Tag Archives: community

28 October, Friday – Community

28 October – Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles

Simon was an apostle called the Cananean or Zealot because of his zeal for the Jewish law. He was not from Cana, nor a member of the Zealot party. Like all the Apostles, he was a convert, and was trained by St. Peter the Apostle. He evangelised in Egypt and Mesopotamia, though there are traditions of him being in several other locations. Several places claim to have been the site of his martyrdom – Abyssinians claim he was crucified in Samaria; Lipsius says he was sawn in half at Suanir, Persia; Moses of Chorene writes that he was martyred at Weriosphora in Iberia.

– Patron Saint Index

Jude Thaddeus was the son of Cleopas who died a martyr, and Mary who stood at the foot of the Cross and who anointed Christ’s body after death. He was the brother of St. James the Lesser, and nephew of Mary and Joseph. He was the blood relative of Jesus Christ, and reported to look a lot like him. He may have been a fisherman, and was an apostle.

He was the writer of a canonical letter. He preached in Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia with St. Simon. He was a healer and an exorcist, and could exorcise pagan idols, which caused the demons to flee and the statues to crumble. He was beaten to death with a club, then beheaded post-mortem in 1st century Persia.

His patronage of lost or impossible causes traditionally derives from confusion by many early Christians between Jude and Judas; not understanding the difference between the names, they never prayed for Jude’s help, and devotion to him became something of a lost cause.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 2:19-22

You are no longer aliens or foreign visitors: you are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household. You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.

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Luke 6:12-16

Jesus went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God. When day came he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them; he called them ‘apostles’: Simon whom he called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.

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…and, you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.

Not much is known about the saints of today’s feast, St. Jude and St. Simon. We know they spent their last years together preaching the gospel in Persia. We know they were both martyred. Yet, there are scant details around what they actually did. God tells us that if we want to know about someone, all we need to do is examine the fruit they produce. That’s the thing about both saints; the fruit of their labours has been enduring. They established whole communities devoted to Christ.

Jesus chose his apostles from a motley band of characters. Left to their own devices, they would surely not have found a common cause to rally behind, nor would they have achieved their feats of ministry. Simon the Zealot and Jude, cousin of Jesus, had no reason to make each other’s acquaintance if not for Christ. Yet they heeded His call to ministry and drew their strength from Our Lord and because of that, they were able to do extraordinary things. “As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and, you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:21-22).

When we look at the relationships in our life, especially the ones we forged doing God’s work, it is marvellous to see how our faith is a faith of community. We need each other to reach our full purpose in Christ. God reminds us in Hebrews, to “…consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this is all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Being part of a faith community keeps us on the path to his ‘narrow gate’. Both Simon and Jude were able to do the things they did because they built up communities to support them when they were weak, and to carry on the work they did when they were gone.

Today, reflect upon the motivation of your faith. Are you worshipping alone, or in the fellowship of other believers? God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things – but we have to commit to His cause and be held accountable to our faith communities. Dare we accept His challenge and see what extraordinary things we too could achieve?

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for all those starting faith communities, may God strengthen their faith and commitment to the cause.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the faith communities that we belong to, that hold us close and keep us safe.

25 October, Tuesday – Yeast

25 October

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Ephesians 5:21-33

Give way to one another in obedience to Christ. Wives should regard their husbands as they regard the Lord, since as Christ is head of the Church and saves the whole body, so is a husband the head of his wife; and as the Church submits to Christ, so should wives to their husbands, in everything. Husbands should love their wives just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her to make her holy. He made her clean by washing her in water with a form of words, so that when he took her to himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless. In the same way, husbands must love their wives as they love their own bodies; for a man to love his wife is for him to love himself. A man never hates his own body, but he feeds it and looks after it; and that is the way Christ treats the Church, because it is his body – and we are its living parts. For this reason, a man must leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one body. This mystery has many implications; but I am saying it applies to Christ and the Church. To sum up; you too, each one of you, must love his wife as he loves himself; and let every wife respect her husband.

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Luke 13:18-21

Jesus said, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it with? It is like a mustard seed which a man took and threw into his garden: it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air sheltered in its branches.’

Another thing he said, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God with? It is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’

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It is like yeast… mixed in with three measures of wheat flour, until the whole batch of dough was leavened.

When I was a teenager, someone in my bible study group proclaimed with much certainty that as Christians, we were not supposed to date someone ‘outside the faith’, so as not to be ‘unequally yoked’. At the time, it struck me as a strange thing to say. Jesus Christ himself ate in the house of tax collectors and counted prostitutes as friends. So what was wrong with me fraternizing with someone who was not Christian? But this person was adamant in her view, and so, being new to the faith then, I simply went along.

