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10 February, Saturday – Give And Receive

10 Feb – Memorial for St. Scholastica, virgin

Scholastica (480-543) was the twin sister of St. Benedict of Nursia. Born to Italian nobility, her mother died in childbirth. She became a nun and led a community of women at Plombariloa near Montecassino.

– Patron Saint Index

From her earliest years, she had been consecrated to God. She was accustomed to visiting her brother once a year, and he would come down to meet her at a place on the monastery property, not far outside the gate. One day, she came as usual and her saintly brother went with some of his disciples; they spent the whole day praising God and talking of sacred things.

As night fell, they had supper together. Their spiritual conversation went on and the hour grew late. The holy nun said to her brother, “Please do not leave me tonight; let us go on until morning talking about the delights of the spiritual life.” “Sister,” he replied, “what are you saying? I simply cannot stay outside my cell.”

When she heard her brother refuse her request, the holy woman joined her hands on the table, laid her head on them and began to pray. As she raised her head from the table, there were such brilliant flashes of lightning, such great peals of thunder and such a heavy downpour of rain that neither Benedict nor his brethren could stir across the threshold of the place where they had been seated.

Sadly, he began to complain, “May God forgive you, sister. What have you done?” “Well,” she answered, “I asked you and you would not listen; so I asked my God and he did listen. So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery.” So it came about that they stayed awake the whole night, engrossed in their conversation about the spiritual life.

Three days later, Benedict was in his cell. Looking up to the sky, he saw his sister’s soul leave her body in the form of a dove, and fly up to the secret places of heaven. Rejoicing in her great glory, he thanked almighty God with hymns and words of praise. He then sent his brethren to bring her body to the monastery and lay it in the tomb he had prepared for himself.

– from Dialogues by Pope St. Gregory the Great


1 Kings 12:26-32,13:33-34

Jeroboam thought to himself, ‘As things are, the kingdom will revert to the House of David. If this people continues to go up to the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem to offer sacrifices, the people’s heart will turn back again to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will put me to death.’ So the king thought this over and then made two golden calves; he said to the people, ‘You have been going up to Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, Israel; these brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ He set up one in Bethel and the people went in procession all the way to Dan in front of the other. He set up the temple of the high places and appointed priests from ordinary families, who were not of the sons of Levi. Jeroboam also instituted a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth of the month, like the feast that was kept in Judah, and he went up to the altar. That was how he behaved in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made; and at Bethel he put the priests of the high places he had established.

Jeroboam did not give up his wicked ways but went on appointing priests for the high places from the common people. He consecrated as priests of the high places any who wished to be. Such conduct made the House of Jeroboam a sinful House, and caused its ruin and extinction from the face of the earth.


Mark 8:1-10

A great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat. So Jesus called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘I feel sorry for all these people; they have been with me for three days now and have nothing to eat. If I send them off home hungry they will collapse on the way; some have come a great distance.’ His disciples replied, ‘Where could anyone get bread to feed these people in a deserted place like this?’ He asked them, ‘How many loaves have you?’ ‘Seven’ they said. Then he instructed the crowd to sit down on the ground, and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them among the crowd. They had a few small fish as well, and over these he said a blessing and ordered them to be distributed also. They ate as much as they wanted, and they collected seven basketfuls of the scraps left over. Now there had been about four thousand people. He sent them away and immediately, getting into the boat with his disciples, went to the region of Dalmanutha.


…and they collected seven basketfuls of the scraps left over…

The gospel today is one of my favorite Bible stories. The multiplication of bread. When Jesus said, “I feel sorry for all these people; they have been with me for three days now and have nothing to eat. If I send them off home hungry, they will collapse on the way; some have come a great distance”, it is a manifestation of the compassion and mercy of Jesus Christ. He takes into consideration the welfare of His followers. That is indeed a characteristic of a great leader.

Initially, they only had seven loaves of bread and a few pieces of fish. But they were able to feed the whole crowd and there was a lot left over. This really shows how marvellous our God is. Our God knows our hunger and He always satisfies it. It is just us humans who are sometimes not satisfied with our life.

The miracle is not only about how such little food becomes more than enough for all the people. There is also the miracle of the heart. It is a large crowd and that crowd followed Jesus Christ wherever He went for three days. It means to say that those people (most, if not all) were prepared to travel. They must have brought food along with them. So, when the basket was passed around, they took some food but they also put some in. Even extra baskets were given.

If only we could always be generous — not just in monetary and material things. We should be generous in giving understanding and forgiveness to others. If only it could happen, then there would be fewer crime. No more greed. No more hatred. No more revenge. Only love, harmony, and peace. But it is only an ideal. Negativity is part of our life. It is how live that we can lessen its effects.

There is this saying, “Give until it hurts. Give more until it does not hurt anymore.” Let us take this opportunity to reflect on up to what point we can be generous.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: (Prayer for Generosity – St. Ignatius of Loyola ) Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve You as I should. To give and not to count the cost. To fight and not to heed the wounds. To toil and not to seek for rest. To labor and ask not for reward. Save that of knowing that I do Your most holy will. St. Scholastica, Pray for us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the abundant graces that sustain our daily life. Thank you for the times that we can share our blessings to others.

