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2 November, Saturday – Remembering

2 November – All Souls Day

Today we celebrate a feast in commemoration of the faithful departed in purgatory, that is, the faithful departed who have not yet been purified and reached Heaven. After Abbot Odilo of Cluny instituted it in the monasteries of his congregation in 998, other religious orders took up the observance, and it was adopted by various dioceses and gradually by the whole Church. The Office of the Dead must be recited by the clergy on this day and Pope Benedict XV granted to all priests the privilege of saying three Masses of requiem: one for the souls in purgatory, one for the intention of the Holy Father, one for the priest’s.

– Patron Saint Index

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Wisdom 3:1-9

The souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God,
no torment shall ever touch them.
In the eyes of the unwise, they did appear to die,
their going looked like a disaster,
their leaving us, like annihilation;
but they are in peace.
If they experienced punishment as men see it,
their hope was rich with immortality;
slight was their affliction, great will their blessings be.
God has put them to the test
and proved them worthy to be with him;
he has tested them like gold in a furnace,
and accepted them as a holocaust.
When the time comes for his visitation they will shine out;
as sparks run through the stubble, so will they.
They shall judge nations, rule over peoples,
and the Lord will be their king for ever.
They who trust in him will understand the truth,
those who are faithful will live with him in love;
for grace and mercy await those he has chosen.

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Romans 5:5-11

Hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us. We were still helpless when at his appointed moment Christ died for sinful men. It is not easy to die even for a good man – though of course for someone really worthy, a man might be prepared to die – but what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Having died to make us righteous, is it likely that he would now fail to save us from God’s anger? When we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, we were still enemies; now that we have been reconciled, surely we may count on being saved by the life of his Son? Not merely because we have been reconciled but because we are filled with joyful trust in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have already gained our reconciliation.

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Luke 7:11-17

Jesus went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people. When he was near the gate of the town it happened that a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her. When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her. ‘Do not cry’ he said. Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you to get up.’ And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Everyone was filled with awe and praised God saying, ‘A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.’ And this opinion of him spread throughout Judaea and all over the countryside.

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A dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow

During this time, cemeteries in our country are jam-packed. It is customary to visit the graves of our departed love ones during this time. We were not used to do that. The graves of our relatives are either abroad or islands away. It is only this year that we get to go to the cemetery in a frequent basis. My dad passed away early this year. We are already starting to move on but there were still times that I forget that he was already gone.

I remember him as always fond of giving “funny” remarks which we find not funny at all. Often times he would find humour to everything. We will just laugh not at his jokes but on how he delivers his jokes. Whenever he realizes that we cannot understand his jokes, he would say that those are just for smart people.

Our departed loved ones may not be here physically anymore.  But they will always remain in our hearts.

Death is not farewell, but a beginning of eternity. Quoting First Thessalonians Chapter 4 verse 14, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”

Today, All Souls’ Day, we honour all our departed friends and relatives. We pray that they all rest in peace in the arms of our God the Father.

 (Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Dear God, we pray for all the souls that have gone ahead of us. Amen.

Thanksgiving:  Father God, thank you for the gift of life and the promise of eternal life. Amen.

1 November, Friday – Hurt but Happy

Nov 1 – Solemnity of All Saints

All Saints’ Day is celebrated in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. In terms of Roman Catholic theology, the feast commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in heaven. The beatific vision is the eternal and direct perception of God enjoyed by those who are in Heaven, imparting supreme happiness and blessedness. St. Thomas Aquinas defined the beatific vision as the ultimate end of human existence after physical death.

The origin of this feast as celebrated in the West dates to 13 May 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs; the feast of the dedication Sanctae mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. The chosen day, May 13, was a pagan observation of great antiquity, the culmination of three days of the Feast of the Lemures, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated.

The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III (731-741) of an oratory in St. Peter’s for the relics “of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world”, with the day moved to Nov 1.

 

  • – Wikipedia

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Apocalypse 7:2-4,9-14

I, John, saw another angel rising where the sun rises, carrying the seal of the living God; he called in a powerful voice to the four angels whose duty was to devastate land and sea, ‘Wait before you do any damage on land or at sea or to the trees, until we have put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.’ Then I heard how many were sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel.