Absolutes are dangerous pronounciations, especially when made carelessly in front of new believers. It is misleading to think of people as absolutely good or absolutely bad. Good and bad are always and everywhere intertwined – in our churches, in our homes, and often even in our hearts. The parable of the yeast in today’s gospel reminds us of this truth about our faith. We need only a little bit of yeast to leaven an entire loaf of bread. The yeast is not of the dough, and yet it has the power to change it. We exist in this world of good and evil; we are not a part of it, but we have the power to affect its conversion. Throughout Scripture, God’s people have existed amongst the non-believing masses. Think of Moses, who spent most of his young adult life as an Egyptian prince. And Joseph, who rose from slave to the highest ranks of Pharoah’s court. And Jesus, who was rejected by the Jewish elders in the synagogues. It is as if God deliberately puts us in the midst of cross-fire. But why?

In John 17:15, Christ prayed for us, “I do not ask you to remove them from the world, but to keep them from the evil one”. God intended for us to live amongst the secular forces of this world, not to be corrupted by it, but to bring about its conversion. We are His change agents, in our workplace, in our schools, in our churches, even in our own homes. We are here, placed by Him in often hostile surroundings, to shine His light on those who have yet to see Him or who have forgotten His goodness. For if there was no darkness, how would we be able to appreciate the Light?

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for the perseverance to bear patiently with those around us who are non-believers or who have fallen away from God. We pray for their conversion, that they find their way back to Him.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the means and the resources to be His agents of change in the societies we live in.

12 September, Monday – Received With Heart

12 September – Memorial for The Most Holy Name of Mary

This feast is a counterpart to the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (January 3); both have the possibility of uniting people easily divided on other matters. The feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary began in Spain in 1513 and in 1671 was extended to all of Spain and the Kingdom of Naples. In 1683, John Sobieski, king of Poland, brought an army to the outskirts of Vienna to stop the advance of Muslim armies loyal to Mohammed IV in Constantinople. After Sobieski entrusted himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary, he and his soldiers thoroughly defeated the Muslims. Pope Innocent XI extended this feast to the entire Church.

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 11:17-26,33

On the subject of instructions, I cannot say that you have done well in holding meetings that do you more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you all come together as a community, there are separate factions among you, and I half believe it – since there must no doubt be separate groups among you, to distinguish those who are to be trusted. The point is, when you hold these meetings, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you are eating, since when the time comes to eat, everyone is in such a hurry to start his own supper that one person goes hungry while another is getting drunk. Surely you have homes for eating and drinking in? Surely you have enough respect for the community of God not to make poor people embarrassed? What am I to say to you? Congratulate you? I cannot congratulate you on this.

For this is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.’ In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.’ Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death, So to sum up, my dear brothers, when you meet for the Meal, wait for one another.

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Luke 7:1-10

When Jesus had come to the end of all he wanted the people to hear, he went into Capernaum. A centurion there had a servant, a favourite of his, who was sick and near death. Having heard about Jesus he sent some Jewish elders to him to ask him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus they pleaded earnestly with him. ‘He deserves this of you’ they said ‘because he is friendly towards our people; in fact, he is the one who built the synagogue.’ So Jesus went with them, and was not very far from the house when the centurion sent word to him by some friends: ‘Sir,’ he said ‘do not put yourself to trouble; because I am not worthy to have you under my roof; and for this same reason I did not presume to come to you myself; but give the word and let my servant be cured. For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.’ When Jesus heard these words he was astonished at him and, turning round, said to the crowd following him, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found faith like this.’ And when the messengers got back to the house they found the servant in perfect health.

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Not worthy to have you

In today’s reading, we look at the importance and solemnity of Holy Communion. Many people outside of the Catholic Church sees that the invitation to the Lord’s supper is very exclusive. So exclusive that only baptised Catholics can receive the Eucharist and we cannot receive communion in other churches of another denomination. And so I would like to share my experience as a Catholic and own personal views on why I believe that the Church is the most inclusive one that I have even encountered. I may not have gone to churches of every denomination neither is this a comparison. I believe the Eucharist is very Holy and that receiving Jesus is the utmost exclusive act of closeness to Christ in our world. Receiving the Eucharist is not an act, nor is it just a usual banquet. It is Christ, it is community, it is the believe, it is faith, it is serious. There are a lot of emotions when receiving Holy Communion, and it is the centre of our masses.

Today’s first reading writes on the words spoken by Jesus at the last supper. The meaning of community among the faithful, and the believe of His presence in the form of bread and wine shows the seriousness of how intimate Christ is with us through the Eucharist. The inner faith in us has to be strong in order to receive Him, even as a Catholic ourselves. The church may seem exclusive on the surface of this but we invite everyone to celebrate mass with us. There are several occasions where a ‘deranged’ person steps out in front of the altar and shouts, regardless of the church, they are never taken away by anyone, nor does the priest ask the person to leave. Fortunately, the person usually just walk away after awhile. I think we care least about who sits or stand or kneel at the appropriate sections of mass. We may not have pointed visitors out individually on a Sunday mass because we have already included you in the solemnity in celebrating the Eucharist.

