Tag Archives: faith

18 October, Thursday – Accompaniment

18 October – Feast of St Luke; Evangelist

Born to pagan Greek parents, and possibly a slave. One of the earliest converts to Christianity. Physician, studying in Antioch and Tarsus. Probably travelled as a ship‘s doctor; many charitable societies of physicians are named for him. Legend has that he was also a painter who may have done portraits of Jesus and Mary, but none have ever been correctly or definitively attributed to him; this story, and the inspiration his Gospel has always given artists, led to his patronage of them. He met Saint Paul the Apostle at Troas, and evangelized Greece and Rome with him, being there for the shipwreck and other perils of the voyage to Rome, and stayed in Rome for Paul‘s two years of in prison. Wrote the Gospel According to Luke, much of which was based on the teachings and writings of Paul, interviews with early Christians, and his own experiences. Wrote a history of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Timothy 4:10-17

Demas has deserted me for love of this life and gone to Thessalonika, Crescens has gone to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia; only Luke is with me. Get Mark to come and bring him with you; I find him a useful helper in my work. I have sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak I left with Carpus in Troas, and the scrolls, especially the parchment ones. Alexander the coppersmith has done me a lot of harm; the Lord will repay him for what he has done. Be on your guard against him yourself, because he has been bitterly contesting everything that we say.

The first time I had to present my defence, there was not a single witness to support me. Every one of them deserted me – may they not be held accountable for it. But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.

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Luke 10:1-9

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

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“if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you.”

 In today’s 1st reading, we see St. Paul talking about being challenged by someone, saying that he has been “bitterly contesting everything that we say”. In the Gospel, Jesus was telling the disciples that if they visit a house where there isn’t a man of peace, their peace will return to them. At the time Jesus was saying this to his disciples, Paul or Saul, as he was called, was on the other side being the persecutor.

I remember a time in my life that I was a persecutor too. Not in the way Saul was advocating stoning but if I might have done just as much damage with harsh words. Therefore, I’ve come to believe that for most of us, Jesus will come along one day and offer to change us from Saul to Paul. It is very much up to us to recognise who it is that is calling, and then to accept the invitation.

Also, much like Saul the persecutor, maybe some of his followers too, God will use people around us, like Ananias to help us. Maybe to help us to get back on our feet, to help us decipher this voice that has been calling out to us? Much in the way Jesus sent his disciples out in two’s. And similarly in the first reading Paul is saying that only Luke was with him at that time and telling Timothy to come to him with Mark.

The journey of Christianity is seldom a journey of solitude. The ascent of the castles of the spiritual life is a journey that probably starts with someone else too, and as the ascent get steeper the path becomes narrower until you find yourself walking in solitude. Unfortunately few are strong enough. I know I’m not ready, I still need fellow pilgrims to support me on this journey even if I do not readily admit it.

Jesus chose to come and walk among us in order to bring us to him for eternity. May we do the same in our respective mission fields, let us be among those we wish to help instead of above them like a supervisor. Maybe if we saw more of the people around us as brother and sister, would we bring more of them to church with us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer: Just like iron sharpens iron and the early Christians spread the faith by word of mouth and friendships, grant us Lord a desire to journey into church with the people you wish us to.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for walking among us so that we may do the same and for not leaving us alone on this journey. Thank you for the person who brought me to know you.

16 October, Tuesday – The Whole Package

16 October – Memorial for St. Hedwig, Religious; Memorial for St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin

Hedwig (1174–1243) was the daughter of the Duke of Croatia, and aunt of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. She married Prince Henry I of Silesia and Poland in 1186 at the age of 12, and became the mother of seven. She cared for the sick both personally and by founding hospitals. Upon her husband’s death, she gave away her fortune and entered the monastery at Trebnitz.

– Patron Saint Index

Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647–1690) was healed from a crippling disorder by a vision of the Blessed Virgin, which prompted her to give her life to God. After receiving a vision of Christ fresh from the Scourging, she was moved to join the Order of the Visitation by Paray-le-Monial in 1671.

