Tag Archives: courage

29 June, Saturday – The Lord stands by us and gives us power

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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The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom!

As I reflected on the fearlessness and courage of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, as well as the steadfastness of God’s love and protection over them, I am also reminded of the ways both saints failed Jesus – the first, in his cowardice renounced Jesus three times and the other, a zealous persecutor of Christians. In the eyes of the world, they would have been condemned for their betrayal, and yet, instead of writing them off, God touched their hearts and they became powerful instruments in His plans. This conversion of hearts drove them to proclaim the works of Jesus and proliferate Christianity throughout the world. From a place of love for God, they abandoned fully into the mission Christ had set forth for them, always trusting in His plans, and obedience unto death.

Recently, a member of the family was making some poor choices and the chosen behavior and actions really did not sit well with me. The person is someone I love very much, and it was difficult for me to reconcile her actions with our faith and values. However, speaking up might have caused a further rift in our relationship. This dilemma caused much heartache and many sleepless nights. It would have been easier for me to sweep it under the carpet and ignore the turbulence I felt in my heart. Instead, I sought solace in our Lord, turned to our Father in prayer and sought guidance from the Holy Spirit. Through the grace of God, I was prompted with a message and felt it was really God speaking through me. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the outcome was one of acceptance and respect on both sides. To be able to stand firm in my belief and faith while at the same time, conveying my feelings with clarity and in love, gave me peace. The courage and the power of conviction was so strong that I know only He could provide. Truth be told, I have never felt I had it in me to do something like that. Today, I am reminded of these words I once heard; God does not call the abled but enables those He calls. Despite our sinfulness, God calls us and uses us in ways unimaginable, all He asks of us, is to respond to Him in love!

For Jesus taught us and showed us that Love is the greatest commandment of all! The love of our Father though gentle and tender, is also powerful and strong. His love moves mountains and transforms hearts. And when we stand up in love for our faith, and for Christ, our Lord will in turn stand by us, protect us and bring us home safely to his heavenly kingdom!

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, enable us, your sinful children, to always turn to you for inspiration and direction in all that we say and do. May our efforts be pleasing to you and when our work is done here on earth, bring us home safely to you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for calling us to be your children, for choosing us to be your instruments. Even though we are broken, you make us whole again through the work we offer you. Thank you for your mercy, your grace and your love! 

18 April, Thursday (Chrism mass) – Own The Moment

18 April 2019

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Isaiah 61:1-3,6,8-9

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up hearts that are broken;

to proclaim liberty to captives,
freedom to those in prison;
to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord,
a day of vengeance for our God,

to comfort all those who mourn and to give them
for ashes a garland;
for mourning robe the oil of gladness,
for despondency, praise.

But you, you will be named ‘priests of the Lord’,
they will call you ‘ministers of our God.’
I reward them faithfully
and make an everlasting covenant with them.

Their race will be famous throughout the nations,
their descendants throughout the peoples.
All who see them will admit
that they are a race whom the Lord has blessed.

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Apocalypse 1:5-8

Grace and peace to you from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the First-Born from the dead, the Ruler of the kings of the earth. He loves us and has washed away our sins with his blood, and made us a line of kings, priests to serve his God and Father; to him, then, be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen. It is he who is coming on the clouds; everyone will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the races of the earth will mourn over him. This is the truth. Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’ says the Lord God, who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.

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Luke 4:16-21
Jesus came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’

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You yourselves shall be named priests of the Lord, ministers of our God shall you be called

How do we discern what God’s plan is for us? Does that plan change as we move through our life’s cycle? Some people are dutiful daughters, loving wives and doting grandmothers, but what if we are in one of those non-traditional families and don’t have children of our own? What roles do we play then? I’ve found myself mulling this over a lot as we approach the home stretch of Holy Week. I feel an urgency to figure this out because if I don’t, then it would be as if I had squandered yet another Lent. It would be as if I had learned nothing. I still don’t know what God wants for me. That failure to bear fruit is causing me a lot of anxiety.

The confidence with which Jesus embraces his purpose in today’s gospel reading is truly humbling. It takes courage to recognize and embrace your cause, courage which I clearly haven’t found. In his shoes, I would never have been so bold. I would have been intimidated by the expensive trappings of the temple, the rustle of the high priests’ robes as they walked, the scale of the place and all it symbolized in Jewish culture. I would have been overwhelmed by the weight of all that history, the expectations of generations of Jewish prophecy. I would have fretted over whether I was good enough, whether I would ever be good enough. I would have been too afraid to own the moment, as Jesus did.