Thus communion is for us to dig deep into ourselves, having the deep faith in believing in Jesus as said by the centurion, which is being echoed right before we receive Christ at every mass. ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the Word and my soul shall be healed’ and that is when we go on to say ‘Amen’ (I Believe).

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: O Jesus, let me look into the week with a changed of heart, for the better, may the power of the Eucharist be in me.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for the loving people around me, the community that is there to help me and my loved ones deepen and grow in faith.

30 June, Thursday – Have Faith for the Forgiveness of Others

30 June 

Dear Readers, we apologise for the late despatch of today’s readings and reflections due to oversight to publish the post on my part. We wish you a blessed Thursday and weekend ahead. 

God bless,
Debbie

First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

These holy men and women are also called the ‘Protomartyrs of Rome’. They were accused of burning Rome by Nero, who burned Rome to cover his own crimes. Some martyrs were burned as living torches at evening banquets, some crucified, and others were fed to wild animals. These martyrs died before Sts. Peter and Paul, and are called “disciples of the Apostles. . . whom the Holy Roman church sent to their Lord before the Apostles’ death”.

Source: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=3385

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Amos 7:10-17

Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent word to Jeroboam king of Israel as follows. ‘Amos is plotting against you in the heart of the House of Israel; the country can no longer tolerate what he keeps saying. For this is what he says, “Jeroboam is going to die by the sword, and Israel go into exile far from its country.”’ To Amos, Amaziah said, ‘Go away, seer;’ get back to the land of Judah; earn your bread there, do your prophesying there. We want no more prophesying in Bethel; this is the royal sanctuary, the national temple.’ ‘I was no prophet, neither did I belong to any of the brotherhoods of prophets,’ Amos replied to Amaziah ‘I was a shepherd, and looked after sycamores: but it was the Lord who took me from herding the flock, and the Lord who said, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” So listen to the word of the Lord.

‘You say:
‘“Do not prophesy against Israel,
utter no oracles against the House of Isaac.”
‘Very well, this is what the Lord says,

‘“Your wife will be forced to go on the streets,
your sons and daughters will fall by the sword,
your land be parcelled out by measuring line,
and you yourself die on unclean soil
and Israel will go into exile far distant from its own land.”’

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Matthew 9:1-8

Jesus got in the boat, crossed the water and came to his own town. Then some people appeared, bringing him a paralytic stretched out on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, ‘Courage, my child, your sins are forgiven.’ And at this some scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ Knowing what was in their minds Jesus said, ‘Why do you have such wicked thoughts in your hearts? Now, which of these is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ – he said to the paralytic – ‘get up, and pick up your bed and go off home.’ And the man got up and went home. A feeling of awe came over the crowd when they saw this, and they praised God for giving such power to men.

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Then some people appeared, bringing him a paralytic stretched out on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Courage, my child, your sins are forgiven.”

It is easy to pray for ourselves. Truth be told, I do it all the time. Almost every prayer of mine is dotted with, or centred around, what I want. Rarely, and I say this shamefully, do I remember to include what others have asked me to pray for. It is not done deliberately but out of forgetfulness. And it does make me feel bad. Especially if the other person is going through a very tough time and is seeking the power of communal prayer to help ease their burden or pain.

In today’s passage, Matthew says that Jesus sees the faith of the paralytic’s friends and bestows healing just because his friends believed in Jesus’ healing powers. Think about it, they travelled so far, carrying their poor friend on a stretcher and probably had to push and beg their way through an enormous crowd just to get to Jesus. Sure, the one who was healed would also have believed in Jesus; but, he wouldn’t have been able to get to Him if it hadn’t been for his friends.

This is also what praying together as a community can do for others. It makes our prayers more powerful, almost magnified, yet not being magnified in the sense that it gets louder and becomes practically like shouting in God’s ears. Instead, it is the fact that more than one person is asking for a certain miracle. It reflects our call to servitude. It is us asking God to free someone else of their troubles so that they can also experience the joys that come from living as one of God’s miracles.

 (Today’s Oxygen by Rebecca Grace)

Prayer – Lord, we pray for those who have asked us to pray for them. Let us not forget that we are all part of the Body of Christ and interconnected with each other.

Thanksgiving – We give thanks for your merciful love and forgiveness. For the very fact that just having faith in You is enough to heal us from any affliction. Amen.

29 June, Wednesday – Church Building and Wedding Planning

29 June – Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, apostles

Peter (c.1–64) was a professional fisherman. He was the brother of St. Andrew the Apostle, the man who led him to Christ. Given the name Simon, he was renamed “Peter” (rock) by Jesus to indicate that Peter would be the rock-like foundation on which the Church would be built. He later became a bishop and was the first pope. He was also a miracle worker.

