Tag Archives: beryl baterina

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.

http://www.catholicculture.org/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2006-07-29

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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.’

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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.’

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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

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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.’

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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.’

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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

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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.

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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.’

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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.

http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/innews/082002.shtml

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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.’

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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.’

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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

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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.

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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.’

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‘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)

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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

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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.

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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.’

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‘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)

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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.

27 August, Saturday – On Being Productive

27 August – Memorial for St. Monica, Married woman

Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted a heresy and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted.

When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan, where she became a leader of the devout women there.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Take yourselves for instance, brothers, at the time when you were called: how many of you were wise in the ordinary sense of the word, how many were influential people, or came from noble families? No, it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame what is strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything. The human race has nothing to boast about to God, but you, God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom. As scripture says: if anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord.

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Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.

‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”

‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”’

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You wicked and lazy servant!

I do have my share of unproductive days.  There were times that I have been too lazy to go to work. And accompanying these instances is the thought that I wish I did not have to work in order for me to eat and sustain my daily needs.

The Gospel reading talks about the three servants. One received five talents, the other received two talents, and the third one received one talent. In the Gospel reading, one talent is equivalent to a very large amount of money.  It mentioned each in proportion to his ability. Meaning, the master compensated his servants in accordance to their ability. It can be concluded that the one who received the largest was the one who work the hardest. While the one who received the smallest was the one who work the least. The two servants who received five and two talents worked hard and were able to double what they have given. And the master was pleased with their performance and gave them rewards. On the other hand, the servant who received one talent did not do anything productive. He digs a hole and puts the talent in the ground. That talent did not prosper. The master was mad at this servant for being lazy and took the talent and gave it to the servant who had five talents.

Our God is an awesome God. He is just and fair. If you work hard, you will get your reward. Even at work, if the boss likes your performance, you are given bonuses and other perks. However, if you are a liability, the boss cannot trust you. He does not even want to give you any tasks.

When we feel exhausted in working, it is alright to take some rest. Resting does not mean being lazy. We are, after all, humans; therefore, we also get tired. We need to recharge ourselves. Even our digital gadgets become drained and need recharging. After we regain our physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual strength, we come back to life. Do some work or do anything. Let’s not just be idle and do nothing.

There is this saying that we must do our best, and God will do the rest. Our life is a gift from God. It does not cost us anything. How we live our life is something we give back to God. Are we going to be like that servant who hid and buried the talent in the ground? Are we going to sit, wait, be still, and do nothing with our life? Or are we going to do something to make ourselves productive servants of God?  As we try to look back, have we lived our lives worthy to present it to our Lord?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Lord God, please guide us in making our life productive for You and for others.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father God for all the resources that we have to sustain our daily life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

26 August, Friday – Higher Priority

26 August

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1 Corinthians 1:17-25

Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the Good News, and not to preach that in the terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed. The language of the cross may be illogical to those who are not on the way to salvation, but those of us who are on the way see it as God’s power to save. As scripture says: I shall destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing all the learning of the learned. Where are the philosophers now? Where are the scribes? Where are any of our thinkers today? Do you see now how God has shown up the foolishness of human wisdom? If it was God’s wisdom that human wisdom should not know God, it was because God wanted to save those who have faith through the foolishness of the message that we preach. And so, while the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

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Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven will be like this: Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible: the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps. The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight there was a cry, “The bridegroom is here! Go out and meet him.” At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, “Give us some of your oil: our lamps are going out.” But they replied, “There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.” They had gone off to buy it when the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall and the door was closed. The other bridesmaids arrived later. “Lord, Lord,” they said “open the door for us.” But he replied, “I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.” So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.’

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There may not be enough for us and for you...

Many times I have been accused of being stingy. I am not used to sharing what I have with other people. My co-workers hate it when I am eating something and do not offer it to them even just out of politeness. In the same way, I feel uneasy when somebody offers me food. At first, I do not think too much about it. But after working for some time, I began asking myself if there was something wrong with me. I have a sibling but we have an age gap of several years. Being born in different generations, we each have different needs and likes. I grew up not having to share anything. We eat together as a family but we do not share our personal things such as clothes, books, shampoo, soap and other things. Sharing was taught in our school. But my classmates had better possessions so I did not share anything with them.

Today’s Gospel reading teaches us about responsibility. Our responsibility to be prepared for the tasks assigned to us. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible: the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps.  The sensible were wise enough to have a back-up plan. They brought flasks of oil with them. It may be an added weight to their baggage but they were blessed enough to know that they had to bring those. And indeed their extra efforts paid off. They needed the oil when they met the bridegroom.

