Tag Archives: brenda khoo

15 January, Wednesday – Be all ears to His call!

15 January
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1 Samuel 3:1-10, 19-20

The boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli; it was rare for the Lord to speak in those days; visions were uncommon. One day, it happened that Eli was lying down in his room. His eyes were beginning to grow dim; he could no longer see. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying in the sanctuary of the Lord where the ark of God was, when the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ He answered, ‘Here I am.’ Then he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, since you called me.’ Eli said, ‘I did not call. Go back and lie down.’ So he went and lay down. Once again the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, since you called me.’ He replied, ‘I did not call you, my son; go back and lie down.’ Samuel had as yet no knowledge of the Lord and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. Once again the Lord called, the third time. He got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, since you called me.’ Eli then understood that it was the Lord who was calling the boy, and he said to Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if someone calls say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

The Lord then came and stood by, calling as he had done before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Samuel answered, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’

Samuel grew up and the Lord was with him and let no word of his fall to the ground. All Israel from Dan to Beersheba came to know that Samuel was accredited as a prophet of the Lord.

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Mark 1:29-39

On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went with James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew. Now Simon’s mother-in-law had gone to bed with fever, and they told him about her straightaway. He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up. And the fever left her and she began to wait on them.

That evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by devils. The whole town came crowding round the door, and he cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another; he also cast out many devils, but he would not allow them to speak, because they knew who he was.

In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, ‘Everybody is looking for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.’ And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devils.

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Speak Lord, Your servant is listening

When I was much younger, I used to have hopes and dreams of one day becoming a sister or nun. Every day, I would pray to God to call me and would also try my best to hear Jesus’s call in the form of a whisper. Growing up in an IJ school certainly provided me with a lot of time in school to spend time with the Lord and pray to Him. Later, I went to a state junior college and I’m currently in a state university. Sadly, I am spending less time with Him, and now it is much harder for me to listen to Jesus. I have realized how distant I have grown from the Lord in terms of spiritual development, and how I am so involved in getting the best grades and career, that I have completely lost sight of my childhood dreams of becoming a clergy.

I realize that there are a lot of distractions in today’s world. It could be in the form of chasing for wealth, status, sex and power. We all need these to survive in today’s competitive world. Perhaps deep down in our heart, we know that all these are fleeting, and that only God is eternal, but we are more willing to spend time with these temporal and material things. By chasing for all these, it means that we are on survival mode. After all, without money, how can we have enough to eat or have a roof over our heads? Without power, how can we get ahead of others and obtain privileges to lead a comfortable life?

But being on survival mode means only one thing — we do not trust in God. And it means just that one thing, we do not trust in the abundant providence of God. We think that we can do without God, so we need to possess material things to survive. By constantly feeding our materialistic desires, we are unknowingly and subconsciously leading spiritually empty lives, and this can be very dangerous for our own souls. Spiritual emptiness is a gateway for greater vices, and this can lead to life-threatening addictions or exploitations.

While it is important for us to survive, we should also not be laidback and complacent, thinking that God will provide for us. We need to do our best, and God will do the rest. But doing our best doesn’t mean that we overachieve in pursuit of wealth or power or fame and become materialistic. We should never neglect or ignore our spiritual development. Doing our best means that we develop holistically, both in material and spiritual aspects.

Perhaps, one day, God might call one of us to join the clergy. Hopefully, we will be able to listen to His voice and respond to His call accordingly.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please pray for us to listen to Your voice and not get consumed by materialistic desires. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for being patient with us in responding to Your mission that You have for us, as well as for fulfilling our material needs. Amen.

14 January, Tuesday – Armour of faith and courage

14 January
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1 Samuel 1:9-20

After they had eaten in the hall, Hannah rose and took her stand before the Lord, while Eli the priest was sitting on his seat by the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. In the bitterness of her soul she prayed to the Lord with many tears and made a vow, saying, ‘O Lord of Hosts! If you will take notice of the distress of your servant, and bear me in mind and not forget your servant and give her a man-child, I will give him to the Lord for the whole of his life and no razor shall ever touch his head.’

While she prayed before the Lord which she did for some time, Eli was watching her mouth, for she was speaking under her breath; her lips were moving but her voice could not be heard. He therefore supposed that she was drunk and said to her, ‘How long are you going to be in this drunken state? Rid yourself of your wine.’ ‘No, my lord,’ Hannah replied ‘I am a woman in great trouble; I have taken neither wine nor strong drink – I was pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not take your maidservant for a worthless woman; all this time I have been speaking from the depth of my grief and my resentment.’ Then Eli answered her: ‘Go in peace,’ he said ‘and may the God of Israel grant what you have asked of him.’ And she said, ‘May your maidservant find favour in your sight’; and with that the woman went away; she returned to the hall and ate and was dejected no longer.

They rose early in the morning and worshipped before the Lord and then set out and returned to their home in Ramah. Elkanah had intercourse with Hannah his wife and the Lord was mindful of her. She conceived and gave birth to a son, and called him Samuel ‘since’ she said ‘I asked the Lord for him.’

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Mark 1:21-28

Jesus and his followers went as far as Capernaum, and as soon as the sabbath came he went to the synagogue and began to teach. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.

