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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.

25 October, Wednesday – Readiness

25 October 2017

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Romans 6:12-18

You must not let sin reign in your mortal bodies or command your obedience to bodily passions, you must not let any part of your body turn into an unholy weapon fighting on the side of sin; you should, instead, offer yourselves to God, and consider yourselves dead men brought back to life; you should make every part of your body into a weapon fighting on the side of God; and then sin will no longer dominate your life, since you are living by grace and not by law.

Does the fact that we are living by grace and not by law mean that we are free to sin? Of course not. You know that if you agree to serve and obey a master you become his slaves. You cannot be slaves of sin that leads to death and at the same time slaves of obedience that leads to righteousness. You were once slaves of sin, but thank God you submitted without reservation to the creed you were taught. You may have been freed from the slavery of sin, but only to become ‘slaves’ of righteousness.

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Luke 12:39-48

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

Peter said, ‘Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?’ The Lord replied, ‘What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you truly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time coming,” and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.

The servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes. When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.’

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…when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.

I have been struggling of late, with a ‘second in command’ who has not had the benefit of ever being guided in his career/job. As such, he has not learnt how to lead a small team of communications professionals, nor ever budgetted for a small unit, let alone how to ‘let go’ and delegate work to others.

As such, his small team have been struggling to produce work that I deem acceptable because everything has to go through his approval first. Inevitably, because of a lack of in-depth knowledge on his part, and the inability to spot errors, the drafts end up being sent back by me for repeated improvements and clean ups. It got to a point where I started dealing with each of his team, just to determine each one’s strengths and weaknesses. Naturally, after 2 to 3 weeks, I discovered that the weak link was in fact their direct report. Because on their own, the three actually could produce good work.

I have always told them that the true worth of a good team is that they produce in spite of having the odds stacked against them. And that they stand on their own two feet because of the work they produce, not because of who their boss is. So that no matter what happens, they will always be regarded well on their own merits. To get to that level, we must always be prepared and always ‘ahead of the curve’ in terms of knowledge and readiness. We must never just accept the easy victories, the ‘low-hanging fruit’. Because that does not build character. It actually encourages complacency.

Brothers and sisters, in today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us yet again to stand watch and be ready. Because the minute God calls us, we must be equipped to spring into action. For He has entrusted each of us with a mission here on earth. Whether as a religious, a lay person, a parent, godparent, brother, sister, cousin, confidant, spouse, teacher, counsellor…the list goes on. Each of us has been given life by God in order to help Him fulfil His plan for humankind. Yes, all of us have a purpose here on earth. And whatever that purpose is, God will take us on a journey that will eventually end.

The question is, once that journey ends, whose lives will we have made a difference to? Can we truly say that we have impacted on someone else’s life and, in so doing, given that person hope? How ready are we to stand up and be counted when the time comes?

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: We pray that you always give us the prompting to remain steadfast and ready to serve at a moment’s notice.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for being our Truth and our Way.

24 October, Tuesday – Living God’s Call

Oct 24 – Memorial for St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop

Anthony Mary Claret (1807–1870) was a weaver and a seminary student with Blessed Francis Coll. He was ordained on 13 June 1835, and became a missionary in Catalonia and the Canary Islands. He directed retreats and founded the Congregation of Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Claretians). He became Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba on 20 May 1850, and founded the Teaching Sisters of Mary Immaculate.

Following his work in the Caribbean, Blessed Pope Pius IX ordered him back to Spain where he became confessor to Queen Isabella II and was exiled with her. He had the gift of prophecy and miracles, and was reported to have preached 10,000 sermons, published 200 works. He spread devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Romans 5:12, 15, 17-21

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; 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. If it is certain that death reigned over everyone as the consequence of one man’s fall, it is even more certain that one man, Jesus Christ, will cause everyone to reign in life who receives the free gift that he does not deserve, of being made righteous. Again, as one man’s fall brought condemnation on everyone, so the good act of one man brings everyone life and makes them justified. As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. When law came, it was to multiply the opportunities of failing, but however great the number of sins committed, grace was even greater; and so, just as sin reigned wherever there was death, so grace will reign to bring eternal life thanks to the righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Luke 12:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready.’

