, not visibly present, … But having this hope for what we cannot yet see, we are able to wait for it with persevering confidence.”

In today’s Gospel, we read of Jesus using the parable of the mustard seed and of the yeast. One common thing about the parables is that it involves a waiting before fruition. How something so small and simple becomes so essential in our lives.

I’m reminded of this quote by Mother Teresa, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

All the small things we do are indeed very important, in order that the bigger things may happen. And when we realise that, we are able to also appreciate the many small things that others are doing for us, to also see how God is journeying with us every day as opposed to waiting for that big miracle to come. To know that we are making a difference with that one small act of kindness, a small act of love.

Other quotes I’m reminded of are, “You think you are just a drop in the ocean but look at the ripple effect one drop can make”, or “Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into the water, the actions of individuals can have far reaching effects.”

For myself, it is indeed a challenge to persevere, especially when I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. What is the final outcome? Is everything I am doing worth it? What if I’m heading in the wrong direction? So many uncertainties and obstacles that weigh on my shoulders. What more our faith where it’s mostly a mystery, which is why we call it faith — because we need faith.

God, however, assures us in the first reading, that we need to continue to cling on to this faith, this hope for salvation has already been won for us. Our lives aren’t about what happens on earth, but how we are preparing ourselves for the eternal, for eternity. A God who gave His life to us and who still loves us despite our rejection, brokenness and unworthiness; who, time and time again, waits for us to return; who gives us all our share of His property to squander yet rushes out to embrace us, to seek us when we are lost. Who loves us unconditionally.

For those who have not encountered Him, what I’ve just written is probably just words. I ask that you continue to give Him a chance, to allow Him to touch you, to desire His love. To persevere, to hope. It’s the very reason I’m alive and it’s the reason I live and love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, give us strength as we continue to persevere when it seems like the world is against us. That when we feel furthest from you, that’s when we have the strength to run back rather than to let you go.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always being there, for giving us chance after chance. Thank you Lord, for desiring us and loving us unconditionally.

27 August, Sunday – Who do you say I am?

26 August 2017

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Isaiah 22:19-23

Thus says the Lord of Hosts to Shebna, the master of the palace:

I dismiss you from your office,
I remove you from your post,
and the same day I call on my servant
Eliakim son of Hilkiah.
I invest him with your robe,
gird him with your sash,
entrust him with your authority;
and he shall be a father
to the inhabitants of Jerusalem
and to the House of Judah.
I place the key of the House of David
on his shoulder;
should he open, no one shall close,
should he close, no one shall open.
I drive him like a peg
into a firm place;
he will become a throne of glory
for his father’s house.

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Romans 11:33-36

How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge – and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord? Who could ever be his counsellor? Who could ever give him anything or lend him anything? All that exists comes from him; all is by him and for him. To him be glory for ever! Amen.

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Matthew 16:13-20

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’ Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

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“whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

This reflection comes very timely as just yesterday I was at a session and we had to look ourselves in the mirror for about 10 minutes. It was an empowering time with Jesus.

When I first looked into the mirror, I saw, my outer appearance, kind of like, a first impression. More to how people see me versus whether or not they know me. I’ve many flaws, many things which I would like to change. I kind of prefer my old self, how I looked versus how I look now. But what is my reason for wanting to look good? So that I’ll be loved, popular, likeable?

I began to go deeper into reflection and what I saw next was, what did I represent? What values do I stand by? Why do people want to hang out with me? What do others see in me? I am proud of some of the things I stand for and firmly in my life, but some, I just simply fail to stand up to the temptations and pleasures of the world.

Then looking closer, I saw the stains in my life, the stains from my body that cannot be removed, no matter how many times I’ve gone for confession. These are my regrets and misses. And I realised the stains can’t be removed for they are a part of me, I can’t undo the past but I can embrace it, learn from it so that I’ll have a better future.

And finally, who am I? Am I defined by how I look? By what people think or say? By the stains and inadequacies of my life? By what I do? Where does my identity lie? In the world or in Christ?

It’s always easy to just say Christ but what does that really mean? We can only live in Christ if we know Christ. And if we know Christ then we will also know that He suffers whenever He sees us suffering, He hurts whenever we do wrong to others and to ourselves but most importantly, He loves us despite all our imperfections and sees the perfection in us always. It is this love that He gives which translates to our freedom, our freedom to choose Him or others.

So today when we are asked, who God is, may we speak with conviction, to proclaim that He is Lord, He is the Christ, He is Father of us all, King of Kings, Prince of Peace and Love itself. My identity is in Christ and may yours be too. God Bless.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we will grow to know you and to trust in your plan. For you didn’t create us just for us to survive, but you did so, in order that we may live. Help us to live this life according to your will, that we may help build your kingdom here on earth.

Thanksgiving:  Thank you Lord for your Word, your Love, for choosing us even amidst the many times when we have chosen others before you.