Tag Archives: faith

Wednesday, 31 January – Faith Comes With Humility

31 Jan – Memorial for St. John Bosco, priest

St. John Bosco (1815-1888) was the son of Venerable Margaret Bosco. His father died when he was just two years old, and as soon as he was old enough to do odd jobs, he did so for extra money for his family. Bosco would go to circuses, fairs, and carnivals, practise the tricks he saw the magicians perform, and then present one-boy shows. After his performance, while he still had an audience of boys, he would repeat the homily he had heard earlier in church.

He worked as a tailor, baker, shoemaker, and carpenter while attending college and the seminary. He was ordained in 1841. He was a teacher, and he worked with youth, finding places where they could meet, play and pray. He taught catechism to orphans and apprentices, and was chaplain in a hospice for girls.

He wrote short treatises aimed at explaining the faith to children, and then taught children how to print them. He was a friend of St. Joseph Cafasson, whose biography he wrote. He was confessor to Blessed Joseph Allamano. He founded the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) in 1859, a community of priests who work with and educate boys, under the protection of Our Lady, Help of Christians, and St. Francis de Sales. He founded the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians, in 1872, and the Union of Cooperator Salesians in 1875.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Samuel 24:2,8-17

King David said to Joab and to the senior army officers who were with him, ‘Now go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and take a census of the people; I wish to know the size of the population.’ Having covered the whole country, they returned to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. Joab gave the king the figures for the census of the people; Israel numbered eight hundred thousand armed men capable of drawing sword, and Judah five hundred thousand men.

But afterwards David’s heart misgave him for having taken a census of the people. ‘I have committed a grave sin’ David said to the Lord. ‘But now, Lord, I beg you to forgive your servant for this fault. I have been very foolish.’ But when David got up next morning, the following message had come from the Lord to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, ‘Go and say to David, “the Lord says this: I offer you three things; choose one of them for me to do to you.”’

So Gad went to David and told him. ‘Are three years of famine to come on you in your country’ he said ‘or will you flee for three months before your pursuing enemy, or would you rather have three days’ pestilence in your country? Now think, and decide how I am to answer him who sends me.’ David said to Gad, This is a hard choice. But let us rather fall into the power of the Lord, since his mercy is great, and not into the power of men.’ So David chose pestilence.

It was the time of the wheat harvest. The Lord sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning till the time appointed and plague ravaged the people, and from Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men of them died. The angel stretched out his hand towards Jerusalem to destroy it, but the Lord thought better of this evil, and he said to the angel who was destroying the people, ‘Enough! Now withdraw your hand.’ The angel of the Lord was beside the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite. “When David saw the angel who was ravaging the people, he spoke to the Lord. ‘It was I who sinned;’ he said ‘I who did this wicked thing. But these, this flock, what have they done? Let your hand lie heavy on me then, and on my family.’

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Mark 6:1-6

Jesus went to his home town and his disciples accompanied him. With the coming of the sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue and most of them were astonished when they heard him. They said, ‘Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?’ And they would not accept him. And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house’; and he could work no miracle there, though he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

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‘A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house’; and he could work no miracle there…

Imagine a coworker who joined the company the same time as you, in the exact same team with the exact same responsibilities. You become friends and learn about each other, discovering in the process that you both come from similar backgrounds. So similar in fact, that you both might as well have grown up in the same house and done the same course at the same university.

Now, imagine that same coworker suddenly showing up at work one day, giving suggestions and instructions on how to solve a particular problem. No, he wasn’t promoted overnight but he knows a little bit more about this particular issue (because he learnt about it) than you do and thought he would help you.

Instead of accepting his solution, you choose to shut him down and question, “How could he possibly know more than me?” Both of you come from the same background, with the same education. How could he possibly know more than you?

In today’s gospel, this is the situation Jesus found himself in. The people in his hometown could not believe that he knew enough to teach about God and the Scriptures. After all, wasn’t he just a carpenter’s son? What right did he have to tell them how to live their life?

Their pride had clouded their judgment of Jesus. Instead of seeing him as the Messiah, they saw someone who had no authority on anything else besides carpentry and repair work. They were unnerved with the amount of authority Jesus spoke with. How dare he speak with such conviction?

Word would definitely have travelled far and wide of the miracles he performed but his very own people refused to accept the stories, insisting that it just wasn’t possible. Pride took over the people in the gospel and pride clouded their perception to the point their faith was stifled. Their lack of faith was what led to Jesus only being able to perform very few miracles among his people. What they failed to realize is that Jesus is a repairman. Both in his job and spiritually. He was sent to repair our faith and souls.

