Tag Archives: faith

19 June, Monday – Christ over me

Jun 19 – Memorial for St. Romuald, abbot

St Romuald (951-1027) had been an Italian noble. Acting as second, he witnessed his father kill a man in a duel, and sought to atone for the crime by becoming a Benedictine monk at Classe, Italy where he was abbot from 996–999.

A wanderer by nature, he established several hermitage and monasteries in central and northern Italy. He tried to evangelize the Slavs, but met with little success. He founded the Camaldolese Benedictines and spent the last fourteen years of his life in seclusion. His body which is enshrined in Italy remains incorrupt till this day.

  • Patron Saint Index

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2 Corinthians 6:1-10

As his fellow workers, we beg you once again not to neglect the grace of God that you have received. For he says: At the favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help. Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.

We do nothing that people might object to, so as not to bring discredit on our function as God’s servants. Instead, we prove we are servants of God by great fortitude in times of suffering: in times of hardship and distress; when we are flogged, or sent to prison, or mobbed; labouring, sleepless, starving. We prove we are God’s servants by our purity, knowledge, patience and kindness; by a spirit of holiness, by a love free from affectation; by the word of truth and by the power of God; by being armed with the weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left, prepared for honour or disgrace, for blame or praise; taken for impostors while we are genuine; obscure yet famous; said to be dying and here are we alive; rumoured to be executed before we are sentenced; thought most miserable and yet we are always rejoicing; taken for paupers though we make others rich, for people having nothing though we have everything.

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Matthew 5:38-42

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.’

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…behold, now is the day of salvation.

Just last weekend, I attended a community retreat at CSC conducted by a lay person who is trained in Ignatian spirituality. It was a two day ‘holiday’ for the ministry members who attended as we were treated to silence, a movie and interesting talks which touched on topics such as ‘Known’, ‘Loved’ and ‘Whose Am I’.

As many members shared openly at the end of the retreat, it was truly a time of reflection for us in ministry, who constantly strive to do our best at the various retreats, 4th Saturday healing services and regular Friday sessions. Many who were caught up with the ‘doing’ felt recharged as they enjoyed the quiet time with God, reflecting, journalling and adoring Jesus in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel.

For me, I took three very clear words from the retreat – Community, Compassion and Come. I shared with my fellow brothers and sisters that as a relative ‘newbie’ to the community (I have been serving there for 6 years), I sometimes felt inadequate and inferior in my service. But what the Lord revealed to me as I journalled were many questions that alluded to issues concerning pride, low self-esteem and anger. My initial surprise slowly gave way to an understanding of why I harboured certain feelings at various times during my ministry.

God also revealed to me the deeper meaning of those 3 words that stuck in my mind. They all begin with ‘COM’ – Christ Over Me. Over the years, and certainly over the past few months, I had been approaching my service from a very ‘human’ perspective. I had to do things a certain way, I arranged discipleship group meetings depending on when I was free (rather than setting a regular day for sharing) and, over the past few months, had never really cared about how my brothers were feeling nor was I concerned about their spirituality. I had been going about ministry work precisely like how I approached work in my office – get it over and done with, with a minimum of fuss. I had not been placing Christ above me and had sidelined Him in my eagerness to fulfil my tasks.

Brothers and sisters, if you are involved in ministry, whether in your parish or at a retreat centre, do remember to take time to listen and ‘chill’. Don’t get caught up in the doing that you forget the ‘being’. Be present and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit so that whatever burdens you carry are truly ‘light’ and that your soul will find rest in the Lord. God never promised that the load would be easy. But he did invite us to come to Him and to shoulder His yoke in order for our souls to find rest in Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, teach us to remain silent in our hearts so that we can listen to your voice in our lives and to discern your promptings.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord, for giving us feelings in order to express ourselves and to relate with one another in our various communities.

18 June, Sunday – Food for Eternal Life

18 Jun 2017 – Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord (Corpus Christi), Year A

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Deuteronomy 8:2-3,14-16

Moses said to the people: ‘Remember how the Lord your God led you for forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, to test you and know your inmost heart – whether you would keep his commandments or not. He humbled you, he made you feel hunger, he fed you with manna which neither you nor your fathers had known, to make you understand that man does not live on bread alone but that man lives on everything that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

‘Do not become proud of heart. Do not forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery: who guided you through this vast and dreadful wilderness, a land of fiery serpents, scorpions, thirst; who in this waterless place brought you water from the hardest rock; who in this wilderness fed you with manna that your fathers had not known.’

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1 Corinthians 10:16-17

The blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ. The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in this one loaf.

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John 6:51-58

Jesus said to the crowd:

‘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.’

Then 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.’

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He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him

People love their food in this country. They spend time planning where they want to go for their lunch and dinner. They post photos and videos of what they have eaten on social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. In-depth analysis of the quality and quantity of food together with the service of the staff will be rated. Yet I often wonder if the same effort will be devoted towards understanding the depth of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Today’s Solemnity is an important celebration for each one of us as we enter into the mystery of this wonderful gift of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist which we have received from Jesus Christ. Just as food nourishes our bodies, the Holy Eucharist nourishes our spiritual lives and makes grow in deeper communion with the Lord Jesus.

