Tag Archives: contentment

13 November, Tuesday – Fleeting Worldly Possessions

13 November

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Titus 2:1-8,11-14

It is for you to preach the behaviour which goes with healthy doctrine. The older men should be reserved, dignified, moderate, sound in faith and love and constancy. Similarly, the older women should behave as though they were religious, with no scandal-mongering and no habitual wine-drinking – they are to be the teachers of the right behaviour and show the younger women how they should love their husbands and love their children, how they are to be sensible and chaste, and how to work in their homes, and be gentle, and do as their husbands tell them, so that the message of God is never disgraced. In the same way, you have got to persuade the younger men to be moderate and in everything you do make yourself an example to them of working for good: when you are teaching, be an example to them in your sincerity and earnestness and in keeping all that you say so wholesome that nobody can make objections to it; and then any opponent will be at a loss, with no accusation to make against us. You see, God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions; we must be self-restrained and live good and religious lives here in this present world, while we are waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the Appearing of the glory of our great God and saviour Christ Jesus. He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.

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Luke 17:7-10

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal immediately”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper laid; make yourself tidy and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink yourself afterwards”? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”’

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For the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly and devoutly in this age…

All my friends and family have been raving about the movie “Crazy Rich Asians”.  I guess I am one of the few people that hasn’t seen the movie yet.  Honestly, living in North America, there is growing resentment towards the ‘nouveau riche’, and well-to-do Asians and immigrants. General public opinion blames them for a lot of the country’s real estate market woes. The thought of sitting through a movie based on wealthy Asians and all its stereotypes and clichés made me cringe.

Then just this week, I came upon the book (which the movie is based on) and decided to give it a read. It was entertaining as I read more, I realized that it was not just a romance novel nor a Cinderella tale. It is an ‘in your face’, satirical look at the lives of people who appear to have it all, yet who are truly unhappy.  They don’t have many, if any, meaningful friendships or relationships and are constantly trying to outdo each other. They have placed great importance on things of a transient nature above the one eternal truth. This may be a depiction of reality for some people or a pure work of fiction; whatever the case, I am reminded of one of the sermons of Bishop Barron.

In his sermon, the Bishop talked about the preoccupation and pursuit of wealth, power, honour, passion and other worldly things. These are not necessarily bad things on their own — we all seek them in one way or another. The danger comes when we forget that these are all temporary and fleeting. In fact, our time on earth is temporary and fleeting. Our goal is eternal union with our God and we should set our sights upon heavenly things. We need to see the good, the truth and the beautiful things of this world in proper prospective. We need to understand that all comes from God and to see everything in the light of God. We need to learn the value of these transient things in the light of Christ, without clinging to them, without putting too much importance or expecting too much from them. For if we place more importance on the things of the world instead of heaven, if we follow our worldly desires instead of our saviour; then for sure, we will lose sight of the eternal goal and ourselves along the way.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we set our hearts and minds on what is truly important and eternal; let us not fall into the trap of the material world and lose sight of our goal of being in communion with you.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for granting us your grace to help us battle the temptations of this world.

3 October, Wednesday – Holy Indifference

3 October

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Job 9:1-13, 14-16

Job spoke next. He said:
Indeed, I know it is as you say:
how can man be in the right against God?
If any were so rash as to challenge him for reasons,
one in a thousand would be more than they could answer.
His heart is wise, and his strength is great:
who then can successfully defy him?
He moves the mountains, though they do not know it;
he throws them down when he is angry.
He shakes the earth, and moves it from its place,
making all its pillars tremble.
The sun, at his command, forbears to rise,
and on the stars he sets a seal.
He and no other stretched out the skies,
and trampled the Sea’s tall waves.
The Bear, Orion too, are of his making,
the Pleiades and the Mansions of the South.
His works are great, beyond all reckoning,
his marvels, past all counting.
Were he to pass me, I should not see him,
nor detect his stealthy movement.
Were he to snatch a prize, who could prevent him,
or dare to say, ‘What are you doing?’
God never goes back on his anger,
Rahab’s minions still lie at his feet.

How dare I plead my cause, then,
or choose arguments against him?
Suppose I am in the right, what use is my defence?
For he whom I must sue is judge as well.
If he deigned to answer my citation,
could I be sure that he would listen to my voice?

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Luke 9:57-62

As they travelled along they met a man on the road who said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’

Another to whom he said, ‘Follow me’, replied, ‘Let me go and bury my father first.’ But he answered, ‘Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.’