Most of the time, God talks to us through other people and pride has to be put aside in order to hear what He has to say. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to shut down your ego but we need to do it because we can’t serve both God and our ego. Humble yourself to God and see how your faith will grow and miracles happen in your life.

Let Jesus into your hearts so that he can repair your soul.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Rebecca Grace)

Prayer: Lord, help us let go of our pride so that we can let You into our lives, and forgive us for the weak moments when we unintentionally let our ego take over.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks, dear God, for the little miracles you perform in our lives and the wonderful people who act as your messengers for us.

27 January, Saturday – Where Is It?

27 Jan – Memorial for St. Angela Merici, virgin

St. Angela Merici (1474-1540) became a Franciscan tertiary at the age of 15. She received a vision telling her that she would inspire devout women in their vocation.

In Crete, during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, she was struck blind. Her friends wanted to return home, but she insisted on going on, visiting the shrines with as much devotion and enthusiasm as if she had her sight. On the way home, while praying before a crucifix, her sight was restored at the same place where it had been lost.

In 1535, she gathered a group of girl students and began what would become the ‘Institute of St. Ursula’ (the Ursuline Sisters), founded to teach children, beginning with religion and later expanding into secular topics; her first schools were in Desenazno and Brescia.

  • Patron Saint Index

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2 Samuel 12:1-7,10-17

The Lord sent Nathan the prophet to David. He came to him and said:

‘In the same town were two men, one rich, the other poor. The rich man had flocks and herds in great abundance; the poor man had nothing but a ewe lamb, one only, a small one he had bought. This he fed, and it grew up with him and his children, eating his bread, drinking from his cup, sleeping on his breast; it was like a daughter to him. When there came a traveller to stay, the rich man refused to take one of his own flock or herd to provide for the wayfarer who had come to him. Instead he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for his guest.’

David’s anger flared up against the man. ‘As the Lord lives,’ he said to Nathan ‘the man who did this deserves to die! He must make fourfold restitution for the lamb, for doing such a thing and showing no compassion.’

Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man. So now the sword will never be far from your House, since you have shown contempt for me and taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.”

‘Thus the Lord speaks, “I will stir up evil for you out of your own House. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to your neighbour, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. You worked in secret, I will work this in the face of all Israel and in the face of the sun.”’

David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Then Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord, for his part, forgives your sin; you are not to die. Yet because you have outraged the Lord by doing this, the child that is born to you is to die.’ Then Nathan went home.

The Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David and it fell gravely ill. David pleaded with the Lord for the child; he kept a strict fast and went home and spent the night on the bare ground, covered with sacking. The officials of his household came and stood round him to get him to rise from the ground, but he refused, nor would he take food with them.

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Mark 4:35-41

With the coming of evening, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind they took him, just as he was, in the boat; and there were other boats with him. Then it began to blow a gale and the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped. But he was in the stern, his head on the cushion, asleep. They woke him and said to him, ‘Master, do you not care? We are going down!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Quiet now! Be calm!’ And the wind dropped, and all was calm again. Then he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?’ They were filled with awe and said to one another, ‘Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.’

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How is it that you have no faith?

A man was searching his garden high and low for something. After a while, his neighbour, who had been watching him from over the fence, asked out loud, “What are you looking for?” The man replied, “My house keys.” The neighbour came over to help but after another fruitless half hour, he asked the man, “Are you sure you lost it out here?” The man replied, “No. I lost them in the house.” Puzzled, the neighbour asked, “Why are you searching out here then?” To which the man replied, “Because it is nice and bright out here.”

Many times, we choose to not see what is right in front of us. Or we choose to look for something where there is not even the remoteness chance of finding it. For a very long time, I believe that I lost my faith in God; not because it wasn’t there, but more because I had allowed the world around me to cloud my perspective on life. The clouds have since lifted and I have finally begun to discern how ‘little’ my faith is. However, that has not stopped me from putting my entire faith in God now and trusting that He will lead me out of the abyss I sometimes find myself in. Whether it is a physical one (my weight and ‘shape’), an emotional one (mainly brought about by frustrations at work) or a spiritual one (my constant struggle against sin), I believe that once you have found even an iota of faith, all that is needed is totally surrendering it to God. No questions asked.

