Tag Archives: edith koh

26 November, Monday – Real Generosity

26 November

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Apocalypse 14:1-5

In my vision I, John, saw Mount Zion, and standing on it a Lamb who had with him a hundred and forty-four thousand people, all with his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. I heard a sound coming out of the sky like the sound of the ocean or the roar of thunder; it seemed to be the sound of harpists playing their harps. There in front of the throne they were singing a new hymn in the presence of the four animals and the elders, a hymn that could only be learnt by the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the world; they follow the Lamb wherever he goes; they have been redeemed from amongst men to be the first-fruits for God and for the Lamb. They never allowed a lie to pass their lips and no fault can be found in them.

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Luke 21:1-4

As Jesus looked up, he saw rich people putting their offerings into the treasury; then he happened to notice a poverty-stricken widow putting in two small coins, and he said, ‘I tell you truly, this poor widow has put in more than any of them; for these have all contributed money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in all she had to live on.’

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She has put in all she has

Some time back, a TV programme featured the life of an old man in Singapore who spends his days doing charitable work. There might not be anything very remarkable about that, but in this particular case, the man had given all his savings to charity, and leads an unusually frugal life. His daily routine includes visiting the nearby coffeeshop at night, where he collects buckets of water gathered from ice used to chill beer bottles. That amount serves as his water supply for the day as he does not turn on any tap at home. The money saved from utility bills goes into charity.

The gospel today has Jesus observing a poor woman giving away all that she has, and contrasting her action with that of the rich people. Like the old man in the previous paragraph, the monetary value of her action is small, but the generosity associated with it is large. For the rich who maintain their affluent status, giving away ‘excess’ money is hardly something that can be considered generous.

There are many ways that one can give of oneself to others. I find that the giving of time and effort is often more reflective of sincerity than the gift itself. As the season of Christmas approaches, we could perhaps give more thought to the preparation of gifts for loved ones or for strangers in need.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that as the season of Advent approaches, we may prepare by opening our hearts to the love of Christ.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the kindness we have received from others.

25 November, Sunday – Jesus as King

25 November 2018 – Solemnity of Christ The King

Christ The King is a title of Jesus based on several passages of scripture and used by all Christians. The name is found in various forms in scripture: King Eternal (1 Timothy 1:17), King of Israel (John 1:49), King of the Jews (Matthew 27:11), King of kings (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16), King of the Ages (Revelation 15:3), and Ruler of the Kings of the Earth (Revelation 1:5).

Many denominations including Catholics, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and some Lutherans and Methodists celebrate the Feast of Christ the King on the last Sunday of the liturgical year.

The ideological movement of Christ’s Kingship was addressed in Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quas Primas (“In The First”). In it, he quotes with approval St. Cyril of Alexandria, notin ghtat Jesus’ Kingship is not obtained by violence: “Christ has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but his by essence and by nature.”

Pope Benedict XVI has remarked that Christ’s Kingship is not based on “human power” but on loving and serving others. The perfect exemplar of that acceptance is the Virgin Mary, he pointed out. Her humble and unconditional acceptance of God’s will in her life, the Pope noted, was the reason that “God exalted her over all other creatures, and Christ crowned her Queen of heaven and earth”.

– Wikipedia

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Daniel 7:13-14

I gazed into the visions of the night.
And I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven,
one like a son of man.
He came to the one of great age
and was led into his presence.
On him was conferred sovereignty,
glory and kingship,
and men of all peoples, nations and languages became his servants.
His sovereignty is an eternal sovereignty
which shall never pass away,
nor will his empire ever be destroyed.

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Apocalypse 1:5-8

Jesus Christ is 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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John 18:33-37

‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked. Jesus replied, ‘Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?’ Jesus replied, ‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.’ ‘So you are a king then?’ said Pilate. ‘It is you who say it’ answered Jesus. ‘Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.’

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Yes, I am a king

Who is Jesus to you? This is a question often posed to the faithful. Common responses tend to go along the lines of “friend”, “helper”, “confidante” and so on. It is unlikely that “king” will pop up as an answer. In modern times, it is difficult to understand the concept of what it means to be a king’s subject, or to be part of a kingdom.

Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. In the gospel passage, Pilate asked Jesus if he was the king of the Jews, referring to an earthly king who would lead the Jews in overcoming foreign rule. Saint Augustine of Hippo highlighted that in His reply to Pilate, Jesus did not say “my kingdom is not in this world” but “my kingdom is not of this world”. Therefore, Jesus’ kingdom is in the world now, made up of His followers. For any kingdom to flourish, the subjects must remain loyal to their king, trust in his rule, and do what he says.