The Eucharist brings us closer towards Jesus Christ and allows us to enter into a deeper communion with the Lord Jesus. This allows us to discover this great mystery of God’s love for us – to want to come down on earth to save us so that we can enter into eternal joy with Him. Moses in the First Reading remind us that we cannot live on bread alone and Jesus reminds us in the Gospel that the Jews who ate the manna have all died but those who eat His flesh and drink His Blood will have eternal life. This means that we must renounce the ways of the world. The flesh cannot give us eternal life but Jesus’s flesh certainly can do so.

To believe that the Lord Jesus is truly present Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist requires faith because Reason is unable to fully explain this great Mystery. The Scriptures and the Eucharist strengthen our souls and our lives are transformed to become examples for the world to follow. St Paul in the Second Reading shares with us that although we respond in a very special way to the vocation God has called us to live in this world, we remain one Christian community. The lives of Christians, in whichever location and occupation we are in, will become a consistent and living example for all to see what being in love with Christ is.

The question is, “Are we ready to accept the plan which God has for us?”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that you allow the visible sign of your Body and Blood hidden in the bread and wine to become for us the sustenance to love and serve you in this passing world.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all priests who celebrate the Mass every day.

16 June, Friday – Cutting off the hand that is distraction

16 June 2017

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2 Corinthians 4:7-15

We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us. We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair; we have been persecuted, but never deserted; knocked down, but never killed; always, wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body. Indeed, while we are still alive, we are consigned to our death every day, for the sake of Jesus, so that in our mortal flesh the life of Jesus, too, may be openly shown. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

But as we have the same spirit of faith that is mentioned in scripture – I believed, and therefore I spoke – we too believe and therefore we too speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus to life will raise us with Jesus in our turn, and put us by his side and you with us. You see, all this is for your benefit, so that the more grace is multiplied among people, the more thanksgiving there will be, to the glory of God.

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Matthew 5:27-32

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.

‘It has also been said: Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. But I say this to you: everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.’

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If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away

There is very little doubt that we live in a time of great distraction. Everywhere we look, we see people distracted – whether absorbed the little glowing screens of their smartphones or mesmerized by the latest fashion or products that our shiny cities have to offer. Yes, it is a time of great distraction, and we are a people dying to be distracted. How often have you felt that sinking feeling of helplessness, when you realize that you have left your phone at home? Or the urge to check out the latest season in your favourite apparel store?

Yet, this constant state of distraction is dangerous for us, for we are absorbed in an artificial environment of social media posts, shares, and likes. Worse yet, our life choices come to be defined by these distractions. I often see couples, and even families, sitting at the dining table, everyone mindlessly scrolling through their smartphones. How did we get here? When did social media posts and 800-word blogposts or commentary pieces become more important than the thoughts and feelings of our loved ones or an 800-page literary classic?

Worse yet, we have allowed such distraction to affect our spiritual and faith lives, for in our distraction, we are no longer able to discern the wonders of God in our everyday lives, whether in terms of our familial relationships, the world around us (the actual physical world around us, mind you), or perhaps more importantly, the needs of the people around us. One does not need to look very far to find a homeless person or a lonely soul in our midst.

If our gadgets and distractions are truly distracting us and keeping us from performing our roles and duties as children of God and disciples of Christ, then perhaps it is time to consider giving them up. For Jesus in today’s Gospel exhorts us to tear out the eye or cut off the hand that causes us to sin. Isn’t it so much easier simply to put away that phone or look away from the store display, rather than cutting off a hand or tearing out an eye? Yet for some, it is just as difficult to put down the phone as it is to cut off a hand.

In that case, we need to ask ourselves: what is more important? Our personal pleasures and desires? Or our commitment to Christ and the Kingdom of God?

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for Your strength and fortitude, so that we can reject sin and Satan, especially in the distractions that keep us from living out our Christian duties.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for the wonders and beauty of His creation, set in the world around us, as a pleasing reminder of His love and providence. May we never become so distracted as to forget these gifts from our heavenly Father.

12 June, Monday – Living as Spiritual Beings

12 June 2017

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2 Corinthians 1:1-7

From Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from Timothy, one of the brothers, to the church of God at Corinth and to all the saints in the whole of Achaia. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, a gentle Father and the God of all consolation, who comforts us in all our sorrows, so that we can offer others, in their sorrows, the consolation that we have received from God ourselves. Indeed, as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so, through Christ, does our consolation overflow. When we are made to suffer, it is for your consolation and salvation. When, instead, we are comforted, this should be a consolation to you, supporting you in patiently bearing the same sufferings as we bear. And our hope for you is confident, since we know that, sharing our sufferings, you will also share our consolations.

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Matthew 5:1-12

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:

‘How happy are the poor in spirit;
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:
they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn:
they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right:
they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful:
they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart:
they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers:
they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven: this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.’