Many of us struggle with our faith. We question, we challenge, we doubt. I think a person can surround himself with the best theologians, doctors, lawyers or professors and fire countless questions to satisfy our own curiosity. But there is no way one can explain fully this ‘faith’ that God has given to us. Like it or not, at some point, we just have to lift our doubts and fears up to Him, fully trusting that He will take it and multiply it a hundredfold. So how do we know when we have finally ‘connected’? There is no flash of lightning nor a loud thunderclap. For me, it was a gentle whisper in my ear and a ‘prompting’ within my heart. That ‘itchy itchy’ feeling one gets when you know that something big is going to happen.

That, brothers and sisters, is why Jesus asks us the question each day. Because every day is a test of faith for many of us. For some of us, just getting through a day unscathed is a testimony of our faith in Him. For others, we seem to breeze through the day with nary a worry. Wherever you are on your faith journey, especially where you are doubtful, ask yourself if you are searching in the right places.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: We pray for the gift of faith. That You will give us the desire to surrender fully to you and lift up our entire life to you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your everlasting faith in us.

13 January, Saturday – True Value

13 Jan – Memorial for St. Hilary, bishop and doctor of the Church

St. Hilary of Poitiers (315-368) was known as Athanasius of the West. He was born to wealthy polytheistic, pagan nobility. His early life was uneventful as he married, had children (one of whom was St. Abra), and studied on his own. Through his studies, he came to believe in salvation through good works, and then monotheism. As he studied the Bible for the first time, he literally read himself into the faith, and was converted by the end of the New Testament.

Hilary lived the faith so well that he was made Bishop of Poitiers from 353-368. He opposed the emperor’s attempt to run Church matters and was exiled; he used the time to write works explaining the faith. His teaching and writings converted many and, in an attempt to reduce his notoriety, he was returned to the small town of Poitiers where his enemies hoped he would fade into obscurity. His writings nonetheless continued to convert pagans.

Hilary introduced Eastern theology to the Western Church, fought Arianism with the help of St. Viventius, and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1851.

  • Patron Saint Index

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1 Samuel 9:1-4,17-19,10:1

Among the men of Benjamin there was a man named Kish son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah; a Benjaminite and a man of rank. He had a son named Saul, a handsome man in the prime of life. Of all the Israelites there was no one more handsome than he; he stood head and shoulders taller than the rest of the people. Now some of the she-donkeys of Saul’s father Kish had strayed, so Kish said to Saul, ‘My son, take one of the servants with you and be off; go and look for the she-donkeys.’ They passed through the highlands of Ephraim and passed through the land of Shalishah, but did not find them; they passed through the land of Shaalim, they were not there; they passed through the land of Benjamin, but did not find them.

When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, ‘That is the man of whom I told you; he shall rule my people.’ Saul accosted Samuel in the gateway and said, ‘Tell me, please, where the seer’s house is?’ Samuel replied to Saul, ‘I am the seer. Go up ahead of me to the high place. You are to eat with me today. In the morning I shall take leave of you and tell you all that is in your heart.

Samuel took a phial of oil and poured it on Saul’s head; then he kissed him, saying, ‘Has not the Lord anointed you prince over his people Israel? You are the man who must rule the Lord’s people, and who must save them from the power of the enemies surrounding them.’

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Mark 2:13-17

Jesus went out to the shore of the lake; and all the people came to him, and he taught them. As he was walking on he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus, sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

When Jesus was at dinner in his house, a number of tax collectors and sinners were also sitting at the table with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many of them among his followers. When the scribes of the Pharisee party saw him eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard this he said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’

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“Follow me”

As a couple, my wife and I attended our first Christian course known as the Christian Life Programme (CLP). When this ended, we joined a cell group and soon after, became facilitators in another CLP run in the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. At its conclusion, we continued our journey with the participants and became cell-group leaders.

One of the challenges was that we felt we were never ‘good enough’. As we prepared for our weekly cell group sessions, we prayed hard for divine inspiration and even when we came up with a topic or something inspired, we still never felt that we had ‘it’. We worked really hard and after a period of time, felt really tired.

The Catholic community we were in is known as ‘Couples for Christ’, and there were many members from the Philippines. One of the things we noticed was how cheerful and happy the Filipinos were in serving. No matter how daunting the project or task as hand, there was positive attitude and faith that it would accomplished. And despite all the challenges faced, every single project has been successful.

Jesus, in the Gospel of today, called on Levi to follow Him and dines with him, as well as sinners and tax collectors. In response to criticisms by the scribes for associating with these people, our Lord responds that it is precisely the sinners who need Him.