In their synagogue just then there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit and it shouted, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him. The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. ‘Here is a teaching that is new’ they said ‘and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’ And his reputation rapidly spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.

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“Here is a teaching that is new, and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.”

Imagine if you were there in the synagogue and you saw what Jesus did to the evil spirit? What would you be thinking and feeling? Shocked? Or simply helpless, that you are most likely not able to have the power to drive out demons and devils unless you’re an exorcist?

Jesus has so much power and authority over evil spirits that He can drive them out effectively and almost immediately. I always admire priests and certain exceptional laity who are given this powerful gift from God to liberate people who are oppressed or possessed. I have wished that I could become like them and bring peace to the person who is being tormented by these evil spirits. However, I soon realised that not everyone will be given this special and extraordinary gift. In fact, we do not always need exorcists to resolve spiritual problems. Spiritual maladies can exist in many forms; for instance, addiction, exploitation, violence and abuse in today’s world. They do not need to manifest in severe and extreme cases of possession or oppression.

As Jesus’s disciples, we are surely aware of the many forms of spiritual illnesses that are taking place in the world. While we may blame technology for perpetuating some of these evils, like pornography or violence, we should also acknowledge that technology is like a knife – we can use it to cook a delicious meal for our family, friends and loved ones, or we can use it to kill others. In fact, through this online platform, we are able to recognize that technology can actually be used to glorify and help others, as well as prevent injustices like how Facebook was mobilized to overthrow tyrannical governments during the Arab Spring in 2010.

Therefore, when faced with the evils of today’s world, Jesus is calling us to not be discouraged by the seemingly overwhelming amount of evil that appears to be magnified by the misuse of technology. He wants us to stand up and fight against the injustices of today’s society. We need not be exorcists to do this; we only need His armour of faith and courage, graces that we can ask God in prayer. Daunting as it is to battle against today’s evils, we must have the hope that God is with us, and He has the power to change people and their hearts, even if it is just one person at a time, one baby step in every move.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please pray for us to don Your armour of faith and courage to fight against the injustice and evils of today’s world, so that together with Your abundant grace and help, we can get rid of all addictions, exploitations, violence and abuse in every society. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for giving us the grace of faith and courage to put up a fight against injustice. Whether we put up a strong or weak fight, we do this for Your glory, and we know in our hearts that You are together with us in this battle. Amen.

13 January, Monday – Fishers of New Sheep!

13 Jan – Memorial for St. Hilary, bishop and doctor of the Church

St. Hilary of Poitiers (315-368) was known as Athanasius of the West. He was born to wealthy polytheistic, pagan nobility. His early life was uneventful as he married, had children (one of whom was St. Abra), and studied on his own. Through his studies he came to believe in salvation through good works, and then monotheism. As he studied the Bible for the first time, he literally read himself into the faith, and was converted by the end of the New Testament.

Hilary lived the faith so well that he was made Bishop of Poitiers from 353-368. He opposed the emperor’s attempt to run Church matters and was exiled; he used the time to write works explaining the faith. His teaching and writings converted many and, in an attempt to reduce his notoriety, he was returned to the small town of Poitiers where his enemies hoped he would fade into obscurity. His writings nonetheless continued to convert pagans.

Hilary introduced Eastern theology to the Western Church, fought Arianism with the help of St. Viventius, and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1851.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Samuel 1:1-8

There was a man of Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the highlands of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives, one called Hannah, the other Peninnah; Peninnah had children but Hannah had none. Every year this man used to go up from his town to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of Hosts in Shiloh. The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there as priests of the Lord.

One day Elkanah offered sacrifice. He used to give portions to Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; to Hannah, however, he would give only one portion, although he loved her more, since the Lord had made her barren. Her rival would taunt her to annoy her, because the Lord had made her barren. And this went on year after year; every time they went up to the temple of the Lord she used to taunt her. And so Hannah wept and would not eat. Then Elkanah her husband said to her, ‘Hannah, why are you crying and why are you not eating? Why so sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?’

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Mark 1:14-20

After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.’

As he was walking along by the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net in the lake – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men.’ And at once they left their nets and followed him.
  
Going on a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they too were in their boat, mending their nets. He called them at once and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him.

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Come with me, and I will make you into fishers of people

Someone close to me will be baptized into our Catholic faith this Easter, and I feel very blessed and thankful to God that there will soon be a new sheep in our flock. I trust that Jesus will guide him along this new journey of being a new Catholic.

However, I was soon examining myself as to whether I am a good Catholic. I was concerned whether my way of life would influence him to continue living out and being strengthened by the Catholic faith. Being a good Catholic primarily involves building an intimate relationship with God as well as healthy interpersonal relationships with other people, by living as Christ called us to live and by loving everyone just as Jesus has loved us. I admit that I have not been the best Catholic, and that there is a lot of room for improvement and for me work on. First and foremost, I am not fervent in my prayers and I sometime have the tendency to not love our brothers and sisters in Christ as I should.

As I interact with my friends, I also realise that actions speak louder than words. Even if we may not know the A to Z of our Catechesis and theoretical foundations, we should love others and live our lives in a Christ-like manner, such that others will see the glory of God and praise Him. This will hopefully prompt them to want to know more about our faith, giving us an opportunity to evangelize and shine the way for the many lost sheep in today’s world.

