Tag Archives: God’s plan

23 September, Friday – In Memoriam

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

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

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

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

– Patron Saints Index

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven:

A time for giving birth,
a time for dying;
a time for planting,
a time for uprooting what has been planted.

A time for killing,
a time for healing;
a time for knocking down,
a time for building.

A time for tears,
a time for laughter;
a time for mourning,
a time for dancing.

A time for throwing stones away,
a time for gathering them up;
a time for embracing,
a time to refrain from embracing.

A time for searching,
a time for losing;
a time for keeping,
a time for throwing away.

A time for tearing,
a time for sewing;
a time for keeping silent,
a time for speaking.

A time for loving,
a time for hating;
a time for war,
a time for peace.

What does a man gain for the efforts that he makes? I contemplate the task that God gives mankind to labour at. All that he does is apt for its time; but though he has permitted man to consider time in its wholeness, man cannot comprehend the work of God from beginning to end.

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Luke 9:18-22

One day when Jesus was praying alone in the presence of his disciples he put this question to them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ And they answered, ‘John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ It was Peter who spoke up. ‘The Christ of God’ he said. But he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.

‘The Son of Man’ he said ‘is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’

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He has made everything appropriate to its time

A dear priest and family friend passed away recently. Reverend Father Phillips Muthu passed away, aged 56, from a heart attack on 10 September 2016. He was at the time, the sole Catholic priest in the state of Terengganu, Malaysia.

Prior to that, Fr. Phillips had been the parish priest of Assumption Church in Petaling Jaya, which is where my parents got acquainted with him. While I cannot claim a close acquaintance with Fr. Phillips, I am well acquainted with his works and gentle temperament. Everyone who knew him loved him, young and old alike. He had a special interest in migrants and the youth, and had just returned from Poland, where he had accompanied a contingent of youth for World Youth Day. Ironically the last thing that he did before going out for a brisk walk that fateful Saturday evening, was to hold a cathecism and youth programme for children at a chapel in the town of Chukai. Being the sole catholic priest in Terengganu meant that Fr. Phillips had to travel between towns to celebrate mass.

Being based in Singapore, I only ever got the chance to attend mass with my parents when I came home to visit. My late father had been critically ill at the time when they first got to know Fr. Phillips, and had talked to him about conversion and baptism. Fr. Phillips was very encouraging and had welcomed my parents to his church with open arms. Open arms would also describe Fr. Phillips’ way with the children of his parish. Children would flock to him after mass, where he would reach out and bless each one of them, give an encouraging pat on the back, or a comforting hug, but each one always had a smile from him. I have a picture burned in my memory of him surrounded by little ones, and it brought to mind Jesus being surrounded by the little children.

He had done so much and was in the pinkest of health, and so it was with great shock and disbelief when the news of his untimely death first broke. Many hearts were broken and tears were shed, for a priest who cared about his congregation, for a friend who cared about your well-being, for a father figure who loved each one like his own. His passing was all too soon, for his time with us felt like just a fleeting breath. In his passing though, we recognize and acknowledge all that he had done for his parishes, and for his people, and we thank God for the blessings bestowed upon us through Fr. Phillips’s presence. God giveth, and God taketh; in Fr. Phillips, God had given us a man after God’s own heart to do His will, and in so doing, perhaps Fr. Phillips’ work on earth here was deemed done by God. Everything happens in God’s time, and though we struggle in our despair to come to grips with his passing, at the end of the day we give thanks to God Almighty and look to celebrate Fr. Phillips through his life.

As with all our loved ones who have gone before us, he is now in a better place with God. May he rest in peace forevermore.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Thanksgiving: Lord, we pray for the family, parishes and friends of Fr Phillips, that they may find comfort in You, and in knowing that he is with you, watching over us. May he rest in peace.

Prayer: We give you thanks Lord, for the life of Fr. Phillips who devoted himself to Your service and Your people. We pray that he will always be a shining example of Christ’s servant, and that we will be able to continue his good works.

7 September, Wednesday – Our Eternal Reward

7 September

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1 Corinthians 7:25-31

About remaining celibate, I have no directions from the Lord but give my own opinion as one who, by the Lord’s mercy, has stayed faithful. Well then, I believe that in these present times of stress this is right: that it is good for a man to stay as he is. If you are tied to a wife, do not look for freedom; if you are free of a wife, then do not look for one. But if you marry, it is no sin, and it is not a sin for a young girl to get married. They will have their troubles, though, in their married life, and I should like to spare you that.