And maybe that’s my problem. Fear. I am afraid to own my moment. I’m afraid to embrace my cause. I’m afraid to disappoint all the people who expect things from me, that I will upset their well-laid plans, if I stand up for myself. I don’t want to rock the boat with anyone. I tell myself that I’m trying to keep the peace but fear of confrontation is not the same as peacekeeping. No one succeeds in trying to please everyone. There is no happiness in pandering to everybody’s expectations of us. And perhaps that’s why I still haven’t figured it out — because I’ve lost sight of the only opinion that matters. God’s.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the wisdom and fortitude to see the long view and discern God’s purpose for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for God’s mercy and the expansiveness of His love, that despite our unworthiness, He deemed us enough for Him.

20 October, Saturday – Truth

20 October

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Ephesians 1:15-23

I, having once heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus, and the love that you show towards all the saints, have never failed to remember you in my prayers and to thank God for you. May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers. This you can tell from the strength of his power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven, far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named not only in this age but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.

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Luke 12:8-12

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I tell you, if anyone openly declares himself for me in the presence of men, the Son of Man will declare himself for him in the presence of the angels. But the man who disowns me in the presence of men will be disowned in the presence of God’s angels.

‘Everyone who says a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

‘When they take you before synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say, because when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say.’

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When they take you before synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say, because when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say

History has given us many examples of people who have spoken up for the truth, and paid the price for it with their lives. All of them stood by their deep-set beliefs fighting for justice, and were never afraid to do so. Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln – these are some famous examples. Yet for every famous person that has spoken up for the side of truth, there are many, many more who suffer for speaking the truth, and submitted into silence. Torture, threats against their lives, and the lives of their loved ones have put fear into these people’s hearts. They are not less courageous though.

If presented with the same situation, how many of us would actually speak up? We need not even have to put ourselves in situations of fighting for political or social injustice, just looking into our daily lives is sufficient. Most people adopt a “don’t get involved” policy. You could even be viewed as someone who has nothing else better to do than to cause trouble by speaking up. People would rather go their own way and live their lives. If we knew something was wrong, say at work, where a boss was sexually harassing a colleague, would we speak up? Or would we “mind our own business”, knowing that the victim may not be in a position to speak up for herself? Do we turn a blind eye?

If we feel that it is the right thing to do, but lack the courage to speak up, let us take comfort knowing that some of the bravest people too were scared to speak up. Ghandi who was trained as a barrister, was too shy to speak up in court, and as a result was unsuccessful at his attempts in setting up a law practice in Bombay (now Mumbai). This was a man, who was trained to represent the law, who later became a leader in non-violent movements to oppose the social injustice and British rule in India. His turning point came after experiencing first-hand the prejudices against coloured people in South Africa. If Ghandi could do it, what more us? I’m not saying that we all have to become statesmen and women, but I believe that each of us should have a little “Ghandi” in us: that in each of us, there is a little seed of courage that is not afraid to step out.

Jesus represented the truth, and spoke out against the religious leaders of his day. He admonished them on several scores, incurring their wrath. Yet knowing the fate that lay before him, Jesus continued with his sermons. Though he is the Son of God, but he was made Man, and knew fear. And he feared what was to come, and prayed that God would take that cup from him. Yet he also prayed, “Your will, not mine be done”. (Luke 22:42) He was in so much agony, that he sweated blood. God heard his fervent prayers and sent an angel to strengthen him.

What does this mean for us? To speak the truth takes a measure of courage. Sometimes we fear the consequences, but we should pray about it. God hears our prayers, and He will strengthen us as He did Jesus. He will put the words in our mouths, and direct our thoughts. But we have to keep up our prayers, as Jesus did, and submit wholeheartedly to God’s will. It is okay to be afraid, and if we stand by the side of truth, we will never be alone, for God will always be with us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, fill us with the spirit of discernment so that we can tell right from wrong, and when there is wrong, fill us with the Holy Spirit to right that wrong. Where we lack courage, strengthen us, yet let your will, not ours be done.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for those before us who have stood up for the basic rights that we take for granted today. May we never forget the sacrifices that they have made.