After that I saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. They shouted aloud, ‘Victory to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels who were standing in a circle round the throne, surrounding the elders and the four animals, prostrated themselves before the throne, and touched the ground with their foreheads, worshipping God with these words, ‘Amen. Praise and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength to our God for ever and ever. Amen.’

One of the elders then spoke, and asked me, ‘Do you know who these people are, dressed in white robes, and where they have come from?’ I answered him, ‘You can tell me, my lord.’ Then he said, ‘These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.’

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1 John 3:1-3

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are. Because the world refused to acknowledge him, therefore it does not acknowledge us.

My dear people, we are already the children of God but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is. Surely everyone who entertains this hope must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.

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Matthew 5:1-12

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:

‘How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Happy the gentle: they shall have the earth for their heritage.

Happy those who mourn: they shall be comforted.

Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied.

Happy the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them.

Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God.

Happy the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God.

Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’

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Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you

I used to be active in class participation during grade school. However, there was one instance after a classmate answered a question, the teacher gave a long comment before saying “very good.” Since I was so eager to recite, I thought I heard her calling my name. “Very” which sounded like “Beryl”. I thought she called me. I heard wrong and the whole class laughed. I went along with them but deep inside I felt very humiliated. From then on, I no longer volunteered to answer questions. I just waited until the teacher called me. And before I answered I  would briefly pause just to make sure I was called.  There had been moments that I lost confidence answering questions and just totally went blank when being called.

Until this day, I still have that habit to not easily volunteer myself. Even when asked to volunteer in our community, I don’t easily give my “yes”.  I always tell them that I still need to think it over.  Though I do give my yes, there is always that hesitation.  There were doubts like, “What if it was not me that they need?”  Things like that.  And I am still in the process of overcoming that behaviour. If you have the same experience, I pray that it does not hinder you to adhere to the call of God. It is easier said than done. And it is much easier to give recommendation to others than to do it myself.

 (Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, we pray that we may overcome the things that hinder us to be a good follower of Christ. We also ask for the intercession of all the Saints that we can follow the path of Sainthood.  Amen.

Thanksgiving:  Heavenly God, thank you for the experiences to make us better persons and to equip us in serving You better. Amen.

31 October, Thursday – Pray and Bless

31 Oct 2019

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Romans 8:31-39

With God on our side who can be against us? Since God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, that he will not refuse anything he can give. Could anyone accuse those that God has chosen? When God acquits, could anyone condemn? Could Christ Jesus? No! He not only died for us – he rose from the dead, and there at God’s right hand he stands and pleads for us.

Nothing therefore can come between us and the love of Christ, even if we are troubled or worried, or being persecuted, or lacking food or clothes, or being threatened or even attacked. As scripture promised: For your sake we are being massacred daily, and reckoned as sheep for the slaughter. These are the trials through which we triumph, by the power of him who loved us.

For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Luke 13:31-35

Some Pharisees came up to Jesus. ‘Go away’ they said. ‘Leave this place, because Herod means to kill you.’ He replied, ‘You may go and give that fox this message: Learn that today and tomorrow I cast out devils and on the third day attain my end. But for today and tomorrow and the next day I must go on, since it would not be right for a prophet to die outside Jerusalem.

‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you refused! So be it! Your house will be left to you. Yes, I promise you, you shall not see me till the time comes when you say:

‘Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!’

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Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!

Growing up, I always heard the phrase “God bless you”.  We say it to someone who just sneezed, to someone who is going to work or somewhere, or to someone who will take an examination.  We say our blessings to each other before and after any activity.  Do we say it because it has been our practice ever since? Or do we really mean to say those blessings to others?

When we say “God bless you” or “God bless”, we are already saying a prayer.  Many would say that they don’t know how to pray.  They don’t realize that they are already actually praying.  We have this connotation that praying is only when we ask God for something.  We sometimes forget that whispering, “Praise the Lord” is already a prayer.  When we say “Thanks be to God”, it is already a prayer.  A prayer should not be a complicated thing.  For starters, let us remember ACTS.  I learned this first from my Mom.  A is for Adoration of our Lord.  It is when we say praise to Him.  C is for Contrition.  It is when we seek forgiveness for our sins.  T is for Thanksgiving.  It is when we show how grateful we are.  S is for Supplication.  It is one of my favourite parts because it is when I ask for all the things that I need.