It can be said that there are foolish and sensible people in this world. Sometimes we can be the foolish ones, sometimes we can be the sensible ones. We are sensible enough to realize our needs and to do something about it. But we have our fair share of foolishness. Even repeated foolishness over the same things.

When the sensible people said, “you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves…”, it may seem that they were being selfish. They could have shared a little oil with the foolish ones but they didn’t. As I reflect on it more, I realize that I can never give something that I do not have. Those who were sensible brought oil just enough for them to use and knew that if they shared it, none of their lamps would be able to provide any light. It teaches to help ourselves first in order to help others. Even in airplanes, there is this reminder to help yourself first before assisting others. It is like when you have your last penny in your pocket, you need to go to work, and there was a beggar asking for a penny. Well, if you are able to walk to work, you are able to give that penny to the beggar. But if that penny is your only fare to get to work, use it for your transportation. It is not being selfish nor greedy. You need to work in order for you to earn. And your earnings are something worth sharing.

Let us continue to pray to God, to enlighten us, to be like those sensible bridesmaids, to be spiritually prepared.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Lord God, please help us to use our wisdom in accordance to your will.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father God for providing for our needs.

25 August, Thursday – The Future is Beyond

25 August – Memorial for St. Louis of France, Married man; Memorial for St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest, Religious founder

As king of France, Louis (1214-1270) made numerous judicial and legislative reforms. He promoted Christianity in France; established religious foundations, aided mendicant orders, propagated synodal decrees of the Church, built leper hospitals, and collected relics.

“In prosperity, give thanks to God with humility and fear lest by pride you abuse God’s benefits and so offend him.” – St. Louis IX

Joseph Calasanz (1556-1648) and two fellow priests opened a small, free school for poor children. He was supervising several teachers and hundreds of students. When the school moved to larger quarters, the teaching priests were reorganised into a community recognised as a religious order called Le Sciole Pie (Religious Schools), also known as the Piarists, or Scolopii or Ordo Clericorum Regularium Pauperum Matris Dei Scholarum Piarum or Order of Poor Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools; Joseph acted as superior of the Order.

The community encountered many obstacles. It was dissolved, then reorganised after Joseph’s death. They were restored as a religious order in 1669, and continue their good work today.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Corinthians 1:1-9

I, Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle, together with brother Sosthenes, send greetings to the church of God in Corinth, to the holy people of Jesus Christ, who are called to take their place among all the saints everywhere who pray to our Lord Jesus Christ; for he is their Lord no less than ours. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace.

I never stop thanking God for all the graces you have received through Jesus Christ. I thank him that you have been enriched in so many ways, especially in your teachers and preachers; the witness to Christ has indeed been strong among you so that you will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed; and he will keep you steady and without blame until the last day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, because God by calling you has joined you to his Son, Jesus Christ; and God is faithful.

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Matthew 24:42-51

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming. You may be quite sure of this that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house. Therefore, you too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

‘What sort of servant, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their food at the proper time? ‘Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you solemnly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the dishonest servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time,” and sets about beating his fellow servants and eating and drinking with drunkards, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.’

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Therefore, you too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

I used to do project management work where one of the critical stages is planning. Our team needed to foresee everything. We had to anticipate what our clients’ wanted. We also had to prepare ready-made answers to our clients’ inquiries. Since we were always prepared, we were quite successful in our projects.  But there were also times that we experienced failures. I do get frustrated when things do not go well. I always ask myself, “What did I miss?”, “How come I was not able to see these things?”, and other similar questions. I am a planner. I want to make sure that everything goes smoothly without any problem. I get anxious when things do not work out how they are supposed to be.

The first reading clearly states that Paul was appointed by God. It was God who chose him; not anyone else, but God. The graces that were received were from God through Jesus Christ. The blessings that made the people strong and equipped are from God. It is by the grace of God that we have received so many blessings. And we should be grateful for those. Our life is a gift from God. He chose us to live this life serving Him. The Gospel reading enlightens us as to what kind of servant we should be. One servant did wicked things while his master was away. There is another servant who did his job properly even though his master was away. Are we doing good things because there are people who see us?  Are we doing good things because we want to do it and it is the right thing to do?