If we acknowledge Christ as the king of our hearts and minds, are we abiding by the rules of His kingdom?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the grace of accepting the lordship of Jesus in our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the love that enables us to share in the divinity of Christ.

21 November, Wednesday – Talents And Time

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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Apocalypse 4:1-11

In my vision, I, John, saw a door open in heaven and heard the same voice speaking to me, the voice like a trumpet, saying, ‘Come up here: I will show you what is to come in the future.’ With that, the Spirit possessed me and I saw a throne standing in heaven, and the One who was sitting on the throne, and the Person sitting there looked like a diamond and a ruby. There was a rainbow encircling the throne, and this looked like an emerald. Round the throne in a circle were twenty-four thrones, and on them I saw twenty-four elders sitting, dressed in white robes with golden crowns on their heads. Flashes of lightning were coming from the throne, and the sound of peals of thunder, and in front of the throne there were seven flaming lamps burning, the seven Spirits of God. Between the throne and myself was a sea that seemed to be made of glass, like crystal. In the centre, grouped round the throne itself, were four animals with many eyes, in front and behind. The first animal was like a lion, the second like a bull, the third animal had a human face, and the fourth animal was like a flying eagle. Each of the four animals had six wings and had eyes all the way round as well as inside; and day and night they never stopped singing:

‘Holy, Holy, Holy
is the Lord God, the Almighty;
he was, he is and he is to come.’

Every time the animals glorified and honoured and gave thanks to the One sitting on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders prostrated themselves before him to worship the One who lives for ever and ever, and threw down their crowns in front of the throne, saying, ‘You are our Lord and our God, you are worthy of glory and honour and power, because you made all the universe and it was only by your will that everything was made and exists.’

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Luke 19:11-28

While the people were listening, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and they imagined that the kingdom of God was going to show itself then and there. Accordingly he said, ‘A man of noble birth went to a distant country to be appointed king and afterwards return. He summoned ten of his servants and gave them ten pounds. “Do business with these” he told them “until I get back.” But his compatriots detested him and sent a delegation to follow him with this message, “We do not want this man to be our king.”

Now on his return, having received his appointment as king, he sent for those servants to whom he had given the money, to find out what profit each had made. The first came in and said, “Sir, your one pound has brought in ten.” “Well done, my good servant!” he replied “Since you have proved yourself faithful in a very small thing, you shall have the government of ten cities..” Then came the second and said, “Sir, your one pound has made five.” To this one also he said, “And you shall be in charge of five cities.” Next came the other and said, “Sir, here is your pound. I put it away safely in a piece of linen because I was afraid of you; for you are an exacting man: you pick up what you have not put down and reap what you have not sown.” “You wicked servant!” he said “Out of your own mouth I condemn you. So you knew I was an exacting man, picking up what I have not put down and reaping what I have not sown? Then why did you not put my money in the bank? On my return I could have drawn it out with interest.” And he said to those standing by, “Take the pound from him and give it to the man who has ten pounds.” And they said to him, “But, sir, he has ten pounds . . .” “I tell you, to everyone who has will be given more; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

“But as for my enemies who did not want me for their king, bring them here and execute them in my presence.”’

When he had said this he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

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I tell you, to everyone who has will be given more, but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away

When I was in the university, I joined the varsity publication team for a while. The only article I wrote was about procrastination. I can’t recall the details of the article, but I do have the impression that I probably described procrastination as something that I was rather resigned to. It was a habit that I felt I could not, and also did not, want to break. It didn’t seem very cool to be always so prompt and efficient.

In Jesus’ time, a talent referred to a huge sum of money. It is not easy to quantify it relative to what we are familiar with today, but the idea is that the master entrusted the servants with quite a hefty sum. Two of them worked to make some profit out of what they already have, but one of them was lazy and did not do anything with the money. The rewards that the master gave to the servants are a symbol of the riches that await the worthy followers of Christ in heaven. The penalty for failing to make use of the talents would be an eternity away from God.

Do we recognise the amount of resources that God has placed at our disposal? It ranges from the physical, in terms of our health, energy and time, to the spiritual – our ability to love, show compassion, comfort and heal. The list is endless.