Brothers, this is what I mean: our time is growing short. Those who have wives should live as though they had none, and those who mourn should live as though they had nothing to mourn for; those who are enjoying life should live as though there were nothing to laugh about; those whose life is buying things should live as though they had nothing of their own; and those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it. I say this because the world as we know it is passing away.

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Luke 6:20-26

Fixing his eyes on his disciples Jesus said:

‘How happy are you who are poor: yours is the kingdom of God.
Happy you who are hungry now: you shall be satisfied.
Happy you who weep now: you shall laugh.

Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven. This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

‘But alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now.
Alas for you who have your fill now: you shall go hungry.
Alas for you who laugh now: you shall mourn and weep.

‘Alas for you when the world speaks well of you! This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.’

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Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. 

Relocating to a new city is never easy. Aside from the usual logistics of establishing a new household, there is also the very pertinent question of money. Those of us who have set out to live on your own will remember how financially taxing it was the very first time. Everything needed to be bought, from a new pot to a can of beans. As you watch your bank balances decline, it is all too easy to despair. It is also far too easy to throw yourself further into work, hoping to earn those extra dollars.

What is difficult to do is that familiar reminder — God will provide. Whether it is material or spiritual needs, God will give us what we need. In the hustle and bustle of the city, it is often easy to forget that. However, today’s readings present us with an even more pressing and very stark reminder: the world in its present form is passing away. For those of us who are beset with bills and expenses, it may well be a relief to hear that (maybe all our bills will pass away with this ‘present’ world!).

Jokes aside, today’s readings are reminding us to focus on the kingdom of God. As Jesus said: blessed are the poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. Jesus is teaching us that if we focus on His Kingdom, we will find our rewards there, and all the suffering and hardships that we have to endure in our earthly life will all be worth it. While these heavenly treasures are not tangible (we cannot touch them nor see them right now), we know for sure that they are eternal.

Surely, things that are eternal are far worthier of our pining than our material desires and possessions? So (and with much great difficulty) I continue to lift up my worries to God each day, having faith (despite not knowing completely) that God will provide. No matter what the situation, God will help me find a way. All we need to do is to have faith, and to pray.

Jon Bon Jovi (perhaps unintentionally) says it best in his classic hit (and a staple of my teenhood): We’re halfway there. Livin’ on a prayer.

We’re halfway there. No longer condemned due to our faith in Christ, but not quite saints yet. When all else fails and we find ourselves with nothing left and nobody to turn to, that is when we really need to pray. To pray as if our lives depend on it; to live on every prayer that escapes our lips.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, while the lives we live are not always easy, we continue to place our faith and trust in You, praying and believing with full confidence that You will lift us up on our final days and shower us with Your love.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for all the people in our lives who have offered us a helping hand in difficult times.

27 August, Saturday – On Being Productive

27 August – Memorial for St. Monica, Married woman

Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted a heresy and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted.

When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan, where she became a leader of the devout women there.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Take yourselves for instance, brothers, at the time when you were called: how many of you were wise in the ordinary sense of the word, how many were influential people, or came from noble families? No, it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame what is strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything. The human race has nothing to boast about to God, but you, God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom. As scripture says: if anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord.

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Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.

‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”

‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”’

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You wicked and lazy servant!

I do have my share of unproductive days.  There were times that I have been too lazy to go to work. And accompanying these instances is the thought that I wish I did not have to work in order for me to eat and sustain my daily needs.

The Gospel reading talks about the three servants. One received five talents, the other received two talents, and the third one received one talent. In the Gospel reading, one talent is equivalent to a very large amount of money.  It mentioned each in proportion to his ability. Meaning, the master compensated his servants in accordance to their ability. It can be concluded that the one who received the largest was the one who work the hardest. While the one who received the smallest was the one who work the least. The two servants who received five and two talents worked hard and were able to double what they have given. And the master was pleased with their performance and gave them rewards. On the other hand, the servant who received one talent did not do anything productive. He digs a hole and puts the talent in the ground. That talent did not prosper. The master was mad at this servant for being lazy and took the talent and gave it to the servant who had five talents.

Our God is an awesome God. He is just and fair. If you work hard, you will get your reward. Even at work, if the boss likes your performance, you are given bonuses and other perks. However, if you are a liability, the boss cannot trust you. He does not even want to give you any tasks.

When we feel exhausted in working, it is alright to take some rest. Resting does not mean being lazy. We are, after all, humans; therefore, we also get tired. We need to recharge ourselves. Even our digital gadgets become drained and need recharging. After we regain our physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual strength, we come back to life. Do some work or do anything. Let’s not just be idle and do nothing.