So, my New Year Resolution this 2020 is to live as Christ would have lived amongst us today, selflessly loving other people and forgiving everyone around Him. And not to forget to spend more time praying more fervently and meaningfully to God amidst the distractions of the modern world. It will definitely not be easy as it involves some major changes to my way of life, but I hope that by living out my life as a good Catholic, by my actions and new lifestyle, I may influence another friend of mine to either join or return to our faith.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please pray for us to live our lives in Your light and guidance, so that we can be Your face to the lost sheep who are looking for You. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for giving us the grace to be able to forgive those who have hurt us, and for allowing us to shine Your light and glory before others, who will hopefully come to know You by Your love that is manifested through us. Amen.

23 November, Saturday – Spiritual Wellness

Nov 23 – Memorial for St. Clement I, pope, martyr; Memorial for St. Columban, abbot

Clement (d. 101) was the fourth pope, and an apostolic Father. The Basilica of St. Clement in Rome is one of the earliest parish churches in the city, and is probably built on the site of Clement’s home. He is the author of the “Epistle to the Corinthians”. His name occurs in the Canon of the Mass. Origen and St. Jerome identify him as working with St. Paul the Apostle.

  • Patron Saint Index

Columban (543–615) was well-born, handsome, and educated. He was torn between a desire for God and easy access to the pleasures of the world. Acting on advice of a holy anchoress, he decided to withdraw from the world. His family opposed the choice, his mother going so far as to block the door. He became a monk at Lough Erne. He studied Scripture extensively, and wrote a commentary on the Psalms. He became a monk at Bangor under abbot St. Comgall.

At middle age, Columban felt a calling to missionary life. With 12 companions, he travelled to Scotland, England, and then to France in 585. The area, though nominally Christian, had fallen far from the faith, but were ready for missionaries, and they had some success. They were warmly greeted at the court of Gontram, and king of Burgundy invited the band to stay. They chose the half-ruined Roman fortress of Annegray in the Vosges Mountains for their new home with Columban as their abbot.

The simple lives and obvious holiness of the group drew disciples to join them, and the sick to be healed by their prayers. Columban, to find solitude for prayer, often lived for long periods in a cave seven miles from the monastery, using a messenger to stay in touch with his brothers. When the number of new monks overcrowded the old fortress, King Gontram gave them the old castle of Luxeuil to found a new house in 590. Soon after, a third house was founded at Fontaines. Columban served as master of them all, and wrote a Rule for them; it incorporated many Celtic practices, was approved by the Council of Macon in 627, but was superseded by the Benedictine.

Problems arose early in the 7th century. Many Frankish bishops objected to a foreign missionary with so much influence, to the Celtic practices he brought, especially those related to Easter, and his independence from them. In 602, he was summoned to appear before them for judgement; instead of appearing, he sent a letter advising them to hold more synods, and to concern themselves with more important things than which rite he used to celebrate Easter. The dispute over Easter continued to years, with Columban appealing to multiple popes for help, but was only settled when Columban abandoned the Celtic calendar when he moved to Italy.

In addition to his problems with the bishops, Columban spoke out against vice and corruption in the royal household and court which was in the midst of a series of complex power grabs. Brunehault stirred up the bishops and nobility against the abbot; Thierry ordered him to conform to the local ways, and shut up. Columban refused, and was briefly imprisoned at Besancon, but he escaped and returned to Luxeuil. Thierry and Brunehault sent an armed force to force him and his foreign monks back to Ireland. As soon as his ship set sail, a storm drove them back to shore; the captain took it as a sign, and set the monks free.

They made their way to King Clothaire at Soissons, Neustria and then the court of King Theodebert of Austrasia in 611. He travelled to Metz, France, then Mainz, Germany, Suevi, Alamanni, and finally Lake Zurich. Their evangelisation work there was unsuccessful, and the group passed on to Arbon, then Bregenz, and then Lake Constance. St. Gall, who knew the local language best, took the lead in this region; may were converted to the faith, and the group founded a new monastery as their home and base.

However, a year later, political upheaval caused Columban to cross the Alps into Italy, arriving in Milan in 612. The Christian royal family treated him well, and he preached and wrote against Arianism and Nestorianism. In gratitude, the Lombard king gave him a tract of land call Bobbio between Milan and Genoa in Italy. There he rebuilt a half-ruined church of St. Peter, and around it he founded an abbey that was to be the source for evangelisation throughout northern Italy for centuries to come.

Columban always enjoyed being in the forests and caves, and as he walked through the woods, birds and squirrels would ride on his shoulders. Toward the end of his life came word that his old enemies were dead, and his brothers wanted him to come back north, but he declined. Knowing that his time was almost done, he retired to a cave for solitude, and died as he had predicted. His influence continued for centuries as those he converted handed on the faith, the brothers he taught evangelised untold numbers more, and his brother monks founded over one hundred monasteries to protect learning and spread the faith.