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Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven”

Today’s Gospel reading is my favourite passage from the Bible. To me, it encapsulates all that Jesus has taught. It prepares us for the suffering that we will face in our faith, but at the same time, reveals to us the gifts that will be showered upon us if we follow in the Lord. In other words, Jesus is giving a pep talk to His pilgrim church, and His words resonate through the ages to us. In fact, the Beatitudes have inspired me so deeply that my wife and I picked it as our Gospel reading for our wedding.

At the heart of the Beatitudes is Jesus’s reminder to us that we are children of God, and hence should be seeking the things of God. Nowhere in the Beatitudes does Jesus promise us material wealth or comfort. Rather, He tells us that those who suffer the opposite of material comfort are the very ones who are blessed. More importantly, the rewards that Jesus holds out to us are spiritual ones – entering the Kingdom of Heaven, being shown mercy, being called children of God, being comforted, etc.

Seen in this light, the Beatitudes resonate in St Augustine’s City of God and St Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, both of which have also played crucial roles in my faith and spiritual formation. In their writings, both Saints are essentially reminding us that we are spiritual beings living in a material world, made in by God in His own image. All material goods and possessions pale in comparison to this fabric of divinity that we have been lovingly crafted from. While St Augustine has taught us to cast our eyes to the City of God, St Ignatius continuously reminds us, both in his teaching and in his life, that we are all pilgrims in this life.

So we must act like spiritual beings, rather than material beings. After all, God made us out of His own love and spirit, not mere clay or stone. In today’s secular society, it is often too easy to become enamoured with the wealth and glamour that money and material possessions can bring. But deep inside, we know that none of these could ever compare to the love of God. After all, why do we continually chase these material possessions? Having attained an object of our desire (whether this be money, cars, or handbags), we find ourselves unsatisfied and looking to attain yet another object.

Contrast this with the saints, all of whom have given up their material possessions and found the satisfaction of their lives in doing God’s work. If the Kingdom of Heaven is what we seek, then this is what we must do as well. No amount of money and no number of handbags can ever gain us admission to the loving embrace of our Father in Heaven.

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the grace and strength to live out your Beatitudes as Your faithful disciples.  

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for His love and mercy, for it is through these that we are constantly saved from our own waywardness and granted admission to our eternal home.  

10 June, Saturday – On Prioritising

10 June 2017

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Tobit 12:1,5-15,20

When the feasting was over, Tobit called his son Tobias and said, ‘My son, you ought to think about paying the amount due to your fellow traveller; give him more than the figure agreed on.’ So Tobias called his companion and said, ‘Take half of what you brought back, in payment for all you have done, and go in peace.’

Then Raphael took them both aside and said, ‘Bless God, utter his praise before all the living for all the favours he has given you. Bless and extol his name. Proclaim before all men the deeds of God as they deserve, and never tire of giving him thanks. It is right to keep the secret of a king, yet right to reveal and publish the works of God. Thank him worthily. Do what is good, and no evil can befall you.

‘Prayer with fasting and alms with right conduct are better than riches with iniquity. Better to practise almsgiving than to hoard up gold. Almsgiving saves from death and purges every kind of sin. Those who give alms have their fill of days; those who commit sin and do evil, bring harm on themselves.

‘I am going to tell you the whole truth, hiding nothing from you. I have already told you that it is right to keep the secret of a king, yet right too to reveal in worthy fashion the works of God. So you must know that when you and Sarah were at prayer, it was I who offered your supplications before the glory of the Lord and who read them; so too when you were burying the dead. When you did not hesitate to get up and leave the table to go and bury a dead man, I was sent to test your faith, and at the same time God sent me to heal you and your daughter-in-law Sarah. I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand ever ready to enter the presence of the glory of the Lord.

‘Now bless the Lord on earth and give thanks to God. I am about to return to him above who sent me.’

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Mark 12:38-44

In his teaching Jesus said, ‘Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted obsequiously in the market squares, to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets; these are the men who swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers. The more severe will be the sentence they receive.’

He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the treasury, and many of the rich put in a great deal. A poor widow came and put in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’

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“But she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had.”

When we think of the resources at our disposal, two come to mind most prominently – Time and Money. How we commit either speaks volumes about how we view our priorities. Time, especially, becomes more valuable as we get older. There are more commitments fighting for space in our day. We have more responsibilities. But not everything that is urgent, is important or even necessary. My biggest hurdle on weekends is to find time to go to church. There are 5 masses on Sundays at my church, 6 if you count the Saturday evening mass. So it’s funny that trying to find the time to attend weekend mass should be such a challenge. Is it because I don’t make it a non-negotiable priority? My mother goes to mass like clockwork on weekends. She’s committed to it and has made it part of her routine. Wouldn’t it actually be easier if I made the same level of commitment as well? Then I wouldn’t waste so much time agonizing over it?

The woman from the gospel who gave from her poverty reminds us of the value of prioritizing correctly. She looked beyond her present life and gazed into the everlasting. Most of us see only this life, and all the things that we could be doing instead of being at church. Taking the long view though, most of the things that compete for our time will fade away – our jobs, the dinner parties we think are so indispensable, our fair weather friends, the endless charities we sponsor. All these will come to nothing in the end – only God remains. At the gates of reckoning, it won’t be enough to say we couldn’t do the right thing because it wasn’t convenient at the time. Or that we weren’t able to walk away from that conference call to spend an hour with Our Father. Those excuses are feeble even now, never mind at the gates of Heaven. When has God ever said, “It isn’t convenient for me to hear your prayers at the moment” or “Can we take a raincheck, I’m tied up with something else right now”? He meets us when we call, wherever we are; He is always just a prayer away. What kind of children are we to only come to Him when we need something?

