Tag Archives: benjamin mao

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.

25 April, Tuesday – Proclaiming the Gospel

25 Apr – Feast of St. Mark, evangelist

St. Mark is believed to be the young man who ran away when Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:51-52), and the “John whose other name was Mark” (Acts 12:25). He was a disciple of St. Peter who travelled with him to Rome, and was referred to as “my son Mark” by the first Pope. He was the author of the earliest canonical Gospel. He travelled with his cousin St. Barnabas, and with St. Paul through Cyprus. He evangelized in Alexandria, established the Church there, and founded the first famous Christian school.

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1 Peter 5:5-14

All wrap yourselves in humility to be servants of each other, because God refuses the proud and will always favour the humble. Bow down, then, before the power of God now, and he will raise you up on the appointed day; unload all your worries on to him, since he is looking after you. Be calm but vigilant, because your enemy the devil is prowling round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to eat. Stand up to him, strong in faith and in the knowledge that your brothers all over the world are suffering the same things. You will have to suffer only for a little while: the God of all grace who called you to eternal glory in Christ will see that all is well again: he will confirm, strengthen and support you. His power lasts for ever and ever. Amen.

I write these few words to you through Silvanus, who is a brother I know I can trust, to encourage you never to let go this true grace of God to which I bear witness.

Your sister in Babylon, who is with you among the chosen, sends you greetings; so does my son, Mark.

Greet one another with a kiss of love.

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Mark 16:15-20

Jesus showed himself to the Eleven and said to them:
‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.’

And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven: there at the right hand of God he took his place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.

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“Go out to the whole world; proclaim the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Building on the previous readings, we see in the Gospel today how Jesus asks us to go out to the whole world and proclaim the gospel. The truth really is not so much that Jesus asks us to do so, but if we have truly encountered the Risen Lord in our lives, we will want to share Him with all.  When we know who Jesus is, when we know who we are and who we are called to be, there really is nothing to fear when we are speaking the truth, living in the truth, living in light.

Many times, we rely on our own strength and we fear that we are not good enough, that we are not ready, and question who are we to comment/advise or to share our experiences and our lives. Of course, humanly it is very daunting but, when we trust and allow the Holy Spirit to take over, not only do we encounter Christ in His working within us, we allow others to encounter Christ too.

Evangelisation isn’t solely spreading Jesus by word of mouth. It is really allowing Him to live in us, and by our example, enable others to see Christ. So we practice what we preach but very importantly, with humility, recognising and giving thanks for all the blessings that Christ has bestowed on us — the people He has sent in our lives, the opportunities given to us, the graces we’ve received. In other words, to give Him the glory not just with our mouths but also with our lives.

Together with the spirit, nothing is too difficult to overcome. Let us embrace this spirit, our faith, our baptism, to go forth and share our Risen Lord with all.

“You will have to suffer only for a little while: the God of all graces who called you to eternal glory in Christ will restore you, he will confirm, strengthen and support you. His power lasts for ever and ever. Amen.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to be faithful to you. Help us to embrace our identity, for you created us in your image, with love. Help us share you by our lives with all.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your love and your Word. Continue to show yourself to those who do not know you.

24 April, Monday – Birth from above

24 Apr – Memorial for St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, priest & martyr

St. Fidelis Sigmaringen (1577-1622) was a lawyer and teacher of philosophy. Disgusted by the greed, corruption, and lack of interest in justice by his fellow lawyers, Mark Rey abandoned the law, became a priest and a Franciscan friar with his brother George. He changed his name to Fidelis and gave away his worldly wealth to poor people in general, and poor seminarians in particular. He served his friary as guardian and worked in epidemics, especially healing soldiers. He led a group of Capuchins to preach to Calvinists and Zwinglians in Switzerland. The success of this work, and lack of violence suffered by mission was attributed to Fidelis spending his nights in prayer. He was, however, eventually martyred for his preaching.