Everyone would have wondered at some point about the purpose of life. There is no clear answer, only what we decide to do with our lives. Regardless of whether one has a religion, many would realise the importance of leading meaningful lives. Why waste our time on earth? As we near the end of the liturgical year, the Mass readings focus on the end times and the hope of eternal life. Although some might say that it is morbid, reflecting on the end of earthly life will help remind us of what we should be doing before it ends.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: Lord, grant us the discipline and the faith to live every moment of our lives as a testimony to You.

Thanksgiving: Thank You, Lord, for allowing us to glorify You with our lives.

6 October, Saturday – Finding the anchor to God

6 October – Memorial for St. Bruno, Priest

Bruno (1030–1101) was educated in Paris and Rheims, France. He was ordained in 1055. He taught theology, and one of his students later became Blessed Pope Urban II. He presided over the cathedral school at Rheims from 1057 to 1075. He criticised the worldliness he saw in his fellow clergy. He opposed Manasses, Archbishop of Rheims, because of his laxity and mismanagement. He was chancellor of the Archdiocese of Rheims.

Following a vision he received of a secluded hermitage where he could spend his life becoming closer to God, he retired to a mountain near Chartreuse in Dauphiny in 1084 and with the help of St. Hugh of Grenoble, he founded what became the first house of the Carthusian Order. He and his brothers supported themselves as manuscript copyists.

He became assistant to Pope Urban in 1090, and supported his efforts at reform. Retiring from public life, he and his companions built a hermitage at Torre where the monastery of Saint Stephen was built in 1095. Bruno combined in the religious life living as a hermit and living in a community; his learning is apparent from his scriptural commentaries.

– Patron Saint Index

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Job 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17

This was the answer Job gave to the Lord:

I know that you are all-powerful:
what you conceive, you can perform.
I am the man who obscured your designs
with my empty-headed words.
I have been holding forth on matters I cannot understand,
on marvels beyond me and my knowledge.
I knew you then only by hearsay;
but now, having seen you with my own eyes,
I retract all I have said,
and in dust and ashes I repent.

The Lord blessed Job’s new fortune even more than his first one. He came to own fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand she-donkeys. He had seven sons and three daughters; his first daughter he called ‘Turtledove’, the second ‘Cassia’ and the third ‘Mascara.’ Throughout the land there were no women as beautiful as the daughters of Job. And their father gave them inheritance rights like their brothers.

After his trials, Job lived on until he was a hundred and forty years old, and saw his children and his children’s children up to the fourth generation. Then Job died, an old man and full of days.

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Luke 10:17-24

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

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

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

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Happy the eyes that see what you see

It is often said that “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. I can attest to this as my mind has been entering this state very often, ever since I left a full-time job and returned to life as a student. It is not a healthy state to remain in, and I have to make a daily effort to plan my time so as to spend it meaningfully. A recent spiritual activity I embarked on has been very helpful in this regard. It is an online retreat from Creighton University, structured according to the spiritual exercises of St Ignatius. The retreat guide introduces a new theme each week that builds upon those explored earlier, and the retreatant is given guidelines for prayer and reflection. I have found that when I set aside the time and resources to follow the guidelines faithfully, I experienced a kind of steadfast focus during the week, enabling me to adopt a much more positive and loving outlook towards everything and everyone I came across.

In today’s first reading, Job had railed at God about his sufferings, but he hung on to his faith and received rich rewards. In the gospel, the disciples of Jesus obediently did their work in God’s name, and found themselves filled with joy at the outcome. My point is that one needs to keep the mind and heart firmly anchored to God in order to be able to experience the joy that comes from Him. Without that anchor of committed prayer and focus on the Lord, we will find ourselves floating along, trying to latch on to brief moments of pleasure but failing to find real meaning in them.

The message of praying more and praying often is not a mere platitude. It really is the way to maintain the connection with God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the presence of mind and the habit of taking actions that will lead us to remain in your presence.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the joys and rewards we have received from God.