5 July, Thursday – Jesus Sees Our Faith

Jul 5 – Memorial for St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria, Priest

St. Anthony (1502-1539) studied medicine at Padua, receiving his doctorate at age 22. Working among the poor in Cremona, he felt called to the religious life. He was ordained at age 26; legend says that angels were seen around the altar at his first Mass. St. Anthony established two congregations that helped reform the morals of the faithful, encouraged laymen to work together with the apostolate, and frequent reception of Communion.

– Patron Saint Index

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Amos 5:14-15,21-24

Seek good and not evil
so that you may live,
and that the Lord, God of Hosts, may really be with you
as you claim he is.

Hate evil, love good,
maintain justice at the city gate,
and it may be that the Lord, God of Hosts, will take pity
on the remnant of Joseph.

I hate and despise your feasts,
I take no pleasure in your solemn festivals.
When you offer me holocausts,
I reject your oblations,
and refuse to look at your sacrifices of fattened cattle.

Let me have no more of the din of your chanting,
no more of your strumming on harps.
But let justice flow like water,
and integrity like an unfailing stream.

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Matthew 8:28-34

When Jesus reached the country of the Gadarenes on the other side, two demoniacs came towards him out of the tombs – creatures so fierce that no one could pass that way. They stood there shouting, ‘What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before the time?’ Now some distance away there was a large herd of pigs feeding, and the devils pleaded with Jesus, ‘If you cast us out, send us into the herd of pigs.’ And he said to them, ‘Go then’, and they came out and made for the pigs; and at that the whole herd charged down the cliff into the lake and perished in the water. The swineherds ran off and made for the town, where they told the whole story, including what had happened to the demoniacs. At this the whole town set out to meet Jesus; and as soon as they saw him they implored him to leave the neighbourhood.

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Courage, my child, your sins are forgiven.

A couple of months ago, my friend returned back home to spend time with her 12-year-old nephew, who was in his last stages of cancer. The family were struggling to come to terms with his illness. From shock, to hope, to despair, to pain and suffering. It is never easy to watch a loved one suffer. Especially for parents. How many of us have whispered the prayer “Lord, let me take my child’s suffering.” He had undergone an operation to relieve the pressure the tumour was causing within his skull. The day after the operation, the poor child was screaming in pain. My friend told me it was the most gut wrenching, painful and haunting screams she had ever heard. The doctors told them the prognosis was not good. That they had to prepare for the worst. The mother of this child never left her son’s side.

During this time, my friend wanted the very best for her nephew. She wanted him to receive Jesus before his time was up. The child’s mother is a Catholic, but a lukewarm one. The child’s father is a non-Catholic, an agnostic and was against Christianity. As such, the boy was never baptised and never knew Jesus. Being the good Catholic aunt, my friend had over the years spoken to the boy about Christ and taught him to pray. His grandmother also desired to have her grandson baptised. And so, with the consent of the mother, they called for a priest or priests, as the story goes. Somehow, each time a priest went, the child never got baptized. The child did not give his consent. He did not understand why God (if He was good) would allow him to suffer this disease.

The child died a week later. Overcome with grief, my friend asked where her nephew would go to. Would God welcome him into heaven? Or was he doomed to hell? All I could muster up was to tell her that we trust in God’s love and mercy, that there is a way of salvation for her nephew and he would eventually meet Jesus in heaven.

Just as we read in today’s gospel, the paralytic was brought to Jesus by ‘some people’. We can only deduce that these people were friends of this man, or at least, loving and compassionate people who longed for the man to be healed. They believed and trusted that Jesus could heal this man. And so, it turns out, that by their faith, their friend was healed. My friend’s nephew may have not known Jesus. But it was really through no fault of his. I believe that with all the prayers of the family, friends and people of our community, together with the faith of my friend, the grandmother and the rest of us– this child of God will be in heaven. Yes, Jesus sees our faith, no matter how small. Courage, my child, your sins are forgiven.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, give us the passion and courage to never stop ministering to others about your compassion, love and forgiveness, not only in words but in our actions and the way we live our lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for forgiving us no matter how many times we sin, falter and run away from you. Thank you for your mercy, love and compassion. And thank you for sending angels our way each day, reminding us of your comforting presence in the midst of storms.