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…grace will reign to bring eternal life

Just as Adam brought sin into the world and hence, as humans, we bear in us ‘original sin’ – which is the sin of origin – Jesus came to give us life eternal. He is the second Adam. Who then is the second Eve? For without Eve in the Old Testament, Adam would not have taken a bite from the forbidden fruit.

Mary, having conceived Jesus in her womb, is the second Eve. But unlike Eve, Mary stands firmly with God and conquers the serpent (the Devil) and remains humble and steadfast, in spite of the many trials that come her way. And in giving birth to Jesus, she gives birth to the church. We were recently asked to ponder the question of Jesus’ formation before he began his public ministry. Everyone is aware of how Christ spent 3 years preaching and healing; but what of his first thirty years here on earth? Who took on the responsibility of teaching him, forming him and imparting values to him? It was his earthly parents – Mary and Joseph.

In Mother Mary, we have a living example of how God’s graces can flow through someone who is willing to give up his or her life in faith, truly dedicated to God’s mission. And in today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us to stay awake because we never know when God will call us. So how are we to ensure that we will always be ready? Simply by living the life that God has called us to live. Because by living the life God called Mary to live, she helped to mould and prepare Jesus for his ministry on earth. So, just as God called Mary, He too calls us each and every day so that we can slowly shape and mould ourselves more and more to live Christ-centred lives. Thanks to Mary and Jesus, we now have the Sacraments as well as the rosary to help us get through each day as we struggle.

The recent visit of the statue of Fatima to Singapore opened the door for me to better appreciate Mother Mary’s role in our church and also to listen to the preaching of Fr Francis Tiquia, a truly anointed son of God. He exhorted that as Catholics, we needed to practice CARE in our lives. To go for weekly Confession, daily Adoration, say the Rosary (4 to 5 times a day) and to go for daily Eucharist.

Brothers and sisters, we have been saved by Mary and Jesus through their sacrifices in humble obedience to God the Father. Let us honour them by living a life of sacrifice and humility so that others may see through us the living example of what it means to be a child of God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace of humility as you call us to mission.

Thanksgiving: Thank you dear Lord for your patience and everlasting love.

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.

14 October, Saturday – A Roof Over Our Heads In Tough Times

Oct 14 – Memorial for St. Callistus I, Pope and Martyr

Callistus (d. 223) was born a slave, owned by Carpophorus, a Christian in the household of Caesar. His master entrusted a large sum to Callistus to open a bank, which took in several deposits, made several loans to people who refused to pay them back, and went broke. Knowing he would be personally blamed and punished, Callistus fled, but was caught and returned to his owner. Several depositers begged for his life, believing that he had not lost the money, but had stolen and hid it.

They were wrong; he wasn’t a thief, just a victim, but he was sentenced to work the tin mines. By a quirk of Roman law, the ownership of Callistus was transferred from Carpophorus to the state, and when he was later ransomed out of his sentence with a number of other Christians, he became a free man. Pope St. Zephyrinus put Callistus in charge of the Roman public burial grounds, today still called the Cemetery of Saint Callistus. He later became an archdeacon and the 16th pope.

Most of what we know about him has come down to us from his critics, including an anti-Pope of the day. He was, on more than one occasion, accused of heresy for such actions as permitting a return to Communion for sinners who had repented and done penance, or for proclaiming that differences in economic classes were no barrier to marriage.

This last put him in conflict with Roman civil law, but he stated that in matters concerning the Church and the sacraments, Church law trumped civil law. In both cases, he taught what the Church has taught for centuries, including today, and though a whole host of schismatics wrote against him, his crime seems to have been to practice orthodox Christianity. He was martyred for his faith.

– Patron Saint Index

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Joel 4:12-21

The Lord says this:

‘Let the nations rouse themselves, let them march to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for I am going to sit in judgement there on all the nations round.

Put the sickle in: the harvest is ripe; come and tread: the winepress is full, the vats are overflowing, so great is their wickedness!’

Host on host in the Valley of Decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the Valley of Decision! Sun and moon grow dark, the stars lose their brilliance.

The Lord roars from Zion, makes his voice heard from Jerusalem; heaven and earth tremble.

But the Lord will be a shelter for his people, a stronghold for the sons of Israel.

‘You will learn then that I am the Lord your God, dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain. Jerusalem will be a holy place, no alien will ever pass through it again.’