5 October, Friday – Turning Away From Sin

5 October

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Job 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5

From the heart of the tempest the Lord gave Job his answer. He said:

Have you ever in your life given orders to the morning
or sent the dawn to its post,
telling it to grasp the earth by its edges
and shake the wicked out of it,
when it changes the earth to sealing clay
and dyes it as a man dyes clothes;
stealing the light from wicked men
and breaking the arm raised to strike?
Have you journeyed all the way to the sources of the sea,
or walked where the Abyss is deepest?
Have you been shown the gates of Death
or met the janitors of Shadowland?
Have you an inkling of the extent of the earth?
Tell me all about it if you have!
Which is the way to the home of the light,
and where does darkness live?
You could then show them the way to their proper places,
or put them on the path to where they live!
If you know all this, you must have been born with them,
you must be very old by now!
Job replied to the Lord:

My words have been frivolous: what can I reply?
I had better lay my finger on my lips.
I have spoken once… I will not speak again;
more than once… I will add nothing.

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Luke 10:13-16

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

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

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Alas for you, Chorazin

Over the past months or so, I have been following a Chinese drama series airing on Mediacorp Channel 8. The main characters of the show are a family of four who end up reliving the same day, 29th February, over and over. The only way for them to escape the endless repetition of events is to confess their deepest and darkest sin to the person they had caused harm to, and obtain the person’s forgiveness. Three of the family members managed to overcome their shame and guilt to seek reconciliation with others, but the mother hesitated and did not confess her sin, choosing to stay in that dimension.

In Episode 10 of Bishop Barron’s Catholicism, we see that hell is ultimately our choice – do we choose God or do we choose self-absorption? I don’t see this as a choice that we make only on our deathbeds, but something that we live with every single day of our lives. Those who choose to live in a state of sin will automatically be disconnected from God as they have turned their backs on Him.

The writing of this reflection is serving as a reminder to myself to partake of the sacrament of reconciliation on a more regular basis. As much as I do not like to admit it, my pride and ego seem to be growing with age, and I am finding it more difficult to truly humble myself and be sorry for my sins. I may not be actively choosing to stay in a state of sin, but by resisting reconciliation with God, I am not truly freeing myself from my sins.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the courage and commitment to repent daily of our sins.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the grace of forgiveness.

4 October, Thursday – Faith in Crisis

4 October – Memorial for St. Francis of Assisi

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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Job 19:21-27

Job said:

Pity me, pity me, you, my friends,
for the hand of God has struck me.
Why do you hound me down like God,
will you never have enough of my flesh?

Ah, would that these words of mine were written down,
inscribed on some monument
with iron chisel and engraving tool,
cut into the rock for ever.
This I know: that my Avenger lives,
and he, the Last, will take his stand on earth.
After my awaking, he will set me close to him,
and from my flesh I shall look on God.
He whom I shall see will take my part:
these eyes will gaze on him and find him not aloof.

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Luke 10:1-12

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

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I am sending you out like lambs

“I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” The existing and potential members of the harvest expect the labourers of the harvest to be like lambs, but how should they react when these trusted labourers turn out to be like wolves instead? As the church in America reels from the sex abuse scandals, possibly the most serious in its history, the rest of the faithful in other parts of the world are also grappling with the shockwaves from this crisis that is rocking the church.

It is natural to expect religious leaders, as shepherds of the flock, to hold themselves accountable to high moral standards. Alas, although chosen, they too are not perfect, and many have succumbed to temptations of the flesh. While there are those outside and within the church who will use the scandals to condemn the institution, this is a good time for the faithful to ask ourselves who it is that we are following, and why we are following Him.

Being over two millennia in age, the church has weathered many storms and crises. A recent article by the Catholic News Agency suggests that the faithful seek guidance from Saint Catherine of Siena in these troubled times. St Catherine lived in a time of great division and corruption in the church. The pope was estranged from Rome and living in France. She was a simple laywoman, but her love for Christ and His body was so strong that she took action in writing to the pope to convince him to return to Rome.

The church is not here to serve us; rather, we are here to serve the body of Christ. There is not much that most of us can do in this context, except to hold firm in the faith and remain unified in prayer for the victims and the church.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the victims of abuse, that they find healing and forgiveness through the love of Christ.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gift of faith, especially in times of crisis.

7 August, Tuesday – Alone, Or Not?

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

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 30:1-2,12-15,18-22

The word addressed to Jeremiah by the Lord: the Lord, the God of Israel says this: Write all the words I have spoken to you in a book.

Yes, the Lord says this:
Your wound is incurable,
your injury past healing.
There is no one to care for your sore,
no medicine to make you well again.
All your lovers have forgotten you,
they look for you no more.
Yes, I have struck you as an enemy strikes,
with harsh punishment
so great is your guilt, so many your sins.
Why bother to complain about your wound?
Your pain is incurable.
So great is your guilt, so many your sins,
that I have done all this to you.