ACTS is just a guide and we should not be anxious when we pray to God.  It is not a required procedure that we must follow, word for word.  Prayer is a communication with God.  We just talk to Him like how we normally talk to our friends.

Quoting our Psalm today: “Loud thanks to the Lord are on my lips. I will praise him in the midst of the throng…”

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, please grant us the Holy Spirit and teach us how to pray. Amen.

Thanksgiving:  Thank you Father God for giving us the capability to bless others through our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

20 September, Friday – Called to Serve

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

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

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

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

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1 Timothy 6:2-12

This is what you are to teach the brothers to believe and persuade them to do. Anyone who teaches anything different, and does not keep to the sound teaching which is that of our Lord Jesus Christ, the doctrine which is in accordance with true religion, is simply ignorant and must be full of self-conceit – with a craze for questioning everything and arguing about words. All that can come of this is jealousy, contention, abuse and wicked mistrust of one another; and unending disputes by people who are neither rational nor informed and imagine that religion is a way of making a profit. Religion, of course, does bring large profits, but only to those who are content with what they have. We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it; but as long as we have food and clothing, let us be content with that. People who long to be rich are a prey to temptation; they get trapped into all sorts of foolish and dangerous ambitions which eventually plunge them into ruin and destruction. ‘The love of money is the root of all evils’ and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith, and so given their souls any number of fatal wounds.

But, as a man dedicated to God, you must avoid all that. You must aim to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle. Fight the good fight of the faith and win for yourself the eternal life to which you were called when you made your profession and spoke up for the truth in front of many witnesses.

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Luke 8:1-3

Jesus made his way through towns and villages preaching, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God. With him went the Twelve, as well as certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments: Mary surnamed the Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and several others who provided for them out of their own resources.

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Preaching, and proclaiming the Good News

Priests and other religious people study several years prior to their profession of vows and ordination. And they continue to do further study thereafter, locally and overseas. It is really evident that they prepare themselves to serve the community. Indeed, they are called to walk the path to shepherd our community. They study and train so well for them to be effective preachers. But that mission is not exclusive to them. Not everyone can enter priesthood and religious life. As members of the lay Christian community, we can also be missionaries in spreading the scriptures. We may not be trained to speak behind the pulpit, but we can live the scriptures through our actions.

We must first have the love for others. I believe that when we hate others, there is still love.  Why? It is because we care to have that kind of emotion towards another person. We have invested feelings and it shows that that person is somehow significant in our life. However, being indifferent is not caring at all. And that action is the one with no love.

If we hear our co-workers gossiping about another co-worker, what do we do? Do we join the conversation, or do we just walk away? Of course, we know that we should refrain from joining the gossip. Do we just walk away? Some may argue that just walking away is the right thing to do because we will not do anything wrong. Yes, it is correct.  We will NOT do anything. And not doing anything is not the same as doing the right thing. It would really take courage to confront those people to stop gossiping about our fellow co-worker. Well, as missionaries of Christ, we must expect that our tasks will not be very easy. Following Jesus is our way of spreading the scriptures. But doing so requires a lot of sacrifices. However, I tell you, it is worth it. At first, you may not realize it. But eventually you will.

Remember this — being called a missionary is a great title. But that great title comes with great responsibility. Being a missionary is not something to show others how great you are. But rather, that you are doing great things for others and for God.

It doesn’t matter whether what you do is big or small. As long as there is love and it is for the greater glory of God, you are a missionary of Christ.

 (Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, please grant me the grace to understand and proclaim your word as I encounter it in the scriptures. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we are grateful for giving us the privilege of knowing You and spreading Your word. Amen.

19 September, Thursday – Tons of Love

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

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

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

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1 Timothy 4:12-16

Do not let people disregard you because you are young, but be an example to the believers in the way you speak and behave, and in your love, your faith and your purity. Make use of the time until I arrive by reading to the people, preaching and teaching. You have in you a spiritual gift which was given to you when the prophets spoke and the body of elders laid their hands on you; do not let it lie unused. Think hard about all this, and put it into practice, and everyone will be able to see how you are advancing. Take great care about what you do and what you teach; always do this, and in this way you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.