She received a revelation from our Lord in 1675, which included 12 promises to her and to those who practiced a true devotion to His Sacred Heart, whose crown of thorns represent his sacrifices. The devotion encountered violent opposition, especially in Jansenist areas, but has become widespread and popular.

The Twelve Promise of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary for those devoted to His Sacred Heart are:

  1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
  2. I will establish peace in their families.
  3. I will console them in all their troubles.
  4. They shall find in My Heart an assured refuge during life and especially at the hour of their death.
  5. I will pour abundant blessings on all their undertakings.
  6. Sinners shall find in My Heart the source of an infinite ocean of mercy.
  7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.
  8. Fervent souls shall speedily rise to great perfection.
  9. I will bless the homes where an image of My Heart shall be exposed and honoured.
  10. I will give to priests the power of touching the most hardened hearts.
  11. Those who propagate this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be effaced.
  12. The all-powerful love of My Heart will grant to all those who shall receive Communion on the First Friday of nine consecutive months the grace of final repentance; they shall not die under any displeasure, nor without receiving their Sacraments; My Heart shall be their assured refuge at that last hour.

– Patron Saint Index

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Galatians 5:1-6

When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. It is I, Paul, who tell you this: if you allow yourselves to be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you at all. With all solemnity I repeat my warning: Everyone who accepts circumcision is obliged to keep the whole Law. But if you do look to the Law to make you justified, then you have separated yourselves from Christ, and have fallen from grace. Christians are told by the Spirit to look to faith for those rewards that righteousness hopes for, since in Christ Jesus whether you are circumcised or not makes no difference – what matters is faith that makes its power felt through love.

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Luke 11:37-41

Jesus had just finished speaking when a Pharisee invited him to dine at his house. He went in and sat down at the table. The Pharisee saw this and was surprised that he had not first washed before the meal. But the Lord said to him, ‘Oh, you Pharisees! You clean the outside of cup and plate, while inside yourselves you are filled with extortion and wickedness. Fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside too? Instead, give alms from what you have and then indeed everything will be clean for you.’

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Did not he who make the outside make the inside too?

I once saw a T-shirt that had the following slogan printed on it, ‘You got to take the whole package, including the fat and the waste.” It served to remind me that we must always treat people with true sincerity and view them as a person and not judge them on the externals. Failure to do so will render us to a harsh judgement by God as we read in today’s Gospel.

Jesus was upset at the strict adherence to the religious codes that the Pharisees had when it came to the washing of their hands before meals whilst not bothering about showing mercy to those in need. We might be quick to judge that the Pharisees were true hypocrites but I ask that we take a step back and look at ourselves. We often engage in such behaviour without us knowing it or worst, we think we are actually correct when we try to point out the mistakes of other people.

The context that we correct these people is important; we must not focus on the external signs but rather consider the reasons why we get so upset at such behaviour. Perhaps we do so because we want to cover up a certain inadequacy on our part? I pray that we will always bite our tongue before we seek to correct another person in order for us to realize that he is also another human being.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that you help us to remember to live with our brothers and sisters in charity.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who point out our faults.

15 October, Monday – The Sign

15 October – Memorial for St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor

Also known as Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Jesus (1515–1582) was born to the Spanish nobility, the daughter of Don Alonso Sanchez de Cepeda and Dona Beatriz. She grew up reading the lives of the saints, and playing at “hermit” in the garden.

Crippled by disease in her youth, which led to her being well educated at home, she was cured after prayer to St. Joseph. Her mother died when she was 12, and Teresa prayed to Our Lady to be her replacement. Her father opposed her entry into religious life, so she left home without telling anyone, and entered a Carmelite house at 17. Seeing her conviction to her call, her father and family consented.

Soon after taking her vows, Teresa became gravely ill, and her condition was aggravated by the inadequate medical help she received; she never fully recovered her health. She began receiving visions and was examined by Dominicans and Jesuits, including St. Francis Borgia, who pronounced her visions to be holy and true.