The Lord says this:
Now I will restore the tents of Jacob,
and take pity on his dwellings:
the city shall be rebuilt on its ruins,
the citadel restored on its site.
From them will come thanksgiving
and shouts of joy.
I will make them increase, and not diminish them,
make them honoured, and not disdained.
Their sons shall be as once they were,
their community fixed firm in my presence,
and I will punish all their oppressors.
Their prince will be one of their own,
their ruler come from their own people.
I will let him come freely into my presence and he can come close to me;
who else, indeed, would risk his life
by coming close to me? – it is the Lord who speaks.
And you shall be my people and I will be your God.

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Matthew 14:22-36

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

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

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He went up into the hills by himself to pray

I recently completed a 200 km walking pilgrimage from Le Puy to Conques, a section of one of the Camino routes in France. I was there with a small group of parishioners from Singapore, and we did most things together as a group. There was one day early in the trip when I unintentionally went ahead of the group on my own, and ended up walking for 3 hours in a state of solitude, not knowing where the rest were. That period turned out to be the most fulfilling part of the trip. In the absence of social obligations, I felt totally unencumbered, contemplative and happy in my lonesome walk. Sadly, those feelings disappeared the moment I rejoined the group, and I concluded that I must have some deep pathological need to be alone.

In the gospel, there is mention of occasions where Jesus took time off from his ministry to be alone to pray, but before long, his presence in the community would be required again. Those periods of solitude were no doubt very important for Jesus to recollect his thoughts and unite them in prayer with his Father. I think that those times alone were also essential to help prepare him for his ministry.

The cross has two arms, one vertical and one horizontal. While effort must be made to develop one’s relationship with God, action must also be taken to reach out to the larger community. One arm cannot fulfil its purpose without the other.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that the Spirit will give us the grace and motivation to build relationship with God and others.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the spiritual insights granted to us in moments of grace.

6 August, Monday – Waiting

Aug 6 – Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

Today we celebrate the occasion on which Christ revealed Himself in shining splendour to Peter, James, and John. Moses and Elijah were present, and are taken to signify that the Law and the Prophets. They testify to Jesus as the promised Messiah. God the Father also proclaimed him as such, saying, “This is my Beloved Son. Listen to him.” For a moment the veil is drawn aside, and men still on earth are permitted a glimpse of the heavenly reality, the glory of the Eternal Triune God.

http://satucket.com/lectionary/Tranfiguration.htm

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Daniel 7:9-10,13-14

As I watched:

Thrones were set in place
and one of great age took his seat.
His robe was white as snow,
the hair of his head as pure as wool.
His throne was a blaze of flames,
its wheels were a burning fire.
A stream of fire poured out,
issuing from his presence.
A thousand thousand waited on him,
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
A court was held
and the books were opened.
And I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven,
one like a son of man.
He came to the one of great age
and was led into his presence.
On him was conferred sovereignty,
glory and kingship,
and men of all peoples, nations and languages became his servants.
His sovereignty is an eternal sovereignty
which shall never pass away,
nor will his empire ever be destroyed.

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2 Peter 1:16-19

It was not any cleverly invented myths that we were repeating when we brought you the knowledge of the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; we had seen his majesty for ourselves. He was honoured and glorified by God the Father, when the Sublime Glory itself spoke to him and said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour.’ We heard this ourselves, spoken from heaven, when we were with him on the holy mountain.

  So we have confirmation of what was said in prophecies; and you will be right to depend on prophecy and take it as a lamp for lighting a way through the dark until the dawn comes and the morning star rises in your minds.

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Mark 9:2-10

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter spoke to Jesus: ‘Rabbi,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were so frightened. And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and there came a voice from the cloud, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean.

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His clothing became brilliant as lightning

In the past two years or so since I left my full-time job, I have had to go through a great deal of waiting. There was the months-long wait for approval to commence my Masters research project, for approval of visa documents to study in Australia, and for news of my job interviews (unsuccessful). The longest wait took place this year, for the outcome of my application to do a full-time PhD (successful). Even now, at this time of writing, I am awaiting news of my application for a room on campus. All these periods of fretting and repeated refreshing of my inbox were fraught with more worry than faith and hope. Although I knew that theoretically, I could place my hope in the Lord, there is always a tendency for the mind to dwell on the uncertainties of what is to come, and to be gripped by what feels more accessible and real — fear.