9 February, Friday – Eyes Of The Heart

9 February 


1 Kings 11:29-32,12:19

One day when Jeroboam had gone out of Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah of Shiloh accosted him on the road. Ahijah was wearing a new cloak; the two of them were in the open country by themselves. Ahijah took the new cloak he was wearing and tore it into twelve strips, saying to Jeroboam, ‘Take ten strips for yourself, for thus the Lord speaks, the God of Israel, “I am going to tear the kingdom from Solomon’s hand and give ten tribes to you. He shall keep one tribe for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel.’

And Israel has been separated from the House of David until the present day.


Mark 7:31-37

Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’


Be opened

Have you ever experienced hearing your name being called but you are unresponsive? I have, so many times, and not only when it comes to my name. Even when I am listening, there were moments when I was hearing everything but my mind was ‘spaced out’ elsewhere. There were times when I recorded lectures so that I could listen to them again when I study. There was a topic that seemed to be easy but I could not comprehend any of it. I re-listened to my recordings, but still, I could not move forward with that topic.

The gospel today is about a deaf and mute man who was bought before Jesus. And Jesus cured this man. Jesus wanted to keep this miracle a secret. But people are human. The more rules are imposed on them, the more likely they would break them. The gospel teaches us that we can be mute and deaf spiritually. On our own, we do not have the capacity to share the good news nor understand it. It is by the grace of God that we can fully understand and speak the message of the readings. This gift is given freely. Sometimes, we just have to ask for it and develop it. We must always pray to God that our deaf and mute heart will always be healed.

I believe everyone prays. But prayer is a two-way communication. We talk to God and then we listen to him. Sometimes, we just want to do the talking. We do not know how to listen. There are times when we think we were listening, but we are not. We persevere by asking God for everything, but we do not give Him the chance to speak to us. Being silent is a way where we can listen to God. It seems easy to shut our mouth, but our mind is still noisy. It is not easy to silence ourselves. It takes practice, perseverance, and patience. It is easier to think about being silent but more difficult for it to be done. There are people who are already experts on this, there are others who are just starting. I am an example of someone who is struggling with silence. I try to set a time for it, but I am not always faithful with my schedule. The thing is, we must not give up doing what is pleasing to God because God never abandons us.

I gave up listening to that recording. Instead, I asked a very knowledgeable classmate to explain it to me. It did help. Sometimes when we think we have done so many things, we tend to forget that we also need to listen. Silence is a necessary part of our life in order to hear more of what God is saying to us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, please open our hearts to know your will. Give us the humility to accept it so that we may fulfill your will.

Thanksgiving: Ever dearest God, we are truly grateful for everything you have given us. Thank you for giving us another chance to do Your will. Thank you for the gift of hearing and understanding, which we hope we may use well.

8 February, Thursday – Crumbs Of Life

8 Feb – Memorial for St. Jerome Emiliani; Memorial for St. Josephine Bakhita, virgin

Jerome (1481–1537) was born wealthy, the son of Angelo and Eleanor Mauroceni Emiliani. His father died when Jerome was a teenager, and he ran away from home at age 15. After a dissolute youth, he became a soldier in Venice in 1506. He commanded the League of Cambrai forces at the fortress of Castelnuovo near Trevso. He was captured by Venetian forces on Aug 27, 1511, and was chained in a dungeon. Here, he prayed to Our Lady for help and was miraculously freed by an apparition. He hung his chains on a church wall as an offering. He became Mayor of Treviso while studying for the priesthood, and was ordained in the spotted-fever plague year of 1518.

He cared for the sick and housed orphans in his own home. At night he roamed the streets, burying those who had collapsed and died unattended. He contracted the fever himself, but survived. He founded six orphanages, a shelter for penitent prostitutes, and a hospital.

He founded the Order of Somaschi (Company of Servants of the Poor, or Samascan Fathers) in 1532. It is a congregation of clerks regular vowed to the care of orphans, and named after the town of Somasca where they started and where they founded a seminary. The society was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540 and it continues its work today in a dozen countries. Jerome is believed to have developed the question-and-answer catechism technique for teaching children religion.

In 1928, Pope Pius XI declared him the patron saint of orphans and abandoned children.

– Patron Saint Index

Josephine (1868–1947) was born to a wealthy Sudanese family. At age 9, she was kidnapped by slave-traders who gave her the name Bakhita. She was sold and resold in the markets at El Obeid and Khartoum, finally purchased in 1883 by Callisto Legnani, an Italian consul who planned to free her. She accompanied Legnani to Italy in 1885 and worked for the family of Augusto Michieli as nanny. She was treated well in Italy and grew to love the country. She joined the Church as an adult convert on Jan 9, 1890, taking the name Josephine as a symbol of her new life.