Our Lord recognises value in us and loves us. To Him, we are important for Him to spend time with. In order to live up to our full potential, we need to learn from our Filipino brothers and sisters, have faith in our Lord and draw our confidence from Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we will always see the same value in ourselves that You see in us.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for sending Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ to tend to us sinners. We praise You and thank You for showing us the way.

04 January, Thursday – Sharing the Faith

4 January 2018

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1 John 3:7-10

My children, do not let anyone lead you astray:
to live a holy life
is to be holy just as he is holy;
to lead a sinful life is to belong to the devil,
since the devil was a sinner from the beginning.
It was to undo all that the devil has done
that the Son of God appeared.
No one who has been begotten by God sins;
because God’s seed remains inside him,
he cannot sin when he has been begotten by God.

In this way we distinguish the children of God
from the children of the devil:
anybody not living a holy life
and not loving his brother
is no child of God’s.

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John 1:35-42

As John stood with two of his disciples, Jesus passed, and John stared hard at him and said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God.’ Hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. Jesus turned round, saw them following and said, ‘What do you want?’ They answered, ‘Rabbi,’ – which means Teacher – ‘where do you live?’ ‘Come and see’ he replied; so they went and saw where he lived, and stayed with him the rest of that day. It was about the tenth hour.

One of these two who became followers of Jesus after hearing what John had said was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. Early next morning, Andrew met his brother and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ – which means the Christ – and he took Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked hard at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John; you are to be called Cephas’ – meaning Rock.

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They answered, ‘Rabbi,’ – which means Teacher – ‘where do you live?’ ‘Come and see’ he replied

St Andrew has been the apostle bringing people to Jesus. He brought the boy holding the five loaves and two fish and he brought some Greeks to speak to Jesus. In this way, he has shown us what it means to be Christian which the readings of today provide us with the scriptural grounding and the practical way of how to behave.

St John reminds us of the need to live a holy life. A holy life is one which represents a life of faith and hope. In this life, there is a spirit of prayer which reminds us of the importance of staying in closeness with God. Communication with God allows us to discover what he desires from us. When we choose to co-operate with this plan, we become closer towards God and achieve an inner peace which the world cannot provide.

This holy life is seen externally by the number of people whom we bring towards God. Like St Andrew in the Gospel, we continue to share with others the initial joy we had when we first encountered Jesus. This form of evangelisation means we can look for friends within the Catholic Faith who may be going through a difficult patch in life at the moment or perhaps a colleague who is a non-believer who may be waiting for us to invite them to church. All we have to do is ask with a spirit of humility and they will understand our intention. Let us take a moment to discover what it means to be Christian and how we can share this with the people around us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the courage to share our Faith.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who spread the Gospel.

03 January, Wednesday – Remaining Faithful

3 Jan – Memorial for the Most Holy Name of Jesus

Today’s feast day is a remembrance and celebration of the conferral of the Holy Name of Jesus. A separate votive Mass under this title is found in the revised Roman Missal, and may be used for an annual celebration (e.g. titular of a Church), or as an expression of devotion which is part of the tradition and spirituality of a religious order. It was formerly listed as the Sunday between 1 and 6 January, if one occurs. It was instituted in the 15th century by the bishops of Germany, Scotland, England, and Belgium. It was extended to the universal Church in 1721. There is a commemoration in the Mass of the Octave of St. Stephen if the feast is kept on the second, of St. John on the third, and of the Holy Innocents on the fourth of January.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 John 2:29-3:6

You know that God is righteous –
then you must recognise that everyone whose life is righteous
has been begotten by him.

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us,
by letting us be called God’s children;
and that is what we are.
Because the world refused to acknowledge him,
therefore it does not acknowledge us.
My dear people, we are already the children of God
but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed;
all we know is, that when it is revealed
we shall be like him
because we shall see him as he really is.

Surely everyone who entertains this hope
must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.
Anyone who sins at all
breaks the law,
because to sin is to break the law.
Now you know that he appeared in order to abolish sin,
and that in him there is no sin;
anyone who lives in God does not sin,
and anyone who sins
has never seen him or known him.

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John 1:29-34

Seeing Jesus coming towards him, John said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I spoke of when I said: A man is coming after me who ranks before me because he existed before me. I did not know him myself, and yet it was to reveal him to Israel that I came baptising with water.’ John also declared, ‘I saw the Spirit coming down on him from heaven like a dove and resting on him. I did not know him myself, but he who sent me to baptise with water had said to me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is going to baptise with the Holy Spirit.” Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God.’

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My dear people, we are already the children of God.