Another said, ‘I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say good-bye to my people at home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

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… the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.

In July 2008, during my World Youth Day pilgrimage in Sydney, there was one point of time when we felt quite homeless. We were all housed in a school hall and dormitory where we had to sleep on the floor in the cold winter. What that experience taught me is that when on a pilgrimage, we cannot expect the best of living conditions and have to take whatever is given to us. I was just grateful that we didn’t have to sleep out in the open!

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus tells us that the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. One thing we often forget about Jesus’ three years in public ministry is that he was constantly on the move, travelling from one town to another all throughout the land, preaching the Good News. There must have been many a time when he lacked basic creature comforts and had to sleep out in the open. When he was lucky, someone might have provided him a nice place to stay. Most of the time, he just took whatever was given to him.

In the first reading, we have here a man, a rich man at that, who has just lost everything he owned in one fell swoop. How difficult it must have been for him to go from a rich lifestyle to a poor one overnight. His speech to his friends reflected the frustration he was feeling at the unfairness of it all.

My friends, sometimes when bad things befall us, we might feel like Job, wondering at the unfairness of it all. But let us remember the example given to us by Jesus, to take all things that happen to us in stride. St. Ignatius of Loyola prayed not for riches or for poverty, but to be indifferent and to seek only the will of God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daniel Tay)

Prayer: Dear Lord, give us the grace to do everything for your greater glory, and for holy indifference, choosing neither riches nor poverty, neither health nor sickness, neither married life nor the celibate life, but to take everything as it comes according to your will. Amen.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Lord for what we have.

26 September, Wednesday – Rags and Riches

26 September – Memorial for Sts. Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs

Cosmas and Damian were twin brothers, physicians who accepted no payment. Their charity brought many to Christ. Although they were tortured during the persecutions of Diocletian, the two suffered no injury.

– Patron Saints Index

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Proverbs 30:5-9

Every word of God is unalloyed,
he is the shield of those who take refuge in him.
To his words make no addition,
lest he reprove you and know you for a fraud.

Two things I beg of you,
do not grudge me them before I die:
keep falsehood and lies far from me,
give me neither poverty nor riches,
grant me only my share of bread to eat,
for fear that surrounded by plenty, I should fall away
and say, ‘the Lord – who is the Lord?’
or else, in destitution, take to stealing
and profane the name of my God.

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Luke 9:1-6

Jesus called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for the journey: neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there; and when you leave, let it be from there. As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave their town shake the dust from your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and healing everywhere.

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“Provide me only with the food I need”

As I write this, the book “Billion Dollar Whale” has just been released. It is a book written by two Wall Street Journal reporters detailing the life of excess and scandal surrounding businessman Jho Low. A prominent Malaysian politician shared an excerpt of the book recently, about a circus-themed birthday party that Jho Low threw for himself. The extravagance of the party led it to be dubbed the most expensive private party ever held in Las Vegas.

Over the past few years, details of the scandal surrounding Jho Low and the 1MDB saga have emerged, and the life of excess of certain parties involved using public money have angered the Malaysian people. If the details of the various reports are accurate, this would be the most mind-boggling scandal the world would have ever seen.

Today’s reading encourages a life of balance. When is enough, enough? The following line in the reading caught me: “Lest being full, I deny you… or being in want, I steal and profane the name of my God”. The scandal above has shown both sides of the coin – the alleged parties wanted more and so they stole, and being full, they still lived a life that was against all that God abhors. Like Parkinson’s Law, that states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion, so too does money – our lives expand to fill the money available at hand. Where and how do we draw the line? At what point do we reach sufficiency, and what is our definition of sufficiency? Will we be happy when we reach sufficiency, or when we give to others out of our sufficiency? Jesus advised his disciples not to take anything for the journey, trusting instead in God to provide for them for their necessities. In that trust, the Twelve set off.

And so too shall we set off, in our own approach to life, believing that God will see us through. If He waters the trees and clothes the flowers so beautifully, then what more shall He do for us? Perhaps the thing that we should ask ourselves is not how much we have, but out of what we have, how shall we give to others? Perhaps in sharing, we may experience for ourselves a taste of the riches of the Kingdom of God, and therein shall our treasure lie, therein shall our desire be.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the wisdom of discernment, to know where to draw the line between wanting more and needing more. Help us to live our lives in balance, knowing that you will provide for us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the roofs over our heads, the food in our stomachs, the jobs that we have and the ability to sleep soundly at night. We pray for those who are in need, that we may find a way to help them.