Paul (c.3–c.65) was a Jewish Talmudic student and a Pharisee. He was a tent-maker by trade. Saul the Jew hated and persecuted the Christians as heretical, even assisting at the stoning of St. Stephen the Martyr. On his way to Damascus, Syria, to arrest another group of faithful, he was knocked to the ground, struck blind by a heavenly light, and given the message that in persecuting him, causing his conversion to Christianity.

He was baptized, changed his name to Paul to reflect his new persona, and began travelling, preaching, and teaching. His letters to the churches he help found form a large percentage of the New Testament. He knew and worked with many of the earliest saints and Fathers of the Church. He died a martyr for the faith.

–       Patron Saint Index

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Acts 12:1-11

King Herod started persecuting certain members of the Church. He beheaded James the brother of John, and when he saw that this pleased the Jews he decided to arrest Peter as well. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread, and he put Peter in prison, assigning four squads of four soldiers each to guard him in turns. Herod meant to try Peter in public after the end of Passover week. All the time Peter was under guard the Church prayed to God for him unremittingly.

On the night before Herod was to try him, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, fastened with double chains, while guards kept watch at the main entrance to the prison. Then suddenly the angel of the Lord stood there, and the cell was filled with light. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him. ‘Get up!’ he said ‘Hurry!’ – and the chains fell from his hands. The angel then said, ‘Put on your belt and sandals.’ After he had done this, the angel next said, ‘Wrap your cloak round you and follow me.’ Peter followed him, but had no idea that what the angel did was all happening in reality; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed through two guard posts one after the other, and reached the iron gate leading to the city. This opened of its own accord; they went through it and had walked the whole length of one street when suddenly the angel left him. It was only then that Peter came to himself. ‘Now I know it is all true’ he said. ‘The Lord really did send his angel and has saved me from Herod and from all that the Jewish people were so certain would happen to me.’

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2 Timothy 4:6-8,17-18

My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.

The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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Matthew 16:13-19

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’

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I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith

By the grace of God, my sister will be married this afternoon. It might seem frivolous to talk about wedding planning on the Solemnity of our Church’s pillars. Those of you who have planned weddings will know that the dynamics that occur during the course of wedding planning are a precursor to what happens to a couple’s marriage thereafter. Start it well, with love, compassion, honesty and understanding and that goodwill is carried into the first innings of the marriage. Start it poorly, with resentment, frustration and deceit and that ill will can fester if left untended. The choice of a life partner is possibly the single most important decision we make in life. More precious than the individual needs of both husband and wife, are the needs of the relationship that the couple pledge to protect from this day forth. For the rest of us who are family, our job is to help shepherd and support the new couple, as they begin to build their life together. We might have our differences (and since we don’t get to choose our family, there can be many disagreements) but our needs take second place to helping the new couple protect and preserve their new happiness.

Saints Peter and Paul were given the singular roles of protecting and shepherding the fledgling new Church that Christ had left them. Both men were from disparate backgrounds. St Peter was called by Christ when he was running a humble fishing business with his brother Andrew. Designated by Christ as “the rock on which I will build my Church” (Matthew 16: 18), Peter presided over critical moments in the early Church’s development. He welcomed into the fold the first non-Jewish believers (Acts 10:1-48, the baptism of Cornelius the Roman). He was a vocal proponent of freedom from the restrictions of the Jewish traditions – “God… put Himself on their side by giving the Holy Spirit to them just as He did to us. He made no distinction between us and them and cleansed their hearts through faith…”(Acts 15: 7-11) Peter helped the Jewish believers break away from the bondage of their old beliefs so they could embrace His word through the conversion of their hearts. St Paul, born a Pharisee and Roman citizen started as an overzealous persecutor of the early Church and its disciples. Touched by God’s grace on his way to Damascus, Paul’s conversion and missionary journeys drew the Gentiles to the Word. The Acts of the Apostles documents faithfully, Paul’s arduous journey from Jerusalem to Syria, Asia, Greece and finally Rome, spreading the Word through the Roman Empire – “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the word fully, that all the Gentiles might hear it” (2 Timothy 4:17).

Both men met for the first time only three years after Paul’s conversion in Damascus (Galatians 1:16-20). Here Paul gives an account of his travels and the authority by which he preaches the Gospel, “The Churches in Judea did not know me personally; they had only heard of me: “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith he tried to uproot”. And they praised God because of me” (Galatians 1: 22-24). For both men, even if they had their differences, their focus remained the furtherance of the Gospel and the growth of the Church. It was never about ego or face or their selfish needs. As we celebrate the Solemnity of St Paul and St Peter today, let’s remind ourselves to put aside our differences. By God’s grace, we have been called and our hearts cleansed through faith. Our differences – cultural, racial or otherwise, do not matter. What matters is the love that we feel for one another as brothers and sisters in the family of Christ.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

P.S. This reflection is pulled from our Archives of 2013. 
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Prayer: We pray for that those who work towards the furtherance of the Gospel not let their own needs cloud the bigger picture of what they are trying to achieve for God.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to all who put aside their own needs to faithfully follow God’s calling wherever it might take them.