When that day comes, the mountains will run with new wine and the hills flow with milk, and all the river beds of Judah will run with water.

A fountain will spring from the house of the Lord to water the wadi of Acacias. Egypt will become a desolation, Edom a desert waste on account of the violence done to the sons of Judah whose innocent blood they shed in their country.

But Judah will be inhabited for ever, Jerusalem from age to age. ‘I will avenge their blood and let none go unpunished’, and the Lord shall make his home in Zion.

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Luke 11:27-28

As Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, ‘Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!’ But he replied, ‘Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!’

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But the Lord will be a shelter for his people

It has certainly been a trying time for the world with senseless violence in the US, unrest in Spain, natural disasters wreaking havoc in Puerto Rico, Florida and Japan, the plight of the Rohingya refugees in Myanmar and millions of others suffering from homelessness and hunger in Asia. Back home in Singapore, we are thankful to be somewhat sheltered from such upheavals and yet, we seem to be ‘cracking’ at the seams. Our infrastructure and, more importantly, our youth, are beginning to come apart from the various stresses and strains that our ‘first-world society’ demands.

I was shocked to receive news of the death of a friend’s daughter last week from an apparent suicide. She was only 19 years old and had a full life ahead of her. While I have not really kept in touch with him over the years, I am quite sure that as a parent, he would have been totally devastated. From his Facebook postings, I could tell that he was a devoted and loving father, always going on trips with his family and certainly always providing the best for them. I just wonder if all that is enough in today’s world, and whether we really need to focus on God even more, in the face of all the creature comforts that are so easily available to us these days.

In times of peril and distress, who or what do we turn to in order to feel better? Is it our bank book, the casinos, or do we employ ‘retail therapy’ and splurge on luxury goods and seek to enrich ourselves in ways that we think will assuage our feelings of pain and unworthiness?

Or do we turn to the Lord and spend time with him in adoration, or at daily mass, listening to His voice and promptings, seeking counsel in His loving embrace? Brothers and sisters, while it is extremely difficult to receive any form of ‘instant gratification’ from our prayers, we must always have faith that our Lord is always there to provide for us and to shelter us from the raging storms both around us and within us.

I have been dealing with a variety of ‘storms’ over the past few months and have begun to understand how seeking refuge in prayer, in adoration and, especially so in the loving arms of Mother Mary can indeed bring joy, hope and peace within. It is ultimately all a matter of perspective – do we seel solace in the material world that provides fleeting satisfaction? Or can we humble ourselves to trust in the eternal gratification that our Lord provides through confession, adoration, the sacred rosary and in the Eucharist?

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

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

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord, for the trials that come our way. And for the hope that you bring in your gentle, caring way.

13 October, Friday – Covetousness

13 October 2017

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Joel 1:13-15, 2:1-2

Priests, put on sackcloth and lament. Ministers of the altar, wail.

Come, pass the night in sackcloth, you ministers of my God. For the house of our God has been deprived of oblation and libation.

Order a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly; elders, call together all the inhabitants of the country to the house of the Lord your God.

Cry out to the Lord, ‘Oh, what a day! For the day of the Lord is near, it comes as a devastation from Shaddai.’

Sound the trumpet in Zion, give the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the country tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, yes, it is near.

Day of darkness and gloom, day of cloud and blackness. Like the dawn there spreads across the mountains a vast and mighty host, such as has never been before, such as will never be again to the remotest ages.

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Luke 11:15-26

When Jesus had cast out a devil, some of the people said, ‘It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.’ Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven; but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses. So too with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? – Since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils. Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out? Let them be your judges then. But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you. So long as a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he is attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.

‘He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.

‘When an unclean spirit goes out of a man it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and not finding one it says, “I will go back to the home I came from.” But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied, it then goes off and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and set up house there, so that the man ends up by being worse than he was before.’