She considered her original house too lax in its rule, so she founded a reformed convent of St. John of Avila. She founded several houses, often against fierce opposition from local authorities. She was a mystical writer, and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 27 September 1970 by Pope Paul VI. She is known for ‘holy wit’.

“God, deliver me from sullen saints.” – St. Teresa of Avila

– Patron Saint Index

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Galatians 4:22-24,26-27,31-5:1

The Law says, if you remember, that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave-girl, and one by his free-born wife. The child of the slave-girl was born in the ordinary way; the child of the free woman was born as the result of a promise. This can be regarded as an allegory: the women stand for the two covenants. The first who comes from Mount Sinai, and whose children are slaves, is Hagar – The Jerusalem above, however, is free and is our mother, since scripture says: Shout for joy, you barren women who bore no children! Break into shouts of joy and gladness, you who were never in labour. For there are more sons of the forsaken one than sons of the wedded wife. So, my brothers, we are the children, not of the slave-girl, but of the free-born wife.

When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

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Luke 11:29-32

The crowds got even bigger and Jesus addressed them, ‘This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here. On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.’

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The Lord has made known his salvation

There must always be a witness, in any case that comes before a court of law as an indication of an objective account of the case in question. Sometimes such an insistence on evidence may seem too demanding on what would otherwise be a simple case. However, such a view is necessary because it helps to substantiate the veracity of allegations. This was not the case in the time of Christ. The people asked for a sign not because they truly believed in God but rather they wanted to see miracles in order to believe in Jesus.

They were in fact trying to put the Lord to the test and this was clearly a sign that they were never interested in believing in the message of Christ. Whilst miracles such as raising the dead to life and curing the sick became associated with Jesus’ ministry, these actions were done as part of a bigger mission of bringing the spirit of holiness and grace to the world. We should believe in the message and then let the signs be evidence of the message and not the other way round.

Any belief that is built upon signs and wonders will waver once these signs cannot continue to be performed. Christianity is not about signs but rather it is about the message that Jesus had to carry.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Lord, help us to have a sincere and lively faith.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

13 October, Saturday – Faith Is A Gift

13 October

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Galatians 3:22-29

Scripture makes no exceptions when it says that sin is master everywhere. In this way the promise can only be given through faith in Jesus Christ and can only be given to those who have this faith.

Before faith came, we were allowed no freedom by the Law; we were being looked after till faith was revealed. The Law was to be our guardian until the Christ came and we could be justified by faith. Now that that time has come we are no longer under that guardian, and you are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.

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Luke 11:27-28

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

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“For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus”

When I was in secondary school, someone told me that I was experiencing depression because I had little faith in God, and because of that, I thought that I was unwanted by God and was expected to endure punishment from Him. I was confused by that statement and it made me feel more isolated and alone than I already was. I started to question whether God allowed me to experience depression because I was weak in my faith, and I felt that I was fighting a losing battle with regards to the perception of others and thus left the Church.

In the book of Ephesians, Paul wrote that faith is a gift from God, and because faith is a gift, it cannot be taken back. Despite leaving the church, I knew that I still had faith in God, but I could not bring myself to return to a community where I would be judged for my faith. I met a friend who knew the hurts I experienced from my previous community and she reminded me of the book of James. In the book of James, we are encouraged to be joyful when we experience trials in our lives because trials encourage perseverance and increases our maturity. They also help us to strengthen our faith in and reliance on God. She also directed me towards today’s first reading, and reminded me that because I have faith, I am a child of God and no matter where I go, I will always remain a child of God. This conversation made me reflect on my life and my faith, and it brought me one step closer to returning to the Church. Shortly after that conversation, I was convicted to return to the Church, and to embrace the trials that come my way, and to find that sliver of hope and learning point in each trial. I am also reminded on a daily basis that my faith is a gift from God, and I will always be a child of God because of my faith.

Brothers and sisters, let us remember that we are all children of God, bounded by the gift of faith from God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Hannah Huang)

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Prayer: Dearest loving Father, we pray for the desire to increase our faith in you and to embrace the trials in our lives. We pray that through our trials, we will continue to grow in maturity and perseverance. 