8 January, Monday – Recognising The Truly Important

8 January – The Baptism of the Lord

The Baptism of the Christ (or the Baptism of Christ) is the feast day commemorating the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. Originally the baptism of Christ was celebrated on Epiphany, which commemorates the coming of the Magi, the baptism of Christ, and the wedding at Cana. Over time in the West, however, the celebration of the baptism of the Lord came to be commemorated as a distinct feast from Epiphany. It is celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church as well as the Anglican and Lutheran Churches on the first Sunday following The Epiphany of Our Lord (6 January).

– Wikipedia

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Isaiah 55:1-11

Thus says the Lord:
Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty;
though you have no money, come!
Buy corn without money, and eat,
and, at no cost, wine and milk.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
your wages on what fails to satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and you will have good things to eat
and rich food to enjoy.
Pay attention, come to me;
listen, and your soul will live.

With you I will make an everlasting covenant
out of the favours promised to David.
See, I have made of you a witness to the peoples,
a leader and a master of the nations.
See, you will summon a nation you never knew,
those unknown will come hurrying to you,
for the sake of the Lord your God,
of the Holy One of Israel who will glorify you.

Seek the Lord while he is still to be found,
call to him while he is still near.
Let the wicked man abandon his way,
the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn back to the Lord who will take pity on him,
to our God who is rich in forgiving;
for my thoughts are not your thoughts,
my ways not your ways – it is the Lord who speaks.
Yes, the heavens are as high above earth
as my ways are above your ways,
my thoughts above your thoughts.

Yes, as the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.

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1 John 5:1-9

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ
has been begotten by God;
and whoever loves the Father that begot him
loves the child whom he begets.
We can be sure that we love God’s children
if we love God himself and do what he has commanded us;
this is what loving God is –
keeping his commandments;
and his commandments are not difficult,
because anyone who has been begotten by God
has already overcome the world;
this is the victory over the world –
our faith.

Who can overcome the world?
Only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God:
Jesus Christ who came by water and blood,
not with water only,
but with water and blood;
with the Spirit as another witness –
since the Spirit is the truth –
so that there are three witnesses,
the Spirit, the water and the blood,
and all three of them agree.
We accept the testimony of human witnesses,
but God’s testimony is much greater,
and this is God’s testimony,
given as evidence for his Son.

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Mark 1:7-11

In the course of his preaching John the Baptist said, ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

It was at this time that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised in the Jordan by John. No sooner had he come up out of the water than he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’

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“Here is the servant whom I uphold my chosen one in whom my soul delights”

In the last few months, I have been having conversations with my ex-schoolmates and friends who are in all in their fifties. Strangely, while we have never previously discussed or shared our views, all of us talked of spending more time with our families, time with God, doing charity works or simply relaxing more.

And yet, these are men, who at first worked hard in their studies and later became very successful in their businesses and careers. Somehow over the years, these same men despite having all their ‘successes’, agreed that something was still missing in their lives. The common refrain I hear from them was, “There is more to life than money/career/success/…”

In our later years, my friends and I have realised that the pursuit of riches still leaves us wanting more. In my case, I realised in early 2016, when I attended CER, that the missing ‘something’ was my experience of God’s love. While His love was never lacking and was always there for me, my earthly issues and distractions kept me from noticing it.

Just like John the Baptist, who recognised that Jesus was God, and willingly bowed down to His Godliness, I pray that I may always be able to see God everywhere and in everyone around me. I pray that I may be able to give up my ego and pride and offer myself to our One True God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we may be able to give up everything for our Father and Lord God, that we may be able to always see God around us.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for choosing and creating us to be Your children, Father God. Thank You for being there for us and for sending Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ to us.

14 November, Tuesday – Call of Duty

14 November 2017

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Wisdom 2:23-3:9
God made man imperishable,
he made him in the image of his own nature;
it was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world,
as those who are his partners will discover.
But the souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God,
no torment shall ever touch them.
In the eyes of the unwise, they did appear to die,
their going looked like a disaster,
their leaving us, like annihilation;
but they are in peace.
If they experienced punishment as men see it,
their hope was rich with immortality;
slight was their affliction, great will their blessings be.
God has put them to the test
and proved them worthy to be with him;
he has tested them like gold in a furnace,
and accepted them as a holocaust.
When the time comes for his visitation they will shine out;
as sparks run through the stubble, so will they.
They shall judge nations, rule over peoples,
and the Lord will be their king for ever.
They who trust in him will understand the truth,
those who are faithful will live with him in love;
for grace and mercy await those he has chosen.