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…his goods are undisturbed
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says that, “When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe.” (Lk 11:21). In my early years in advertising, I used to covet many things. I had collections of caps, Swatch watches, CDs, magazines (GQ, Arena and the like), even Mambo t-shirts (which I hardly wore). I don’t know what possessed me to regularly hit the stores on payday and just pick up whatever caught my eye. Looking back, I just wonder how much I spent over the years storing up all these possessions.
As I progressed in my career, I began spending on more expensive items. Blinded by my ego and pride, I always wanted to be seen in the latest jeans, wearing a cool timepiece or luxury accessory. Then, reality hit when I was retrenched twice. I realized how much I had simply thrown to the retail gods over nearly 15 years. So when Jesus speaks about a strong man fully armed, who is attacked and overcome by a stronger being, I identify with the weaker man who has been attacked by the devil. In my case, the evil one certainly knew my weaknesses and exploited them to the fullest, through a potent mix of pride, greed and covetousness. I discovered that at the end of the day, no amount of material possessions can help if deep within one’s heart, there is nothing of value.
Today, my perspective on the same verse is slightly different. I still identify with the strong man but I am now building up my armor not through material goods, but through formation. The past 6 years have been a blessing as I journey closer to God and attempt to walk in the footsteps of his disciples. And while I cannot proclaim to be strong in terms of my spirituality and prayer life, I know that every day, the Lord is building me up and strengthening my armor through the people and situations He sends my way.
Brothers and sisters, we are children of God, created in His image. What we possess in our hearts is much more important than what we possess in our lives. For me, the love of God resides deep in my heart. That is something that I will always cherish and keep safe within me. So too the fruits of the Holy Spirit – charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, generosity, modesty, self-control, gentleness and chastity. In whatever degree we possess them, let us pray that each of us strives to protect these ‘possessions’ and keep them safe in our hearts.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that you continue to work within us to build up our spiritual armor so that we can protect ourselves from temptation and sin.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we give thanks to You all that you bless us with and, most importantly, for your unconditional love for all of us.

22 August, Tuesday – Our Unconditional ‘Yes’

Aug 22 – Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Whoever, therefore, reverences the Queen of heaven and earth – and let no one consider himself exempt from this tribute of a grateful and loving soul – let him invoke the most effective of Queens, the Mediatrix of peace; let him respect and preserve peace, which is not wickedness unpunished nor freedom without restraint, but a well-ordered harmony under the rule of the will of God; to its safeguarding and growth the gentle urgings and commands of the Virgin Mary impel us. – Pope Pius XII

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Judges 6:11-24

The angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah which belonged to Joash of Abiezer. Gideon his son was threshing wheat inside the winepress to keep it hidden from Midian, when the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘The Lord is with you, valiant warrior!’ Gideon answered him, ‘Forgive me, my lord, but if the Lord is with us, then why is it that all this is happening to us now? And where are all the wonders our ancestors tell us of when they say, “Did not the Lord bring us out of Egypt?” But now the Lord has deserted us; he has abandoned us to Midian.’

At this the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength now upholding you, and you will rescue Israel from the power of Midian. Do I not send you myself?’ Gideon answered him, ‘Forgive me, my lord, but how can I deliver Israel? My clan, you must know, is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least important in my family.’ the Lord answered him, ‘I will be with you and you shall crush Midian as though it were a single man.’ Gideon said to him, ‘If I have found favour in your sight, give me a sign that it is you who speak to me. I beg you, do not go away until I come back. I will bring you my offering and set it down before you.’ And he answered, ‘I will stay until you return.’

Gideon went away and prepared a young goat and made unleavened cakes with an ephah of flour. He put the meat into a basket and the broth into a pot, then brought it all to him under the terebinth. As he came near, the angel of the Lord said to him, ‘Take the meat and unleavened cakes, put them on this rock and pour the broth over them.’ Gideon did so. Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff in his hand and touched the meat and unleavened cakes. Fire sprang from the rock and consumed the meat and unleavened cakes, and the angel of the Lord vanished before his eyes. Then Gideon knew this was the angel of the Lord, and he said, ‘Alas, my Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!’ the Lord answered him, ‘Peace be with you; have no fear; you will not die.’ Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it The-Lord-is-Peace.

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Matthew 19:23-30

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you solemnly, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.’ When the disciples heard this they were astonished. ‘Who can be saved, then?’ they said. Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he told them ‘this is impossible; for God everything is possible.’

Then Peter spoke. ‘What about us?’ he said to him ‘We have left everything and followed you. What are we to have, then?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I tell you solemnly, when all is made new and the Son of Man sits on his throne of glory, you will yourselves sit on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or land for the sake of my name will be repaid a hundred times over, and also inherit eternal life.

‘Many who are first will be last, and the last, first.’