Thanksgiving: Dearest Father, thank you for your gift of faith to us. Thank you for giving us trials in our lives and reassuring us that you will not give us more than we can handle.

12 October, Friday – Jesus Loves

12 October

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Galatians 3:7-14

Don’t you see that it is those who rely on faith who are the sons of Abraham? Scripture foresaw that God was going to use faith to justify the pagans, and proclaimed the Good News long ago when Abraham was told: In you all the pagans will be blessed. Those therefore who rely on faith receive the same blessing as Abraham, the man of faith.

On the other hand, those who rely on the keeping of the Law are under a curse, since scripture says: Cursed be everyone who does not persevere in observing everything prescribed in the book of the Law. The Law will not justify anyone in the sight of God, because we are told: the righteous man finds life through faith. The Law is not even based on faith, since we are told: The man who practises these precepts finds life through practising them. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by being cursed for our sake, since scripture says: Cursed be everyone who is hanged on a tree. This was done so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might include the pagans, and so that through faith we might receive the promised Spirit.

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Luke 11:15-26

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

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

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

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“Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law…”

As a child, I was exposed to the song “Jesus Loves Me This I Know…” and as a child, I could not comprehend how Jesus could love someone like me. Cognitively, I knew that Jesus loves me and he died for me, because it was stated in the Bible, but I could not accept it in my heart. I always felt that Jesus loves everyone but me, and for a long time, I believed that Jesus’ love had exceptions. The circumstances of my childhood shaped my perceptions about Jesus and it took me a long time to finally accept Jesus’ love for me.

It has been 2 months since I started working with children, and I noticed that a number of these children believe that they are unlovable and no one could love them for who they are. Every morning when I go to work, I will remind myself to try and love the children with the love Jesus has for me. It can be very trying with some children, but each time I find myself hitting a roadblock with them, I would silently make a short prayer to God to grant me the grace to not react towards them, and to show them more of Jesus’ love. Sometimes when I am unable to pray as I am attending to the child, I would hold the crucifix pendant that I am wearing, and it would help me to calm down and to remember to love as Jesus loves. I realized that when I give the children the space to explore and to share their feelings without judgment, and to treat them with love regardless of what they have shared, it helps them to be more accepting of themselves. Working with children has allowed me to be constantly reminded of how Jesus sacrificed His life for me because He loves me for who I am, despite my shortcomings.

Brothers and sisters, let us learn to emulate Jesus’ love for our fellow brethren and to accept that in order to love, it sometimes requires sacrifice.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Hannah Huang)

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Prayer: Dearest loving Father, continue to grace us with the opportunity to know Jesus at a deeper level, and to continue to entrust our lives to you on a daily basis.

Thanksgiving: Dearest loving Father, thank you for your gift of Jesus to us, and thank you for showing us what unconditional love is.

11 October, Thursday – Come Holy Spirit, Come

11 October – Memorial for St. John XXIII, Pope

Also known as Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, John XXIII (1881 – 1963) was born to an Italian peasant family. He was educated at Bergamo and later at the Pontifical Roman Seminary in Rome.  He was ordained on 10 August 1904. He was the secretary to the bishop of Bergamo, Italy from 1904 to 1914. During which he wrote the basis for his five-volume biography of Saint Charles Borromeo. He served in World War I in the medical corps, and as a chaplain. From 1921 onwards he served the Holy See directly in various posts, both in Rome and in Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece, culminating as Apostolic Nuncio to France from 1944 until 1953, when he was created cardinal and made the Patriarch of Venice. He was elected 261st pope on 28 October 1958.

As pope he stressed his own pastoral duties as well as those of other bishops and clergy. Promoted social reforms for workers, poor people, orphans, and the outcast. He advanced cooperation with other faiths and traditions including Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Church of England, and even Shinto. In April 1959 he forbade Catholics to vote for parties supporting Communism. His encyclical, Mater et Magistra of 14 July 1961 advocated social reform, assistance to underdeveloped countries, a living wage for all workers, and support for socialist measures that promised real benefit to society.