29 September, Friday – Your Invisible Battlelion

Sep 29 – Feast of the Holy Archangels, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael

You should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels.

And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages…. So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle.

  • from a homily by Pope St. Gregory the Great

Michael was the leader of the army of God during the Lucifer uprising. Devotion to him is common to Muslims, Christians and Jews with writings about him in all three cultures. He is considered as the guardian angel of Israel, and the guardian and protector of the Church.

Raphael is one of the seven angels that stand before God’s throne. He is the lead character in the book of Tobit in which he travelled with (and guarded) Tobiah, and cured a man’s blindness; hence his connection with travellers, young people, blindness, healing and healers.

  • Patron Saints Index

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Apocalypse 12:7-12

Now war broke out in heaven, when Michael with his angels attacked the dragon. The dragon fought back with his angels, but they were defeated and driven out of heaven. The great dragon, the primeval serpent, known as the devil or Satan, who had deceived all the world, was hurled down to the earth and his angels were hurled down with him. Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, ‘Victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now that the persecutor, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down. They have triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the witness of their martyrdom, because even in the face of death they would not cling to life. Let the heavens rejoice and all who live there.’

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John 1:47-51

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said of him, ‘There is an Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit.’ ‘How do you know me?’ said Nathanael. ‘Before Philip came to call you,’ said Jesus ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ Nathanael answered, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.’ Jesus replied, ‘You believe that just because I said: I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.’ And then he added ‘I tell you most solemnly, you will see heaven laid open and, above the Son of Man, the angels of God ascending and descending.’

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Even in the face of death they would not cling to life

Courage, in my life of faith, is a virtue and a quality I often pray for. It isn’t because I am timid by nature – I am quite an assertive person – yet I have come to learn that I am often in need of wisdom to summon courage for the right reasons and in the right situations.

When we are challenged by difficult situations, we can be stubborn and resistant on having our way – bashing through the obstacles like a mull. But that does not imply courage or wisdom in approaching one’s goals. Instead, I have realised that having a courageous heart requires drilling down deep into my soul and clinging on to my faith in the Lord who will, even in my cluelessness or inaction, carry me through with his grace and strength.

At the same time, I recall that I have never been short on receiving help from God’s angels! But how often do I forget, even to call upon their names! Today’s Feast of the Archangels is a timely reminder that we are surrounded by the presence of angels who watch over us and upon whom we can rely on for holy assistance.

Wasn’t it in the Scriptures (Luke 4:10-13) of the Temptation of Jesus where the devil taunted Christ to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone’”?

The devil himself knows the duties and might of the angels, having been one himself. He knows that each of us is protected by our own guardian angel, and not least, the fearsome and powerful archangels – Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.

Perhaps it is time to be get to know our own guardian angel and to reacquaint ourselves with God’s faithful archangel trio. Our spiritual army battalion is larger than we can ever imagine. If we trust in the glory and majesty of our King of Kings and Lord of Lords, then surely we must believe in and courageously call upon the help of his heavenly angels who are always battle-ready in the face of evil and danger.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Saints Micheal, Gabriel, Raphael and my Guardian Angel, please come to my aid in my hour of need.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me Jesus. Thank you for giving me your faithful court of angels who stand guard over me at every step of my way, ignorant of their presence as I have been.

25 June, Sunday – Be Not Afraid

25 June 2017

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Jeremiah 20:10-13

Jeremiah said: I hear so many disparaging me, ‘“Terror from every side!” Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ All those who used to be my friends watched for my downfall, ‘Perhaps he will be seduced into error. Then we will master him and take our revenge!’ But the Lord is at my side, a mighty hero; my opponents will stumble, mastered, confounded by their failure; everlasting, unforgettable disgrace will be theirs. But you, O Lord of Hosts, you who probe with justice, who scrutinise the loins and heart, let me see the vengeance you will take on them, for I have committed my cause to you. Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for he has delivered the soul of the needy from the hands of evil men.

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Romans 5:12-15

Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned. Sin existed in the world long before the Law was given. There was no law and so no one could be accused of the sin of ‘law-breaking’, yet death reigned over all from Adam to Moses, even though their sin, unlike that of Adam, was not a matter of breaking a law.

Adam prefigured the One to come, but the gift itself considerably outweighed the fall. If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift.

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Matthew 10:26-33

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Do not be afraid. For everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops.

‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.

‘So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.’

