Tag Archives: edith koh

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.

21 April, Saturday – The Bread Of Life

21 Apr – Memorial for St. Anselm, bishop & doctor

Anselm (1033-1109) was born of Italian nobility. After a childhood devoted to piety and study, he wanted to enter religious life, but his father prevented it, and Anselm became rather worldly for several years. Upon his mother’s death, Anselm argued with his father, fled to France, and became a Benedictine monk at Bec, Normandy. He studied under and succeeded Lanfranc as abbot, before later becoming Archbishop of Canterbury.

Anselm was a theological writer and counsellor to Pope Gregory VII, Pope Urban II, and William the Conqueror. He opposed slavery and obtained English legislation prohibiting the sale of men. He fought King William Rufus’ encroachment on ecclesiastical rights and the independences of the Church, and was exiled. He resolved theological doubts of the Italo-Greek bishops at the Council of Bari in 1098. He strongly supported celibate clergy. King Henry I invited him to return to England, but they disputed over investitures, and Anselm was again exiled in 1106.

He was one of the great philosophers and theologians of the Middle Ages, and was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1720 by Pope Clement XI.

No one will have any other desire in heaven than what God wills; and the desire of one will be the desire of all; and the desire of all and of each one will also be the desire of God.”

– Anselm, Opera Omnis, Letter 112

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 9:31-42

The churches throughout Judaea, Galilee and Samaria were now left in peace, building themselves up, living in the fear of the Lord, and filled with the consolation of the Holy Spirit.

Peter visited one place after another and eventually came to the saints living down in Lydda. There he found a man called Aeneas, a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years. Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ cures you: get up and fold up your sleeping mat.’ Aeneas got up immediately; everybody who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they were all converted to the Lord.

At Jaffa there was a woman disciple called Tabitha, or Dorcas in Greek, who never tired of doing good or giving in charity. But the time came when she got ill and died, and they washed her and laid her out in a room upstairs. Lydda is not far from Jaffa, so when the disciples heard that Peter was there, they sent two men with an urgent message for him, ‘Come and visit us as soon as possible.’

Peter went back with them straightaway, and on his arrival they took him to the upstairs room, where all the widows stood round him in tears, showing him tunics and other clothes Dorcas had made when she was with them. Peter sent them all out of the room and knelt down and prayed. Then he turned to the dead woman and said, ‘Tabitha, stand up.’ She opened her eyes, looked at Peter and sat up. Peter helped her to her feet, then he called in the saints and widows and showed them she was alive. The whole of Jaffa heard about it and many believed in the Lord.

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John 6:60-69

After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’ Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, ‘Does this upset you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?

‘It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer.

The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.

‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the outset those who did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. He went on, ‘This is why I told you that no one could come to me unless the Father allows him.’ After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.

Then Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’

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The words I have spoken to you are spirit

A couple of friends and I recently surveyed a number of Catholics on their reasons for attending mass. A range of responses were given, from spending time with the Lord, to worshipping with a community, and also accompanying family members to church.

Today’s gospel reading sees Jesus at the end of His famous bread of life discourse. The discourse comes after Jesus fed the five thousand and was seen to walk on water. Despite all the miraculous works they had witnessed or heard about, a large number of his followers left him after hearing Jesus’ response to their request for the bread that comes down from heaven. They could not accept his claim that he came from heaven, and worse, the invitation to eat his flesh and drink his blood. After they left, Jesus had the opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings about his eucharistic teaching to his remaining followers, but he did not do that. This absence of clarification is significant in its indication that Jesus truly meant for his flesh and blood to be consumed.

Brothers and sisters, the Church has sustained this doctrine of the real presence in the Eucharist for over two millennia. After receiving the body and blood of Christ during mass, the faithful are considered to be better formed to transform the world. It is not just about the quiet time with the Lord, or communion with other members of the church, but to go forth and fulfil our mission to radiate the life and peace of Christ to others.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can better live out our mission to bring Christ to the world.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the times when our inner transformation led others to know Christ.

20 April, Friday – Encounter With Jesus

20 April

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Acts 9:1-20

Saul was still breathing threats to slaughter the Lord’s disciples. He had gone to the high priest and asked for letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, that would authorise him to arrest and take to Jerusalem any followers of the Way, men or women, that he could find.

Suddenly, while he was travelling to Damascus and just before he reached the city, there came a light from heaven all round him. He fell to the ground, and then he heard a voice saying, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ he asked, and the voice answered, ‘I am Jesus, and you are persecuting me. Get up now and go into the city, and you will be told what you have to do.’ The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless, for though they heard the voice they could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but even with his eyes wide open he could see nothing at all, and they had to lead him into Damascus by the hand. For three days he was without his sight, and took neither food nor drink.

A disciple called Ananias who lived in Damascus had a vision in which he heard the Lord say to him, ‘Ananias!’ When he replied, ‘Here I am, Lord’, the Lord said, ‘You must go to Straight Street and ask the house of Judas for someone called Saul, who comes from Tarsus. At this moment he is praying, having had a vision of a man called Ananias coming in and laying hands on him to give him back his sight.’

When he heard that, Ananias said, ‘Lord, several people have told me about this man and all the harm he has been doing to your saints in Jerusalem. He has only come here because he holds a warrant from the chief priests to arrest everybody who invokes your name.’ The Lord replied, ‘You must go all the same, because this man is my chosen instrument to bring my name before pagans and pagan kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he himself must suffer for my name.’ Then Ananias went. He entered the house, and at once laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, I have been sent by the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on your way here so that you may recover your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately it was as though scales fell away from Saul’s eyes and he could see again. So he was baptised there and then, and after taking some food he regained his strength.