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1 Maccabees 6:1-13

King Antiochus was making his way across the upper provinces; he had heard that in Persia there was a city called Elymais, renowned for its riches, its silver and gold, and its very wealthy temple containing golden armour, breastplates and weapons, left there by Alexander son of Philip, the king of Macedon, the first to reign over the Greeks. He therefore went and attempted to take the city and pillage it, but without success, since the citizens learnt of his intention, and offered him a stiff resistance, whereupon he turned about and retreated, disconsolate, in the direction of Babylon. But while he was still in Persia news reached him that the armies that had invaded the land of Judah had been defeated, and that Lysias in particular had advanced in massive strength, only to be forced to turn and flee before the Jews; these had been strengthened by the acquisition of arms, supplies and abundant spoils from the armies they had cut to pieces; they had overthrown the abomination he had erected over the altar in Jerusalem, and had encircled the sanctuary with high walls as in the past, and had fortified Bethzur, one of his cities. When the king heard this news he was amazed and profoundly shaken; he threw himself on his bed and fell into a lethargy from acute disappointment, because things had not turned out for him as he had planned. And there he remained for many days, subject to deep and recurrent fits of melancholy, until he understood that he was dying. Then summoning all his Friends, he said to them, ‘Sleep evades my eyes, and my heart is cowed by anxiety. I have been asking myself how I could have come to such a pitch of distress, so great a flood as that which now engulfs me – I who was so generous and well-loved in my heyday. But now I remember the wrong I did in Jerusalem when I seized all the vessels of silver and gold there, and ordered the extermination of the inhabitants of Judah for no reason at all. This, I am convinced, is why these misfortunes have overtaken me, and why I am dying of melancholy in a foreign land.’

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Luke 20:27-40

Some Sadducees – those who say that there is no resurrection – approached Jesus and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, that if a man’s married brother dies childless, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Well then, there were seven brothers. The first, having married a wife, died childless. The second and then the third married the widow. And the same with all seven, they died leaving no children. Finally the woman herself died. Now, at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she had been married to all seven?’

Jesus replied, ‘The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the dead do not marry because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God. And Moses himself implies that the dead rise again, in the passage about the bush where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.’

Some scribes then spoke up. ‘Well put, Master’ they said – because they would not dare to ask him any more questions.

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“I remember the wrong I did in Jerusalem…”

King Antiochus in today’s first reading, only remembered the many iniquities he committed against the Jewish community when he fell gravely ill. If only he had realized his mistakes earlier and made reparations quickly, He would not have angered God and fallen ill as a result.

In today’s context, when we fall ill physically or mentally, we consider it wrong to think of such illnesses as punishment from God. In Nigeria, this thinking has caused a stigma amongst people who are suffering from mental illness; they are being chained up and abused in so-called rehabilitative centres for many years. What we should focus on is not whether physical and mental illness is God’s punishment, but on whether we have acquired any spiritual illness.

In 2014, Pope Francis provided a list of 15 spiritual illnesses when he was addressing the Curia in his Christmas address*. They include overworking, over-planning one’s life, forgetting about the Lord and drifting away from the Church, gossiping, apathy or indifference as well as showing off one’s power or authority. We should be more acutely aware of these illnesses as they affect our relationship with God even after we die, whereas physical and mental illnesses will cease to exist once death comes knocking on our door. Perhaps, since our spiritual well-being has a very close and intimate relationship with other aspects of our well-being, like our physical and mental health, if our spiritual life is in disrepair, this would eventually affect our entire well-being.

In joyful hope during Advent, let us take care of our spiritual well-being whilst anticipating the second coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please pray for us to be spiritually well, so that we can always serve you joyfully and faithfully. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for being gracious and forgiving, and thank you for reminding us that we need to be spiritually healthy so that we can serve you. Amen.

 * You can find the entire list of the 15 spiritual illnesses in Pope Francis’s Curia in his Christmas address in 2014 at https://www.catholic.org/news/hf/faith/story.php?id=58117.

21 November, Thursday – Let us make peace, not war

Nov 21 – Memorial for the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today we commemorate the presentation of the Blessed Virgin as a child in the Temple where, according to tradition, she was educated. The feast originated in the Orient probably about the seventh century, and is found in the constitution of Manuel Comnenus (1166) as a recognized festival. It was introduced into the Western Church in the 14th century, abolished by Pope Pius V, but reestablished by Sixtus V in 1585. Its observance by the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the day of their origin led to the devotion of Mater Admirabilis (Mother Most Admirable).

  • Patron Saint Index

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1 Maccabees 2:15-29

The commissioners of King Antiochus who were enforcing the apostasy came to the town of Modein to make them sacrifice. Many Israelites gathered round them, but Mattathias and his sons drew apart. The king’s commissioners then addressed Mattathias as follows, ‘You are a respected leader, a great man in this town; you have sons and brothers to support you. Be the first to step forward and conform to the king’s decree, as all the nations have done, and the leaders of Judah and the survivors in Jerusalem; you and your sons shall be reckoned among the Friends of the King, you and your sons shall be honoured with gold and silver and many presents.’ Raising his voice, Mattathias retorted, ‘Even if every nation living in the king’s dominions obeys him, each forsaking its ancestral religion to conform to his decrees, I, my sons and my brothers will still follow the covenant of our ancestors. Heaven preserve us from forsaking the Law and its observances. As for the king’s orders, we will not follow them: we will not swerve from our own religion either to right or to left.’ As he finished speaking, a Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice on the altar in Modein as the royal edict required. When Mattathias saw this, he was fired with zeal; stirred to the depth of his being, he gave vent to his legitimate anger, threw himself on the man and slaughtered him on the altar. At the same time he killed the king’s commissioner who was there to enforce the sacrifice, and tore down the altar. In his zeal for the Law he acted as Phinehas did against Zimri son of Salu. Then Mattathias went through the town, shouting at the top of his voice, ‘Let everyone who has a fervour for the Law and takes his stand on the covenant come out and follow me.’ Then he fled with his sons into the hills, leaving all their possessions behind in the town.