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“So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of human beings, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven.”

Especially in today’s world, what many of us need as individuals is COURAGE. Courage to face the truth and courage to speak the truth. We find ourselves lacking in it because we don’t want to rock the boat, because our job/income is more important than what we are actually doing, or because we simply just want to fit in.

As the Gospel says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

Indeed, the Gospel today brings us to reflect on the purpose of our lives, our identity. If our identity is in the world, then what the world says does matter to us and we will fear and succumb to the pressures of society. But if our identity is in Christ, then we know that, as in the first reading, “Yahweh is at my side like a mighty hero; my opponents will stumble, vanquished, confounded by their failure…”, we do not need to fear.

Of course this is easier said than done. But we also read of “everything now covered up will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear”. I can testify to this because if we live a life in Christ, we live a life of love and love simply never fails. Over time, one doesn’t just see what we do or say but sees the heart; because at the end of the day, it is the intention that matters. It is that peace, freedom and joy that we gain by trusting in God and in ourselves, in who He has created us to be and I truly believe this is what we all actually desire and live for.

As Catholics, we feel that our ultimate goal is to know who God is, but the beauty is that in our seeking, we also find who we are. And when we say we love God, God asks us to love everyone around us. This is the God we worship — selfless, who loves us unconditionally, who takes away the sins of the world and desires to give us life to the fullest. Let us declare and proclaim that He is our God, our life, our everything. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Lord, we want to pray for courage. Courage to stay true to our faith and to ourselves. That we may never succumb to the pressures of the world. That we may live a life of love, to bring hope, joy, peace and love to all. That we will continue to worship you in spirit and in truth. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for continuously reaching out to us, for affirming us of your presence. Thank you for the gift of your grace, through your son, that has won for us our salvation. Amen.

27 July, Wednesday – Just A Father’s Love

27 July

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Jeremiah 15:10,16-21

‘Woe is me, my mother, for you have borne me
to be a man of strife and of dissension for all the land.
I neither lend nor borrow,
yet all of them curse me.

‘When your words came, I devoured them:
your word was my delight
and the joy of my heart;
for I was called by your name,
the Lord, God of Hosts.
I never took pleasure in sitting in scoffers’ company;
with your hand on me I held myself aloof,
since you had filled me with indignation.
Why is my suffering continual,
my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?
Do you mean to be for me a deceptive stream
with inconstant waters?’

To which the Lord replied,
‘If you come back,
I will take you back into my service;
and if you utter noble, not despicable, thoughts,
you shall be as my own mouth.
They will come back to you,
but you must not go back to them.
I will make you
a bronze wall fortified against this people.
They will fight against you
but they will not overcome you,
because I am with you
to save you and to deliver you
– it is the Lord who speaks.
I mean to deliver you from the hands of the wicked
and redeem you from the clutches of the violent.’

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Matthew 13:44-46

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.’

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For I am with you, to deliver and rescue you…

I recently attended a retreat entitled ‘Get Out Of The Boat’ and it was a 3D2N getaway in a rustic retreat centre in Johor Bahru. I shared my experience with a one or two other people and today, I would like to share it with all of you.

From the time we arrived at the retreat centre, I knew the Lord would be speaking to me and true enough, the first night was a revelation. I struggled to sleep the entire night as I had an asthma attack and did not have an inhaler with me. It has been at least 18 months since my last attack yet instead of panicking, I told myself, “He wants me to spend time with Him in the chapel.” I had been tossing and turning in bed since 10pm and I knew it was affecting my roommate. So at 2pm, I went to the small chapel within our block and settled down in the soft chair, hoping to get some respite from being horizontal and counting the hours to when I could venture out to a pharmacy to buy an inhaler.

I ended up being woken up at 5.30am and very soon, it was time for breakfast. Of course, the other retreatants (there were 11 of us in total) were concerned and one of them offered a decongestant, which I stubbornly refused. However, something prompted me to reach out and take the pill, which provided me some relief. By 11am, when the others were preparing to go for mass, I decided to go head back to my room to take a nap so that I could drive out during lunch to the nearby pharmacy. By 1pm on the second day, I had my inhaler in hand and the rest of the retreat was a breeze.