“Woe to me if I should prove myself but a halfhearted soldier in the service of my thorn-crowned Captain.” ~ St Fidelis

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Acts 4:23-31

As soon as Peter and John were released they went to the community and told them everything the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard it they lifted up their voice to God all together. ‘Master,’ they prayed ‘it is you who made heaven and earth and sea, and everything in them; you it is who said through the Holy Spirit and speaking through our ancestor David, your servant:

Why this arrogance among the nations,
these futile plots among the peoples?
Kings on earth setting out to war,
princes making an alliance,
against the Lord and against his Anointed.

‘This is what has come true: in this very city Herod and Pontius Pilate made an alliance with the pagan nations and the peoples of Israel, against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, but only to bring about the very thing that you in your strength and your wisdom had predetermined should happen. And now, Lord, take note of their threats and help your servants to proclaim your message with all boldness, by stretching out your hand to heal and to work miracles and marvels through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ As they prayed, the house where they were assembled rocked; they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to proclaim the word of God boldly.

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John 3:1-8

There was one of the Pharisees called Nicodemus, a leading Jew, who came to Jesus by night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who comes from God; for no one could perform the signs that you do unless God were with him.’ Jesus answered:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
unless a man is born from above,
he cannot see the kingdom of God.’

Nicodemus said, ‘How can a grown man be born? Can he go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?’ Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
unless a man is born through water and the Spirit,
he cannot enter the kingdom of God:
what is born of the flesh is flesh;
what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Do not be surprised when I say:
You must be born from above.
The wind blows wherever it pleases;
you hear its sound,
but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.
That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit.’

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“In all truth I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above”

“In all truth I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born through water and the Spirit; what is born of human nature is human; what is born of the Spirit is spirit…” The Gospel today reminds us of our identity. Who are we? After our Baptism, after our Confirmation, after our Marriage, who are we? Who am I?

As we are into the second week of Easter, we proclaim our Risen Lord, we profess our faith, we receive Christ week after week in the Eucharist. What is it we are doing? As Catholics, even for myself, I get trapped and worried about all the rules, commandments and practices that I find myself trapped in a meaningless routine and Christ seems more distant than ever. Catholicism is often also associated with the carrying of our crosses, pains, sufferings. Am I called to suffer just as Jesus did? Am I called to live in the conditions that Jesus lived in?

Our faith, today, challenges us in so many different but very difficult ways. Ways that draw us away from our true identity. We listen to the voice of the world and not that of God. We are told who we are by the world and, for some reason, we believe it more. We find ourselves like Peter and Pilate, during the Passion of Jesus Christ, not standing up to who they are and what they believed in; they simply wanted to blend in with the crowd that followed blindly.

The Gospel today mentions that we can’t enter the kingdom of God without being born through water and the Spirit. We need to allow the Spirit to live in us, to acknowledge Christ as our Lord, our Father and we, as His children. It’s not about knowing our future, but trusting in the Lord’s providence, that as long as we live our lives for Him, He will not be outdone in generosity. Let us welcome the Spirit into our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for strength that many times, we fail to stand up for our faith. We let the world dictate who we are, we let the lies control our lives. Lord, help us listen to you, your Word. Help us allow the Spirit to lead and guide us. Lead us Lord to your kingdom.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your Spirit, for the many gifts and blessings you have showered upon us.

23 April, Sunday – The Divine Mercy

23 Apr – Divine Mercy Sunday

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

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

Memorial for St. George, martyr; Memorial for St. Adalbert, bishop & martyr

St. George (d. 304) was a soldier who was martyred for his faith. That’s all we know for sure.

Several stories have been attached to St. George, the best known of which is the ‘Golden Legend’. In it, a dragon lived in a lake near Silena, Libya. Whole armies had gone up against this fierce creature, and had gone down in painful defeat. The monster ate two sheep each day; when mutton was scarce, lots were drawn in local villages, and maidens were substituted for sheep. Into this country came St. George. Hearing the story on a day when a princess was to be eaten, he crossed himself, rode to battle against the serpent, and killed it with a single blow with his lance. George then held forth with a magnificent sermon and converted the locals. Given a large reward by the king, George distributed it to the poor, then rode away.