He nearly doubled the number of cardinals, making the college the largest in history. On 25 January 1959, he announced his intent to call a council to consider ways to renew the Church in the modern world, promote diversity within the unity of the Church, and consider reforms promoted by ecumenical and liturgical movements. Convening the council, known as Vatican II, on 11 October 1962, was the high point of his reign.

His heartiness, his overflowing love for humanity individually and collectively, and his freshness of approach to ecclesiastical affairs made John one of the best-loved popes of modern times.

Patron Saint Index, Universalis

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Galatians 3:1-5

Are you people in Galatia mad? Has someone put a spell on you, in spite of the plain explanation you have had of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? Let me ask you one question: was it because you practised the Law that you received the Spirit, or because you believed what was preached to you? Are you foolish enough to end in outward observances what you began in the Spirit? Have all the favours you received been wasted? And if this were so, they would most certainly have been wasted. Does God give you the Spirit so freely and work miracles among you because you practise Law, or because you believed what was preached to you?

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Luke 11:5-13

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night to say, “My friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend of mine on his travels has just arrived at my house and I have nothing to offer him”; and the man answers from inside the house, “Do not bother me. The door is bolted now, and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up to give it you.” I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it him for friendship’s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants.

‘So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or hand him a snake instead of a fish? Or hand him a scorpion if he asked for an egg? If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

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“how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

When I attended the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER) in 2016, I came to realize that I am most attuned to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and the experiences that I encountered during the CER were largely related to the Holy Spirit as well. It was also during the retreat that I realized how close the Holy Spirit was journeying with me throughout my entire life. Since then, I started to draw closer to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has become a constant companion in my life and during moments where I feel alone, I am often consoled that I am not alone because I can talk to the Holy Spirit. I would also break out into conversation with the Holy Spirit when I walk to work, and sometimes I find that I get inspirations that I never would have thought of.

When I was in Rome earlier this year, I visited the famous St. Peter’s Basilica and one of the many pieces that caught my eye was the Dove of the Holy Spirit that is above the Throne of St. Peter. The Dove of the Holy Spirit is an amber stained glass window with a white dove at the center of the window. As I managed to attend mass and spend an extended time at the basilica, I noticed that the intensity of the amber going from light to dark and light again, depending on the time of day and the position of the sun. This light to dark to light depiction of the Holy Spirit reminded me of the times in my life where the promptings of the Spirit were either very gentle or very obvious and intense, depending on how receptive and attuned I was to the Spirit.

Today’s Gospel reminds us of the Holy Spirit being a helper in our lives and God’s generosity and willingness to gift the Holy Spirit to all who ask of Him. Brothers and sisters, let us invite the Holy Spirit to journey with us through our everyday lives and to be aware of the promptings of the Spirit at every moment of our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Dearest Father, we pray for the grace to grow closer to the Holy Spirit by being more aware of the Spirit’s presence. Help us to be patient and more attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Thanksgiving: Dearest Father, thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Thank you for providing us with such a wonderful helper in our lives.

10 October, Wednesday – Pray without ceasing

10 October

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Galatians 2:1-2,7-14

It was not till fourteen years had passed that I went up to Jerusalem again. I went with Barnabas and took Titus with me. I went there as the result of a revelation, and privately I laid before the leading men the Good News as I proclaim it among the pagans; I did so for fear the course I was adopting or had already adopted would not be allowed. On the contrary, they recognised that I had been commissioned to preach the Good News to the uncircumcised just as Peter had been commissioned to preach it to the circumcised. The same person whose action had made Peter the apostle of the circumcised had given me a similar mission to the pagans. So, James, Cephas and John, these leaders, these pillars, shook hands with Barnabas and me as a sign of partnership: we were to go to the pagans and they to the circumcised. The only thing they insisted on was that we should remember to help the poor, as indeed I was anxious to do.