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Luke 7:36-50

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

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who this woman is that is touching him and what a bad name she has.’ Then Jesus took him up and said, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Speak, Master’ was the reply. ‘There was once a creditor who had two men in his debt; one owed him five hundred denarii, the other fifty. They were unable to pay, so he pardoned them both. Which of them will love him more?’ ‘The one who was pardoned more, I suppose’ answered Simon. Jesus said, ‘You are right.’
Then he turned to the woman. ‘Simon,’ he said ‘you see this woman? I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. For this reason I tell you that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love. It is the man who is forgiven little who shows little love.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Those who were with him at table began to say to themselves, ‘Who is this man, that he even forgives sins?’ But he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’

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It is the man who is forgiven little who shows little love

A friend of mine described love as “affection towards another person.” I agree that it is affection. But I believe that love is not solely for another human. It can be affection to our pets or other earthly things. As much as we want to live a holy life, there are, or will be times, that we have to suppress our feelings from loving material things.

I remember one time when a classmate of mine accidentally dropped my laptop. Thankfully, it still had it sleeve on but there was a minor dent at the side. I was really angry because during that time, laptops were not that affordable. I had to spend a lot of time justifying the purchase to my parents because a desktop was way cheaper than a laptop.

I was a sophomore at the time and I think it was until my senior year in college when I was able to let go of that incident. Time heals, but it is also by the grace of God that I was able to overcome my attachment to material things. Imagine having that ill emotion for almost 3 years.  Another factor that added to it was my dislike for that person. But that is another story. Nonetheless, I know it was wrong to harbour that kind of feelings. I was young, self-centred, and always wanted everything to go my way. But I was wrong.

I was really glad that I was able to realise that I was wrong. And that is the first step to forgiveness. The next step is seeking forgiveness for what we did. As merciful as our God can be, forgiveness is not automatic. It must be asked for. Our Lord is always there, waiting for us to ask for His forgiveness.

I encourage everyone to go to confession frequently (at least once a month). It can help us be nourished spiritually and be healed emotionally.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, please teach us to be humble and accept our wrongdoings and to ask for forgiveness. Please also teach us to forgive others as you forgive our sins. Amen.

Thanksgiving:  Heavenly Father, thank You for pardoning our sins though we are unworthy. Amen.

18 September, Wednesday – Modern Description

18 Sep 2019

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1 Timothy 3:14-16

At the moment of writing to you, I am hoping that I may be with you soon; but in case I should be delayed, I wanted you to know how people ought to behave in God’s family – that is, in the Church of the living God, which upholds the truth and keeps it safe. Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is very deep indeed:

He was made visible in the flesh,
attested by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed to the pagans,
believed in by the world,
taken up in glory.

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Luke 7:31-35

Jesus said to the people:

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

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

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

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What description can I find for the men of this generation?

During my freshman year in university, I remember that students talked only to fellow students they were familiar with; probably to those people whom they already knew or who attended high school together. For me, my friends in high school went to a different university. As a shy person, I needed to make an extra effort to get to know new people. Eventually, I got close to them and became comfortable talking to them.

Indeed we were ‘talking machines’ in between classes. However, we kept quiet and listened attentively during class. Well, that was how we were taught back in high school and grade school. Everyone in my class was like that. So, for me, I thought it was a normal occurence.

Fast forward several years later. Now, I am teaching college students. I received a rude shock because classes are very noisy, even though the instructor has already entered the classroom. I have to control my judgmental thoughts regarding that kind of behaviour from the students. Most students (not all) speak rudely, even to the long-tenured faculty. Is that the way they talk to their parents or other older people? And when they talk to each other, they sound like they are shouting. They talk as if they are talking to someone who is 30 meters away from them. I began to question their upbringing. I thought I would be having an experience similar to my college days. But I reminded myself that this school is different from the schools I have attended. I must understand that my current students have different circumstances from me. I have no idea what kind of life they have had. And I must understand that we come from different backgrounds. I cannot expect them to be like who I thought they would be.

Similarly, we judge our brothers and sisters in faith. We judge those who we see regularly at mass, as well as those frequent absentees. We see those who are active in charity and those who seem indifferent. But what we cannot see is the state of their hearts. We cannot see how they feel nor how much love they have for our God.