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Luke 17:7-10
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal immediately”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper laid; make yourself tidy and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink yourself afterwards”? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”’

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…we have done no more than our duty.
At events involving my President or members of my senior management, I always make sure that I am around to receive, greet and attend to them until they leave. And while they always tell me it is not necessary to see them off, I feel it is my duty to ensure that they leave an event or official function with a proper sendoff. For me, it is neither a chore nor a way of gaining ‘brownie points’; it is my duty.
Some of my peers have remarked that I am always busy running around and, in some cases, have sympathised with me on the sacrifice of time that I have to make. Sometimes, there is a hint of pity in their tone but I always say that I am just doing my job. And while I have heard of counterparts in other organisations who do not even receive a word of thanks or acknowledgement from their bosses, I am lucky that mine always gives me a ‘Thank you’ or a squeeze on the arm to acknowledge my efforts.
And so, my brothers and sisters, just as we are each called to perform our daily duties, we must also bear in mind our duty to ourselves. Many of us go about our work mechanically, never once asking ourselves if indeed we are happy doing it. Because apart from our remuneration, we also crave a word of thanks or a gesture from our bosses. And when that is lacking, we feel taken for granted, wallowing in self-pity.
Today, Jesus is reminding us that whatever we do, be it at home, in the office or in ministry, we are servants called to work in the Lord’s vineyard. We must approach our work without any sense of entitlement or inflated expectations. For ‘it was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world’ (Wis 2:24A) and we should obey the Lord and be attentive to His commands; for He is putting us to the test and our reward will not be of this earth but in His kingdom, where we will ‘shine out’ and ‘live with him in love’.
Brothers and sisters, as the Lord puts us through the furnace here on earth and moulds us daily into His image, let us not seek the glory and recognition of others. Instead, let us be content and to trust in Him so that when the time comes, we will receive the grace and mercy that He has already given us in abundance…and more.  
(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)
Prayer: Lord God, help us to go through each day answering your call in humble obedience, not craving the praise and recognition of others. 
Thanksgiving: Heavenly father, we give thanks and praise to you for your abundant blessings, graces and mercy.

23 October, Monday – The Material Is Immaterial

Oct 23 – Memorial for St. John Capistrano, Priest

John (1386–1456) was the son of a former German knight. His father died when John was still young. He studied law at the University of Perugia, and became a lawyer in Naples, Italy. He was the reforming governor of Perugia under King Landislas of Naples. When war broke out between Perugia and Malatesta in 1416, John tried to broker a peace, but instead his opponents ignored the truce, and John became a prisoner of war.

During his imprisonment, he came to the decision to change vocations. He had married just before the war, but his marriage was never consummated and, with his bride’s permission, it was annulled. He became a Franciscan at Perugia on 4 October 1416 and was a fellow student with St. James of the Marshes, and a disciple of St. Bernadine of Siena. He was a noted preacher while still a deacon, beginning his work in 1420.

He was an itinerant priest throughout Italy, Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Russia, preaching to tens of thousands. He established communities of Franciscan renewal, and was reported to heal by making the Sign of the Cross over a sick person. He wrote extensively, mainly against the heresies of the day.

After the fall of Constantinople, he preached Crusade against the Muslim Turks. At the age of 70, he was commissioned by Pope Callistus II to lead it, and marched off at the head of 70,000 Christian soldiers. He won the great battle of Belgrade in the summer of 1456. He died in the field a few months later, but his army delivered Europe from the Muslims.

– Patron Saint Index

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Romans 4:20-25

Since God had made him a promise, Abraham refused either to deny it or even to doubt it, but drew strength from faith and gave glory to God, convinced that God had power to do what he had promised. This is the faith that was ‘considered as justifying him.’ Scripture however does not refer only to him but to us as well when it says that his faith was thus ‘considered’; our faith too will be ‘considered’ if we believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, Jesus who was put to death for our sins and raised to life to justify us.

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Luke 12:13-21

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

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

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…a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.

Greed can certainly become an all-consuming ‘passion’ and drive someone to do things that totally do not make any sense from a rational point of view. In fact, I know of many instances where families have been torn apart because of greed and, in some cases, over rather insignificant sums of money.