When Cephas came to Antioch, however, I opposed him to his face, since he was manifestly in the wrong. His custom had been to eat with the pagans, but after certain friends of James arrived he stopped doing this and kept away from them altogether for fear of the group that insisted on circumcision. The other Jews joined him in this pretence, and even Barnabas felt himself obliged to copy their behaviour.

When I saw they were not respecting the true meaning of the Good News, I said to Cephas in front of everyone, ‘In spite of being a Jew, you live like the pagans and not like the Jews, so you have no right to make the pagans copy Jewish ways.’

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Luke 11:1-4

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘Say this when you pray:

“Father, may your name be held holy,
your kingdom come;
give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us.
And do not put us to the test.”’

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“Father, hallowed be your name…”

When I was younger, I had a lot of difficulty praying because I did not know what to say to God or how to put my thoughts across to Him. To make matters worse, I was in a church group that practiced a lot of spontaneous and verbalized prayers, and I found myself avoiding meet ups and group meetings because I was terrified of being called up to lead in such prayers. This fear was etched deeply within my heart because I was often compared to a peer who had “better” prayers than I did, and since then, I often felt that I would be judged for my prayers and no matter how sincere I was, it was not good enough for God and for those around me. The only prayer that I was confident of verbalizing was the Lord’s Prayer, because it is from the Bible, and I did not receive any negative comparisons when I recited the Lord’s Prayer.

When I was 15, I attended a church retreat and the pastor’s wife encouraged me to pray the Lord’s Prayer and to pray for the desire to be able to pray without fear. Since then, I started praying the Lord’s Prayer during my quiet time, especially when I did not know what else to say to God or when I was so troubled that I could not focus on my time with God. I slowly came to the realization that I had a deep desire to pray spontaneously; however due to my fear, I often stifled this desire and preferred to stay away from such opportunities. I stayed away for many years as I left the church thereafter, and it was only when I returned to the faith did I realize that this desire was still present within me. It was about 6 months after I was received into the Catholic church when I was thrown into the deep end where I was asked to give a closing prayer after a session I attended. Instead of being overwhelmed by fear, I felt a comforting reassurance which reminded me that if I froze or ran out of words to say, I could always rely on the Lord’s Prayer. I found that the minute I took the first step, God guided me through the prayer, and I experienced new-found freedom while praying. Since then, whenever I have been tasked to lead in prayer, I find myself experiencing joy, and during my quiet moments, I often return to the Lord’s Prayer as a reminder that this is how my praying journey began.

Brothers and sisters, during moments of tiredness or moments when we find it tough or impossible to pray, let us remember the Lord’s Prayer, and to offer up the feelings we are experiencing to the Lord, and let us always remember the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord through this prayer.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Dearest merciful Father, remind us that we can pray the Lord’s Prayer if we are unable to pray, and continue to grace us with the desire to pray on a daily basis, and to use our prayers to draw closer to you.

Thanksgiving: Dearest Father, thank you for the gift of the Lord’s Prayer, that we are able to seek your consolation and your love especially through this Prayer.

9 October, Tuesday – Being Still In His Presence

9 October

Memorial for Sts. Denis, Bishop, and Companions, Martyrs; Memorial for St. John Leonardi, Priest

Denis (d. 258) was a missionary to Paris, and its first bishop. His success roused the ire of local pagans, and he was imprisoned by the Roman governor. He was martyred in the persecutions of Valerius with Sts. Eleutherius and Rusticus. Legends have grown up around his torture and death including one that has his body carrying his severed head some distance from his execution site. St. Genevieve built a basilica over his grave. His feast was added to the Roman calendar in 1568 by Pope St. Pius V, though it has been celebrated since 800.

– Patron Saint Index

John Leonardi (1541–1609) was the founder of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of Lucca. He was born in Lucca, Tuscany in 1541 and ordained a priest in 1572. He first dedicated himself to the Christian formation of young people in his parish of Lucca. Then he founded the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.

In 1574, he founded a community charged to deepen faith and devotion; this foundation occurred as part of the movement known as the Counter-Reformation. He worked with this community to spread the devotion to the Virgin Mary, to the Forty Hours and to frequent Communion.