Today’s readings all proclaim the glory of our Lord and the eternity of God’s kingdom. In Bishop Barron’s Catholicism, he spoke about our hope that when our bodies are resurrected, we too will become transfigured like Christ. Even as witnesses of the transfiguration, Peter, James and John did not quite understand what it meant when it happened, only that it was such a wonderful encounter that Peter suggested making tents so as to prolong the experience. However, it ended unexpectedly, and they would have to endure multiple trials and tribulations before they could come close to this eternal glory again.

In a sense, our time on earth is like a long period of waiting to meet the Lord, during which we make preparations according to Jesus’ instructions. The period of waiting is punctuated with times of both uplifting grace and debilitating suffering. May His grace sustain us through the difficult times during this pilgrimage.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we can find that peaceful centre in our hearts during times of stress and frustration with people and/or events.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for Jesus reaching out to catch us whenever we cry out to Him for help.

9 June, Saturday – A Life Of Surrender

June 9 – Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary began as early as the twelfth century. During the seventeenth century in France, St John Eudes popularised this devotion along with that to the Sacred Heart. St Luke’s Gospel twice mentions that Mary ‘kept all these things in her heart’, pondering the word of God. Mary shows us how to listen to the words the Holy Spirit speaks to us in the depths of our hearts, and how to respond in faith.

Source: Universalis

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The attention of Christians was early attracted by the love and virtues of the Heart of Mary. The Gospel itself invited this attention with exquisite discretion and delicacy. What was first excited was compassion for the Virgin Mother. It was, so to speak, at the foot of the Cross that the Christian heart first made the acquaintance of the Heart of Mary. Simeon’s prophecy paved the way and furnished the devotion with one of its favourite formulae and most popular representations: the heart pierced with a sword. But Mary was not merely passive at the foot of the Cross; “she cooperated through charity”, as St. Augustine says, “in the work of our redemption”.

In the midst of the second world war Pope Pius XII put the whole world under the special protection of our Savior’s Mother by consecrating it to her Immaculate Heart, and in 1944 he decreed that in the future the whole Church should celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This is not a new devotion. In the seventeenth century, St. John Eudes preached it together with that of the Sacred Heart; in the nineteenth century, Pius VII and Pius IX allowed several churches to celebrate a feast of the Pure Heart of Mary. Pius XII instituted today’s feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the whole Church, so as to obtain by her intercession “peace among nations, freedom for the Church, the conversion of sinners, the love of purity and the practice of virtue” (Decree of May 4, 1944).

Source: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2016-06-04

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2 Timothy 4:1-8

Before God and before Christ Jesus who is to be judge of the living and the dead, I put this duty to you, in the name of his Appearing and of his kingdom: proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, call to obedience – but do all with patience and with the intention of teaching. The time is sure to come when, far from being content with sound teaching, people will be avid for the latest novelty and collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes; and then, instead of listening to the truth, they will turn to myths. Be careful always to choose the right course; be brave under trials; make the preaching of the Good News your life’s work, in thoroughgoing service.

As for me, 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.

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Luke 2:41-51

Every year the parents of Jesus used to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up for the feast as usual. When they were on their way home after the feast, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it. They assumed he was with the caravan, and it was only after a day’s journey that they went to look for him among their relations and acquaintances. When they failed to find him they went back to Jerusalem looking for him everywhere.

Three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions; and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies. They were overcome when they saw him, and his mother said to him, ‘My child, why have, you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.’

‘Why were you looking for me?’ he replied ‘Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’ But they did not understand what he meant.

He then went down with them and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority. His mother stored up all these things in her heart.

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Why were you looking for me?

A common struggle of faith is one of letting go and trusting in God. There are many things in life that we want to hang on to, and as described by Bishop Robert Barron, they can be grouped into these four categories – power, wealth, honour and pleasure. Each of us has our ‘favourite’ addictions from one or more of these categories that appeal to our self-indulgent nature, and they are constant barriers in our relationship with God.

In today’s gospel passage, we come across a familiar account, that of the finding of the boy Jesus in the temple. Instead of following his family and relatives on their trip home, Jesus had stayed behind to converse with the religious teachers. Mary, in particular, would likely be feeling extreme anxiety about not being able to locate her son. Imagine her relief when she sees him in the temple, and naturally, there is a tone of reproach in her voice as she speaks to Jesus. His unexpected response would perhaps have caused her to feel taken aback and confused. We do not know if Jesus had made mention of his mission in the years before he turned twelve, but this is likely the first instance since the immaculate conception that Mary is told about her son’s purpose in the world. As before, even though she may not fully understand what is in store, she accepts and trusts in God’s plans for her and her son.