So what, you may ask, did the Lord reveal to me? Between the first night and the time I got hold of the inhaler, I could sense His presence right by my side. There is no way I could have remained so calm during the few hours I was struggling to breathe. And even before dinner on the first day, when our spiritual director drew a small boat asked us to take stock of our family, parish, ministry, neighbourhood, health, recreation, work and vocation, God had already revealed to me the many boats I find myself in and the many characters I am called to be in each life situation. I wasn’t being asked to get out of one boat.

Because at work, I am on a speedboat and at times, am called to be Christ, to be Peter, to be the rough waters, to be the boat itself. In ministry, I am on an 80-ft yacht and am one of the disciples on the boat. In my family, we are on a small sampan, floating on a calm sea and I am called to be Peter and to take the lead. My health has gone through a very calm patch and I have recently been able to wean myself off certain medication. So I am in a dinghy on calm seas, wondering what lies ahead.

Brothers and sisters, we all, at some pointing our lives, have to take courage and step out of our boat(s) in order to experience the awesome, saving touch of the Almighty Father. Again, it is something that is beyond human comprehension. I know that my Lord is always there for me, whatever the circumstances (rough seas or calm waters). Are you aware of God’s presence in your life today? When is the last time you called out to him in faith, “Master, save me!”

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: O God, you who are always there for us. We ask that you never leave us to drown in our daily battles but empower us with your loving touch and show us your almighty hand in everything we do.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for never abandoning us in our struggles. Thank you for always being there when we call out to you.

8 July, Friday – Doing Right

8 July

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Hosea 14:2-10

The Lord says this:

Israel, come back to the Lord your God;
your iniquity was the cause of your downfall.
Provide yourself with words
and come back to the Lord.
Say to him, ‘Take all iniquity away
so that we may have happiness again
and offer you our words of praise.
Assyria cannot save us,
we will not ride horses any more,
or say, “Our God!” to what our own hands have made,
for you are the one in whom orphans find compassion.’
– I will heal their disloyalty,
I will love them with all my heart,
for my anger has turned from them.
I will fall like dew on Israel.
He shall bloom like the lily,
and thrust out roots like the poplar,
his shoots will spread far;
he will have the beauty of the olive
and the fragrance of Lebanon.
They will come back to live in my shade;
they will grow corn that flourishes,
they will cultivate vines
as renowned as the wine of Helbon.
What has Ephraim to do with idols any more
when it is I who hear his prayer and care for him?
I am like a cypress ever green,
all your fruitfulness comes from me.

Let the wise man understand these words.
Let the intelligent man grasp their meaning.
For the ways of the Lord are straight,
and virtuous men walk in them,
but sinners stumble.

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Matthew 10:16-23

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Remember, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; so be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves.

‘Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you. ‘Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved. If they persecute you in one town, take refuge in the next; and if they persecute you in that, take refuge in another. I tell you solemnly, you will not have gone the round of the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.’

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Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake.

The Gospel reading for today talks about religious persecution, where the believers in Christ were put on trial for spreading the Good News. Religious persecution is still as rife as it was centuries ago. We should consider ourselves blessed not to be caught up in the tensions and wars that continue to rage in other countries. In fact, so global is this issue that those of us living in countries where there is peace and stability may feel so far removed from this issue that it affects us with such little inconvenience. It is not to say that we are insensitive to the situation. It’s just that we may not feel quite as affected because we are not directly caught in the midst of it, hence we continue to go about our daily lives.

However, even in our so-called peaceful world, we may still be faced with persecution of a different sort without knowing it. To stand on the side of truth and what is of God, and have people reject you for it, that is persecution too. We are all so driven by the ‘herd mentality’ (perhaps sub-consciously) that sometimes we reject the direction of our moral compass and choose instead the opposite. A case in point — how many of us would stand and watch if someone was being bullied or attacked, just because we think we should ‘mind our own business’ and not get involved? Some of us are probably too busy trying to ‘capture the moment’ of an incident so that we can post it on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram. Have we not read of so many incidences of drugged girls getting gang-raped at parties, with the whole thing being filmed and no one bothering to intervene? The other party-goers just look on, and one wonders if at any one point whether they thought, “hang on, this is not right”. The point that I am trying to make is this – in our own daily lives, we may be faced with situations that will force us to choose between what is right in the eyes of God over what is wrong. I believe that we are all born with good moral fiber in us. As we grow older though, these notions are influenced by what we experience around us, and our moral compass may get a bit clouded. Can we say that we are brave enough to take the position of what is right, or are we afraid? God promises us that we need not be afraid for He will teach us what we have to say if we are called to justify our actions.