11 June, Saturday – On Working the Vineyard

11 June – Feast of St. Barnabas, apostle

St. Barnabas (martyred 61) founded the Church in Antioch. He was a Levite Jewish convert, coming to the faith soon after Pentecost. Barnabas is mentioned frequently in the Acts of the Apostles, and is included among the prophets and doctors at Antioch. Like Paul, Barnabas believed in the Church’s mission to Gentiles, and worked with him in Cyprus and Asia, but split with him over a non-theological matter. At the time of his death he was carrying a copy of the Gospel of Saint Matthew that he had copied by hand.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 11:21-26,13:1-3

A great number believed and were converted to the Lord.

The church in Jerusalem heard about this and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. There he could see for himself that God had given grace, and this pleased him, and he urged them all to remain faithful to the Lord with heartfelt devotion; for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith. And a large number of people were won over to the Lord.

Barnabas then left for Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. As things turned out they were to live together in that church a whole year, instructing a large number of people. It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians.’

In the church at Antioch the following were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. One day while they were offering worship to the Lord and keeping a fast, the Holy Spirit said, ‘I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them.’ So it was that after fasting and prayer they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

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Matthew 5:33-37

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

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When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all

It takes many hands to build a kingdom. And even with each person giving their best efforts, things won’t always go smoothly. You need unity, organized minds and humility to get the job done. You also need to be able to diffuse conflict. Very often, viewpoints clash and if not communicated and shared effectively, misunderstandings arise. I learned this for myself firsthand while helping to plan a church event recently, the first time I’ve ever gotten involved in something like that. It’s easy to be overwhelmed when we let our pride get in the way of God’s ministry. It struck me that it takes just as much character to be able to follow orders, as it does to give them. Everyone has an opinion. How do you shape these into a coherent path and process?

That was the dilemma the fledgling church in Antioch faced. Growth was inevitably followed by teething pains and conflict. Antioch was ground zero for the apostles’ mission to the Gentiles and they were struggling to keep up with the number of people turning to God, as well as how to organize them. How often have we heard people say about church events, “Wow, so many people are attending, how are we going to make this work’, followed by much head shaking, hand wringing and complaining. That’s what Barnabas could’ve done too – shake his head, wring his hands and complain. Instead, he rejoiced and gave thanks to God. Then he called for reinforcements – Paul!

When we become overwhelmed by God’s work, or we face opposition to our views on how ministry should be conducted, it’s tempting to give in to the impulse to complain, be despondent and give up. Reach out and seek help! Pray! Been let down by fellow parishioners who flake? God will send you new volunteers; new hands, eyes and feet to help you get the job done. Barnabas was the sort of individual that was the perfect foil for Paul. God made it possible for them to find each other. He can make it possible for you too! So don’t lose hope even when the stress, the internal politicking, the lobbying, the gossiping and the complaining become too much for you. Rejoice that you have been given the unique opportunity to help in His ministry, to help him work His vineyard. And then have faith that He will give you all that you need to do the job for Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for wisdom, patience and restraint when resolving conflicts with other Christians. We pray that our pride doesn’t blind us to the best path forward.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to willing hands and feet, volunteers who are moved by God, who make all events possible.

31 May, Tuesday – Hail, Full of Grace

31 May – Feast of The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The feast of the Visitation recalls to us the following great truths and events: The visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth shortly after the Annunciation; the cleansing of John the Baptist from original sin in the womb of his mother at the words of Our Lady’s greeting; Elizabeth’s proclaiming of Mary—under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost—as Mother of God and “blessed among women”; Mary’s singing of the sublime hymn, Magnificat(“My soul doth magnify the Lord”) which has become a part of the daily official prayer of the Church. The Visitation is frequently depicted in art, and was the central mystery of St. Francis de Sales’ devotions.

The Mass of today salutes her who in her womb bore the King of heaven and earth, the Creator of the world, the Son of the Eternal Father, the Sun of Justice. It narrates the cleansing of John from original sin in his mother’s womb. Hearing herself addressed by the most lofty title of “Mother of the Lord” and realizing what grace her visit had conferred on John, Mary broke out in that sublime canticle of praise proclaiming prophetically that henceforth she would be venerated down through the centuries:

“My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me, and holy is His name” (Lk. 1:46).