Fortunately, I have never been in any position to share any wealth I have accumulated over the years as I used to be quite bad at managing my own finances. I had the tendency of spending well outside of my means in my 20s and 30s, even going into quite significant credit card debt. But, having seen the error of my ways, I have also recently discovered the joy of decluttering – getting rid of as many of my ‘useless’ possessions as I can. One item at a time, one bootload of ‘rubbish’ at a time, I have come to realise that we truly do not need much more than a roof over our head and two (or three) hot meals each day.

It has been a year since I came back from my Camino and last month, as a friend of mine was updating me on his 5-day walk, I couldn’t help but wonder how my brother in Christ, Helge, was getting on. As I looked back at my Facebook posts from last year, the tears welled up as I recalled that day we reunited as I was walking into Santiago. I still feel the same emotions hearing him recount what happened to him that week we seemed to have ‘lost each other’ on the road. How he had to resort to selling his things and, eventually, his boots so that he could continue his walk. How he was down to his last Euro when we met up again and how he was planning to spend two nights in the airport because he simply could not afford to stay in Santiago.

And, even though he had been told that his mother had passed away just the day before, he was still as joyful and more in love with Jesus than when he started his walk 5 months earlier from Berlin, with no job and no home. The two days he spent with us were filled with laughter, tears and wonderful meals as we shared freely about our own struggles and our lives at home. As I watched him walk away from my window the day he left for the airport, I couldn’t help but feel in my heart that for those two glorious days, I had been in the presence of Christ himself.

Brothers and sisters, as I have written yesterday, we are merely ‘in transit’ here on earth. Let us not waste our time here caught up by all things material. Because at the end of the day, there is nothing we can take with us when we eventually depart for the next life.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: We pray for all those who are too caught up in greed to see the error of their ways and to be free from this capital sin.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we give thanks for all that you bestow on us.

22 October, Sunday – Paying Our Dues

October 22 – World Mission Sunday

World Mission Sunday is a day set aside for the Catholic Church throughout the world to publicly renew its commitment to the missionary movement. It is celebrated on the penultimate (next-to-last) Sunday of October every year.[1] It was created by Pope Pius XI in 1926 as the day of prayer for missions.

  • Wikipedia

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Isaiah 45:1, 4-6

Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whom he has taken by his right hand to subdue nations before him and strip the loins of kings, to force gateways before him that their gates be closed no more:

‘It is for the sake of my servant Jacob, of Israel my chosen one, that I have called you by your name, conferring a title though you do not know me. I am the Lord, unrivalled; there is no other God besides me.

Though you do not know me, I arm you that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that, apart from me, all is nothing.’

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1 Thessalonians 1:1-5

From Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, to the Church in Thessalonika which is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; wishing you grace and peace.

We always mention you in our prayers and thank God for you all, and constantly remember before God our Father how you have shown your faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ.

We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen, because when we brought the Good News to you, it came to you not only as words, but as power and as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction.

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Matthew 22:15-21

The Pharisees went away to work out between them how to trap Jesus in what he said. And they sent their disciples to him, together with the Herodians, to say, ‘Master, we know that you are an honest man and teach the way of God in an honest way, and that you are not afraid of anyone, because a man’s rank means nothing to you. Tell us your opinion, then. Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’ But Jesus was aware of their malice and replied, ‘You hypocrites! Why do you set this trap for me? Let me see the money you pay the tax with.’ They handed him a denarius, and he said, ‘Whose head is this? Whose name?’ ‘Caesar’s’ they replied. He then said to them, ‘Very well, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.’

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…give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.

A minister one day approached a noble king and asked this question, “My Lord, I have been in your service for the last 50 years. As I am about to retire, how do you intend to reward me for my loyalty?” After giving it some thought, the King told his minister to take a horse from the royal stable and ride from daybreak till dusk. However much land the horse encircled would be given to the minister and his family.

The next day, the minister awoke bright and early and rode furiously from sunrise to sunset. The moment he stopped, both the horse and him dropped dead from sheer exhaustion. In the end, all that was given to the minister was just enough land to accommodate his coffin.

Brothers and sisters, it is very easy to be consumed by the material world, especially when society judges you by your postal code, make of car, brand of handbag and how frequently you dine at expensive restaurants. Jesus’ reply truly gives us some context in terms of how we should aim to live our life here on earth. Because at the end of the day, this temporal existence of ours is merely a prelude to an eternal life either in Heaven, or in total damnation and despair. If we allow ourselves to be consumed by greed, envy and pride, there is no end to the misery that we will be inflicting upon ourselves and our loved ones.