Twenty years ago, a young black girl was amongst a crowd demonstrating against a Ku Klux Klan rally in Ann Arbor, Michigan, when someone suddenly announced on the megaphone that there was a KKK supporter in their midst. The anti-KKK demonstrators turned around and identified a white man garbed and tattooed with logos and symbols suggesting supremacist tendencies. He was pursued down the street and beaten. This young black girl stepped in and threw herself over this man and shielded him from the blows. That was 20 years ago. She is now in her 30s and when she was asked why she did it, she responded that mob mentality had taken over, and people were doing things that they would not normally do. It wasn’t right, “violence is violence – nobody deserves to be hurt,” she said. Would it matter that if the tables were turned it would be unlikely that this guy would have done the same for her? What would we do if we were in her position? Would we be one of the herd? Or would we be brave enough to step forward and stand up for what is right by God?

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, forgive us for the times when we chose to be spectators instead of defenders of what was just and right. We pray for the courage to do what’s right with all our might.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for letting me be in a place where religious freedom is a given right, and not something where I could be persecuted for. We pray for those who live amongst conflict and in fear because of what they believe in, and we pray for peace to prevail.

2 June, Thursday – Living Out Love

2 June – Memorial for Sts. Marcellinus and Peter, martyrs

Marcellinus, a priest, and Peter, an exorcist, died in the year 304. According to a legendary account of their martyrdom, the two Romans saw their imprisonment as just one more opportunity to evangelise and managed to convert their jailer and his family. The legend also says that they were beheaded in the forest so that other Christians wouldn’t have a chance to bury and venerate their bodies. Two women found the bodies, however, and had them properly buried.

Source: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=77

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2 Timothy 2:8-15

Remember the Good News that I carry, ‘Jesus Christ risen from the dead, sprung from the race of David’; it is on account of this that I have my own hardships to bear, even to being chained like a criminal – but they cannot chain up God’s news. So I bear it all for the sake of those who are chosen, so that in the end they may have the salvation that is in Christ Jesus and the eternal glory that comes with it.
Here is a saying that you can rely on:

If we have died with him, then we shall live with him.
If we hold firm, then we shall reign with him.
If we disown him, then he will disown us.
We may be unfaithful, but he is always faithful,
for he cannot disown his own self.

Remind them of this; and tell them in the name of God that there is to be no wrangling about words: all that this ever achieves is the destruction of those who are listening. Do all you can to present yourself in front of God as a man who has come through his trials, and a man who has no cause to be ashamed of his life’s work and has kept a straight course with the message of the truth.

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Mark 12:28-34

One of the scribes came up to Jesus and put a question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to him, ‘Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true: that he is one and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.’ Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken, said, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that no one dared to question him any more.

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“So I bear it all for the sake of those who are chosen, so that in the end they may have the salvation that is in Christ Jesus and the eternal glory that comes with it.”

In yesterday’s reflection, I shared about witnessing to God’s goodness without fear. For me, today’s readings are all about living my own life for His glory. If I am His instrument, then I must live a life of holiness.

St Paul, in today’s first reading, says: “If we have died with him, then we shall live with him. If we hold firm, then we shall reign with him.”

If we have died in the Lord and to our sinfulness, then surely we will rise to live with Him. How then, am I living my life worthy of the love of God? Have I given up my own sin to walk in His light?

What are some of the areas of my life that are coming between me and the light of God?

Yes, it is difficult to live a life of holiness. But I truly believe that God is faithful to us. Even St Paul says it himself, “We may be unfaithful, but he is always faithful”. As long as we open up our hearts to the Lord and allow His grace and hand to take over, I’m certain He provides the grace to walk in His ways. There will be times when we will be put to the test. But let us take courage and continue to persevere in living out our baptismal promises.

Today’s gospel gives a very simple way of living a life of holiness, summarised in one commandment: Love. Loving God and loving neighbour.

To me, loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength is to worship Him. And loving my neighbour as myself, is to offer myself as a sacrifice to my neighbour. Doing both allows me to be selfless, to deny myself and in turn live a life of holiness.