I admit there are times when I feel lazy when my boss is not around. I feel relaxed and relieved thinking there is no one to guard me. I am free. I am free to do anything I want. And freedom is a gift from God.  We have free will to do anything with our lives. However, we must be prepared for our the consequences of our actions.

Planning is needed in our daily lives. But we must remember that it is God’s will that our plans push through. It is in the name of Jesus Christ that things happen in accordance to how we plan. We cannot see what lies ahead. But we must always be prepared to receive God’s plans for us. Other people may not see what we do every day. But God sees everything. We continue to be focused living our faith and hope for better days to come.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Lord God, may you grant us the grace to feel your plan for us. May we able to do the things in according to Your will.

Thanksgiving: Father God, thank you for this gift of life. Thank you for everything that makes us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

18 June, Saturday – Day after Today

18 June

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2 Chronicles 24:17-25

After the death of Jehoiada, the officials of Judah came to pay court to the king, and the king now turned to them for advice. The Judaeans abandoned the Temple of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, for the worship of sacred poles and idols. Because of their guilt, God’s anger fell on Judah and Jerusalem. He sent them prophets to bring them back to the Lord, but when these gave their message, they would not listen. The spirit of God took possession of Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood up before the people and said, ‘God says this, “Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord to no good purpose? You have deserted the Lord, now he deserts you.”’ They then plotted against him and by order of the king stoned him in the court of the Temple of the Lord. King Joash, forgetful of the kindness that Jehoiada, the father of Zechariah, had shown him, killed Jehoiada’s son who cried out as he died, ‘The Lord sees and he will avenge!’

When a year had gone by, the Aramaean army made war on Joash. They reached Judah and Jerusalem, and executed all the officials among the people, sending back to the king at Damascus all that they had plundered from them. Though the Aramaean army had by no means come in force, the Lord delivered into its power an army of great size for having deserted him, the God of their ancestors.

The Aramaeans treated Joash as he had deserved, and when they retired they left him a very sick man; and his officers, plotting against him to avenge the death of the son of Jehoiada the priest, murdered him in his bed. So he died, and they buried him in the Citadel of David, though not in the tombs of the kings.

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Matthew 6:24-34

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘No one 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.

‘That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it. Surely life means more than food, and the body more than clothing! Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they are? Can any of you, for all his worrying, add one single cubit to his span of life? And why worry about clothing? Think of the flowers growing in the fields; they never have to work or spin; yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his regalia was robed like one of these. Now if that is how God clothes the grass in the field which is there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more look after you, you men of little faith? So do not worry; do not say, “What are we to eat? What are we to drink? How are we to be clothed?” It is the pagans who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’

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So do not worry about tomorrow.

Before getting off from work, I write down things to do for the following day.  That way I will not miss any important task.  I become worrisome and worked up whenever I am experiencing tight deadlines at work.  I tend to multitask and end up feeling exhausted by the end of the day.  What did I accomplish?  It is a very difficult question.

It says in the Gospel, “No one 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.”  Actually this is true.  There is this word, “focus”, which signifies singularity.  It is either this one or that one.  It can never be both.  It will be too tiring and will end up not focusing to neither.  Choosing God over money does not mean not doing anything and just wait for God to feed us.  It says in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “We gave you a rule when we were with you: do not let anyone have any food if he refuses to do any work.”  There is no blessing to those who are lazy.  We will starve to death if we do not buy food and water.  Our bills will not pay for themselves.  So definitely we do need money.

Yet, attachment to money is dangerous.   It also includes attachment to fame, power, and possessions.  It may turn us into a greedy person that leads to negative relationship with others.  And these instances push us away from God.  We might be thinking that we are working to live a comfortable life.  But the end result is we are living to work.  Do we work hard to earn more in order to serve the Lord?  Or do we work hard to earn more in order to serve ourselves?  Or do we live our life everyday, working so hard and wearing ourselves out?

Money is not bad as it is.  It becomes the root of evil if we choose it over God.  It is bad if we become greedy, have hatred, and become an unforgiving person because of it.  We must make money a tool so that whatever we do, we offer it to God.  This will make our Lord the center of our everything.

Before we sleep each night, let us try to reflect what happened that day.  Let us ask ourselves, “What did I accomplish?  Did I do something that is pleasing to God?  Do I see God in what I do?”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, please grant us joy while facing our daily struggles.  Please allow our hearts to choose to serve the Lord over our desire to material wealth.  We pray that we will not be too attached with our money but rather be generous to share it with others.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord for the blessings and graces we received.  We thank you Father for all things that we have that sustains our daily life.