—Excerpted from the Cathedral Daily Missal

(Source: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2016-05-31)

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And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

On this beautiful feast of the Visitation, I am reminded of my spiritual journey in the Catholic faith as I was baptised and received my First Holy Communion and Confirmation in the Church of Visitation Seremban, in Malaysia. My parents got married there. My uncles were ordained there. And my grandmother’s funeral was held in that church which I now consider my home parish. Mere memories aside, I see how growing both from childhood and also in my faith is as rich as it gets when Our Mother is its patron. I have many times asked, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” I would like to elaborate about this in three parts: Personal faith, Community and Our Mother’s Intercession.

Personal faith
I was raised devoutly Catholic by my parents and it was hard to even change things related to my Catholic prayer life even when I moved out to live in the city when I was twenty-one. It was more than a personal effort on my part to remain rooted in the faith. As I look back, I realise that Our Mother simply refused to let go of my hand, nor let me lose Her Son.

I was a minority ethnic individual, a junior staff, among majority Muslims in a workplace where colleagues and superiors openly implied that I should embrace Islam. I had my doubts and sometimes felt very harassed. Being a twenty-something year old, I know I did not do it on my own. It was my Mother who protected me and shielded me from leaving her Son.

As children, we used to pray the rosary daily at 8 pm and 12 noon during the school holidays. Things changed when we moved to our own house. I was about eleven at the time and our prayer time was a decade of the rosary. In my heart I knew something was amiss yet I was thrilled that prayer time was shortened. So I never complained about it. The one decade we prayed each day sustained us as a family. Our Blessed Mother is not impressed with how long we spent praying. Just like any loving mother she would love, care and pray for us, no matter what.

In my early twenties when life seemed impossible and there was no where to turn, one night I decided that I would pray the rosary before I went to bed in the hostel room I stayed at. That was the beginning of my prayer life as an adult Catholic and I never once looked back. She has never let me go and kept me faithful to my daily prayer even when my life seemed futile and my choices looked very distant from grace.

Community
The parishes I served were always Marion parishes. In the city, it was Our Lady of Fatima and then Church of Assumption. I learned how to grow with others while serving in these two parishes. It was with the youths at Church of Assumption that I learnt the spirit of Christian community and its necessity. I finally had a family out of my own within my parish. As any family we had our struggles, our joys, our hopes and our laughter and like any Mother she continues to pray for peace in this “family” of ours. She helped us to love, share and care for each other despite our personal differences. This sort of love is impossible yet God and our Mother, gave us glimpses of their love when we were opened to love as they did.

Our Mother’s Intercessions
Our Mother kept watching me and I started praying the 54 days rosary novena. I noticed that during the duration of the novena, how grace filled my life. At every occasion there was an answer to my prayers. My Mother led me to the areas of life that I never knew were within me. She gave me answers that I was not seeking and she loved me just the same when I was doubtful of her precious Son.

I started wearing the rosary bracelet about a year ago. It recently dawned on me that it really felt like the Mother, who held the Lord, now continually holds my hand. Especially when I am fearful and feel unworthy, this bracelet reminds me that the hands which rocked that cradle, continues to be with me, totally claiming the promise of Jesus, “Behold, thy Mother.”

She has calmed my fears, kissed away my sadness, and cheered me on even at my most measly achievements. She was and continues to be my true Mother.

Recently on a rather challenging day at work, I went to visit my parents though I live some sixty kilometers away. It was an impromptu decision. When I parked my car in the driveway, I saw my mother looking at me as she knew that something was not right, though she did not probe. She brought me a cup of tea and we spend hours talking, though not about what was really eating me up at that time. After that time, I felt my whole burden lifted. I feel the same way about Our Mother Mary and praying the rosary. I am praying a set of prayers from the Bible, in the Hail Marys, Holy Marys, Our Fathers and although it can sometimes feel repetitive and irrelevant, I feel that she (in her great mercy and love) not only removed my burdens but she clothes me with grace. And I am convicted of the power of One Hail Mary.

Dear sisters and brothers, there is no pain that she cannot kiss away. No tears of ours compares to the ones she has shed. She knows sorrows and pain and she loves us. Call out to Our Mother as a child would in need. In good times; in times that could have been better. She is filled with grace. She is the most blessed among women and the Mother of the only perfect child, our Lord Jesus Christ.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Hail Mary, full of grace. Our Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Blessed are you, O Virgin Mary, who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.

28 May, Saturday – Relinquishing Control

28 May

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Jude 1:17,20-25

Remember, my dear friends, what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ told you to expect. But you, my dear friends, must use your most holy faith as your foundation and build on that, praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves within the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you eternal life. When there are some who have doubts reassure them; when there are some to be saved from the fire, pull them out; but there are others to whom you must be kind with great caution, keeping your distance even from outside clothing which is contaminated by vice.