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the wisdom to portion our time and money wisely, between God’s needs and our needs.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, who comforts us, calms us and aids our faith journeys, wherever we stand.

8 June, Thursday – Tough Love

8 June 2017

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Tobit 6:10-11,7:1,9-14,8:4-9

Raphael and Tobit entered Media and had nearly reached Ecbetana when Raphael said to the boy, ‘Brother Tobias.’ ‘Yes?’ he answered. The angel went on, ‘Tonight we shall be staying with Raguel, who is a kinsman of yours. He has a daughter called Sarah, but apart from Sarah he has no other son or daughter.’

As they entered Ecbatana, Tobias said, ‘Brother Azarias, take me at once to our brother Raguel’s.’ And he showed him the way to the house of Raguel, whom they found sitting beside his courtyard door. They greeted him first, and he replied, ‘Welcome and greetings, brothers.’ And he took them into his house. He said to his wife Edna, ‘How like my brother Tobit this young man is!’ Raguel killed a sheep from the flock, and they gave them a warm-hearted welcome.

They washed and bathed and sat down to table. Then Tobias said to Raphael, ‘Brother Azarias, will you ask Raguel to give me my sister Sarah?’ Raguel overheard the words, and said to the young man, ‘Eat and drink, and make the most of your evening; no one else has the right to take my daughter Sarah – no one but you, my brother. In any case I, for my own part, am not at liberty to give her to anyone else, since you are her next of kin. However, my boy, I must be frank with you: I have tried to find a husband for her seven times among our kinsmen, and all of them have died the first evening, on going to her room. But for the present, my boy, eat and drink; the Lord will grant you his grace and peace.’ Tobias spoke out, ‘I will not hear of eating and drinking till you have come to a decision about me.’ Raguel answered, ‘Very well. Since, as prescribed by the Book of Moses, she is given to you, heaven itself decrees she shall be yours. I therefore entrust your sister to you. From now you are her brother and she is your sister. She is given to you from today for ever. The Lord of heaven favour you tonight, my child, and grant you his grace and peace.’ Raguel called for his daughter Sarah, took her by the hand and gave her to Tobias with these words, ‘I entrust her to you; the law and the ruling recorded in the Book of Moses assign her to you as your wife. Take her; take her home to your father’s house with a good conscience. The God of heaven grant you a good journey in peace.’ Then he turned to her mother and asked her to fetch him writing paper. He drew up the marriage contract, how he gave his daughter as bride to Tobias according to the ordinance in the Law of Moses.

After this they began to eat and drink. The parents, meanwhile, had gone out and shut the door behind them. Tobias rose from the bed, and said to Sarah, ‘Get up, my sister! You and I must pray and petition our Lord to win his grace and his protection.’ She stood up, and they began praying for protection, and this was how he began:

‘You are blessed, O God of our fathers;
blessed, too, is your name
for ever and ever.
Let the heavens bless you
and all things you have made
for evermore.
It was you who created Adam,
you who created Eve his wife
to be his help and support;
and from these two the human race was born.
It was you who said,
“It is not good that the man should be alone;
let us make him a helpmate like himself.”
And so I do not take my sister
for any lustful motive;
I do it in singleness of heart.
Be kind enough to have pity on her and on me
and bring us to old age together.’

And together they said, ‘Amen, Amen’, and lay down for the night.

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Mark 12:28-34

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

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“Call down your mercy on me and on her, and allow us to live together to a happy old age.”

Yesterday, we read about the importance of relationships and the ties that bind us. Today, we look at what God’s Word says about the more difficult relationships in our lives. We’ve all got one or two of those, people we seem to sideline because they’re so hard to deal with. When Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, I don’t think he meant the sweet couple across the street who helped to guide your transition into the neighborhood, or the group you met at a retreat who introduced you to everyone else at church. Nope! Jesus was referring to the mean old man who constantly complains about your dog. And the overly critical mother-in-law who finds fault with whatever you do. Or the ambitious colleague whose modus operandi for advancement is backstabbing. Jesus was referring to the people who are hard to love. Because it is precisely the grinches and the complainers who need to be loved, but can find no one to offer it to them.

The story of Tobiah and Sarah is a touching one. Despite her infirmity (we are not told what her ailment actually is, only that none of her husbands survived it), he took on the challenge of loving her, and yielded their relationship to God – “call down your mercy on me and on her, and allow us to live together to a happy old age” (Tobit 8:9). Lasting relationships are a three-sided affair – they last because both are willing to sacrifice to make it work, and because God gives His blessing for it to endure. A marriage, a friendship, parent-child relations will not go the distance without the grace of God. We only know how strong those ties are when they’re tested. If we have not God to call upon then, how do we endure those periods of struggle? Go it alone? It doesn’t work.