Let us take courage my brothers and sisters, to love God in all our ways, by giving Him the glory in all that we do, and to also be loving to our brothers and sisters. Again, let us remember that He is faithful in giving us the grace to do what He commands us to. All we need to do is to say “Amen.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Lee)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, You are the source of love. Help me to love You and love my neighbour as myself. When it is difficult to love someone, grace me Lord to depend on Your faithfulness in love. Amen!

Thanksgiving: Thank You Lord for your love and faithfulness. When I struggle to love as you do, teach me to deny myself.

14 May, Saturday – Chosen Ones

May 14 – Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle

Matthias (d. 80) was an Apostle. As he could bear witness to the Resurrection of Jesus, he was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot. He preached the Gospel for more than 30 years in Judaea, Cappadocia, Egypt, and Ethopia. He is remembered for preaching the need for mortification of the flesh with regard to all its sensual and irregular desires. He was martyred in Colchis in AD 80 by stoning.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 1:15-17,20-26

One day Peter stood up to speak to the brothers – there were about a hundred and twenty persons in the congregation: ‘Brothers, the passage of scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit, speaking through David, foretells the fate of Judas, who offered himself as a guide to the men who arrested Jesus – after having been one of our number and actually sharing this ministry of ours. Now in the Book of Psalms it says:

Let someone else take his office.

‘We must therefore choose someone who has been with us the whole time that the Lord Jesus was travelling round with us, someone who was with us right from the time when John was baptising until the day when he was taken up from us – and he can act with us as a witness to his resurrection.’

Having nominated two candidates, Joseph known as Barsabbas, whose surname was Justus, and Matthias, they prayed, ‘Lord, you can read everyone’s heart; show us therefore which of these two you have chosen to take over this ministry and apostolate, which Judas abandoned to go to his proper place.’ They then drew lots for them, and as the lot fell to Matthias, he was listed as one of the twelve apostles.

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John 15:9-17

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this
so that my own joy may be in you
and your joy be complete.
This is my commandment:
love one another, as I have loved you.
A man can have no greater love
than to lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends,
if you do what I command you.
I shall not call you servants any more,
because a servant does not know
his master’s business;
I call you friends,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learnt from my Father.
You did not choose me:
no, I chose you;
and I commissioned you
to go out and to bear fruit,
fruit that will last;
and then the Father will give you
anything you ask him in my name.
What I command you
is to love one another.’

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I chose you.

About three months ago, my parish priest approached us to help chair the church annex building fundraising committee. I was a bit surprised as we have never been active in our parish (we serve at the Catholic Spirituality Centre instead); yet, saying ‘Yes’ came naturally and we got down to work immediately. After a few meetings, the seeds of a few initiatives have been sown and we are now gathering people to help us execute our ideas.

Being a ‘newbie’ to parish work, it has been interesting to sit in on meetings and observe how the priests go about their ‘work’, which would not be possible without the help of many lay persons and office staff who give so generously of their time without any expectation of anything in return. I have been truly humbled by this opportunity, yet at the same time, wary of the dynamics that go on between the different ministry leaders and volunteers.

Thankfully, the Lord has been gentle and kind enough to send different people our way. And just when I think that we ourselves would have to shoulder the burden of organising an event/dinner, a name or two pops up in our Inbox or we get a call from someone who has heard that we need volunteers. The Lord truly provides when we are engaged in his work and it has been extremely heartening to see the many labourers come forward to offer their talents and time to help us achieve our target.

We at Oxygen were worried towards the end of last year, when our stable of writers dwindled to a mere handful. Today, the Lord has multiplied the talent within our ministry and provided in abundance. I know that He has chosen us all, in spite of our shortcomings and anxieties, simply because He knows that we have a desire to share His word with anyone who yearns for it.

Brothers and sisters, as Christians, ours is life that is pre-ordained by our Maker. It is a life that He chooses for us and it is up to us to discern His will and to follow Him. And while we do have a multitude of choices to make in our lives, we must make them in the knowledge that God himself has chosen us to live out His plan on this earth.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer – Heavenly father, we thank you for choosing us to be your sons and daughters. Help us grow in your love as we encounter the obstacles and overcome setbacks while carrying the crosses that you so lovingly place on our shoulders, knowing full well that You will always have each of us in your loving heart. For we all are your chosen ones.

Thanksgiving – Thank you Father for sending us your Holy Spirit and for empowering us with your graces.