The Old and New Testament is replete with examples of people who made great personal sacrifices in their commitment to a life serving the Lord. They seem to be the exception to the norm, but really, each one of Christ’s followers is called to surrender their lives to the Lord. He must always come first. We struggle, as there is always a tendency to cave in to self-serving desires instead of being obedient to God. As we stumble, fall, and pick ourselves up again in our daily battles with sin, may we draw inspiration from our Blessed Mother in the complete dedication of her life to the Lord.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that Mary continue to intercede for us, and that our weakness may become a source of divine grace.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the times when the Lord shows us His reassuring love when we surrender our lives to Him.

6 June, Wednesday – God Of The Living

Jun 6 – Memorial for St. Norbert, bishop, religious founder

St. Norbert (1080-1134) had been born to the nobility and raised around the royal court. There he developed a very worldly view, taking holy orders as a career move when he joined the Benedictines. A narrow escape from death led him to a conversion experience, and taking his vows seriously.

He founded a community of Augustinian canons, starting a reform movement that swept through European monastic houses. St. Norbert also reformed the clergy in his see, using force when necessary. He worked with St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Hugh of Grenoble to heal the schism caused by the death of Pope Honorius II, and for heresy in Cambrai, France with the help of St. Waltmann. He is one of the patron saints of peace.

  • – Patron Saint Index

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2 Timothy 1:1-3,6-12

From Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus in his design to promise life in Christ Jesus; to Timothy, dear child of mine, wishing you grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.

Night and day I thank God, keeping my conscience clear and remembering my duty to him as my ancestors did, and always I remember you in my prayers. That is why I am reminding you now to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy – not because of anything we ourselves have done but for his own purpose and by his own grace. This grace had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time, but it has only been revealed by the Appearing of our saviour Christ Jesus. He abolished death, and he has proclaimed life and immortality through the Good News; and I have been named its herald, its apostle and its teacher.

It is only on account of this that I am experiencing fresh hardships here now; but I have not lost confidence, because I know who it is that I have put my trust in, and I have no doubt at all that he is able to take care of all that I have entrusted to him until that Day.

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Mark 12:18-27

Some Sadducees – who deny that there is a resurrection – came to him and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, if a man’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first married a wife and then died leaving no children. The second married the widow, and he too died leaving no children; with the third it was the same, and none of the seven left any children. Last of all the woman herself died. Now at the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be, since she had been married to all seven?’

Jesus said to them, ‘Is not the reason why you go wrong, that you understand neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry; no, they are like the angels in heaven. Now about the dead rising again, have you never read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the Bush, how God spoke to him and said: I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is God, not of the dead, but of the living. You are very much mistaken.’

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He is God, not of the dead, but of the living

I would think that there is no one question more important to each person than the purpose of his/her existence. Birth, life and death are great mysteries, and, as we journey towards the inevitable end, there will certainly be wonder, fear and contemplation about what awaits. There are some who believe in an afterlife, and there are some who don’t. The latter group might dismiss a belief in the afterlife as something that is invented to ease people’s fear of death, but surely, it is more than a human invention if there is an entire (seemingly impossible to accomplish) body of teachings about how to live life in this world, in preparation for an afterlife with God?

The Sadducees in today’s gospel reading did not believe in an afterlife, nor a resurrection, for that matter. Fully aware that the Sadducees only acknowledged the authority of the first five books of the bible (Genesis to Deuteronomy), Jesus wisely made reference to Exodus in response to their theological challenge to him. He asserts that souls do live on after the death of the physical bodies, and that relationships like marriages are no longer existent in the afterlife.

The gospel reading reminds me of Jesus’ words in John 14:3 – “And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Sometimes, when I think about what will happen after death, I am overcome with fear over the uncertainty. But instead of clinging on to that fear which is ultimately, unproductive and crippling, I am instead beginning to recognise that one thing is for certain — we cannot do in the afterlife what we can do on this earth and in this realm of existence. So we have to keep going on, keeping faith in Jesus’ words and trusting that the Spirit will lead us to who we are meant to be.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we will always remember to trust in the Lord.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the reassuring love of God, made ever more present in the person of Christ.