When we examine the difficult relationships in our lives, how do we view them? With irritation most of the time, I’m guessing. Tobiah called on God for His mercy because he knew he wouldn’t be able to find the love on his own. Very often, the hurt we’ve endured for so many years hardens our hearts so that we can’t even think of these people without anger. It’s just human! But with God, forgiveness is always possible. We can move forward. When what you feel like doing is screaming at them, ask God for His mercy to help you get through it. Jesus found it within himself to forgive while nailed to the cross. Maybe we can find a way to do the same while we bear our crosses.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for God to change our hearts from hate and anger, into love and forgiveness.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the loving and supportive people He puts in our lives, that help to make the thorny individuals more bearable.

28 May, Sunday – We gather for Christ

28 May 2017 Seventh Sunday of Easter; World Communication Sunday

The Spirit Of Prayer And Praise
Christ prayed in the Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is the source of the prayer and praise of the whole Church. The Spirit of God is resting on us as we offer this sacrifice of praise today.
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Acts of the Apostles 1:12-14

After Jesus was taken up into heaven the apostles went back from the Mount of Olives, as it is called, to Jerusalem, a short distance away, no more than a sabbath walk; and when they reached the city they went to the upper room where they were staying; there were Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Jude son of James. All these joined in continuous prayer, together with several women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
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1 Peter 4:13-16

If you can have some share in the sufferings of Christ, be glad, because you will enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed. It is a blessing for you when they insult you for bearing the name of Christ, because it means that you have the Spirit of glory, the Spirit of God resting on you. None of you should ever deserve to suffer for being a murderer, a thief, a criminal or an informer; but if anyone of you should suffer for being a Christian, then he is not to be ashamed of it; he should thank God that he has been called one.
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John 17:1-11

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:

‘Father, the hour has come:
glorify your Son
so that your Son may glorify you;
and, through the power over all mankind that you have given him,
let him give eternal life to all those you have entrusted to him.
And eternal life is this:
to know you,
the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
I have glorified you on earth
and finished the work that you gave me to do.
Now, Father, it is time for you to glorify me
with that glory I had with you
before ever the world was.
I have made your name known
to the men you took from the world to give me.
They were yours and you gave them to me,
and they have kept your word.
Now at last they know
that all you have given me comes indeed from you;
for I have given them the teaching you gave to me,
and they have truly accepted this, that I came from you,
and have believed that it was you who sent me.
I pray for them;
I am not praying for the world
but for those you have given me,
because they belong to you:
all I have is yours
and all you have is mine,
and in them I am glorified.
I am not in the world any longer,
but they are in the world,
and I am coming to you.’

________________

Father, it is time for you to glorify me.

One thing that I miss for the past ten years is being part of a prayer group, whether it is a group from a parish, or young adults, or a group made up of Catholic families in the neighbourhood. When I was in primary school, my family was pretty active being part of the estates Renew prayer group. We gathered every few weeks to share, reflect and study the Gospel and/or readings. I recalled that some sharings led to aggressive points of view that just didnt leave a good impression of the neighbour. I also broke my neighbours ceramic stool at one of those nights.

Before settling permanently for the past two years, I was working in various cities. I did go for Sunday masses, but was never able to commit to a prayer group, because I felt like a temporary resident wherever I was. Jesus is the reason there is Christianity, Christ Jesus is the one who brought the glory of the Father to us. We are to remind ourselves that Christianity is never about oneself, never about being alone. Gods love involves our hearts and of others. Gods love is so generous that it is to be shared for everybody.

In todays reading of the gathering of the disciples in the upper room, we see a community there. It may have been a lost and questioning community, but Mother Mary was there. They gathered to talk about Jesus, and of God. They asked questions, they doubted, they had the virgin Mary among them. As with the Gospel, Jesus is glorified to be with His Father, but He never leaves us feeling empty. Until today, there are many communities for us to share the love of Jesus, the stories of living as a Christian.

Moving forward, I now look forward to finding or forming a prayer group where we are able to share and reflect on the Christian values, where we not only have God as the centre of our family, but also the centre of our work life and community. To share within Gods words and promises to share to our partners and children.

(Todays OXYGEN by Austin Leong)
Prayer: Dear Lord, may the Holy Spirit guide each and every one of us to search for a community where we can grow in faith and make our lives more meaningful, to be proud Christians.

Thanksgiving: We thank all those volunteers and support givers to Churches that are managing the low numbers of parishioners, that the community be strong and active in their neighbourhood.

24 May, Wednesday – The Importance of being a Child

24 May 2017

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Acts 17:15,22-18:1

Paul’s escort took him as far as Athens, and went back with instructions for Silas and Timothy to rejoin Paul as soon as they could.

So Paul stood before the whole Council of the Areopagus and made this speech:
‘Men of Athens, I have seen for myself how extremely scrupulous you are in all religious matters, because I noticed, as I strolled round admiring your sacred monuments, that you had an altar inscribed: To An Unknown God. Well, the God whom I proclaim is in fact the one whom you already worship without knowing it.