Being called a child of God is indeed a great privilege and this allows us to share in the inheritance of what Christ has promised, which is Eternal Life. However, something which keeps me going on despite being assured as God’s child is the deepest desire to be one with God. This means that I will need to discover the richness of the Catholic Faith and be willing to accept the challenges it poses to my way of life.

This continued struggle between what God wants us to do and what we want to do is definitely an ongoing one, but it is one which will allow us to grow in maturity in our Faith. Like John the Baptist in today’s readings, we are called to be a witness to the people whom we meet, of the great love of God which has touched us. This witness we are called to give includes the need to show the struggles we face in our daily lives and how we continue to hold onto our Faith despite the many difficulties it brings.

God invites us to remain faithful to Him and we can only do so if we turn to Him in continued prayer and devotion to what He asks of us. As we continue in this season of Christmas, let us put our hearts and souls towards accepting the challenge which has been put before us and to let others see that various challenges we are facing.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us accept our Cross with Faith and Courage.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who help people cope in their struggles against addictions.

27 December, Wednesday – Jesus, Human and Divine

Dec 27 – Feast of St. John, apostle, evangelist

St. John, also known as the ‘beloved disciple’ of Jesus, was the son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of St. James the Great, and was called one of the Sons of Thunder. Before becoming Jesus’ disciple, he was already a disciple of St. John the Baptist, and a friend of St. Peter the Apostle. He was called by Jesus during the first year of Christ’s ministry and travelled everywhere with him. He took part in the Last Supper, and was the only one of the Twelve not to forsake the Saviour in the hour of his Passion, standing at the foot of the cross.

He was made guardian of Our Lady by Jesus, and he took her into his home. Upon hearing of the Resurrection, he was the first to reach the tomb; when he met the risen Lord at the Lake of Tiberius, he was the first to recognise him.

During the era of the new Church, he worked in Jerusalem and at Ephesus. During Jesus’ ministry, he tried to block a Samaritan from their group, but Jesus explained the open nature of the new Way, and he worked on that principle to found churches in Asia Minor and baptising converts in Samaria. He was imprisoned with Peter for preaching after Pentecost. He wrote the fourth Gospel, three Epistles, and possibly the Book of Revelation.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 John 1:1-4

Something which has existed since the beginning,
that we have heard,
and we have seen with our own eyes;
that we have watched
and touched with our hands:
the Word, who is life –
this is our subject.
That life was made visible:
we saw it and we are giving our testimony,
telling you of the eternal life
which was with the Father and has been made visible to us.
What we have seen and heard
we are telling you
so that you too may be in union with us,
as we are in union
with the Father
and with his Son Jesus Christ.
We are writing this to you to make our own joy complete.

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John 20:2-8

On the first day of the week Mary of Magdala came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed.

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That life was made visible

Ever heard of Arianism, Apollinarism and Monotheletism? In the early years of Christianity, the church struggled to understand and make clear to all believers the teachings of the faith. Those long names are the names of heresies that came about in the few hundred years after Christianity was established. The concept of Jesus’ humanity and divinity was one of the most highly contentious and divisive.

For most of us, it might seem a little too heavy on a theoretical level to delve all the way into whether Jesus had both a human soul and a human will, or whether he had a human intellect that was separate from a divine intellect. But, if questioned, would you be able to articulate your understanding of who it is that you are worshipping? For your reference, this is how the fifth century Athanasian Creed puts it – “He is perfect God; and He is perfect man, with a rational soul and human flesh. He is equal to the Father in His divinity but he is inferior to the Father in His humanity. Although He is God and man, He is not two but one Christ. And He is one, not because His divinity was changed into flesh, but because His humanity was assumed into God. He is one, not at all because of a mingling of substances, but because He is one person.”

For me, the Christmas season is a good time to reflect on God’s love for us. We are somewhat trapped within our limited understanding of time, seeing the birth of Christ as an event happening in a very distant past, and a very foreign land where there was a crazed leader wanting to murder all first-born sons. But the appreciation cannot start and end there, at the scene of the Nativity. Jesus, being fully human, knows exactly how it is like to think and feel as a human. He also knows how suffering is like, enduring a most painful death two thousand plus years ago. Here and now, since Jesus is also fully divine, He is here with us, in our minds, our hearts and everyday lives.

During Christmas vigil mass, I had this reflection — that I am merely a speck of dust or less in God’s eyes, completely subject to his might and power and yet, I am loved; and not only that, am given the choice to accept that love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that the Spirit can move more hearts and minds among Catholics to seek God in scripture and deeper study.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for entering into our human suffering, and although we may not fully understand His purpose of doing so, we will always remain faithful to Him.