There is this saying that we must do our best, and God will do the rest. Our life is a gift from God. It does not cost us anything. How we live our life is something we give back to God. Are we going to be like that servant who hid and buried the talent in the ground? Are we going to sit, wait, be still, and do nothing with our life? Or are we going to do something to make ourselves productive servants of God?  As we try to look back, have we lived our lives worthy to present it to our Lord?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Lord God, please guide us in making our life productive for You and for others.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father God for all the resources that we have to sustain our daily life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

26 August, Friday – Higher Priority

26 August

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1 Corinthians 1:17-25

Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the Good News, and not to preach that in the terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed. The language of the cross may be illogical to those who are not on the way to salvation, but those of us who are on the way see it as God’s power to save. As scripture says: I shall destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing all the learning of the learned. Where are the philosophers now? Where are the scribes? Where are any of our thinkers today? Do you see now how God has shown up the foolishness of human wisdom? If it was God’s wisdom that human wisdom should not know God, it was because God wanted to save those who have faith through the foolishness of the message that we preach. And so, while the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

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Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven will be like this: Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible: the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps. The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight there was a cry, “The bridegroom is here! Go out and meet him.” At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, “Give us some of your oil: our lamps are going out.” But they replied, “There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.” They had gone off to buy it when the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall and the door was closed. The other bridesmaids arrived later. “Lord, Lord,” they said “open the door for us.” But he replied, “I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.” So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.’

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There may not be enough for us and for you...

Many times I have been accused of being stingy. I am not used to sharing what I have with other people. My co-workers hate it when I am eating something and do not offer it to them even just out of politeness. In the same way, I feel uneasy when somebody offers me food. At first, I do not think too much about it. But after working for some time, I began asking myself if there was something wrong with me. I have a sibling but we have an age gap of several years. Being born in different generations, we each have different needs and likes. I grew up not having to share anything. We eat together as a family but we do not share our personal things such as clothes, books, shampoo, soap and other things. Sharing was taught in our school. But my classmates had better possessions so I did not share anything with them.

Today’s Gospel reading teaches us about responsibility. Our responsibility to be prepared for the tasks assigned to us. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible: the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps.  The sensible were wise enough to have a back-up plan. They brought flasks of oil with them. It may be an added weight to their baggage but they were blessed enough to know that they had to bring those. And indeed their extra efforts paid off. They needed the oil when they met the bridegroom.

It can be said that there are foolish and sensible people in this world. Sometimes we can be the foolish ones, sometimes we can be the sensible ones. We are sensible enough to realize our needs and to do something about it. But we have our fair share of foolishness. Even repeated foolishness over the same things.

When the sensible people said, “you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves…”, it may seem that they were being selfish. They could have shared a little oil with the foolish ones but they didn’t. As I reflect on it more, I realize that I can never give something that I do not have. Those who were sensible brought oil just enough for them to use and knew that if they shared it, none of their lamps would be able to provide any light. It teaches to help ourselves first in order to help others. Even in airplanes, there is this reminder to help yourself first before assisting others. It is like when you have your last penny in your pocket, you need to go to work, and there was a beggar asking for a penny. Well, if you are able to walk to work, you are able to give that penny to the beggar. But if that penny is your only fare to get to work, use it for your transportation. It is not being selfish nor greedy. You need to work in order for you to earn. And your earnings are something worth sharing.

Let us continue to pray to God, to enlighten us, to be like those sensible bridesmaids, to be spiritually prepared.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Lord God, please help us to use our wisdom in accordance to your will.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father God for providing for our needs.

25 August, Thursday – The Future is Beyond

25 August – Memorial for St. Louis of France, Married man; Memorial for St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest, Religious founder

As king of France, Louis (1214-1270) made numerous judicial and legislative reforms. He promoted Christianity in France; established religious foundations, aided mendicant orders, propagated synodal decrees of the Church, built leper hospitals, and collected relics.

“In prosperity, give thanks to God with humility and fear lest by pride you abuse God’s benefits and so offend him.” – St. Louis IX

Joseph Calasanz (1556-1648) and two fellow priests opened a small, free school for poor children. He was supervising several teachers and hundreds of students. When the school moved to larger quarters, the teaching priests were reorganised into a community recognised as a religious order called Le Sciole Pie (Religious Schools), also known as the Piarists, or Scolopii or Ordo Clericorum Regularium Pauperum Matris Dei Scholarum Piarum or Order of Poor Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools; Joseph acted as superior of the Order.