She entered the Institute of Canossian Daughters of Charity in Venice, Italy, in 1893, taking her vows on Dec 8, 1896 in Verona, and served as a Canossian Sister for the next 50 years. Her gentle presence, her warm, amiable voice and her willingness to help with any menial task were a comfort to the poor and suffering people who came to the door of the Institute. After a biography of her was published in 1930, she became a noted and sought-after speaker, raising funds to support missions.

She was canonized on Oct 1, 2000 by Pope John Paul II, and is thought to be the only saint originally from Sudan.

– Patron Saint Index


1 Kings 11:4-13

When Solomon grew old his wives swayed his heart to other gods; and his heart was not wholly with the Lord his God as his father David’s had been. Solomon became a follower of Astarte, the goddess of the Sidonians, and of Milcom, the Ammonite abomination. He did what was displeasing to the Lord, and was not a wholehearted follower of the Lord, as his father David had been. Then it was that Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the god of Moab on the mountain to the east of Jerusalem, and to Milcom the god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who offered incense and sacrifice to their gods.

The Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart had turned from the Lord the God of Israel who had twice appeared to him and who had then forbidden him to follow other gods; but he did not carry out the Lord’s order. The Lord therefore said to Solomon, ‘Since you behave like this and do not keep my covenant or the laws I laid down for you, I will most surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants. For your father David’s sake, however, I will not do this during your lifetime, but will tear it out of your son’s hands. Even so, I will not tear the whole kingdom from him. For the sake of my servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen, I will leave your son one tribe.’


Mark 7:24-30

Jesus left Gennesaret and set out for the territory of Tyre. There he went into a house and did not want anyone to know he was there, but he could not pass unrecognised. A woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him straightaway and came and fell at his feet. Now the woman was a pagan, by birth a Syrophoenician, and she begged him to cast the devil out of her daughter. And he said to her, ‘The children should be fed first, because it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.’ But she spoke up: ‘Ah yes, sir,’ she replied ‘but the house-dogs under the table can eat the children’s scraps.’ And he said to her, ‘For saying this, you may go home happy: the devil has gone out of your daughter.’ So she went off to her home and found the child lying on the bed and the devil gone.


…it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs…

I came across a Jewish prayer on being grateful to God that they are not Gentiles, not women, nor slaves. During the time of Jesus, there was no equality among genders. Women were considered as inferior and lower than men. Also, the Jews referred to Gentiles as ‘dogs’ because they considered them unclean and could not understand.

In today’s gospel, Jesus went to Gentile territory. He wanted to be anonymous, but there was a woman who found out about him. This woman was born a pagan and she had a young daughter with an unclean spirit. She went to Jesus and fell down at his feet. She begged Jesus to remove the devil from her daughter. Jesus tested this woman. Jesus said, “The children should be fed first, because it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.” The woman understood that Jesus was actually asking her why He should help her; especially so since she was a Gentile and Jesus should only be associating with the Jews.

The answer that the woman gave is really humbling. “But the house-dogs under the table can eat the children’s scraps.” She humbly and openly accepts anything. Even it is only left over as long as it is from Jesus.

The gospel teaches us that our faith is not only for a certain group of people. It is for everyone. Anyone can receive salvation as long as he or she believes in our one and only God. There are times that we think God never hears our prayers; and then later on, our faith deteriorates when we face hardships. We also sometimes forget about God when we receive successes. We think that it is from our own strength and capability that we were able to overcome whatever hindrances that we face. We must always be humble and remember that we are where we are because of the grace of God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Please grant us the grace of humility to accept who we are and to not think that we are better than others. Help us to realize that we cannot do anything alone. Help us remember that it is only through Jesus Christ that we can live our life. That we may be like the Gentile woman who has strong faith especially during trials.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for our faith, Father God. Thank you for being born as we are. Thank you for your continuous mercy Lord, God.

7 February, Wednesday – Inside Out

7 February 


1 Kings 10:1-10

The fame of Solomon having reached the queen of Sheba… she came to test him with difficult questions. She brought immense riches to Jerusalem with her, camels laden with spices, great quantities of gold, and precious stones. On coming to Solomon, she opened her mind freely to him; and Solomon had an answer for all her questions, not one of them was too obscure for the king to expound. When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon, the palace he had built, the food at his table, the accommodation for his officials, the organisation of his staff and the way they were dressed, his cup-bearers, and the holocausts he offered in the Temple of the Lord, it left her breathless, and she said to the king, ‘What I heard in my own country about you and your wisdom was true, then! Until I came and saw it with my own eyes I could not believe what they told me, but clearly they told me less than half: for wisdom and prosperity you surpass the report I heard. How happy your wives are! How happy are these servants of yours who wait on you always and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God who has granted you his favour, setting you on the throne of Israel! Because of the Lord’s everlasting love for Israel, he has made you king to deal out law and justice.’ And she presented the king with a hundred and twenty talents of gold and great quantities of spices and precious stones; no such wealth of spices ever came again as those given to King Solomon by the queen of Sheba.


Mark 7:14-23

Jesus called the people to him and said, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to this.’

When he had gone back into the house, away from the crowd, his disciples questioned him about the parable. He said to them, ‘Do you not understand either? Can you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot make him unclean, because it does not go into his heart but through his stomach and passes out into the sewer?’ (Thus he pronounced all foods clean.) And he went on, ‘It is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.’