Due to his chivalrous behaviour (protecting women, fighting evil, dependence on faith and might of arms, largesse to the poor), devotion to St. George became popular in Europe after the 10th century. In the 15th century, his feast day was as popular and important as Christmas. Many of his areas of patronage have to do with life as a knight on horseback. The celebrated ‘Knights of the Garter’ are actually ‘Knights of the Order of St. George’. The shrine built for his relics at Lydda, Palestine, was a popular point of pilgrimage for centuries.

He is also one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

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Adalbert (957–997) was born to the Bohemian nobility. He took the name of St. Adalbert of Magdeburg, the archbishop who healed, educated and converted him. He became Bishop of Prague (in the modern Czech Republic) on Feb 10, 982. He was a friend of Emperor Otto III.

Adalbert encouraged the evangelization of the Magyars, and worked on it with St. Astricus. He was opposed by the nobility in Prague and unpopular in the area, so he withdrew to Rome, Italy and became a Benedictine monk, making his vows on Apr 17, 990. But Pope John XV sent him back to Prague anyway.

He founded the monastery of Brevnov, met more opposition from the nobility and returned to Rome. There being no hope of his working in Prague, he was allowed to (unsuccessfully) evangelise in Pomerania, Poland, Prussia, Hungary and Russia. He and his fellow missionaries were martyred by Prussians near Koenigsberg or Danzig at the instigation of a pagan priest. Not long before his death, Adalbert met, and was a great inspiration to, St. Boniface of Querfurt.

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Acts 2:42-47

The whole community remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.The many miracles and signs worked through the apostles made a deep impression on everyone.

The faithful all lived together and owned everything in common; they sold their goods and possessions and shared out the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed.

They went as a body to the Temple every day but met in their houses for the breaking of bread; they shared their food gladly and generously; they praised God and were looked up to by everyone. Day by day the Lord added to their community those destined to be saved.

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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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John 20:19-31

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

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

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

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

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

22 February, Wednesday – Profession of Faith

22 Feb – Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the Apostle

The feast of the Chair of St. Peter at Rome, Italy has been celebrated from the early days of the Christian era on Jan 18, in commemoration of the day when St. Peter held his first service in Rome. The feast of the Chair of St. Peter at Antioch commemorating his foundation of the See of Antioch, has also been long celebrated in Rome, on Feb 22. At each place, a chair (cathedra) which the Apostle had used while presiding at Mass was venerated.

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This feast has been kept in Rome since the fourth century, as a symbol of the unity of the Church.

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1 Peter 5:1-4

Now I have something to tell your elders: I am an elder myself, and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, and with you I have a share in the glory that is to be revealed. Be the shepherds of the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, because God wants it; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it. Never be a dictator over any group that is put in your charge, but be an example that the whole flock can follow. When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the crown of unfading glory.

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Matthew 16:13-19

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.’

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“Who do you say I am? … You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”

Today we celebrate the feast of the Chair of St Peter, the Apostle. Very much in line with the messages from the previous days, about faith, about the example. In today’s Gospel, we focus on the faith of Peter but also His example. Peter didn’t just say those words, he lived those words and Jesus knew. His faith was his life.

We profess our faith weekly but how does it affect us? Or is it simply just words?

Like Peter, we are all human, imperfect. But Peter has chosen to see Christ in His life. Yes, we may say that Christ performed many miracles then and hence it was easier to believe but He is still performing many miracles today, why is it we don’t see?

Maybe because we are waiting for someone to come down from the clouds or a voice from heaven?

I believe Christ lives in each and everyone of us and we are all called to be Christ to one another. The Holy Spirit is working in us, to reach out and minister to others. When we give out of compassion, when we forgive, reconcile, love. When we make sacrifices, when we affirm, when we reach out to the needy. These are the many miracles Christ is working in our lives today.

Today, WE are the church and Christ chooses each one of us to carry on His ministry, to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. We are His examples, His witnesses, His light, His love.