We easily judge others when we should check ourselves first. What are our intentions when we pray? Do we go to mass out of love for God? Do we help others out of mercy and compassion?

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, please guide our hearts that we may only see the good in others.  May we also share your mercy and compassion to them. Amen.

Thanksgiving:  Heavenly Father, thank You for everything that we have. Thank You for Your compassion and mercy. Thank you for giving us the wisdom to understand one another.  Amen.

5 Aug, Monday – A Journey in Silence

Aug 5 – Memorial for Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome

First raised at the order of Pope Liberius in the mid-fourth century, the Liberian Basilica was rebuilt by Pope Sixtus III shortly after the Council of Ephesus affirmed Mary’s title as Mother of God in 431. Rededicated at that time to the Mother of God, St. Mary Major is the largest church in the world honouring God through Mary.

St. Mary Major is one of the four Roman basilicas known as patriarchal cathedrals in memory of the first centres of the Church. This basilica represents the See of Antioch, where Mary is supposed to have spent most of her life.

– http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/SaintOfDay/default.asp?id=1098.

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Numbers 11:4-15

The sons of Israel began to wail, ‘Who will give us meat to eat?’ they said. ‘Think of the fish we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic! Here we are wasting away, stripped of everything; there is nothing but manna for us to look at!’

The manna was like coriander seed, and had the appearance of bdellium. The people went round gathering it, and ground it in a mill or crushed it with a pestle; it was then cooked in a pot and made into pancakes. It tasted like cake made with oil. When the dew fell on the camp at night-time, the manna fell with it.

Moses heard the people wailing, every family at the door of its tent. The anger of the Lord flared out, and Moses greatly worried over this. And he spoke to the Lord:

‘Why do you treat your servant so badly? Why have I not found favour with you, so that you load on me the weight of all this nation? Was it I who conceived all this people, was it I who gave them birth, that you should say to me, “Carry them in your bosom, like a nurse with a baby at the breast, to the land that I swore to give their fathers”? Where am I to find meat to give to all this people, when they come worrying me so tearfully and say, “Give us meat to eat”? I am not able to carry this nation by myself alone; the weight is too much for me. If this is how you want to deal with me, I would rather you killed me! If only I had found favour in your eyes, and not lived to see such misery as this!’

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Matthew 14:22-36

When Jesus received the news of John the Baptist’s death, he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, while the boat, by now far out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ It was Peter who answered. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.’ ‘Come’ said Jesus. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink. ‘Lord! Save me!’ he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’ And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’

Having made the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret. When the local people recognised him they spread the news through the whole neighbourhood and took all that were sick to him, begging him just to let them touch the fringe of his cloak. And all those who touched it were completely cured.

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He withdrew by boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves

It has been a while since my last silent retreat. Time and money wise, I can’t schedule a retreat for now. But it should not hinder my personal prayer time with the Lord. Honestly, I have not been faithful with my daily prayer time. Sometimes, I am engrossed with work and everything else that I forget my night prayer. Even with all the graces that I received from God, I still sometimes forget to pray.

In the midst of our busy life, I try to have a silent moment to pray. Silence is quite challenging, especially when all the multiple alarm clocks start to go off in the morning. When evening comes, I just want to go to bed immediately. When I do get the chance to have a silent moment, my mind is the one that is not silent.

I remember one time when I really wanted to have a deep conversation with the Lord, I woke up at dawn, wore my sweat pants and running shoes and headed over to our parish to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I was really glad that the gate to our Eucharistic Adoration Chapel was unlocked. I just sat there, in front of the Blessed Sacrament, in silence. I didn’t even remember what I prayed for that time. I just remembered the feeling while my eyes were closed. Deep down in our hearts, I know that God is always with us. But it is in that ‘prayer mode’ that I feel that I am enveloped by the Lord’s arms.

We have our own preference in praying. There are lots of things we need from God. And most of the time, we are the ones talking and talking in our prayers. Being silent is also a form of prayer. Not telling anything to God is also a prayer. It is in silence that we can feel God’s presence. Even before we speak, God knows what we need. He listens and knows our heart’s desires. It is also in the silence that we can hear what God is telling us.