…it is what comes out of man that makes him unclean…

I always have this habit of observing people from time to time. In my mind, I judge them based on their actions and my experiences with them. I describe their attitudes as how they show them to people. If I observe that they do good things, I would judge them as having a kind heart. If they do otherwise, I would judge them as having a wicked heart.

The gospel today can confirm the statement, “It is what we do that defines who we are.” As we have learned from yesterday’s gospel, the Pharisees and the Jews focus more on traditions and practices. One example is that they need to clean first before eating; thereby, judging Jesus’ disciples for eating with unclean hands.

The gospel today signifies that eating with unclean hands does not make a person a sinner. As Jesus says, “Nothing that goes from the outside can make him unclean.” Though in our present days, there are people who really are very meticulous when it comes to washing hands thoroughly before eating. But food does not influence the state of our heart. What is in our hearts shows our spiritual life. Our heart, our conscience is the start of all our actions. Jesus stated that, “it is from within that evil intentions emerged.”

We are humans and we make mistakes. We make decisions that are sometimes morally inappropriate. Those decisions go with our gift of free will. When we exercise our free will, let us examine our conscience. Is it the right thing to do? Or is it the wrong thing to do? Our decisions should not solely be based on us alone. We need to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit for us to make a better decision. We live a very busy life, but I believe somewhere in between, we can make time to speak to God. Have time to pray and examine how we are living our life. What are our priorities? Do we focus more on looking good than doing good?

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please guide us so that our words and actions will only be in accordance to your will. Please help us to let Jesus live in our hearts forever.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father God, for this gift of life. Thank You for our families and friends who help us to be closer to You.

29 July, Saturday – Worry Some

Jul 29 – Memorial for St. Martha

Jesus liked to stay at the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, his friends at Bethany, when he was in Judaea. One of these visits has ever remained dear to Christian memory. On that occasion, Martha, busily serving the Master, asked Him to persuade Mary to help her. Jesus explained to her that certain souls, called by God, should choose a better part still — the primary duty of listening to Him and contemplating Him.

After His Ascension, she was seized by the Jews, together with many other Christians. They were put on board a ship without sails or oars, and left helpless on the open sea. But God guided the ship, and they all arrived safely at Marseilles. Martha, after having won the love and admiration of the people of Marseilles by the sanctity of her life and her wonderful charity, withdrew with several virtuous women to a spot remote from men, where she lived for a long time, greatly renowned for her piety and prudence.



Exodus 24:3-8

Moses went and told the people all the commands of the Lord and all the ordinances. In answer, all the people said with one voice, ‘We will observe all the commands that the Lord has decreed.’ Moses put all the commands of the Lord into writing, and early next morning he built an altar at the foot of the mountain, with twelve standing-stones for the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he directed certain young Israelites to offer holocausts and to immolate bullocks to the Lord as communion sacrifices. Half of the blood Moses took up and put into basins, the other half he cast on the altar. And taking the Book of the Covenant he read it to the listening people, and they said, ‘We will observe all that the Lord has decreed; we will obey.’ Then Moses took the blood and cast it towards the people. This’ he said ‘is the blood of the Covenant that the Lord has made with you, containing all these rules.’


Luke 10:38-42

Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered: ‘Martha, Martha,’ he said ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’


You worry and fret about so many things

As individuals, we think a lot. A father can be preoccupied about how to provide for the family. A mother may have a very long ‘to do’ list for the house — assist husband, take care of the children, take care of the house, feed the pets, go to the store — the list never ends. A student can be very busy and stressed about schoolwork. A worker can be very busy thinking about his/her job, the deadline, the boss, colleagues, and many more.

It is who we are; we are thinking creatures. We think ahead about what we will do next even though we are still yet to complete our current task. It is as if we want to exhaust ourselves and use up all the energy we have. And there are some who will not stop working unless they are totally drained and pass out.

I am somewhat guilty of that. I continue to be a workaholic even I feel really sick. I abuse my body for the sake of accomplishing my work. Most of the time, we want to imitate Martha. We want to do everything and we criticize those who are not as engaged as us. We just have to be moving all the time so that we can accomplish everything.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus visits the home of Mary and Martha. And Mary was the one who accommodated and entertained Jesus. As I reflect on it more, if I were to visit someone, it is because I want to be with them, talk to them, and have a fruitful conversation. If we have something to eat, then it is just an accessory. Mary was the one who addressed the more important thing by greeting Jesus. It showed that for Mary, there was no greater thing than to be with Jesus.

The Gospel is telling us that in life, it is proper to work hard so as not to be hungry. But working hard 100% of the time is not healthy. We should set aside time to relax and replenish our energy. Faith and hard work come hand in hand. Our God is a merciful God and He has given us this gift of life. Let us learn to work hard and pray harder.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, please grant us the ability to choose You above all. May we live our lives in accordance with your will. May we work hard like Martha and have a strong faith like Mary.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord, for your grace of mercy. We thank you Father God, for our source of income and for this faith.