For me, Jesus’ reply works on two levels. First, he teaches us to be good, law-abiding citizens by giving back to our rulers what is owed to them. On the other hand, if you look at it from His perspective, He knows that no matter what we do, there is no amount of riches we could ever own that could even begin to repay our God for all He has done for us. So why then should we go to church and celebrate the Eucharist as often as we can? Why bother when God can never, ever be repaid in kindness and generosity?

The answer is that Jesus doesn’t want us to give up trying. We must have faith and carry within us the hope that our loving Father will always look upon us and embrace us in His loving arms as we lay down to sleep each night, comforted by the fact that He has forgiven us our sins and is waiting to welcome us with open arms. All we need to do is to pray each and every day.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Bless us heavenly Father, with the spirit of contentment so that we do not succumb to greed but hunger for what you can give us every day.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord, for all that you give to us.

7 August, Monday – On Discontent

Aug 7 – Memorial for St. Sixtus, pope, martyr, and companions; St. Cajetan, priest

Sixtus (d. 258) was an adult convert to Christianity. In his papacy, he dealt with the controversy concerning Baptism by heretics. He believed that anyone who was baptised with a desire to be a Christian, even if the Baptism was performed by a heretic, was truly baptised into the faith, and that the validity of his faith was based on his own desire and actions, not the errors of the person who performed the sacrament. He was martyred with six deacons and sub-deacons.

Cajetan (1480-1547) was offered governing posts, but turned them down for a religious vocation. He was aware of the need of reformation in the Church and felt called to enter a religious community to serve the sick and poor. With three others, he formed the Congregation of Clerks Regular (Theatines) with the mission of fostering the Church’s mission and reviving the spirit and zeal of the clergy. He also founded a bank to help the poor and offer an alternative to usurers (loan sharks); it later became the Bank of Naples.

St. Cajetan was known for a gentle game he played with parishioners where he would bet prayers, rosaries or devotional candles on whether he would perform some service for them; he always did, and they always had to “pay” by saying the prayers. He is a patron saint of the umemployed.

– Patron Saint Index

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Numbers 11:4-15

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

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

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

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

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Matthew 14:22-36

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

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

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“…Five loaves and two fish are all we have here”

John 6:27 reminds us, “do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you”. How often we forget that when we obsess over the minutiae. I have started to plan this year’s Thanksgiving dinner – yes, I am ‘that person’, the super planner, the pedant in the kitchen! I realize that in my OCD-driven need for absolute perfection, the meaning of why we are celebrating Thanksgiving could get lost in the shuffle. Like the Hebrews in the desert, their rabid fixation on mindless detail (“the fish we used to eat without cost in Egypt, and the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic”) obscured the true miracle of their circumstances – they were still alive! And they were free men!

In Scripture, food and wine are used as vehicles of God’s power and grace – the bread and wine of redemption at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:17-30); the water that changed to wine at the wedding feast in Cana (John 2:1-11); the large catch of fish which moved Peter to leave it all behind to follow Christ (Luke 5:6-10). These were all epiphanies but only those with the gift of faith were able to perceive their significance. Not all who have eyes shall see; and that is a universal truth. The Hebrews complained about the inconvenience of their nomadic life despite being liberated from their taskmasters. They even criticized the manna from heaven, itself a daily reminder of the miracle of their salvation. The Psalmist nails it when he says, “I gave them up to the hardness of their hearts; they walked according to their own counsels”. In contrast, the reading from Matthew tells of how five loaves and two fish fed the multitude of faithful that had gathered before Jesus. “And they all ate, and everyone had enough” (Matt 14:20). It was simple food, but under those circumstances, it was a miraculous blessing – and everyone was satisfied.

In our chase for perfection, there is always more to covet after. We are always comparing, always complaining, always benchmarking. But do we really ‘see’ ourselves and our circumstances? Are we aware of where we’ve come from? Are we grateful for it? Humbled by it? Or is our first reflex to find fault, complain and be filled with discontent? Hold up the mirror, look long and hard. What you see might surprise you.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for God’s forgiveness for all the times we’ve missed the woods for the trees. Give us a heart of self-awareness and humility, that we may always be grateful for the miracles in our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the blessings of family, friends, faith and community.