‘Since the God who made the world and everything in it is himself Lord of heaven and earth, he does not make his home in shrines made by human hands. Nor is he dependent on anything that human hands can do for him, since he can never be in need of anything; on the contrary, it is he who gives everything – including life and breath – to everyone. From one single stock he not only created the whole human race so that they could occupy the entire earth, but he decreed how long each nation should flourish and what the boundaries of its territory should be. And he did this so that all nations might seek the deity and, by feeling their way towards him, succeed in finding him. Yet in fact he is not far from any of us, since it is in him that we live, and move, and exist, as indeed some of your own writers have said:

“We are all his children.”

‘Since we are the children of God, we have no excuse for thinking that the deity looks like anything in gold, silver or stone that has been carved and designed by a man.

‘God overlooked that sort of thing when men were ignorant, but now he is telling everyone everywhere that they must repent, because he has fixed a day when the whole world will be judged, and judged in righteousness, and he has appointed a man to be the judge. And God has publicly proved this by raising this man from the dead.’

At this mention of rising from the dead, some of them burst out laughing; others said, ‘We would like to hear you talk about this again.’

After that Paul left them, but there were some who attached themselves to him and became believers, among them Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman called Damaris, and others besides.

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.

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John 16:12-15

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I still have many things to say to you
but they would be too much for you now.
But when the Spirit of truth comes
he will lead you to the complete truth,
since he will not be speaking as from himself
but will say only what he has learnt;
and he will tell you of the things to come.
He will glorify me,
since all he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.
Everything the Father has is mine;
that is why I said:
All he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.’

______________

Since we are the children of God, we have no excuse for thinking that the deity looks like anything in gold, silver or stone that has been carved and designed by a man.

It can be said that we begin to age the moment we are born.

As we grow in age, stature and knowledge, we slowly begin to lose the child-like wisdom of the idea of eternity. An adult is really no wiser than a child in the eyes of God.

A baby, an infant, already knows God. This moment can be revealed so clearly when you stare deep into the eyes of a baby and watch them gaze back, or afar, in a sort of glazed wonderment and serenity. Have you seen that look before? We never say, “Babies have a ‘stoned’ look” when we catch those glassy-eyed gazes of theirs. I believe it is because we intuit that they are not actually staring blankly, but discovering and uncovering something mysterious, awesome, and amazing through their newly-realized gift of sight. This wonderment and innocent gaze is truly the eye with which we need to know our God as Creator and Father.

When Paul sees a sacred altar in Athens inscribed with “To An Unknown God”, he tells the Athenians: “Well, the God whom I proclaim is in fact the one whom you already worship without knowing it… Since the God who made the world and everything in it is himself Lord of heaven and earth… it is he who gives everything – including life and breath – to everyone.”

I appreciate that Paul does not trash the Athenians’ way of pagan life and numerous sacred monuments from the get-go. Instead, he uses what they already seem to know dimly, to point them towards the Truth and Light of God. We surely can note from Paul’s way of sharing the faith and existence of God. We need to refrain from putting down, denigrating, nor mocking the beliefs (or lack of belief) of others.

I would like to suggest that Paul’s acknowledgement that the altar to the Unknown God connected with the One True God reveals three important things to us.

First — a great humility. Coming from his moral ‘high horse’ of before, his fall triggers a deep conversion to humility in connecting with the other, to people different from him.

Second — a deep wisdom. His sight was not obscured by (self) righteousness, and so his gaze penetrated the mere appearances of a possibly pagan altar to see deeper truths beyond the Athenians’ ignorance.

Third — a child-like simplicity in seeing and connecting with others. He sees their innocence and appeals to this innocence that is shared by all of God’s children by pointing out to them that the One True God is “the one whom you already worship without knowing it.” He alludes to their heritage and tradition of writers who had already written: “We are all his children.”

Indeed, to know God might come more from a purity of heart and soul, and an emptying out of a whole baggage of misconceptions, presumptions, and pride. It is to return to not just a spiritual childhood, but also a return to the wide-eyed wonderment of a baby who looks out into the world for the very first few days and months!

When we do this very simple but intentional exercise of emptying out our subconscious and unconscious ‘gold, silver, or stone’ of images, ideology or preconceptions that we have constructed out of hardened life experiences, we will more readily invite the Holy Spirit to burn a new fire of joy and love in our hearts. Indeed, it is not easy to be a child of God!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Come, Holy Spirit, help us to become child-like and youthful again in our gaze and ways – to love and give to others as God has loved and given to us.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for the gentleness of those who point our dimly-lit vision towards the Truth, Way and Light of Christ – and challenge us to humility and innocence again.

23 May, Tuesday – Outside my comfort zone

23 May 2017

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Acts 16:22-34

The crowd joined in and showed their hostility to Paul and Silas, so the magistrates had them stripped and ordered them to be flogged. They were given many lashes and then thrown into prison, and the gaoler was told to keep a close watch on them. So, following his instructions, he threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
Late that night Paul and Silas were praying and singing God’s praises, while the other prisoners listened. Suddenly there was an earthquake that shook the prison to its foundations. All the doors flew open and the chains fell from all the prisoners.