28 July, Friday – The Soil

28 Jul


Exodus 20:1-17

God spoke all these words. He said, ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

‘You shall have no gods except me.

‘You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God and I punish the father’s fault in the sons, the grandsons, and the great-grandsons of those who hate me; but I show kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

‘You shall not utter the name of the Lord your God to misuse it, for the Lord will not leave unpunished the man who utters his name to misuse it.

‘Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath for the Lord your God. You shall do no work that day, neither you nor your son nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, nor your animals nor the stranger who lives with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that these hold, but on the seventh day he rested; that is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it sacred.

‘Honour your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God has given to you.

‘You shall not kill.

‘You shall not commit adultery.

‘You shall not steal.

‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his servant, man or woman, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is his.’


Matthew 13:18-23

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You are to hear the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom without understanding, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart: this is the man who received the seed on the edge of the path. The one who received it on patches of rock is the man who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy. But he has no root in him, he does not last; let some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls away at once. The one who received the seed in thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the word and so he produces nothing. And the one who received the seed in rich soil is the man who hears the word and understands it; he is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.’


And the one who received the seed in rich soil is the man who hears the word and understands it

Gardening is one of my favourite hobbies. I like to plant anything and usually embark on a trial-and-error process to see which plants I can grow in my home. Some are able to grow successfully, while some did not make it along the way. And others made no progress at all.

Today’s Gospel is about the parable of sower. The word of the kingdom is compared to the seed when planted in different kinds of soil. The soil is us. If we are like the edge of a path, we only hear the Word but we cannot understand it. Thus, we are more susceptible to the forces of evil. If we are like patches of rock, we enjoy hearing the Word. But that joy is only shortlived and will not last long; and we succumb easily to any hardship that we eventually encounter. If we are like the thorns, we hear the Word but we have so much earthly baggage that hinders our faith to grow. However, if we are like the rich soil, that is when we understand what we hear and we live our faith and continuously develop it.

The Gospel is telling us that everyone has the opportunity to hear the Word of God. However, living what we hear depends on how rooted our faith is. Sometimes, we may seem to understand what we hear. But there will also be times that we cannot comprehend anything, no matter how easy it may appear. Living our faith is not easy. There have been moments in my life when I thought I had strong faith, and yet I felt that I was encountering more opportunities to sin. For example, when I have the urge to pray and to live out my faith, strong challenges inevitably come my way. The desire to be closer to God gives me this feeling that I am moving away from Him.

To be like rich soil requires hard work and a strong prayer life. It is very challenging and tempting to give in. But our unceasing prayers keep us strong in our faith; and our strong faith is an important tool to cultivate ourselves into becoming rich soil.

How do we live our faith? Are we like the edge of the path? Are we like patches of rock? Are we like thorns? Or do we strive to be like rich soil?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer – Dearest Lord, we are terribly sorry for all the wrongs that we have done. We pray that we are like rich soil, who hears your word, understands it, and lives it.

Thanksgiving – We thank you Father for loving us. We thank you for always giving us the chance to become better Christians.

27 July, Thursday – Tools in Life

27 Jul


Exodus 19:1-2, 9-11, 16-20

Three months after they came out of the land of Egypt, on that day the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sinai. From Rephidim they set out again; and when they reached the wilderness of Sinai, there in the wilderness they pitched their camp; there facing the mountain Israel pitched camp.

The Lord said to Moses, ‘I am coming to you in a dense cloud so that the people may hear when I speak to you and may trust you always.’ And Moses took the people’s reply back to the Lord.

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and tell them to prepare themselves today and tomorrow. Let them wash their clothing and hold themselves in readiness for the third day, because on the third day the Lord will descend on the mountain of Sinai in the sight of all the people.’

Now at daybreak on the third day there were peals of thunder on the mountain and lightning flashes, a dense cloud, and a loud trumpet blast, and inside the camp all the people trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet God; and they stood at the bottom of the mountain. The mountain of Sinai was entirely wrapped in smoke, because the Lord had descended on it in the form of fire. Like smoke from a furnace the smoke went up, and the whole mountain shook violently. Louder and louder grew the sound of the trumpet. Moses spoke, and God answered him with peals of thunder. The Lord came down on the mountain of Sinai, on the mountain top, and the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain; and Moses went up.


Matthew 13:10-17

The disciples went up to Jesus and asked, ‘Why do you talk to them in parables?’ ‘Because’ he replied, ‘the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them. For anyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. So in their case this prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled:

You will listen and listen again, but not understand, see and see again, but not perceive. For the heart of this nation has grown coarse, their ears are dull of hearing, and they have shut their eyes, for fear they should see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and be converted and be healed by me.

‘But happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear! I tell you solemnly, many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’


The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you…

During my Literature class, we defined parables as stories that have moral lessons. Many of these are taken from the Bible. The characters in the story assist in depicting its moral content.