Let us not take the people around us, the people who love us and are closest to us for granted. Let us profess our faith with conviction and by example, that we are one church, we have one God and we are the children of the living God. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, empower us in our weaknesses, be our strength and our guide. May we not get caught up with routines and take for granted what is really important. Help us to open our eyes, bless us with wisdom, that we may see your hand continuously in our lives, to be Christ to all.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for the gift of community, of the church. Thank you for the Holy Spirit. Continue to live and move and work in us, that we may bring/lead all to you, to glorify your name. Amen.

21 February, Tuesday – Faith & Humility

21 Feb – Memorial for St. Peter Damian, bishop and doctor

Peter Damian (1007-1072) was the youngest child in a large family. When he was orphaned, he was sent to live with a brother where he was mistreated and forced to work as a swine-herd. He cared for another brother, a priest in Ravenna, Italy. He was well educated in Fienza and Parma and became a professor, but lived a life of strict austerity.

He gave up his teaching to become a Benedictine monk. His health suffered, especially when he tried to replace sleep with prayer. He founded a hermitage. He was occasionally called on by the Vatican to make peace between arguing monastic houses, clergymen, and government officials, etc. He was made Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia, and he fought simony.

He tried to restore primitive discipline among priests and religious who were becoming more and more of the world. He was a prolific correspondent, and he also wrote dozens of sermons, seven biographies (including one of St. Romuald), and poetry, including some of the best Latin of the time. He tried to retire being a monk, but was routinely recalled as a papal legate.

He died on Feb 22, 1072 of fever at Ravenna while surrounded by brother monks reciting the Divine Office. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1828.

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Ecclesiasticus 2:1-11

My son, if you aspire to serve the Lord,
prepare yourself for an ordeal.
Be sincere of heart, be steadfast,
and do not be alarmed when disaster comes.
Cling to him and do not leave him,
so that you may be honoured at the end of your days.
Whatever happens to you, accept it,
and in the uncertainties of your humble state, be patient,
since gold is tested in the fire,
and chosen men in the furnace of humiliation.
Trust him and he will uphold you,
follow a straight path and hope in him.
You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy;
do not turn aside in case you fall.
You who fear the Lord, trust him,
and you will not be baulked of your reward.
You who fear the Lord hope for good things,
for everlasting happiness and mercy.
Look at the generations of old and see:
who ever trusted in the Lord and was put to shame?
Or who ever feared him steadfastly and was left forsaken?
Or who ever called out to him, and was ignored?
For the Lord is compassionate and merciful,
he forgives sins, and saves in days of distress.

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Mark 9:30-37

After leaving the mountain Jesus and his disciples made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.

They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’ He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms round him, and said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’

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“If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all… anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus leads by example. The irony where being first is to be last and servant of all. He came into the world and indeed led the simplest life yet suffered the most, had to be crucified and had to give His life. But He didn’t just do it for himself, He did so for all of us. Jesus came into the world, perfect, the Son of God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords yet humiliated, He lowered himself in order to save us.

Amidst all the suffering and pain Christ knew was coming His way, He still obeyed His Father and saw it through as He recognised that He belongs to the Father too. The example is very clear that we should not forget nor take for granted who we are, the blessings that our Father in heaven has bestowed on us. And we should live our lives in the glory of His name.

Indeed, it is His kingdom that we should desire to be first in, instead of the many areas of the world. We can never be the best in the world and nothing is ever enough in the world simply because the world itself is imperfect and we humans are the same.

Hence, we are called, in the first reading, to prepare ourselves, to cling on to Christ, to trust in Him, to hope in Him. The whole of the first reading assures us that God will lead us through the storms of life and we simply need to keep our faith in Him.

Let us allow the first reading to encourage us for at the end of the day, it isn’t about knowing that we are first but to know that we have placed our trust, hope and faith in God. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for humility, that we may not trade you for the things of this world. Help us to see beyond the successes in life, help us to see you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for your example Lord, to help us see beyond ourselves, to help us see what true love is. Thank you for your encouragement and affirmation that you will always be with us. Amen.

