Tag Archives: benjamin mao

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.

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.

  • Patron Saint Index

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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.

  • The Weekday Missal

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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.