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…for God everything is possible

Over at the Catholic Spirituality Centre (CSC), we are preparing to welcome the International Centennial Pilgrim Image of our Lady of Fatima in September. As part of the preparation, we have begun a devotion – 33 Days to Morning Glory – which will culminate in a celebration on 15 September. Last Friday, Fr Erbin, our Spiritual Director, prayed the Rosary with us as we reflected on the life of St Maximilian Kolbe, one of the saints who is known for his devotion to our Mother.

As Fr Erbin led us through the joyful mysteries, he exhorted for us to surrender our lives to Mother Mary and encouraged us to lift up all our worries, fers and anxieties to her. Never had I experienced (nor heard) such a fervent call during the Rosary, I fell to my knees as he asked those of us in the congregation who were willing to give up their lives in service to kneel. It was truly an anointed moment as we fervently sang ‘Ave Maria Gratia Plena’ in one voice.

Brothers and sisters, it is not easy at all to surrender in humility to the Lord, especially when he calls us. That is why Jesus told his disciples that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom. Simply because our pride, whatever degree of it we harbour, prevents us from submitting fully to Him. Unlike Mary, our mother, who gave herself totally and unconditionally when the angel Gabriel visited her and proclaimed her vocation – that she would bear Jesus.

Unlike Gideon, who asked for a sign from the angel, Mary simply said ‘Yes’ and endured everything that was ordained; right up to the Passion and remaining at the foot of the Cross. Such devotion and trust in the Lord’s plan is unfathomable these days, for how many times have we wavered and faltered when called up on to serve the Lord, whether at work, at home or in ministry? How many times do we grumble and gripe when we are asked to attend meetings, practices or to a ‘problem’?

Do we give our ‘Yes’ to the Lord with certain conditions attached? Or do we gladly give Him an unconditional ‘Yes’, fully prepared to sacrifice all our pride, ego and self-importance?

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

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

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord, for calling us by name and choosing us to serve.

21 August, Monday – Decluttering

Aug 21 – Memorial for St. Pius X, pope

Pius X (1835-1914) encouraged frequent Holy Communion. He reformed the liturgy, promoted clear and simple homilies, and brought Gregorian chant back to services. He also reorganised the Roman curia, the administrative elements of the Church, and worked against the modern antagonism of the state against the Church. His other contributions to the Church included: initiating the codification of canon law, promoting Bible reading by all the faithful, and supporting foreign missions. His will read: “I was born poor; I lived poor; I wish to die poor.”

 – Patron Saint Index

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Judges 2:11-19

The sons of Israel did what displeases the Lord, and served the Baals. They deserted the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from the gods of the peoples round them. They bowed down to these; they provoked the Lord; they deserted the Lord to serve Baal and Astarte. Then the Lord’s anger flamed out against Israel. He handed them over to pillagers who plundered them; he delivered them to the enemies surrounding them, and they were not able to resist them. In every warlike venture, the hand of the Lord was there to foil them, as the Lord had warned, as the Lord had sworn to them. Thus he reduced them to dire distress.

Then the Lord appointed judges for them, and rescued the men of Israel from the hands of their plunderers. But they would not listen to their judges. They prostituted themselves to other gods, and bowed down before these. Very quickly they left the path their ancestors had trodden in obedience to the orders of the Lord; they did not follow their example. When the Lord appointed judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and rescued them from the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived, for the Lord felt pity for them as they groaned under the iron grip of their oppressors. But once the judge was dead, they relapsed and behaved even worse than their ancestors. They followed other gods; they served them and bowed before them, and would not give up the practices and stubborn ways of their ancestors at all.

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Matthew 19:16-22

There was a man who came to Jesus and asked, ‘Master, what good deed must I do to possess eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is one alone who is good. But if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said, ‘Which?’ ‘These:’ Jesus replied ‘You must not kill. You must not commit adultery. You must not bring false witness. Honour your father and mother, and: you must love your neighbour as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘I have kept all these. What more do I need to do?’ Jesus said, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But when the young man heard these words he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

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…go and sell what you own…

Over the past year or so, I have been consciously ‘getting rid’ of things which I used to own either by putting them up for sale on Carousell or simply transporting them to the Salvation Army. I can recall bringing carloads of clothes, books, or just items which have over time, collected dust as they sat in boxes under tables, in cupboards or under my bed.