He began preaching in the synagogues, ‘Jesus is the Son of God.’

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John 6:52-59

The Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said. Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood
has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’
He taught this doctrine at Capernaum, in the synagogue.

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There came a light from heaven all round him

The Case for Christ, which was recently made into a movie by PureFlix, is a book by a former atheist who started off attempting to discredit the Christian faith, but ended up becoming a convert. It began with the conversion of his wife, which prompted him to find evidence that would disprove Christianity. He applied his skills as an investigative journalist to interview several renowned religious scholars about Christianity, a process which proved to be a life-changing experience for him. Although it appeared that he converted in the face of overwhelming evidence for the existence of God and Jesus, and the authenticity of biblical content, I am quite sure that he must have had a personal encounter with Jesus through his investigations.

The conversion experience of Saul is perhaps one of the most dramatic in the gospel. Perhaps Saul needed something of that nature to cause him to make a complete turnaround towards Christianity. I have been reading Bishop Barron’s latest book To Light a Fire On the Earth, and in it, there is a quote from Pope Benedict XVI that Bishop Barron specifically states as something that Christians should always keep within sight. It is a statement from the document Deus Caritas Est – “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction”.

A lot of people approach religion purely with reason and logic; and while that might be helpful in convincing one about the truth of Christ’s teachings, faith must come into the picture at some point. And faith is something that is often sparked by personal encounters with the Lord, helping us realise that there is a creator who loves us.

How have you encountered Jesus in your life? It might have been through a crisis, a miraculous occurrence, however big or small, people you meet, or sometimes, the ‘voice in your head’. Whatever the encounters are, how did they give your life a new horizon and a decisive direction?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we will be open and receptive to encountering the Lord in every aspect of our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gift of faith.

19 April, Thursday – Talking About Jesus

14 April
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Acts 8:26-40

The angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, ‘Be ready to set out at noon along the road that goes from Jerusalem down to Gaza, the desert road.’ So he set off on his journey. Now it happened that an Ethiopian had been on pilgrimage to Jerusalem; he was a eunuch and an officer at the court of the kandake, or queen, of Ethiopia, and was in fact her chief treasurer. He was now on his way home; and as he sat in his chariot he was reading the prophet Isaiah. The Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and meet that chariot.’ When Philip ran up, he heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ ‘How can I’ he replied ‘unless I have someone to guide me?’ So he invited Philip to get in and sit by his side. Now the passage of scripture he was reading was this:

Like a sheep that is led to the slaughter-house,
like a lamb that is dumb in front of its shearers,
like these he never opens his mouth.
He has been humiliated and has no one to defend him.
Who will ever talk about his descendants,
since his life on earth has been cut short!

The eunuch turned to Philip and said, ‘Tell me, is the prophet referring to himself or someone else?’ Starting, therefore, with this text of scripture Philip proceeded to explain the Good News of Jesus to him.

Further along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘Look, there is some water here; is there anything to stop me being baptised?’ He ordered the chariot to stop, then Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water and Philip baptised him. But after they had come up out of the water again Philip was taken away by the Spirit of the Lord, and the eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. Philip found that he had reached Azotus and continued his journey proclaiming the Good News in every town as far as Caesarea.

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John 6:44-51

Jesus said to the crowd:

‘No one can come to me
unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me,
and I will raise him up at the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They will all be taught by God,
and to hear the teaching of the Father,
and learn from it,
is to come to me.
Not that anybody has seen the Father,
except the one who comes from God:
he has seen the Father.
I tell you most solemnly,
everybody who believes has eternal life.

‘I am the bread of life.
Your fathers ate the manna in the desert
and they are dead;
but this is the bread that comes down from heaven,
so that a man may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,
for the life of the world.’
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I am the bread of life

When was the last time you spoke about Jesus to a non-Christian? My response to that question would be that I cannot recall ever having done so. Sure, I have done numerous personal sharings about my faith and spiritual life in small groups, but the audience was always Catholic. I do believe that my calling lies in working with fellow believers, but it always bugs me when I imagine myself sharing my faith with a non-Christian and I draw a blank. I do not even know how and where to start, and I know I would fear jeopardising the friendship if I end up sounding too ‘pushy’.

I thought that today’s first reading is a beautiful account of evangelization. Philip obediently follows the call of the Lord without knowing what is in store for him. He ends up meeting a foreigner and explaining scripture to him, likely by drawing links between the Old Testament readings and the messianic message and person of Christ. The Ethiopian official is receptive and humble in seeking knowledge, and what Philip said must have struck a chord with him, such that he asks to be baptized almost right away when he saw a body of water. I wonder what their conversation was like, for the Ethiopian to express such conviction and enthusiasm for the faith.

Some may assert, and I have definitely heard it said before, that it is more important to live the Word through one’s actions, attitude and behavior towards others, rather than know a lot about scripture but lead a life devoid of Christian values. Even so, this does not excuse one from not knowing scripture. Anyone can lead a life based on Christian values, yet not know Christ. I see a responsibility for practising Christians to have a kind of script in their minds that they can readily share with others; something that integrates their life experiences with the redeeming power of the Lord.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that more people will recognise their thirst and hunger for the living God.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the tireless evangelical work of missionaries, priests and lay people.