This foundation received approval from Pope Paul V in 1614. He took his work to Rome where he became friends with St. Philip Neri who held him in high regard for his qualities of firmness and judgement and entrusted him to delicate works such as the reform of the Benedictan congregation of Montevergine.

He then founded with J. Vives the seminary of the Propagation of the Faith. He died in 1609, dedicated himself to his brothers suffering from the influenza epidemic that was raging in Rome at that time.
The final Rule of his community was published in 1851. Two houses of the Clerks of the Mother of God were opened when he died; three others were opened during the 17th century. He was beatified in 1861 and canonised in 1938.

– Patron Saint Index, Wikipedia

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Galatians 1:13-24

You must have heard of my career as a practising Jew, how merciless I was in persecuting the Church of God, how much damage I did to it, how I stood out among other Jews of my generation, and how enthusiastic I was for the traditions of my ancestors.

Then God, who had specially chosen me while I was still in my mother’s womb, called me through his grace and chose to reveal his Son in me, so that I might preach the Good News about him to the pagans. I did not stop to discuss this with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were already apostles before me, but I went off to Arabia at once and later went straight back from there to Damascus. Even when after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days, I did not see any of the other apostles; I only saw James, the brother of the Lord, and I swear before God that what I have just written is the literal truth. After that I went to Syria and Cilicia, and was still not known by sight to the churches of Christ in Judaea, who had heard nothing except that their one-time persecutor was now preaching the faith he had previously tried to destroy; and they gave glory to God for me.

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Luke 10:38-42

Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered: ‘Martha, Martha,’ he said ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’

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“It is Mary who has chosen the better part.”

I will be heading off tonight on a Marian pilgrimage in Europe, accompanied by my other half and some 30-odd parishioners, led by a priest friend. We had decided on this faith pilgrimage a few months back and I cannot wait to board the plane for Paris.

God truly has a wicked sense of humour because I was actually planning another Camino this year. My last one in 2016 had been life-changing and I had been craving another walk along the Camino Frances (this time, from the very start). But I believe that the Lord wants me to learn to be obedient to Mother Mary and to discern what she has to say to me – just like how Mary in the gospel sat at the foot of Jesus and focused on Him.

Indeed, I have been discerning how my call to serve God may be taking a slightly different path, especially since I have been relatively ‘low key’ this year. I have found greater joy in doing more contemplative retreats, even praising Him with more contemplative songs and playing my violin. And at the last 4th Saturday healing service at CSC, even though the worship was less intense, it certainly helped me connect better with Jesus as He walked among us that evening. Even my spiritual director has advised me to just let the Lord speak, either directly or via Mother Mary, as embark on this pilgrimage.

I have learnt to listen a lot better over the past 2 years or so since I did my Camino. I hardly speak at meetings unless my opinion is asked for, and I find that my takeaways from such meetings tend to be deeper and, for the most part, pretty spot on. So I am relishing the time away from home and work, even though I am not relishing the large group and all the requisite dynamics that may result. I know that I just have to be still and to soak in His presence so that I can contemplate on my next steps, especially in ministry.

Brothers and sisters, there will be times when God calls on us to just sit by his feet and to listen to what He has to say to us. We do not need to be ‘on the go’ in ministry all the time, especially when there are others around who are equally capable or more than willing to offer their precious time and effort. Sometimes, we just need to be still and rest in His presence.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you continue to carry us on your shoulders, especially when we struggle to find meaning and are deaf to your words of love. We pray that you always keep faith in us and give us the desire to hear your whisper each day.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for your steadfast love and for your faith in each and every one of us.

7 October, Sunday – Marriage Vows

7 October 2018

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Genesis 2:18-24

The Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helpmate.’ So from the soil the Lord God fashioned all the wild beasts and all the birds of heaven. These he brought to the man to see what he would call them; each one was to bear the name the man would give it. The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of heaven and all the wild beasts. But no helpmate suitable for man was found for him. So the Lord God made the man fall into a deep sleep. And while he slept, he took one of his ribs and enclosed it in flesh. The Lord God built the rib he had taken from the man into a woman, and brought her to the man. The man exclaimed:

‘This at last is bone from my bones,
and flesh from my flesh!
This is to be called woman,
for this was taken from man.’