Glory be to him who can keep you from falling and bring you safe to his glorious presence, innocent and happy. To God, the only God, who saves us through Jesus Christ our Lord, be the glory, majesty, authority and power, which he had before time began, now and for ever. Amen.

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Mark 11:27-33

Jesus and his disciples came to Jerusalem, and as Jesus was walking in the Temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, ‘What authority have you for acting like this? Or who gave you authority to do these things?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I will ask you a question, only one; answer me and I will tell you my authority for acting like this. John’s baptism: did it come from heaven, or from man? Answer me that.’ And they argued it out this way among themselves: ‘If we say from heaven, he will say, “Then why did you refuse to believe him?” But dare we say from man?’ – they had the people to fear, for everyone held that John was a real prophet. So their reply to Jesus was, ‘We do not know.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Nor will I tell you my authority for acting like this.’

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Who gave you authority?

Today, I went for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When I was done with my confession, the priest began to speak and minister to me. This has happened to me several times. As I was listening to what the priest was saying, one side of me accepted what he spoke of obediently, but another side of me questioned if he was speaking to me as an ordinary person, as the priest who knew me so well. Or was he speaking in the person of Jesus Christ who is so loving and forgiving. Who was he to tell me to forgive and let go of things of the past? How would he know or understand exactly how I felt at the time when the sin was committed?

On another occasion, over Sunday lunch, my brother and I were having a conversation about a situation that was bothering me. The conversation got a little bit intense. He had touched on a very sensitive but real part of me that I refused to acknowledge for a long time. He hit a raw nerve. I started to ‘fight back’, tears streaming down my face. My own reaction surprised both of us. I felt the anger and frustration well up within me. How could he be so ‘judgemental’ and all-knowing about how I felt? In truth, he was right. But I simply refused to acknowledge what he said. Yet, he is my brother and he knows me well.

In today’s gospel reading, the scribes and the Pharisees questioned Jesus’ authority to act and teach as he did. Our Lord showed his jurisdiction over the sacred institution of the temple by closing it down. He drove out the merchants, those who bought and sold the animals, overturning the tables of the moneychangers and prohibiting men bringing in fresh supplies of wood and water and clothes. The Pharisees were extremely upset with Jesus – because this very act undermined their authority and was a threat to their source of power. Jesus’ closing down all commercial activity at the temple also hampered monies flowing into the temple and into their own pockets. They sensed the political threat and set out to test Jesus in the hope of eroding his popularity with the people. They were working for themselves to fuel their own power, and not doing the work or will of God.

For us believers today, we seek to exercise our authority not for political power or commercial gain. But do we question Jesus’ authority just because He did not answer our prayers the way we wanted him to? Do we question Him and His ways just because the answers (or lack of) did not go the way we hoped for? Do we feel cornered like the Pharisees when given a choice we did not like?

Brothers and sisters, God has engraved us on the palms of His hands. Does He not know us better than we know ourselves? Will we relinquish our human desire to take control and give Him authority over our lives?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord of our lives, because of Jesus, we know that we can come to you in faith and trust. Whatever we have, we give it to you today. Help us to fully surrender and give you full control and authority over our lives. What we have is Yours.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your faithfulness and mercy. As we read your word today, align our ways with Your ways and tune our hearts to sing your praise.

7 May, Saturday – Never In Solitude

7 May

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Acts 18:23-28

Paul came down to Antioch, where he spent a short time before continuing his journey through the Galatian country and then through Phrygia, encouraging all the followers.

An Alexandrian Jew named Apollos now arrived in Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, with a sound knowledge of the scriptures, and yet, though he had been given instruction in the Way of the Lord and preached with great spiritual earnestness and was accurate in all the details he taught about Jesus, he had only experienced the baptism of John. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him speak boldly in the synagogue, they took an interest in him and gave him further instruction about the Way.

When Apollos thought of crossing over to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote asking the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived there he was able by God’s grace to help the believers considerably by the energetic way he refuted the Jews in public and demonstrated from the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

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John 16:23-28

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
anything you ask for from the Father he will grant in my name.
Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.
Ask and you will receive, and so your joy will be complete.
I have been telling you all this in metaphors,
the hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in metaphors;
but tell you about the Father in plain words.
When that day comes you will ask in my name;
and I do not say that I shall pray to the Father for you,
because the Father himself loves you for loving me
and believing that I came from God.
I came from the Father and have come into the world
and now I leave the world to go to the Father.’

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Gave him further instructions

When we were born, we had our parents or guardians around us. Feeding us and giving us shelter and clothing as best they could afford. We had someone take care of us and we were not alone. As we enter school or work, we hope to form friendships with our classmates or co-workers and follow after good leaders.  We then begin to seek a partner in love… someone whom we could spend the rest of our lives with. We have friends and loved ones whom we have great relationships with, both for emotional and spiritual support. We build our families in our homes and in our churches.