15 November, Wednesday – Source of all Power

Nov 15 – Memorial for St. Albert the Great, bishop, religious, doctor

Albertus (1206-1280) was the son of a military nobleman. A Dominican priest, he taught theology at Colgone and Paris and was the teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas. He was an influential teacher, preacher, and administrator, and became the Bishop of Regensburg. He introduced Greek and Arabic science and philosophy to medieval Europe.

He is known for his wide interest in what became later known as the natural sciences – botany, biology, etc. He wrote and illustrated guides to his observations, and was considered on par with Aristotle as an authority on these matters. He was a theological writer, and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church.

“It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where charity is not found, God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for “God is Charity” (1 John 4:8)” – St. Albert the Great

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Wisdom 6:1-11

Listen, kings, and understand;
rulers of remotest lands, take warning;
hear this, you who have thousands under your rule,
who boast of your hordes of subjects.
For power is a gift to you from the Lord,
sovereignty is from the Most High;
he himself will probe your acts and scrutinise your intentions.

If, as administrators of his kingdom, you have not governed justly
nor observed the law,
nor behaved as God would have you behave,
he will fall on you swiftly and terribly.
Ruthless judgement is reserved for the high and mighty;
the lowly will be compassionately pardoned,
the mighty will be mightily punished.
For the Lord of All does not cower before a personage,
he does not stand in awe of greatness,
since he himself has made small and great
and provides for all alike;
but strict scrutiny awaits those in power.

Yes, despots, my words are for you,
that you may learn what wisdom is and not transgress;
for they who observe holy things holily will be adjudged holy,
and, accepting instruction from them, will find their defence in them.
Look forward, therefore, to my words;
yearn for them, and they will instruct you.

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Luke 17:11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered one of the villages, ten lepers came to meet him. They stood some way off and called to him, ‘Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.’ When he saw them he said, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ Now as they were going away they were cleansed. Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. This made Jesus say, ‘Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner.’ And he said to the man, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’

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For power is a gift to you from the Lord

Power and authority seems to be the craving of some people. We see this often in the workplace where everybody strives to receive a promotion to the next rung. Perhaps we accept it for what it is because it is the work place. However, what saddens me is that this pursuit of power also occurs in the parish ministries.

Parish ministries are a means by which God’s love is being shown. Through acts of service, people are able to see God in the actions of others. Yet there are some volunteers who yearn to be in a position of power. Sometimes they themselves are not aware of this failing of theirs. When they are informed of this pursuit of power, they are not willing to accept this shortcoming of theirs. What then, would allow an individual to carry out parish ministry with the right intention?

Jesus reminds us in the Gospel of today that it is faith which would allow us to be healed of our own shortcomings. Perhaps it is true that we may not have the strongest faith but the desire to deepen our faith is probably what allows us to keep on going on in our faith journey. This awareness of a lack of faith on our part will ensure we maintain a spirit of humility and always willing to learn from others.

As we continue to use the talents we have, may we deepen our faith through prayer and reflection. We ask God the Holy Spirit to grant us the spirit of discernment to use the power we have to help the people around us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to acknowledge our weakness and to serve you in love and joy.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who love us despite our shortcomings.

20 October, Friday – Yeast of Sincerity

20 October 2017

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Romans 4:1-8

What shall we say about Abraham, the ancestor from whom we are all descended? If Abraham was justified as a reward for doing something, he would really have had something to boast about, though not in God’s sight because scripture says: Abraham put his faith in God, and this faith was considered as justifying him. If a man has work to show, his wages are not considered as a favour but as his due; but when a man has nothing to show except faith in the one who justifies sinners, then his faith is considered as justifying him. And David says the same: a man is happy if God considers him righteous, irrespective of good deeds:

Happy those whose crimes are forgiven, whose sins are blotted out; happy the man whom the Lord considers sinless.

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Luke 12:1-7

The people had gathered in their thousands so that they were treading on one another. And Jesus began to speak, first of all to his disciples. ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees – that is, their hypocrisy. Everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. For this reason, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in hidden places will be proclaimed on the housetops.

‘To you my friends I say: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. I will tell you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has the power to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Can you not buy five sparrows for two pennies? And yet not one is forgotten in God’s sight. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. There is no need to be afraid: you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.’