At this, many who were concerned for virtue and justice went down to the desert and stayed there.

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Luke 19:41-44

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem and came in sight of the city he shed tears over it and said, ‘If you in your turn had only understood on this day the message of peace! But, alas, it is hidden from your eyes! Yes, a time is coming when your enemies will raise fortifications all round you, when they will encircle you and hem you in on every side; they will dash you and the children inside your walls to the ground; they will leave not one stone standing on another within you – and all because you did not recognise your opportunity when God offered it!’

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“If you in your turn had only understood on this day the message of peace!”.

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus has a premonition of the people in Jerusalem suffering during the siege by a Roman army in 70 A.D. Despite this incident having taken place so many years ago, there is still so much strife and war in many countries today.

I am often saddened by news of how countries are torn apart when they are not in peace, when they are constantly embroiled in battles either internally or with other countries. Battles do not have to be fought with military weapons; even discrimination is considered a form of battle. Every day, news abounds of the many different groups of people affected by such battles. The Rohingya migrants are facing persecution by the majority race and the government in their own country, Myanmar. Many flee to surrounding countries, like Bangladesh, where they are still not welcomed by the people in these countries where they are seeking refuge. Elsewhere in the world, children are being tortured and abused by the Boko Haram in Nigeria.

On a smaller but more important scale, if families are not in peace, this will create a lot of rivalry and disagreement within the family. External influences from society would add on to the pressure and troubles, causing the family to disintegrate. This is when addictions arise, which often causes more misery to the whole family. Sometimes, tragic events occur, for instance, if the parents divorce or abuse the children or each other. Everyone in the family is affected, especially the children.

But it is pointless to weep without doing anything for these people. As a first step, we should pray for peace in families and countries. We should also pluck up our courage and strive to seek for peace by voicing out our concerns through various communication channels, such as social media platforms. Most importantly, we should stop discriminating other people and cause them to suffer. Through humanitarian efforts to help those in need, we can convey a message of hope, peace and truth to the afflicted people.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please shine Your light of peace and truth to broken families and countries. Please give us Your courage to help them in whatever way possible and to stop discriminating against others. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for sharing Your peace amongst us. Thank you also for being able to be Your beacon of peace to help those who are afflicted and in need of Your grace and peace. Amen.

5 October, Saturday – Be his face and hands!

5 Oct 2019

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Baruch 4:5-12, 27-29

Take courage, my people, constant reminder of Israel. You were sold to the nations, but not for extermination. You provoked God; and so were delivered to your enemies, since you had angered your creator by offering sacrifices to demons, not to God.

You had forgotten the eternal God who reared you. You had also grieved Jerusalem who nursed you, for when she saw the anger fall on you from God, she said: Listen, you neighbours of Zion: God has sent me great sorrow. I have seen my sons and daughters taken into captivity, to which they have been sentenced by the Eternal. I had reared them joyfully; in tears, in sorrow, I watched them go away. Do not, any of you, exult over me, a widow, deserted by so many; I suffer loneliness because of the sins of my own children, who turned away from the Law of God. Take courage, my children, call on God: he who brought disaster on you will remember you. As by your will you first strayed away from God, so now turn back and search for him ten times as hard; for as he brought down those disasters on you, so will he rescue you and give you eternal joy.

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Luke 10:17-24

The seventy-two came back rejoicing. ‘Lord,’ they said ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.’

It was then that, filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, he said, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

Then turning to his disciples he spoke to them in private, ‘Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’

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As he brought down those disasters on you, so will he rescue you and give you eternal joy

Why do bad things happen to good people? And when bad things happen, why doesn’t God save us?

Many years ago, my uncle passed away from cancer. His passing brought a lot of grief to his wife and only daughter. I once wondered why God did not save my uncle from his illness, as he was relatively young then. Taking away his life meant that he would not be able to be present for many more milestones in his daughter’s life. He was a good person, despite not being a Catholic.

Sometimes, it may seem that God brings trouble in our lives, but we should not think that God does so because we are bad. We should remember that these problems may be merely natural and inevitable consequences of our actions and choices that we make in life. That should not define us forever as ‘bad’ in God’s eyes. Instead, we should have faith that God will rescue us from our problems one day, if and only if we have the faith in Him that He will do so. God loves us unconditionally as His children. Even if God does not rescue us, we should still trust Him that He will bring us to a better place and continue to stay close to Him.

When we see or hear news of other people’s suffering, we may be tempted to accuse God of being indifferent to their pain and not saving them. However, we should remember that when God sees His children suffer, He is also in pain. And likewise, we are blessed to have the capacity to feel the pain that God feels for them. Instead of just waiting for God to rescue them, we can unite and be the face of God by helping them out ourselves instead. In this way, we would not only be helping our brothers and sisters, but also, we would bring glory to God. He is therefore saving the suffering people through our hands, time and actions.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please help us in the difficulties that we are facing in life, whether they be caused by our own actions and choices that we have made. Please also help us to take initiative and respond to the cries and suffering of Your people through our actions and time. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for saving us from the troubles that we have faced in life. We are grateful to You for the grace that You have blessed us with. Thank you for allowing us to be Your face and hands in rescuing our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering today. Amen.