This decluttering process was certainly cathartic for me as I went through it and helped me purge more than a few memories. It also allowed me to reflect on my previous life of excess and as I ‘counted the cost’ of all my purchases over the decades, I couldn’t help but wonder how different my life may have turned out if I had learned the value of money a lot earlier in life.

When Jesus tells the young man to sell what he owns and to give money to the poor, I can almost see the young man staring back at him open-mouthed in disbelief. It is not that easy to divest oneself of hard-earned gains without a quite drastic change in one’s value system. I’d like to think that age is also an important factor (notice that the man in the gospel is ‘young’) because as we grow older, we tend to realise that we don’t really need that much in our lives.

Brothers and sisters, when Jesus calls us to follow Him, there will be some sacrifice that we need to make. I know of more than a few ministry members who have given up glittering corporate careers to serve God, using their considerable gifts and talents. And each time they have shared, it is plainly obvious that once one chooses to follow God, there is no need to worry any longer about material needs because His rewards will be far better. And He will always provide, no matter how dire the circumstances.

All that He asks is for us to follow in expectant faith; and surely, we will not die poor.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we trust in you to provide for each and every one of us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all your blessings and gifts.

20 August, Sunday – Joy in Service

Aug 20 – Memorial for St. Bernard, abbot, doctor

Bernard (1090-1153) founded and led a monastery which had over 700 monks and 160 daughter houses. He revised and reformed the Cistercians, and was advisor to, and admonisher of, King Louis the Fat and King Louis the Young, and spritual advisor to Pope Eugenius III, who had originally been one of his monks. Every morning Bernard would ask himself, “Why have I come here?”, and then remind himself of his main duty – to lead a holy life.

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Isaiah 56:1, 6-7

Thus says the Lord: Have a care for justice, act with integrity, for soon my salvation will come and my integrity be manifest.

Foreigners who have attached themselves to the Lord to serve him and to love his name and be his servants – all who observe the sabbath, not profaning it, and cling to my covenant – these I will bring to my holy mountain. I will make them joyful in my house of prayer. Their holocausts and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.

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Romans 11:13-15, 29-32

What I want to say now is no pretence; I say it in union with Christ – it is the truth – my conscience in union with the Holy Spirit assures me of it too. What I want to say is this: my sorrow is so great, my mental anguish so endless, I would willingly be condemned and be cut off from Christ if it could help my brothers of Israel, my own flesh and blood. They were adopted as sons, they were given the glory and the covenants; the Law and the ritual were drawn up for them, and the promises were made to them. They are descended from the patriarchs and from their flesh and blood came Christ who is above all, God for ever blessed! Amen.

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Matthew 14:22-33

Jesus 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.’

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…I will make them joyful in my house of prayer.

After nearly 5 months, I served at the most recent Conversion Experience Retreat #57 where, due to some last-minute pullouts, we were whittled down to a team of just over 20. But over the 5 days, we experienced such joy in service (and lots of laughter as well), so much so that I didn’t feel tired at all on the last day. In fact, some of us went out for a nice dinner after the thanksgiving mass as we continued to share and laugh at some of the more ‘lighthearted’ moments during our meals in the retreat.

In spite of the usual stresses and physical strains, I enjoyed myself thoroughly over the five days, with a light heart and He spoke to me through the bible verses I drew before we began each session. The verses brought smiles to my heart as I reflected during quiet moments, listening to Him speak encouraging words to me. Truly, our God is a joyful God who relishes seeing us serve with humility and giving cheerfully of our time and effort.

Brothers and sisters, there are many of us who serve in ministry and if we have lost some of the joy in serving, I encourage you to lift your worries, fears, anxieties and troubles up to God so that He can give you back the initial fervour and joy when you first decided to serve Him. Over the years, it is easy to get disillusioned, hurt or disappointed for one reason or another. We must always remind ourselves why we are serving in the first place. It is certainly not for our own glory but rather we must focus our gaze on Jesus.

For it is only when we have Jesus at the center can we truly proclaim that we are serving God in His vineyard. And when our hearts are humble, that is when the true joy of serving the Lord fills us and when we truly bear fruit that is good.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, we pray that you continue to sustain us in our service to you so that we bear good fruit that is lasting.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the times you have called us to serve in your vineyard.