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Every hair on your head has been counted. There is no need to be afraid.
A little yeast is a dangerous thing. Throughout the Bible, yeast is referred to repeatedly. Scripture speaks of yeast in this way: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened” (Mt 13:33). But in most places, yeast seems to have a negative connotation, as we read in the Gospel today “be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees – that is, their hypocrisy” (Lk 12:1). Elsewhere, we are called to bring unleavened bread and wafers as our offering to God (Lev 10:12; Num 6:14-15; etc). For Holy Communion, we use unleavened wafers to represent the Body of Christ.
Initially, I was a little confused between this reference to yeast and salt. Why is salt good and why are we called to be ‘salt of the earth’ (Mt 5:13; Mk 9:50)? But yeast seems to hint at different meanings. Yeast is used as leitmotif for sin and evil intentions in one place, but is also used as a peace offering and wave offering to God (Lev 7:13; 23:17).
I suppose this is the very thing that Jesus warns us against – this ‘yeast of hypocrisy’. It is hard to be certain when yeast can be used for good or bad. Haven’t we experienced something of this nature in our personal experiences before? Conversations amongst a church community may start with the best intentions of sharing faith experiences, but can also become a stumbling block for those who begin to believe themselves more faithful or obedient than others. It is truly no easy balancing act!
I believe the clue to understanding this is seen in the first reading today – the age-old question of what justifies us in God’s eyes. This is where the symbiotic and intertwining relationship of faith and good works comes to bear. St Paul tells the Romans: “Abraham put his faith in God, and this faith was considered as justifying him. If a man has work to show, his wages are not considered as a favour but as his due; but when a man has nothing to show except faith in the one who justifies sinners, then his faith is considered as justifying him” (Rm 4:2-4). Abraham had to ‘put his faith in God’, and not merely ‘have faith’. This is evidence of an active faith – one that required a living action and not a passive reception (Jas 2:14-26). This is the trip-up that Jesus calls us to be on guard against.
Faith and Works are like flour and yeast; though their significance can differ according to each person. It is the foolish man who thinks he knows which parts of his faith and how many parts of his good works contribute to counting him worthy in God’s eyes. How will we ever know? It is not for us to count towards our self-justification. After all, David says the same: a man is happy if God considers him righteous, irrespective of good deeds:
Happy those whose crimes are forgiven,
whose sins are blotted out;
happy the man whom the Lord considers sinless.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
Prayer: Help us Lord, to humbly discern our own spiritual needs and cultivate our own faith garden. Help us not to peek over the fences into our neighbour’s garden to compare spiritual fruits which are yours alone to give. 
Thanksgiving: Happy the man whom the Lord considers sinless!

23 September, Saturday – Our Models of Faith

Sep 23 – Memorial for St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio), Priest

Pio (1887-1968) was ordained when he was 22. He founded the House for the Relief of Suffering in 1956, a hospital that serves 60,000 a year. In the 1920s he started a series of prayer groups that continue today with over 400,000 members worldwide.

His canonisation miracle involved the cure of Matteo Pio Colella, age 7, the son of a doctor who works in the House for Relief of Suffering, the hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo founded by Padre Pio. On the night of 20 June 2000, Matteo was admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital with meningitis. By morning doctors had lost hope for him as nine of the boy’s internal organs had ceased to give signs of life.

That night, during a prayer vigil attended by Matteo’s mother and some Capuchin friars of Padre Pio’s monastery, the child’s condition improved suddenly. When he awoke from the coma, Matteo said that he had seen an elderly man with a white beard and a long, brown habit, who said to him: “Don’t worry, you will soon be cured.”

  • Patron Saints Index

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1 Timothy 6:13-16

Before God the source of all life and before Christ, who spoke up as a witness for the truth in front of Pontius Pilate, I put to you the duty of doing all that you have been told, with no faults or failures, until the Appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,

who at the due time will be revealed
by God, the blessed and only Ruler of all,
the King of kings and the Lord of lords,
who alone is immortal,
whose home is in inaccessible light,
whom no man has seen and no man is able to see:
to him be honour and everlasting power. Amen.

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Luke 8:4-15

With a large crowd gathering and people from every town finding their way to him, Jesus used this parable:

‘A sower went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some fell on the edge of the path and was trampled on; and the birds of the air ate it up. Some seed fell on rock, and when it came up it withered away, having no moisture. Some seed fell amongst thorns and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some seed fell into rich soil and grew and produced its crop a hundredfold.’ Saying this he cried, ‘Listen, anyone who has ears to hear!’

His disciples asked him what this parable might mean, and he said, ‘The mysteries of the kingdom of God are revealed to you; for the rest there are only parables, so that

they may see but not perceive,
listen but not understand.