However busy we are, we must always take time to talk to Christ. We must do it faithfully as we do with our food. We eat for our physical health. We pray for our spiritual health.

In the silence of our hearts, what are we praying for?

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, please grant me the grace to always remember that You are everywhere. May I always experience Your presence in whatever situation I am in.  Amen.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank You for giving us time and opportunity to pray.  Amen.

4 Aug, Sunday – Minimum is Maximum

4 August 2019

Christ Who is Everything And In Everything

Today our thoughts are on heavenly things, not on the things of earth where without Christ all is vanity and great injustice. 

– The Sunday Missal

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Ecclesiastes 1:2,2:21-23

Vanity of vanities, the Preacher says. Vanity of vanities. All is vanity!

For so it is that a man who has laboured wisely, skilfully and successfully must leave what is his own to someone who has not toiled for it at all. This, too, is vanity and great injustice; for what does he gain for all the toil and strain that he has undergone under the sun? What of all his laborious days, his cares of office, his restless nights? This, too, is vanity.

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Colossians 3:1-5,9-11

Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.

That is why you must kill everything in you that belongs only to earthly life: fornication, impurity, guilty passion, evil desires and especially greed, which is the same thing as worshipping a false god; and never tell each other lies. You have stripped off your old behaviour with your old self, and you have put on a new self which will progress towards true knowledge the more it is renewed in the image of its creator; and in that image there is no room for distinction between Greek and Jew, between the circumcised or the uncircumcised, or between barbarian and Scythian, slave and free man. There is only Christ: he is everything and he is in everything.

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Luke 12:13-21

A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.’ ‘My friend,’ he replied, ‘who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, “What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” But God said to him, “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?” So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.’

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So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.

How do you measure success? Each one of us has a different perspective of what success is. Some may say that if you own a house, a car, and travel most of the time, then you are successful. I don’t have my own house. I don’t drive my own car. And I don’t travel. Do I feel unsuccessful? I don’t. I can’t exactly describe how I am feeling, but I can say that I am happy and content. I am taking a new path in which I feel fulfilled. The salary is not that much, and it is not even enough to pay my bills. Why do I choose to continue this career? Because I feel that it is the right thing to do. My current compensation is one-third compared to my previous job. Thank God I am frugal and I was able to save some money from my previous work in order for me to pay my bills for the next few months. There is some fear in me because I don’t know how long my savings would last. But I know God will help me find ways because He knows that I am working hard.

Some may describe that what I do is charity. I do like the sound of it. I am currently a faculty in a community college. There are people asking, why not go to a university? Why…? I also ask myself the same thing. For me it doesn’t matter if I am in a community college or in a university. For practical reasons, I chose the community college since it is near my home. All college students have their common goal – to graduate and to earn their degree.

I left my corporate job because I felt that I could no longer do anything more for them. The toxicity level was getting higher and my personal values were being compromised. Going back to the question, why not go to a university? If everyone goes to a university, who would stay in the community college? With everything being so fast-paced, I am hopeful that I can reach out to the students in our community college. I have this personal goal that I will be able to teach their minds and touch their hearts, so that it will eventually transform their lives. I pray to God that He blesses whatever choices that I will make. I also pray that whatever I do, it will lead me to closer to Christ.

Who does not need money? We all need it to buy all our necessities and to pay for our bills. With all the things that my family is facing, I left the job that could help pay our debts. I am not suggesting that you also do the same. It depends on the situation.

Why do we do things that we do? Is it to please others or to please God? What do we do when we have more than enough? Do we keep it to ourselves or do we share it with others?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, please guide my heart to desire only what you want for me.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for all the graces that you have given us.

15 June, Saturday – A Promise is a Promise

15 June 2019

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2 Corinthians 5:14-21

The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.

From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here. It is all God’s work. It was God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the work of handing on this reconciliation. In other words, God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, not holding men’s faults against them, and he has entrusted to us the news that they are reconciled. So we are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God. For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God.

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Matthew 5:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you: do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’

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“Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no

I hate it when people lie to me. I hate it more when they said, “Yes” to me but in the end it is a “No.” I hate it because of the disappointments for those unmet expectations. Why can’t they just say “No” in the first place? Of course, I would understand if there was a real valid reason why they couldn’t fulfil their promise.