In today’s Gospel, the disciples asked Jesus why He talked in parables. Jesus explained that there are people who cannot understand even if they listen repeatedly. There are people who cannot perceive even though they see the things repeatedly. It is through the parables that these people were able to understand and perceive. Because of this, the disciples should be glad that they were able to understand even without using parables.

Humans are naturally not contented with what they have. We look for something we do not have without savouring what is before us. We sometimes neglect to see things that are more important. We always ask for more without realizing that what we have is already enough. And this desire for more makes us deaf to what we should hear, blind to what we should see, and numb to what we should feel.

Earthly treasures are our tools for us to live comfortably. However, those are just tools and must not be the main priority in our life. When we earn more, do we share more? Or do we keep more of it and share less? Having many resources does not mean that we have to give everything out. Let’s take a look at ourselves — are we more generous when we have more? Or is it the other way round? This simple use of our wealth contributes to our way of seeing, hearing, and feeling things. Does it make us more empathic to other people’s needs? Or does it make us care less for others?

The Gospel teaches us that if our riches are put into good use, then our blessings will be more. But if these riches stagnate, then they will be taken from us. Having material possessions is not necessarily bad. But if these things make us move away from Christ’s teachings, then these treasures a become hindrance for us to see, hear, and feel God in our lives.

If we truly heard, understood, and felt the word of God, these riches would be very useful as we strive towards the kingdom of heaven.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer – Father God, please open our ears to hear your words. May You open our eyes to see what You want us to see. And may we also desire the things that you desire for us.

Thanksgiving – We thank you Lord, for all the graces that we receive. Thank you for giving us more than enough to live this life. Thank you for our community who helps us to grow in our faith.

24 July, Monday – The Sign

24 Jul – Memorial for St. Charbel Makhluf, Priest

St. Charbel was a Lebanese monk, born in a small mountain village and ordained in 1858. Devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, he spent the last twenty three years of his life as a hermit. Despite temptations to wealth and comfort, St. Charbel taught the value of poverty, self-sacrifice and prayer by the way he lived his life.



Exodus 14:5-18

When Pharaoh, king of Egypt, was told that the Israelites had made their escape, he and his courtiers changed their minds about the people. ‘What have we done,’ they said ‘allowing Israel to leave our service?’ So Pharaoh had his chariot harnessed and gathered his troops about him, taking six hundred of the best chariots and all the other chariots in Egypt, each manned by a picked team. The Lord made Pharaoh, king of Egypt, stubborn, and he gave chase to the sons of Israel as they made their triumphant escape. So the Egyptians gave chase and came up with them where they lay encamped beside the sea – all the horses, the chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen, his army – near Pi-hahiroth, facing Baal-zephon. And as Pharaoh approached, the sons of Israel looked round – and there were the Egyptians in pursuit of them!

The sons of Israel were terrified and cried out to the Lord. To Moses they said, ‘Were there no graves in Egypt that you must lead us out to die in the wilderness? What good have you done us, bringing us out of Egypt? We spoke of this in Egypt, did we not? Leave us alone, we said, we would rather work for the Egyptians! Better to work for the Egyptians than die in the wilderness!’

Moses answered the people, ‘Have no fear! Stand firm, and you will see what the Lord will do to save you today: the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The Lord will do the fighting for you: you have only to keep still.’

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me so? Tell the sons of Israel to march on. For yourself, raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and part it for the sons of Israel to walk through the sea on dry ground. I for my part will make the heart of the Egyptians so stubborn that they will follow them. So shall I win myself glory at the expense of Pharaoh, of all his army, his chariots, his horsemen. And when I have won glory for myself, at the expense of Pharaoh and his chariots and his army, the Egyptians will learn that I am the Lord.’


Matthew 12:38-42

Some of the scribes and Pharisees spoke up. ‘Master,’ they said ‘we should like to see a sign from you.’ He replied, ‘It is an evil and unfaithful generation that asks for a sign! The only sign it will be given is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the sea-monster for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.’


We would like to see a sign

We use signs and symbols everyday. In traffic, we stop when it is red. We move on when it is green. We follow the signs or else there will be traffic accidents. We also sometimes rely our luck based on various signs. I remember back when I was in grade school, I enjoyed reading about my future, about my lucky number, and lucky colour for the day. And I saw to it that I had with me any accessory that had that particular ‘lucky’ colour.

It says in our Gospel today that Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees that those who ask for a sign are evil and unfaithful. He said that the only sign will be from the prophet Jonah. Wherein, Jonah was inside the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, the same with the Son of Man, in the heart of the earth, for three days and three nights.

There are times as we pray, we like to ask God for signs to find out if our prayers have been answered. It seems as if we want some security to know if God really hears us. God is God. Yet, we act like we are mightier than Him. We demand too much; but we are only His children, His followers. We want to have tangible things to hold on to believe in God.

We sometimes get mad at God when we perceive that He does not answer. There must be an answer, but we just do not have the heart to discern it. Or maybe our prayers have been only a one-way communication. It should not be the case. Prayer is our communication with God. It should be two-way. Yes, we want a lot from God. However, we should also have time to pray and listen to what God is telling us. We are so pre-occupied and in a hurry to lift up all our material wants that we neglect to pray and discern God’s plan for us.