The community encountered many obstacles. It was dissolved, then reorganised after Joseph’s death. They were restored as a religious order in 1669, and continue their good work today.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Corinthians 1:1-9

I, Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle, together with brother Sosthenes, send greetings to the church of God in Corinth, to the holy people of Jesus Christ, who are called to take their place among all the saints everywhere who pray to our Lord Jesus Christ; for he is their Lord no less than ours. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace.

I never stop thanking God for all the graces you have received through Jesus Christ. I thank him that you have been enriched in so many ways, especially in your teachers and preachers; the witness to Christ has indeed been strong among you so that you will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed; and he will keep you steady and without blame until the last day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, because God by calling you has joined you to his Son, Jesus Christ; and God is faithful.

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Matthew 24:42-51

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming. You may be quite sure of this that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house. Therefore, you too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

‘What sort of servant, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their food at the proper time? ‘Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you solemnly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the dishonest servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time,” and sets about beating his fellow servants and eating and drinking with drunkards, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.’

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Therefore, you too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

I used to do project management work where one of the critical stages is planning. Our team needed to foresee everything. We had to anticipate what our clients’ wanted. We also had to prepare ready-made answers to our clients’ inquiries. Since we were always prepared, we were quite successful in our projects.  But there were also times that we experienced failures. I do get frustrated when things do not go well. I always ask myself, “What did I miss?”, “How come I was not able to see these things?”, and other similar questions. I am a planner. I want to make sure that everything goes smoothly without any problem. I get anxious when things do not work out how they are supposed to be.

The first reading clearly states that Paul was appointed by God. It was God who chose him; not anyone else, but God. The graces that were received were from God through Jesus Christ. The blessings that made the people strong and equipped are from God. It is by the grace of God that we have received so many blessings. And we should be grateful for those. Our life is a gift from God. He chose us to live this life serving Him. The Gospel reading enlightens us as to what kind of servant we should be. One servant did wicked things while his master was away. There is another servant who did his job properly even though his master was away. Are we doing good things because there are people who see us?  Are we doing good things because we want to do it and it is the right thing to do?

I admit there are times when I feel lazy when my boss is not around. I feel relaxed and relieved thinking there is no one to guard me. I am free. I am free to do anything I want. And freedom is a gift from God.  We have free will to do anything with our lives. However, we must be prepared for our the consequences of our actions.

Planning is needed in our daily lives. But we must remember that it is God’s will that our plans push through. It is in the name of Jesus Christ that things happen in accordance to how we plan. We cannot see what lies ahead. But we must always be prepared to receive God’s plans for us. Other people may not see what we do every day. But God sees everything. We continue to be focused living our faith and hope for better days to come.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Lord God, may you grant us the grace to feel your plan for us. May we able to do the things in according to Your will.

Thanksgiving: Father God, thank you for this gift of life. Thank you for everything that makes us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

18 August, Thursday – Taking For Granted

18 August

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Ezekiel 36:23-28

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows: ‘I mean to display the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned among them. And the nations will learn that I am the Lord–it is the Lord who speaks– when I display my holiness for your sake before their eyes. Then I am going to take you from among the nations and gather you together from all the foreign countries, and bring you home to your own land. I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your defilement and all your idols. I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead. I shall put my spirit in you, and make you keep my laws and sincerely respect my observances. You will live in the land which I gave your ancestors. You shall be my people and I will be your God.’

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Matthew 22:1-14

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding. He sent his servants to call those who had been invited, but they would not come. Next he sent some more servants. “Tell those who have been invited” he said “that I have my banquet all prepared, my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, everything is ready. Come to the wedding.” But they were not interested: one went off to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his servants, maltreated them and killed them. The king was furious. He despatched his troops, destroyed those murderers and burnt their town. Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready; but as those who were invited proved to be unworthy, go to the crossroads in the town and invite everyone you can find to the wedding.” So these servants went out on to the roads and collected together everyone they could find, bad and good alike; and the wedding hall was filled with guests. When the king came in to look at the guests he noticed one man who was not wearing a wedding garment, and said to him, “How did you get in here, my friend, without a wedding garment?” And the man was silent. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’

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“… many are invited but few are chosen”

Nobody likes being taken for granted or disrespected. When was the last time you sent out an invite or asked someone out on a date, only to have them say to you, “I’ll play it by ear and see what happens”. If you really meant something to that someone, they would jump at the chance to be with you, wouldn’t they? Why would they need to see if something better was going to come along? Then when you ask them again, because you have to firm up numbers, they snap at you, “Oh please stop hassling me!”. Honestly, how rude! Did you feel like never speaking to them again?