When the gaoler woke and saw the doors wide open he drew his sword and was about to commit suicide, presuming that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted at the top of his voice, ‘Don’t do yourself any harm; we are all here.’ The gaoler called for lights, then rushed in, threw himself trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas, and escorted them out, saying, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’

They told him, ‘Become a believer in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, and your household too.’ Then they preached the word of the Lord to him and to all his family. Late as it was, he took them to wash their wounds, and was baptised then and there with all his household. Afterwards he took them home and gave them a meal, and the whole family celebrated their conversion to belief in God.

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John 16:5-11

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Now I am going to the one who sent me.
Not one of you has asked, “Where are you going?”
Yet you are sad at heart because I have told you this.
Still, I must tell you the truth:
it is for your own good that I am going
because unless I go,
the Advocate will not come to you;
but if I do go,
I will send him to you.
And when he comes,
he will show the world how wrong it was,
about sin,
and about who was in the right,
and about judgement:
about sin: proved by their refusal to believe in me;
about who was in the right: proved by my going to the Father and your seeing me no more;
about judgement: proved by the prince of this world being already condemned.’

_______________________

Unless I go, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I do go, I will send him to you.

As I write this reflection, I am sitting in a wooden cabin library, connected to the rest of the outside world by a sole source of internet in order to send this out to the Oxygen editorial team for posting on our website.

These past three days have been an adventure and exercise in the extraordinary for my husband and I. We are at a conference called ‘Architecture, Culture, Spirituality’ in Maine, USA – out on a far tip of Deer Isle facing the North Atlantic Ocean. This is a completely remote and back-to-nature setting where we sleep in unheated wooden cabins poised on the slopes of a mountain facing a serene body of water. This all sounds so incredibly relaxing, but frankly, I spent my first night here, pregnant and sleepless, even though I could have been lulled to sleep with the constant gentle lapping of waves upon rocks.

We experienced an unexpected storm upon arrival that saw a full day of rains, and 0 degree Celsius nighttime temperatures. Without a warm room, some mindless scrolling through my phone’s newsfeeds and chat groups, I felt completely miserable shivering under 3 layers of blankets. I whined even though I knew it would not help.

However, it was in this moment that I became acutely aware of how I had taken my creature comforts for granted, how blessed I have always been! My thoughts went out to the many homeless men and women I saw sleeping on the sidewalks around the city and around the Harvard University campus. In that kind of cold, how could anyone have a night’s rest, even if they were bundled up in the warmest of sleeping bags? They were at the mercy of the elements. As I shivered in my bed, I prayed to offer up my own discomfort and misery for those I recalled – that in a way, our solidarity with them could be somehow redemptive.

In this way, I recognize the Holy Spirit had come to dwell with us in our cabin. Though we were not the warmer for it, we knew that our momentary suffering was meaningful simply because we were able to see beyond its material appearance and enjoin it to a transcendent suffering that is larger than us.

The gospel account of John reveals to us this same truth. Jesus told his disciples that the Advocate would come to dwell with them – but first, he had to leave them. In reality, it was really the disciples who had to first let go of their familiarity and comfort of holding on to the resurrected Christ in the form of Jesus, their mortal friend and teacher, before they would be ready to accept and receive the transfigured form of God’s love that would be given to them through the Holy Spirit.

All of us experience certain material or emotional comforts that we may not recognize and be willing to forsake. But following Christ, claiming this Christian faith requires of us to attempt a radical way of re-seeing and re-experiencing the mundane aspects of our daily lives. Just as the prison guard in the first reading risked his life, livelihood and entire household to embrace the faith that Paul and Silas proclaimed, are we willing to be challenged to a radical way of living and seeing which God may be asking of us? What if this entails an entire change of plan, environment, lifestyle, or level of comfort?

Even if it is a radical way of perceiving a short term suffering or trial, or a long-drawn struggle, we can call upon the Holy Spirit to help us transform our experiences for a vision that transcends the finitude of our reality and constraints. What really touched me in the first reading was the complete turnabout of the prison guard who, with his new eyes of faith and charity, humbly washed their wounds, sought baptism, and received Paul and Silas into his household to share a celebratory meal as fellow Christians.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: I pray that I can commit to greater acts of warmth and charity in the face of the many suffering men and women whom I witness in the city. I pray that the Holy Spirit gives me the courage and wisdom to act with love and compassion.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for these gifted moments when the scales fall off our eyes and we can see and experience humbly, the graces and blessings God has already poured into our lives.

22 May, Monday – Faith – Relationship – Love – Charity

May 22 – Memorial for St. Rita of Cascia, Religious

Rita (1386-1457) was the daughter of Antonio and Amata Lotti, a couple known as the Peacemakers of Jesus; they had Rita late in life. From her early youth, Rita visited the Augustinian nuns at Cascia, Italy, and showed interest in a religious life. However, when she was 12, her parents betrothed her to Paolo Mancini, an ill-tempered, abusive individual who worked as town watchman, and who was dragged into the political disputes of the Guelphs and Ghibellines. Disappointed but obedient, Rita married him when she was 18, and was the mother of twin sons. She put up with Paolo’s abuses for 18 years before he was ambushed and stabbed to death. Her sons swore vengeance on the killers of their father, but through the prayers and interventions of Rita, they forgave the offenders.