20 February, Monday – Faith & Prayer

20 February 2017

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Ecclesiasticus 1:1-10

All wisdom is from the Lord,
and it is his own for ever.
The sand of the sea and the raindrops,
and the days of eternity, who can assess them?
The height of the sky and the breadth of the earth,
and the depth of the abyss, who can probe them?
Before all other things wisdom was created,
shrewd understanding is everlasting.
For whom has the root of wisdom ever been uncovered?
Her resourceful ways, who knows them?
One only is wise, terrible indeed,
seated on his throne, the Lord.
He himself has created her, looked on her and assessed her,
and poured her out on all his works
to be with all mankind as his gift,
and he conveyed her to those who love him.

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Mark 9:14-29

When Jesus, with Peter, James and John came down from the mountain and rejoined the disciples, they saw a large crowd round them and some scribes arguing with them. The moment they saw him the whole crowd were struck with amazement and ran to greet him. ‘What are you arguing about with them?’ he asked.

A man answered him from the crowd, ‘Master, I have brought my son to you; there is a spirit of dumbness in him, and when it takes hold of him it throws him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and goes rigid. And I asked your disciples to cast it out and they were unable to.’ ‘You faithless generation’ he said to them in reply. ‘How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.’

They brought the boy to him, and as soon as the spirit saw Jesus it threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell to the ground and lay writhing there, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ ‘From childhood,’ he replied ‘and it has often thrown him into the fire and into the water, in order to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.’ ‘If you can?’ retorted Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for anyone who has faith.’

Immediately the father of the boy cried out, ‘I do have faith. Help the little faith I have!’ And when Jesus saw how many people were pressing round him, he rebuked the unclean spirit. ‘Deaf and dumb spirit,’ he said ‘I command you: come out of him and never enter him again.’ Then throwing the boy into violent convulsions it came out shouting, and the boy lay there so like a corpse that most of them said, ‘He is dead.’ But

Jesus took him by the hand and helped him up, and he was able to stand. When he had gone indoors his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why were we unable to cast it out?’ ‘This is the kind’ he answered ‘that can only be driven out by prayer.’

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“I do have faith. Help the little faith I have!”

The last line of today’s Gospel kind of struck me the most. “This is the kind,” he answered “that can only be driven out by prayer”. The reality is that most of us tend to rely on our own strengths. Moving in this direction, we tend to prevent Christ from working through us. Hence it is us who heal, it is our effort, it is our session…

Usually we will then only turn to prayer after we have exhausted trying everything we know. We hear prayers like “Lord, I don’t know what to do anymore, I’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work”. We treat God as our last resort but the only one who loses out is ourselves, if we don’t trust Him enough to offer our work and lives to Him, we probably won’t be able to see His hand in our lives daily.

We forget whose work we are doing, using our strengths, it’s also normal for us to seek the recognition and appreciation for OUR work. But we know that the best outcome is when we prepare all we can, to the best of our abilities and allow God to work through us, to use our gifts and talents to glorify HIS name.

Faith isn’t about the results/outcomes, it’s the process, the journey. It’s the patience, the perseverance and really about wisdom, to see through the lenses of faith. Faith doesn’t remove the obstacles, it helps us to overcome them. When we pray, our faith strengthens and when our faith strengthens, we pray.

Let us make Christ not only our priority but our everything. He lives in us and we will be able to do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to learn to trust, to grow in faith. To see your hand moving in my life, for the wisdom to discern. Help me persevere when things aren’t going my way, because maybe they are going Your way.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always being there and being available to us. Thank you for allowing us to turn to you even when we place you as our last resort at times. Thank you for my faith!

19 February, Sunday – Love your neighbour

19 February 2017

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Leviticus 19:1-2,17-18

The Lord spoke to Moses; he said: ‘Speak to the whole community of the sons of Israel and say to them:

‘“Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.
‘“You must not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. You must openly tell him, your neighbour, of his offence; this way you will not take a sin upon yourself. You must not exact vengeance, nor must you bear a grudge against the children of your people. You must love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”’

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1 Corinthians 3:16-23

Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.