4 October, Friday – Use smartphones and laptops for His glory!

Oct 4 – Memorial for St. Francis of Assisi

Francis Bernardone (1181–1226) was the son of Pietro Bernadone, a rich cloth merchant. Though he had a good education and became part of his father’s business, he also had a somewhat misspent youth. He was a street brawler and some-time soldier. He was captured during a conflict between Assisi and Perugia, and spent over a year as prisoner of war. During this time, he had a conversion experience, including a reported message from Christ calling him to leave this worldly life. Upon release, Francis began taking his religion seriously.

He took the Gospel as the rule of his life, Jesus Christ as his literal example. He dressed in rough clothes, begged for his sustenance, and preached purity and peace. His family disapproved, and his father disinherited him; Francis formally renounced his wealth and inheritance. He visited hospitals, served the sick, preached in the streets, and took all men and women as siblings.

He began to attract followers in 1209, and with papal blessing founded the Franciscans based on a simple statement by Jesus: “Leave all and follow me.” In 1212, Clare of Assisi became his spiritual student, which led to the founding of the Poor Clares. He visited and preached to the Saracens. He composed songs and hymns to God and nature. He lived with animals, worked with his hands, cared for lepers, cleaned churches, and sent food to thieves. In 1221 he resigned direction of the Franciscans.

While in meditation on La Verna (Mount Alvernia) in the Apennines in September 1224, Francis received the stigmata, which periodically bled during the remaining two years of his life. This miracle has a separate memorial on 17 September.

In the Middle Ages, people who were believed to be possessed by Beelzebub especially called upon the intercession of St. Francis, the theory being that he was the demon’s opposite number in heaven.

“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.” – St. Francis of Assisi

– Patron Saint Index

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Baruch 1:15-22

Integrity belongs to the Lord our God; to us the look of shame we wear today, to us, the people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem, to our kings and princes, our priests, our prophets, as to our ancestors, because we have sinned in the sight of the Lord, have disobeyed him, and have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God telling us to follow the commandments which the Lord had ordained for us. From the day when the Lord brought our ancestors out of the land of Egypt until today we have been disobedient to the Lord our God, we have been disloyal, refusing to listen to his voice. And so the disasters, and the curse which the Lord pronounced through his servant Moses the day he brought our fathers out of Egypt to give us a land where milk and honey flow, have seized on us, disasters we experience today. Despite all the words of those prophets whom he sent us, we have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God, but, each following the dictates of his evil heart, we have taken to serving alien gods, and doing what is displeasing to the Lord our God.

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Luke 10:13-16

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. And still, it will not go as hard with Tyre and Sidon at the Judgement as with you. And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted high as heaven? You shall be thrown down to hell.

‘Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me.’

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We have been disobedient to the Lord our God, we have been disloyal, refusing to listen to his voice

When I read this line, the first thing that struck me was this thought — although we, the younger generation, are so used to spending a huge amount of time daily on our smartphones and laptops, how can we say that we are disobedient to God, and that we have been disloyal to Him? We still attend Mass on Sunday, and some of us visit the sacraments regularly. It is impossible for us to let go of our technological devices just so that we show our loyalty to God! Our family and friends will certainly laugh at us!

Then, I realized that it is not wrong for us to use our smartphones and laptops, if we want to communicate with our friends and family, if we have to use these devices for study. However, it would be wrong for us to idolize these devices, by spending time on our technological devices when we are supposed to spend time with God during Mass, or even by using our phones to the point of addiction. It would also be wrong if we use these devices to do sinful things, like cyber-bullying our classmates, watching pornography or downloading illegal content.

It is not our smartphones or laptops that cause us to stop listening to God. These technological devices are simply tools; it is our free will and choice to decide what we want to do with these devices. Do we use them to glorify God, for instance, by telling our friends to not bully a weaker classmate? Or perhaps by posting Catholic-related content on our social media platforms as a way to encourage fellow Catholics in their faith and invite non-Catholics to learn more about our faith? That’s certainly a great way of evangelization! Do we leverage these platforms as ways to reach out to the lost sheep in our community and treat our brothers and sisters with Christ-like love?

So, let’s start afresh today. Let us show loyalty to God and listen to His voice by using our smartphones and laptops to build up our brothers and sisters in Christ and glorify Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please help us to use our technological devices for Your glory, and to reach out to our brothers and sisters who are in need. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for allowing us to use technological devices to reach out to more of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and to glorify You in ways which we could not possibly have done without technology. Amen.

3 October, Thursday – God is calling you! Yes, you!

3 October 2019

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Nehemiah 8:1-12

When the seventh month came, all the people gathered as one man on the square before the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses which the Lord had prescribed for Israel. Accordingly Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, consisting of men, women, and children old enough to understand. This was the first day of the seventh month. On the square before the Water Gate, in the presence of the men and women, and children old enough to understand, he read from the book from early morning till noon; all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.

Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden dais erected for the purpose; beside him stood, on his right, Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; on his left, Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam. In full view of all the people – since he stood higher than all the people – Ezra opened the book; and when he opened it all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people raised their hands and answered, ‘Amen! Amen!’; then they bowed down and, face to the ground, prostrated themselves before the Lord. (Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabab, Hanan, Pelaiah, who were Levites, explained the Law to the people while the people remained standing.) And Ezra read from the Law of God, translating and giving the sense, so that the people understood what was read.

Then (Nehemiah – His Excellency – and) Ezra, priest and scribe (and the Levites who were instructing the people) said to all the people, ‘This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not be mournful, do not weep.’ For the people were all in tears as they listened to the words of the Law.

He then said, ‘Go, eat the fat, drink the sweet wine, and send a portion to the man who has nothing prepared ready. For this day is sacred to our Lord. Do not be sad: the joy of the Lord is your stronghold.’ And the Levites calmed all the people, saying, ‘Be at ease; this is a sacred day. Do not be sad.’ And all the people went off to eat and drink and give shares away and begin to enjoy themselves since they had understood the meaning of what had been proclaimed to them.

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Luke 10:1-12

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, “We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.” I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.’

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“The harvest is rich, but the labourers are few”.

I have always admired the clergy and religious for who they are and what they do. They pray for the church everyday and do God’s work without complaint. I often feel a sense of joy, peace and holiness when I am with them, and I enjoy being in their presence. Sometimes, I feel attracted to join the religious vocation, but I am still in the very early stages of discerning what God’s will is for me.

The religious population in our Catholic society is ageing, and many Catholic organisations and seminaries are reaching out to the younger generations to increase the number of vocations. Perhaps, there are many young people out there who hear God’s call to join the religious but are not sure whether to take heed of His call. There may be several obstacles that they are currently facing, for instance, that they are already committed in a relationship with their boyfriend or girlfriend. Or perhaps these people are still in the midst of pursuing their professional careers and need money to support their parents. Or perhaps young people may be acutely aware of the sacrifices they would need to make if they join the religious and are too afraid of making these sacrifices.

However, what we should always remember is that our lives are ultimately our own relationship with God. How we choose to respond to His call reflects the depth of our relationship with Him. We should definitely encourage those who hear God’s call to be open to what He has planned for our lives, for He will certainly provide for us and decides things in our best interests. We should strive to be put right with God, even if this sets us apart from the rest and requires us to make significant changes to our lifestyle and life decisions.

For those who do not hear His call, we should not be discouraged. God has a mission for each and every one of us, and it does not matter whether we are religious, lay associate or just an ordinary weekly churchgoer. We should remain open to His mission for us, and strive to bring Him glory in our thoughts, words and actions. We should always be working for God in this harvest, no matter who we are or what occupation we are currently in.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please encourage those who hear Your call to take up the cross and follow You by joining the religious vocations. As for those who have not yet heard Your call, please open their heart and mind to the mission that You have for them. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for encouraging our young people to join You in serving the religious vocations. Thank you for allowing us to partake in Your mission that You have for each and every one of us. Amen.

2 October, Wednesday – Childlike, not childish faith

Oct 2 – Memorial for The Guardian Angels

The term ‘guardian angels’ refers to the belief that each soul has an angel who is available to shepherd the soul through life, and help bring them to God.

Belief in the reality of angels, their mission as messengers of God, and Man’s interaction with them, goes back to the earliest times. Cherubim kept Adam and Eve from slipping back into Eden; angels saved Lot and helped destroy the cities of the plains; in Exodus, Moses follows an angel, and at one point an angel is appointed leader of Israel. Michael is mentioned at several points, Raphael figures large in the story of Tobit, and Gabriel delivered the Annunciation of the coming of Christ.

The concept of each soul having a personal guardian angel, is also an ancient one, and long accepted by the Church:

“See that you despise not one of these little ones [children]: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” – Jesus, Matthew 18:10

“How great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it.” – St. Jerome in his commentary on Matthew

“Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them, who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?” – Hebrews 1:14

The feast, celebrating the angels who helped bring us to God, began in many local calendars centuries ago, and was widely known by the 16th century. Pope Paul V placed a feast venerating the angels on the general calendar on 27 September 1608. Ferdinand of Austria requested that it be extended to all areas in the Holy Roman Empire.

Initially placed after the feast of Michael the Archangel, it was seen as a kind of supplement to that date. Pope Clement X elevated the feast, celebrated on 2 October, to an obligatory double for the whole Church. On 5 April 1883, Pope Leo XIII raised the feast to the rank of a double major.

  • Patron Saint Index

“O angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom whose love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to rule and guard, to light and guide. Amen.” – Prayer to our guardian angel

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Nehemiah 2:1-8

In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, the wine being my concern, I took up the wine and offered it to the king. Now I had never been downcast before. So the king said, ‘Why is your face so sad? You are not sick, surely? This must be a sadness of the heart.’ A great fear came over me and I said to the king, ‘May the king live for ever! How could my face be other than sad when the city where the tombs of my ancestors are lies in ruins, and its gates have been burnt down?’ ‘What’ the king asked ‘is your request?’ I called on the God of heaven and made this reply to the king, ‘If it pleases the king, and if you are satisfied with your servant, give me leave to go to Judah, to the city of my ancestors’ tombs, and rebuild it.’ The king, with the queen sitting there beside him, said, ‘How long will your journey take, and when will you return?’ So I named a date that seemed acceptable to the king and he gave me leave to go. I spoke to the king once more, ‘If it please the king, could letters be given me for the governors of Transeuphrates to allow me to pass through to Judah? And also a letter for Asaph, keeper of the king’s park, to supply me with timber for the gates of the citadel of the Temple, for the city walls and for the house I am to occupy?’ This the king granted me, for the kindly favour of my God was with me.