A sign is indeed important. But our faith should not be based on what we can sense. It is the state of our heart where we believe that God is with us and answers our prayers, even when we cannot perceive that He does.

Let us keep our faith strong. God does answer our prayers. I believe that God gives us signs and symbols. Sometimes, these are different from what we expect; or there are times when the signs are already evident, it is just we still do not have the grace to realise it.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer – Father God, grant that we may always have unwavering faith in You. May we always believe even in times when we feel like giving up.

Thanksgiving – We thank you Lord, for the gift of faith. We thank you for your mercy and continued blessings despite of our unworthiness.

5 November, Saturday – Trust – Big Word

5 November


Philippians 4:10-19

It is a great joy to me, in the Lord, that at last you have shown some concern for me again; though of course you were concerned before, and only lacked an opportunity. I am not talking about shortage of money: I have learnt to manage on whatever I have, I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty. There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength. All the same, it was good of you to share with me in my hardships. In the early days of the Good News, as you people of Philippi well know, when I left Macedonia, no other church helped me with gifts of money. You were the only ones; and twice since my stay in Thessalonika you have sent me what I needed. It is not your gift that I value; what is valuable to me is the interest that is mounting up in your account. Now for the time being I have everything that I need and more: I am fully provided now that I have received from Epaphroditus the offering that you sent, a sweet fragrance – the sacrifice that God accepts and finds pleasing. In return my God will fulfil all your needs, in Christ Jesus, as lavishly as only God can.


Luke 16:9-15

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?

‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and laughed at him. He said to them, ‘You are the very ones who pass yourselves off as virtuous in people’s sight, but God knows your hearts. For what is thought highly of by men is loathsome in the sight of God.’


‘And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?’

I used to report to multiple bosses whose instructions were sometimes conflicting with one another.  It was really complicated and confusing because we could move forward unless they were all in agreement. One boss wants to change this part.  Another boss wants to alter another part.  Then there is another, who wants change to the same part with a different content.  Well, it was an adventure.

I definitely agree with “No servant can be the slave of two masters.”  Well, in my case, I experienced more than two masters.  Similar with our spiritual life, we can only serve our one and only God.

“You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.” This line reminds us that our love for God and money should not be the same.  We know in our hearts that we must always put God first.  However, we tend to do otherwise sometimes because of our job demands.  There can be instances that we neglect our Sabbath because we have other things to do like work and stuff.  But it does not mean that we should be lazy.  The analogy is that we work in order to earn more so we can serve the Lord more.  Our material wealth will just be supplementary to our spiritual life.

When we give more priority to money, it is a way of isolating ourselves from God.  It makes us more vulnerable to sin and thus wanting more material things.  This expanded desire for earthly things pushes us to be greedy and causes us to do anything for the sake of money. Who does not want money? I agree that it is a necessity to live. But physical need is not the only thing that we need to fill. We also have this spiritual need. And we must fill this need even more.

“If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches?”  Money, in itself, is not bad. But things we do for the sake of money like stealing, cheating, corruption, etc…, is not good.  With money, we can have companions and not friends. True friends stay even though we have nothing anymore. Those true friends trust us and we trust them.

We must prepare our life to receive those genuine riches. It is our eternal life. Our eternal gift from God.  Little by little we can do simple things. Simple things like refraining from telling small lies. Those small lies are dangerous because there may come a time that we will think that it is the truth. Let us be sincere with what we can do and not promise anything unrealistic.

We can never know other people’s story.  Hard as it is, let us pray to God to trust and be trusted.  A simple step of honesty goes a long way.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)


Prayer: Almighty ever-living God, please help us be honest with ourselves, with others, and with You. Teach our hearts to be always sincere and faithful.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for Your love and mercy. That as sinful as we are, you still love and forgive us.

4 November, Friday – Finding Art in Anything

4 November – Memorial for St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop

Charles (1538-1584) was born to a wealthy, noble family, the third of six children, and the son of Count Giberto II Borromeo and Marghertita de’ Medici. He was the nephew of Pope Pius IV. He suffered from a speech impediment, but studied in Milan and at the University of Pavia, at one point studying under the future Pope Gregory XIII.

He became a civil and canon lawyer at the age of 21, and a cleric at Milan, taking the habit on Oct 13, 1547. He became Abbot of three different abbeys until Jan 13, 1560. He was protonotary apostolic participantium and referendary of the papal court to Pope Pius IV. He was also a member of the counsulta for the administration of the Papal States on Jan 20, 1560. He was appointed abbot commendatario for an abbey in Portugal, and an abbey in Flanders on Jan 27, 1560.

On Jan 31, 1560, he was apostolic administrator of Milan, Italy. On Feb 8, 1560, then a papal legate to Bologna and Romandiola for two years beginning on Apr 26, 1560. He was made a deacon on Dec 21, 1560, and appointed Vatican Secretary of State. He was made an honorary citizen of Rome on Jul 1, 1561, and founded the “Accademia Vaticana” in 1562.