Upon the deaths of her sons, Rita again felt the call to religious life. However, some of the sisters at the Augustinian monastery were relatives of her husband’s murderers, and she was denied entry for fear of causing dissension. Asking for the intervention of St. John the Baptist, St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Nicholas of Tolentino, she managed to bring the warring factions together, not completely, but sufficiently that there was peace, and she was admitted to the monastery of St. Mary Magdalen at age 36.

Rita lived 40 years in the convent, spending her time in prayer and charity, and working for peace in the region. She was devoted to the Passion, and in response to a prayer to suffer as Christ, she received a chronic head wound that appeared to have been caused by a crown of thorns, and which bled for 15 years.

She was confined to her bed the last four years of her life, eating little more than the Eucharist, teaching and directing the younger sisters. Near the end, she had a visitor from her home town who asked if she’d like anything. Rita’s only request was a rose from her family’s estate. The visitor went to the home, but it being January, knew there was no hope of finding a flower; there, sprouted on an otherwise bare bush, was a single rose blossom.

Among the other areas, Rita is well-known as a patron of desperate, seemingly impossible causes and situations. This is because she has been involved in so many stages of life – wife, mother, widow, and nun, she buried her family, helped bring peace to her city, saw her dreams denied and fulfilled – and never lost her faith in God, or her desire to be with Him.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 16:11-15

Sailing from Troas we made a straight run for Samothrace; the next day for Neapolis, and from there for Philippi, a Roman colony and the principal city of that particular district of Macedonia. After a few days in this city we went along the river outside the gates as it was the sabbath and this was a customary place for prayer. We sat down and preached to the women who had come to the meeting. One of these women was called Lydia, a devout woman from the town of Thyatira who was in the purple-dye trade. She listened to us, and the Lord opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying. After she and her household had been baptised she sent us an invitation: ‘If you really think me a true believer in the Lord,’ she said ‘come and stay with us’; and she would take no refusal.

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John 15:26-16:4

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘When the Advocate comes,
whom I shall send to you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father,
he will be my witness.
And you too will be witnesses,
because you have been with me from the outset.

‘I have told you all this that your faith may not be shaken.
They will expel you from the synagogues,
and indeed the hour is coming
when anyone who kills you
will think he is doing a holy duty for God.
They will do these things
because they have never known
either the Father or myself.
But I have told you all this,
so that when the time for it comes
you may remember that I told you.’

______________________

… will think he is doing a holy duty for God. They have never known either the Father or myself.

How will we know if we truly believe in God and in Jesus Christ, His only Begotten Son? It is not only by faith that we will hear, see, and believe. It is more enduringly known through the cultivation of relationships. The scriptures today reveal to us that faith in God, to claim to know God, is to therefore conduct myself in a particular way.

It is the way of love and charity.

In the first reading of Acts 16: 11-15, we read of Lydia, a devout woman, who was open to listening and hearing about the Lord through the sharings of Paul. While the account summarises her conversion, as the work of the Lord who ‘opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying’, we know that it was not merely that of speeding down a one-way street. In her reception of the gift of faith, we witness that she responded in two ways. First, she and her household requested to be baptized. That was the first step in choosing to be a follower of Christ.

However, she goes on to send an invitation to Paul and Peter and the other disciples, extending her generous hospitality to them to visit and stay with her household – knowing that they were all pilgrims and simply living from hand-to-mouth and traveling on from place to place.

This openness to love and participate in loving is one very important aspect of being and becoming truly Christian. We may be Christians by birth or by choice (later in life), but to ‘become’ true Christians is a humbling, ongoing process that requires intention, child-like trust, and a constant effort to be charitable.

Not all of us have grown up witnessing examples of hospitality, generosity, or effusive acts of warmth and love within our families. So it should come as no surprise, that becoming all of these qualities does not come naturally for some. But we can learn to be, and desire to become. This is a grace freely given by God, and which we should always seek the Holy Spirit for the courage and inspiration to be so.

In this same vein, Jesus tells his disciples that they will encounter people of all kinds who may claim to believe in God, yet commit sins or behave in ways that completely oppose the love and charity and sacrifice that Christ came to demonstrate. Jesus says that these people do exist, and will walk amongst us, but it will be possible to see through their works and actions that “they have never known either the Father or Christ”.

How do we reconcile these encounters with our own choice to remain Christ-like? Well, Jesus reminds us that we have His example and His Holy Spirit has been sent to us to be our Advocate and Paraclete. The Holy Spirit is the friend we can call upon for help and wisdom in these times.

When we struggle with being loving and charitable, when we tussle with the desire to just retaliate at the ones who do us wrong or commit grave sins, may we remember that Jesus has provided us with the Holy Spirit to impart us wisdom and truth to know how to respond in a way that all men may know we are truly Christians.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: We pray to the Holy Spirit for help in all times of need, for divine wisdom and courage in our daily affairs.

Thanksgiving: I give thanks for the people around me who have demonstrated to me the conviction of being Christian through their generosity and charity, even in the face of difficulties.