This is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body.

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Hebrews 2:9-11

We see in Jesus one who was for a short while made lower than the angels and is now crowned with glory and splendour because he submitted to death; by God’s grace he had to experience death for all mankind.

As it was his purpose to bring a great many of his sons into glory, it was appropriate that God, for whom everything exists and through whom everything exists, should make perfect, through suffering, the leader who would take them to their salvation. For the one who sanctifies, and the ones who are sanctified, are of the same stock; that is why he openly calls them brothers.

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Mark 10:2-16

Some Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, ‘Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him. He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ ‘Moses allowed us’ they said ‘to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘It was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’ Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, ‘The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.’

People were bringing little children to him, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.

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What God has united, man must not divide

From the very beginning, when He created Adam and Eve, God instituted and intended a union between a man and a woman, they are to become one in marriage. In fact, it is one of the seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church and a fundamental building block of society.

Marriage is not just between two people, but a calling from God to enter into a mission, whether it is to grow spiritually together or bringing up children in the faith, it is a vocation nonetheless.  Unfortunately, the current climate of marriage and divorce is very distressing. We have many friends, Christians and non-Christians alike, that are divorced or are in the process of separating. Divorce has become such an easy option and a normal occurrence that couples that remain married for a lengthy period are an oddity.

It is apparent that the institution of marriage is under attack, and the difficulties are a result of the fall of man. The ideals of married life are harder to enter into and require continued deepening of love and commitment. With sin, hurtful memories, stresses, distractions, misplaced passions and temptations bombarding us every day and in every way; it is more difficult and more challenging for married couples to live out the glorious vocation of love and unity that is marriage.

Like a garden that needs sunshine, water, and nutrients to thrive; a marriage requires love, compassion, forgiveness, understanding and commitment to thrive.  Above all, it needs the Son. A marriage is not only between two people, it needs a third party – Jesus. With God at the apex and as the focus, not only will the marriage flourish, but the marital bond will only get stronger.A marriage is a reflection of Christ and the church he established; as Jesus is often referred to as the bridegroom and the church as His bride. With that in mind, how can we deny the sanctity of marriage?

In my years of marriage, there were two major crises and a myriad of minor conflicts that could have and would have ended my marriage. If it wasn’t by the grace of God, my husband and I would be divorced right now, our lives and the lives of our children will be deeply and forever affected. We are still in the healing process and rely on the Lord’s grace, mercy and strength to get us through difficult times. It is precisely during these trying times, that I turned to Jesus and Mother Mary in fervor. Prayers and more prayers to our Lord, petitions and more petitions for Mother Mary’s intercession, gave me a sense of peace and calm in the emotional storm. At first, the peace that came upon me was brief, and then the angst and anger would come back. But as the prayers and petitions continued, and as I deeply relied on our Lord for wisdom, Mother Mary for comfort, relying on the grace of God, for the strength and love that I lack, the peace I sought is now lasting longer and the wounds are starting to heal.

Like our spiritual life and the health of our soul, marriage requires constant tending, love and prayers.  Even then, it doesn’t mean that it will be smooth sailing from here on. There will be mountains to climb and valleys to cross. Through it all,if we remain faithful to our covenant with God and with each other, marriages will stand the test of time, temptation and come what may. For man, it may be impossible, but for God, everything is possible.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that You grant us the strength, wisdom and love to honor the covenant of marriage, and may we reflect the covenant between Jesus and His Church in every way.

Thanksgiving: Thank you,our Heavenly Father, forgiving us the Sacrament of marriage and teaching us to love as Christ loves.

6 October, Saturday – Finding the anchor to God

6 October – Memorial for St. Bruno, Priest

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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

This was the answer Job gave to the Lord:

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

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

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

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Luke 10:17-24

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

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

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

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Happy the eyes that see what you see

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

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

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