Apollos was an eloquent and knowledgable follower of Christ but his experiences with God was not of first-hand experience. His faith and eagerness to preach about the Lord was very much a form of encouragement to people around him. This caught the attention of Priscilla and Aquila who encouraged him and strengthened his faith in Jesus. We can never walk alone. It is never a faith journey of just between you and Christ. It is never a journey of just between you and the Lord Father. It is never a journey of just you and the Eucharist. It has always been about you, God and others. We are little humans that need support from people of all walks of life… because we can always learn a thing or two from someone else. We are not to be selfish and to keep knowledge to ourselves. Jesus’s journey on earth was always about His people, Him and the Father. If Jesus was journeying with God only, then we would never have the Church.  The community is very much an integral part of our faith journey.

My dear brothers and sisters, may this ministry continue to touch you as we share our reflections with you. Because of you, we are encouraged to share our faith journey through these writings. Because of you, we continue to increase our faith in Christ. May we continue to grow in faith alongside this small community.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We pray for those who are alone tonight, that they may find comfort and warmth in communities.  May they not fall into depression, but to find hope in others, as in with the Lord.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for the support He has given us. We thank the Lord for all the readers for their encouragement to us.

4 May, Wednesday – One Pot Stock

4 May

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Acts 17:15,22-18:1

Paul’s escort took him as far as Athens, and went back with instructions for Silas and Timothy to rejoin Paul as soon as they could.

So Paul stood before the whole Council of the Areopagus and made this speech:

‘Men of Athens, I have seen for myself how extremely scrupulous you are in all religious matters, because I noticed, as I strolled round admiring your sacred monuments, that you had an altar inscribed: To An Unknown God. Well, the God whom I proclaim is in fact the one whom you already worship without knowing it.

‘Since the God who made the world and everything in it is himself Lord of heaven and earth, he does not make his home in shrines made by human hands. Nor is he dependent on anything that human hands can do for him, since he can never be in need of anything; on the contrary, it is he who gives everything – including life and breath – to everyone. From one single stock he not only created the whole human race so that they could occupy the entire earth, but he decreed how long each nation should flourish and what the boundaries of its territory should be. And he did this so that all nations might seek the deity and, by feeling their way towards him, succeed in finding him. Yet in fact he is not far from any of us, since it is in him that we live, and move, and exist, as indeed some of your own writers have said:

“We are all his children.”

‘Since we are the children of God, we have no excuse for thinking that the deity looks like anything in gold, silver or stone that has been carved and designed by a man.

‘God overlooked that sort of thing when men were ignorant, but now he is telling everyone everywhere that they must repent, because he has fixed a day when the whole world will be judged, and judged in righteousness, and he has appointed a man to be the judge. And God has publicly proved this by raising this man from the dead.’

At this mention of rising from the dead, some of them burst out laughing; others said, ‘We would like to hear you talk about this again.’ After that Paul left them, but there were some who attached themselves to him and became believers, among them Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman called Damaris, and others besides.

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.

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John 16:12-15

Jesus said:

‘I still have many things to say to you
but they would be too much for you now.
But when the Spirit of truth comes
he will lead you to the complete truth,
since he will not be speaking as from himself
but will say only what he has learnt;
and he will tell you of the things to come.
He will glorify me,
since all he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.
Everything the Father has is mine;
that is why I said:
All he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.’

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From one single stock

God must be a really good cook. From one single stock, the chef will be able to prepare his sauces, flavour his meats, make purees with bodied flavours for soups, marinades and flavoured rice dishes. It is the base where many other forms can be created. Oftentimes it is known to be the most important foundation to a winning dish.

Paul, in today’s reading, spoke to the people of Athens that there is to be no other false gods. That they should only worship the one God and Creator of us and of all things surrounding us. Even till this day, more than two thousand years after the resurrection of Jesus, many find it hard to believe that the world was created by one God. This has always been a mystery about creation. With all the medical and scientific knowledge in the world today, we are able to explain how babies are born, but it still does not explain why we have been created. As Paul says, we are all His children and we are not to worship any false gods but only to love our maker and Father. We are not to indulge in the temptations and richness that could lead us to sin even deeper, and to turn to the His commandments.

We have been created to live with righteousness and with obedience to the Lord, perhaps for a larger truth that He has for us. God is always fair in revealing to us what we deserve to know. Many times we are led through a series of lessons just to know why things have happened the way they did. The answer to our ‘Whys’ could be realised tomorrow, at a later time or even perhaps in another decade. What we are encouraged to do is to be in loving worship and obedience to God, our creator. And to treat one another with the Spirit-filled love planted in us because we are the same ingredient from the same pot of stock.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We pray for those who have fell prey to other motivations that have led them away from being loving and kind to others. May other Christians be able to show them God’s love through everyday actions.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for the greatest love that You have given us, Jesus Christ.