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Matthew 18:1-5,10

The disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ So he called a little child to him and set the child in front of them. Then he said, ‘I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

‘Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven.’

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Anyone who welcomes a little child in my name welcomes me

Just stare into the eyes of a baby or a young child. Those eyes are full of innocence, purity and love. And perhaps cuteness.

I always feel that when I see a young child or a baby, I am looking into the face of God. We are aware that babies and young children are not going to hurt us; even if they do, it’s certainly not intentional nor spiteful. They are full of pure, unadulterated joy and love.

Jesus said that when we welcome a little child, we are in fact welcoming Him. But, what about for us adults? Does this mean that we are not welcoming Jesus when we welcome adults? I don’t think Jesus intended his phrase to be taken in its literal sense. I believe that we also welcome Jesus when we welcome adults who possess childlike, and not childish, faith in our Lord and God.

I recall one online article which described the differences between childlikeness and childishness. You can read it at http://www.catholic365.com/article/2618/are-we-childlike-or-childish.html, but I will attempt to summarise the key differences here and add my own as well. Childlikeness is when we have full trust in God, who is our Father and loves us unconditionally. It is when we delight over the small delights of God’s creation in this world, like the joy of seeing flowers bloom, as well as when we appreciate every single blessing which God has given us. It is also when we are excited to know what God has in store for us tomorrow, whether good or bad, because we know that He will always have our best interests in His heart. It is also when we look beyond people’s flaws and imperfections, see them for who they are as children of God, and love them as our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

However, childishness is when we become immature and self-centred. It is when we become angry and frustrated with God for not doing things the way we want them to happen. It is when we lose faith in Him and place our trust wrongly in worldly desires and things instead of our heavenly Father. It is when we stop treating others as children of God, belittling them and exploiting their weaknesses. That is not exactly how our Father would want us to behave, would He?

So, let us strive for childlikeness, and discard our childish behaviour, as we unite ourselves as loving children of God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please help us to discard our childish behaviour and learn to be childlike in our faith and relationship with our fellow brothers and sisters. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for being our Father, whom we can place our entire trust in You, as we know that You will never let us down and You always have our best interests in Your heart. Amen.

7 September, Saturday – Sunday Mass – obligation or opportunity?

7 Sept 2019

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Colossians 1:21-23

Not long ago, you were foreigners and enemies, in the way that you used to think and the evil things that you did; but now he has reconciled you, by his death and in that mortal body. Now you are able to appear before him holy, pure and blameless – as long as you persevere and stand firm on the solid base of the faith, never letting yourselves drift away from the hope promised by the Good News, which you have heard, which has been preached to the whole human race, and of which I, Paul, have become the servant.

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Luke 6:1-5

One sabbath Jesus happened to be taking a walk through the cornfields, and his disciples were picking ears of corn, rubbing them in their hands and eating them. Some of the Pharisees said, ‘Why are you doing something that is forbidden on the sabbath day?’ Jesus answered them, ‘So you have not read what David did when he and his followers were hungry how he went into the house of God, took the loaves of offering and ate them and gave them to his followers, loaves which only the priests are allowed to eat?’ And he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is master of the sabbath.’

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The Son of Man is master of the Sabbath

Have you ever asked yourself why you attend Sunday Mass? Do you see it as an obligation so as not to violate the third commandment? Or do you see it as a weekly opportunity to spend time with the Lord and grow with him?

In the past, I used to go for Sunday Mass because I saw it as an obligation to not only avoid sinning the third commandment, but also to spend time with my family.

However, after a crisis I recently went through, I started enjoying my weekly trip to the Sunday Mass. No matter how grumpy, angry or frustrated I was when I enter into the Lord’s house, my negative emotions never fail to dissipate by the end of the Mass. Perhaps it could be because of my favourite reading or song. But I know that deep in my heart, my soul longs to encounter Jesus and Mother Mary after a long week of studying. My heart brightens up when I encounter the Lord in His delightful presence, even more so when I spend 15 minutes after Mass in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

Sometimes, it may be difficult for us to enjoy the meaning of the Mass when our weekends are replete with parties, drinking and other fun outings. We may feel that Mass is boring. However, if we change our perspective by seeing the Mass as just one hour to spend time with the Lord and spiritually recharge ourselves, we may begin to see that our mere acts of attending the Mass and spending time in front of the Blessed Sacrament fill us more completely and wholly than any other activity.

So, let us try to spend more time with the Lord from this Sunday’s Mass onward before it is too late.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please open up our mind and heart to see and hear our soul’s longing to meet you during Sunday Mass. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for giving us the Sabbath so that we can spend time with you and only you, no matter how busy our lifestyle is. Amen.