I remember one time when I was still in college. We had this group paper in class and we need to work together. We agreed on the date and time. We were four in the group and we were only three during the meeting. The fourth member did not show up nor even bother to inform us that he wouldn’t be coming. When we asked him why he was a no-show, he just ignored us and didn’t give any explanation. I felt betrayed because we had to cover his part and we still put his name on our paper. Personal enlightenment: Any school project must have a maximum number of three members only.

I know it is just a petty thing for some. But for me a little lie is still a lie. Who knows, that little lie can turn to bigger lies. How much more if people are used to lying? There can come a time that they can no longer identify what is true or false. What if they run for office? I personally do not want liars to manage our government. What will become of us? From where I came from, we elect officials based on their background information and their plans for the people. We feel bad if those elected officials just talked and didn’t do anything. We place our trust in them, believing everything they have promised.

How much more if we betrayed our Heavenly Father? I know we have our promises to Him that we will do this, do that, and much more. But what if we cannot fulfil those promises? Can you remember any broken promises made to Him? There are tiny voices in my head saying, “No, I always keep my promises to God…” Personally, I made a promise to God to attend daily mass  and I try to keep it. However, there were times when I could not fulfil my promise due to work. And sometimes, even though I am physically inside the church, my mind is wandering somewhere else. Others may not know it, but the Lord and I both know that it is a broken promise on my part.

Next time, think first before promising anything when you say “Yes” or a “No”. We must always keep our promises because our Lord keeps His.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, please grant me honesty so that I can only speak the truth and to not break my promises to others. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank You for giving us wisdom to be very careful with the words that we say to others. Amen.

14 June, Friday – Beautiful in White

14 June 2019

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2 Corinthians 4:7-15

We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us. We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair; we have been persecuted, but never deserted; knocked down, but never killed; always, wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body. Indeed, while we are still alive, we are consigned to our death every day, for the sake of Jesus, so that in our mortal flesh the life of Jesus, too, may be openly shown. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

But as we have the same spirit of faith that is mentioned in scripture – I believed, and therefore I spoke – we too believe and therefore we too speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus to life will raise us with Jesus in our turn, and put us by his side and you with us. You see, all this is for your benefit, so that the more grace is multiplied among people, the more thanksgiving there will be, to the glory of God.

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Matthew 5:27-32

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.
‘It has also been said: Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. But I say this to you: everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.’

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You must not commit adultery

I remember attending a wedding ceremony a few years ago. After the entourage marched in, the wooden door of the church was closed for the grand entrance of the bride. As the big door opened slowly, the instrumental Canon in D became the song ‘Beautiful in White’. Everyone stood as the bride slowly walked down the aisle. She was wearing a flowy, layered, white wedding dress. There were a few tears that could be seen in her eyes but she looked very happy. As the bride approached the middle of the red carpet, her parents escorted her to the altar. As they reached the altar, I saw the groom’s eyes fill with tears yet looking so happy, while taking her hand.

If you are married, you are probably reminiscing on your wedding day, the happiest moment of your life. Do you remember your promise to your spouse? “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love and honour you all the days of my life.”  Do you remember what you said when you put your rings on each other’s fingers? “I take this ring as a sign of my love and faithfulness, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

Weddings can be expensive. But we must remember the real purpose of a wedding. And that purpose is marriage. It is the union of a man and a woman by the grace of God. You make promises to each other which you should keep for the rest of your lives. Don’t just get married because everybody else is getting married. Marriage is a vocation. It is a lifetime commitment to your spouse and to our Lord. It is no fairytale, but a journey of you together, to get closer to God.

Some may want to have a big wedding. Some would prefer an intimate celebration. And others might even be stressed while doing the wedding preparations. What if you are not yet planning to get married? I believe that at some point in your life, you would have attended or seen one.  And you saw how the newlyweds share their happiest moment with their families and friends.

Remember, it is not about getting married. It is about staying married. Whenever you feel that your relationship is on the rocks, remember your vows during your wedding day. Quoting Matthew 19:6 “…Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” I saw this meme on Facebook, “Marriage doesn’t take two people. It takes three. You cannot have a good marriage if God is not the center of it.”

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, please be the center of all relationships. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank You for the relationships that You have brought together. Amen.