Make no mistake about it: if any one of you thinks of himself as wise, in the ordinary sense of the word, then he must learn to be a fool before he really can be wise. Why? Because the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As scripture says: The Lord knows wise men’s thoughts: he knows how useless they are; or again: God is not convinced by the arguments of the wise. So there is nothing to boast about in anything human: Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life and death, the present and the future, are all your servants; but you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.

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Matthew 5:38-48

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.

‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

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“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven…”

I would like to start with this story. Once, I was supporting a camp overseas, I brought my laptop along as I needed to use it to conduct my session. After setting up, I went for my lunch, I was told the room would be locked and it would be safe to leave my laptop there.

When I returned, the room was locked. However, I found my laptop missing. I checked with the organisers and nobody had seen it. Looking at the ceiling, I saw that there were cameras outside the room, maybe it will be able to show more about the incident. Approaching the guard house, I was disappointed and irritated to know that the cameras were faulty. There was basically no way to trace who the culprit was. The funny thing was that the person took the laptop without the charger, so there was no way the person could use it either.

I continued the camp without my laptop. Coming home, I shared this incident with my uncle. I expected him to empathise with me but instead, he shared this with me. “The person who took your laptop must be suffering, we should pray for him”. Just right after hearing those words, I was frustrated but pondering on what he said, my heart changed; Christ was present at that moment. I recognised how blessed I was, seeing the situation through the eyes of Christ, with the eyes of love. I knew at that instant, this was who we are all called to be, bodies of love.

As in the second reading, we are all not wise enough, I did not know the background of the person, the action is indeed wrong but we can never be wise enough to condemn, as we do not fully understand the situation.

I was eventually blessed with a budget of $1,000 to get myself a new laptop. But more than that, I believe I recognised God, I understood Him so much more, I knew He lives in me and what love is really about.

Let us pray for this encounter, for this awareness, that life is far more greater than the rights and wrongs. It is about recognising that we belong to Christ, that we are from Christ and it is to Christ that we will return. Let our love not be transactional but one that is unconditional. Let us be Christ to one another and, in that way, allow Him to love through us, His perfect love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for a humility, to see ourselves before we judge others, to love our neighbours just as ourselves.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your unconditional love, help us to be more like you.

10 December, Saturday – Recognising the Coming

10 December

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Ecclesiasticus 48:1-4,9-12

The prophet Elijah arose like a fire,
his word flaring like a torch.
It was he who brought famine on the people,
and who decimated them in his zeal.
By the word of the Lord, he shut up the heavens,
he also, three times, brought down fire.
How glorious you were in your miracles, Elijah!
Has anyone reason to boast as you have?
Taken up in the whirlwind of fire,
in a chariot with fiery horses;
designated in the prophecies of doom
to allay God’s wrath before the fury breaks,
to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children,
and to restore the tribes of Jacob,
Happy shall they be who see you,
and those who have fallen asleep in love.

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Matthew 17:10-13

As they came down from the mountain the disciples put this question to Jesus, ‘Why do the scribes say then that Elijah has to come first?’ ‘True;’ he replied ‘Elijah is to come to see that everything is once more as it should be; however, I tell you that Elijah has come already and they did not recognise him but treated him as they pleased; and the Son of Man will suffer similarly at their hands.’ The disciples understood then that he had been speaking of John the Baptist.

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“I tell you that Elijah has come already and they did not recognise him but treated him as they pleased; and the Son of Man will suffer similarly at their hands.”

As we close this second week of Advent, the readings speak about Elijah, to recognise that Elijah has already come. It doesn’t directly speak about the coming of the Messiah, our Christ but if we can recognise Elijah, we know Christ is near, if not already present in our midst.

Are we able to recognise the Elijahs in our lives? Are we able to recognise Christ in our lives? We are all called, in one way or another, to be Elijah in our lives, as in the example of John the Baptist, a voice that cries out in the wilderness, to prepare a way for the Lord, to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ.

Let us not simply wait till we are on our deathbeds or at our wits end before we return to Christ. The coming of Christ is the coming of the joy, peace, hope, love of Christmas as well. It is something we should all look forward to rather than just a festive celebration. We celebrate Christmas every year but have we been able to celebrate the birth of Christ once again in our lives and in our hearts?