‘This, then, is what the parable means: the seed is the word of God. Those on the edge of the path are people who have heard it, and then the devil comes and carries away the word from their hearts in case they should believe and be saved. Those on the rock are people who, when they first hear it, welcome the word with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of trial they give up. As for the part that fell into thorns, this is people who have heard, but as they go on their way they are choked by the worries and riches and pleasures of life and do not reach maturity. As for the part in the rich soil, this is people with a noble and generous heart who have heard the word and take it to themselves and yield a harvest through their perseverance.’

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“I put to you the duty all that you have been told… until the Appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ”

I went to all boys schools at both the primary and secondary levels. Being educated in English as a first language, the boys did not hold the learning of Mandarin as a priority. In fact, we relished in speaking English during our Mandarin classes and often got “rewarded” with extended standing sessions outside the classrooms!

In my late twenties, I became interested in learning more about my Chinese heritage. Unfortunately, I realised English was not exactly the best language of instruction (especially in the pre-internet era). As a result, I began working hard on improving my Mandarin competency.

A story I learned during my “studies” still intrigues me till today. This took place during the same era as the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”. A general was marching his troops over a particularly mountainous stretch and the going was tough. The sun was brutally hot and the soldiers were extremely dehydrated. With no water source available, the mission was in danger of failing, when the general told his troops that there was a forest full of plum trees just beyond the mountain. When the troops heard that, they quickened their pace, ultimately ending in a successful campaign.

In the first reading of today, much like the Chinese general, the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy to do his best for the Lord, and to perform his duties faultlessly, until the time our Lord Jesus returns. What really impressed me was the intensity of devotion of both Paul and Timothy. Similarly, the disciples continued to display loyalty to our Lord Jesus, even to the point of giving up their lives for Him (except for John, who died of natural causes).

Let us learn from Paul, Timothy and the disciples. May we look forward to tasting the juicy plums after we pass this mountain. We need to keep our eyes on our Lord!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father, please help us to always keep our eyes on You.  Help us to be as faithful as those before us.

ThanksgivingThank You for sending models of faith for us to follow.  Thank You for always showing us how to be faithful.

4 September, Monday – Bringing Good Tidings to the Poor

4 September

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1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about those who have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with him. We can tell you this from the Lord’s own teaching, that any of us who are left alive until the Lord’s coming will not have any advantage over those who have died. At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then those of us who are still alive will be taken up in the clouds, together with them; to meet the Lord in the air. So we shall stay with the Lord for ever. With such thoughts as these you should comfort one another.

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Luke 4:16-30

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

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me.

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

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’

But he replied, ‘No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”’ And he went on, ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.’

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

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They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town

Jesus walked upon this earth and came to live like you and me. Yet there were some quarters who never believed in Him. Over 2000 years later, there are still people who do not believe in Him.

I can imagine like me, you believe that He is the Son of God and He is the Almighty. This is really great and so what are we to do, we have found God and we have identified that it is Him we long for in our hearts. Today’s gospel is a reminder of our call to be active Christians, to reach out to the downtrodden and marginalised, and to be a witness where we are today in our lives.

How faithful are we towards this call? Are random acts of kindness and charity sufficient? I would think not, simply because our benchmark is always to do as Christ would have done. I sometimes cannot believe that He would want me to love that person who constantly ridicules my faith; that I should be merciful to the person in my ministry who never shows up on time nor does any work; the colleague who backstabs; the reckless driver on the road; the person who hurts my loved ones; the migrant workers I see daily at work and at my apartment. Let us reflect today on our choice of words and deeds in order to bring sight to the blind and to make the captives free.

While we focus on all the good deeds so as to be more like Him, let us not lose sight of Him. Let us not act like someone who is in love, but who has completely lost sight of the lover. It becomes easier to give Him his rightful place if we continue to be faithful in our primary relationships as children, spouses, parents, employees, employers, students and teachers, parishioners, leaders and citizens. It is when we have been faithful to our loved ones and when we have performed our responsibilities do we realise that, none of this satisfies but Jesus alone. That way, we can go on to worship Him wholeheartedly, knowing that our relationships and our loved ones, our wealth, our status, our popularity and our beauty can never complete us. It is Jesus that we have desired all along and we belong, first and foremost, to Him. If we have move away today from our family and responsibilities or our Lord, let us come right back to it immediately.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Father, you are the ruler of the world and the prince of our hearts. We ask you to bless us and bless our nation, Malaysia which celebrated its Independence Day recently.

Thanksgiving: He shall rule the world with justice and the peoples with his constancy. He is our Lord, yesterday, today and forever.