He was finally ordained on Sep 4, 1563, helped reopen the Council of Trent, and participated in its sessions during 1562 and 1563. He was ordained Bishop of Milan on Dec 7, 1563 and was President of the commission of theologians charged by the pope to elaborate the Catechismus Romanus. He also worked on the revision of the Missal and Breviary, and was a member of a commission to reform church music.

He participated in the conclave of cardinals in 1565-66 that chose Pope Pius V, and he asked the new pope to take the name. Due to his enforcement of strict ecclesiastical discipline, some disgruntled monks in the order of the Humiliati hired a lay brother to murder him on the evening of Oct 26, 1569. He was shot at, but not hit.

He also participated in the conclave in 1572 that chose Pope Gregory XIII. He worked with the sick, and helped bury the dead during the plague outbreak in Milan in 1576. He established the Oblates of St. Ambrose on Apr 26, 1578, and was a teacher, confessor, and parish priest to St. Aloysius Gonzaga, giving him his first communion on Jul 22, 1580.

Charles spent his life and fortune in the service of the people of his diocese. He directed and fervently enforced the decrees of the Council of Trent, fought tirelessly for peace in the wake of the storm caused by Martin Luther, founded schools for the poor, seminaries for clerics, hospitals for the sick, conducted synods, instituted children’s Sunday school, did great public and private penance, and worked among the sick and dying, leading his people by example.

He is patron saint for bishops; catechists; catechumens; seminarians; spiritual directors; and spiritual leaders.

Prayer to St. Charles Borromeo

O Saintly reformer, animator of spiritual renewal of priests and religious, you organized true seminaries and wrote a standard catechism. Inspire all religious teachers and authors of catechetical books. Move them to love and transmit only that which can form true followers of the Teacher who was divine. Amen.

– Patron Saints Index


Philippians 3:17-4:1

My brothers, be united in following my rule of life. Take as your models everybody who is already doing this and study them as you used to study us. I have told you often, and I repeat it today with tears, there are many who are behaving as the enemies of the cross of Christ. They are destined to be lost. They make foods into their god and they are proudest of something they ought to think shameful; the things they think important are earthly things. For us, our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body. He will do that by the same power with which he can subdue the whole universe.

So then, my brothers and dear friends, do not give way but remain faithful in the Lord. I miss you very much, dear friends; you are my joy and my crown.


Luke 16:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘There was a rich man and he had a steward denounced to him for being wasteful with his property. He called for the man and said, “What is this I hear about you? Draw me up an account of your stewardship because you are not to be my steward any longer.” Then the steward said to himself, “Now that my master is taking the stewardship from me, what am I to do? Dig? I am not strong enough. Go begging? I should be too ashamed. Ah, I know what I will do to make sure that when I am dismissed from office there will be some to welcome me into their homes.”

Then he called his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?” “One hundred measures of oil” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond; sit down straight away and write fifty.” To another he said, “And you, sir, how much do you owe?” “One hundred measures of wheat” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond and write eighty.”

‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness. For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.’


‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness.’

When I was younger, I learned that it is not good to lie or to cheat. Though I know it is wrong, there are instances where I have cheated to get the job done. I could argue that it was a ‘white lie.’ Still, it is a lie.

Our Gospel today teaches us to apply ingenuity in life. It talks about a master who found out that his servant was wasteful of his property. He called that servant and asked for the account of his management because he was going to be dismissed. That servant had been thinking hard about what he would do next.  He was not strong enough to dig and too ashamed to go begging. Then he thought of something so that people will welcome him in their homes. When he collected the notes from the people who owed his master, he reduced the amount unknown to his master.  It may be right to say that he just slashed off his commission. The indicated amount was the actual sum owed by the debtors. By his actions, the servant and the debtors would have a good relationship.

The master applauded his servant. This is not to condone the dishonesty of the steward. Rather, his being resourceful. He was able to think of what to do to save him.

The Gospel reminds us that our resourcefulness quickly surfaces in times of need. Being creative and resourceful is truly a great quality. They are tools that can lift us in any situation. But it is suggested that the use of our resourcefulness and creativity is not for our own good only. We should extend our capabilities to others who need our help.

Another thing to remember is our responsibilities. As a servant, there is a master. We must remember our status and be obedient to our master. We must always instil in our hearts the faithfulness and trustworthiness, not just as a follower but as a person.  We may face a lot of trials tempting us to shatter our values. But when we completely surrender ourselves to God, we can continue to be faithful and trustworthy servants of the Lord.

Coincidentally, today is the memorial for St. Charles Borromeo. He is an example of a creative person.  His artistic sense contributed to the reformation of the Catholic Church. He initiated the steps for people to have a conversion to a better life. He set an example by living a life with humility and charity. He did a wonderful job as a pastor while entrusting everything to God.

Let us be like St. Charles Borromeo to live a life in conformity to the Divine will.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)


Prayer: Father God, I ask for the grace that my heart always seeks to do Your will. Please guide us as when we encounter our struggles and choices in life.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father for the gift of wisdom and for the gift of strength, which enables us to face our trials.