Many today are able to share or preach but how many of us actually believe what we ourselves are saying and practice what we preach? Our faith isn’t one that takes away the joys and traps us in boring traditional routines, but one that allows God to communicate Himself to us constantly, whether at mass or through the different celebrations.

This Christmas, let us prepare ourselves and, in turn, be an example, like Elijah, for when others see us, they too know that the Christ is coming, our Saviour, our King.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for courage. To not be tempted and distracted by worldly things, but to keep our focus on you. For it is you who gives the eternal joy, peace, love and hope. We pray that this Christmas, we will make a gift of ourselves, not just to others but also to you. To recognise Christ in others and to be Christ to all. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for speaking to us through your Word. Thank you for the gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Thank you for your mercy and love.

9 December, Friday – Wisdom

Dec 9 – Memorial for St. Juan Diego, hermit, layman

John (1474-1548) was born an impoverished free man in a strongly class-conscious society. He was a farm worker, a field labourer, and a mat maker. He became a married layman with no children. Even as a pagan, he was a mystical and religious man and became an adult convert to Christianity at around age 50, taking the name Juan Diego. He was widowed in 1529.

He was a visionary to whom the Virgin Mary appeared at Guadalupe on 9 December 1531, leaving him the image known as Our Lady of Guadalupe. On 20 December 2001, a second miracle attributed to Juan Diego’s intervention was decreed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and was approved by Pope John Paul II. He was canonized on 31 July 2002.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 48:17-19

Thus says the Lord, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:

I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is good for you,
I lead you in the way that you must go.
If only you had been alert to my commandments,
your happiness would have been like a river,
your integrity like the waves of the sea.
Your children would have been numbered like the sand,
your descendants as many as its grains.
Never would your name have been cut off or blotted out before me.

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Matthew 11:16-19

Jesus spoke to the crowds: ‘What description can I find for this generation? It is like children shouting to each other as they sit in the market place:

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

‘For John came, neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He is possessed.” The Son of Man came, eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Yet wisdom has been proved right by her actions.’

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“Anyone who follows you, Lord, will have the light of life.”

~  Responsorial Psalm

Today’s readings help us to go deeper as we reflect on our frailties and weaknesses. We are hardly contented nor grateful for what we have, usually seeking more. More often than not, we seek the things and pleasures of this world. But there are also times where we feel unworthy, put ourselves down, where we lose our self-esteem. “What is good enough?”, “What do I live for?” are the questions we ask ourselves, but, if in the context of the world and its pleasures and desires, there will never be an answer, for our answer will continuously change as we seek to have everything yet always feel empty.

Even in the context of our faith where we desire to seek Christ. Are those just words or are we actively seeking? How are we seeking Him? Where are we seeking Him? The Gospel today talks about how we have differing opinions of who and how we think God is, what God should be doing and so on. Many times we’ve unknowingly played God while trying to seek Him.

God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to be with us, the sign we all wanted, an example we all could learn and follow, for us to fully trust and believe. But all we did was to nail Him to the cross and crucify Him. And even then, He still sends us the Holy Spirit.

The truth is, we need to acknowledge that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. We desire to seek Christ, but only in certain areas of our lives. We lack wisdom. The first reading then gives us an insight as to what we need to do; not just what we want, but what we really need and are searching for — happiness, integrity, belonging and to be loved.

Let us desire this wisdom as we prepare ourselves. That we may be true witnesses of Christ, not just by word but by our actions, our way of life. Let us focus on the things that last, to cherish those that God has placed in our lives, especially those that money can’t buy. With this wisdom, let us now ask ourselves, “What is good enough? What do I live for?”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the gift of wisdom, that we may learn to discern our actions and desires in order that we may seek you intentionally, to know as well as to lead all to you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your Word, for your inspiration and your grace. Continue to speak to us in your own special way. Thank you for showing us the way, for being patient and for loving us unconditionally. Amen.