This morning, Jesus uses the parable of the wedding guests to illustrate a profound truth – our capacity to disrespect God and take Him for granted. The King (figuratively, God) is disrespected, first by the original guests to the banquet (the Jews), and then by the man who was invited off the street (figuratively, the Gentiles), who decided he could show up unprepared for the occasion. Many are called but few are chosen. Many know about the banquet and what is expected of them, but few prepare their hearts accordingly. Maybe we think we still have time. Or maybe we have become too busy, and left our spiritual life to one side. Maybe we think God will always be there, it can wait. Maybe we haven’t been to church in awhile because we’re angry with someone there, and can’t find it in our hearts to forgive and move on. Like the wedding guest caught unprepared, there is no explanation that will suffice when confronted by God. We cannot say, I’m sorry there just wasn’t the time, or that it was never convenient, or that we were overwhelmed by life, or that we never made peace with ourselves and others. There is no explanation worthy of Him. There can only be silence… and then the ordeal of being cast out from His kingdom.

So are we taking Him for granted in our lives? Have we given enough of our love, our effort and our time to Him? If we were taken today, would we be ready for the wedding banquet that awaits all faithful believers?

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the fortitude to remain faithful in heart, in thought and in deed to Him.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the fellowship of other believers who keep us faithful when we stray from the path to the wedding feast.

9 August, Tuesday – Rank and title

9 August – Memorial for St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), Martyr

After witnessing the strength of faith of Catholic friends, Teresa (1891-1942), originally a Jew, became interested in Catholicism and studied a catechism on her own, and she eventually ended up “reading herself into” the Faith.

She became a Carmelite nun, teaching and lecturing at two schools. However, anti-Jewish pressure from the Nazis forced her to resign both positions. She was smuggled out of Germany, and assigned to Holland. When the Nazis invaded Holland, she and her sister Rose, also a convert to Catholicism, were captured and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz where they died in the ovens like so many others.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ezekiel 2:8-3:4

I, Ezekiel, heard a voice speaking. It said, ‘You, son of man, listen to the words I say; do not be a rebel like that rebellious set. Open your mouth and eat what I am about to give you.’ I looked. A hand was there, stretching out to me and holding a scroll. He unrolled it in front of me; it was written on back and front; on it was written ‘lamentations, wailings, meanings.’ He said, ‘Son of man, eat what is given to you; eat this scroll, then go and speak to the House of Israel.’ I opened my mouth; he gave me the scroll to eat and said, ‘Son of man, feed and be satisfied by the scroll I am giving you.’ I ate it, and it tasted sweet as honey.

Then he said, ‘Son of man, go to the House of Israel and tell them what I have said.’

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Matthew 18:1-5,10,12-14

The disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ So he called a little child to him and set the child in front of them. Then he said, ‘I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

‘Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven.

‘Tell me. Suppose a man has a hundred sheep and one of them strays; will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go in search of the stray? I tell you solemnly, if he finds it, it gives him more joy than do the ninety-nine that did not stray at all. Similarly, it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.’

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Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

The pursuit of recognition, status and title is often a popular one amongst people who believe that these things are how we can be recognised by all around us. This happens in all cultures, settings and across various millennia. Yet, if we reflect upon the purpose and meaning of why we are doing such an action, we will discover that all these will become like straw blown away by the wind. There will not be anything left at the end of our lives. Jesus reminds us of whom we need to follow to become the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The child is often used as an example because it is assumed that he does not have any prejudices and trusts in the behaviour and outcomes of the world. What is it that causes a child to evolve from being trusting, without doubting, to a cynical adult who is careful of what he says and does so as not to appear to be irresponsible? I believe it is the fear of being hurt. There are people amongst us who have a propensity to hurt people through either their actions or words. It is through this process that we ask God for the wisdom to discern the intentions of the person and to show us what we need to do to overcome what is before us.

God loves us for who we are, just as we are. Following the way of the child in loving God is important and something we must share with all around us in spite of what they do to us. Yet, it is not just a matter of willpower but a matter of asking God to work within our lives to effect that change. To paraphrase a quote often attributed to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta: “God does not call us to do great things to love him but to do small things with great love” Let us continue with our Christian journey in sharing this important lesson of life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for your grace to illuminate our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to all who seek you with a sincere heart.

6 August, Saturday – On Answered Prayers

6 August – Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

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

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

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Daniel 7:9-10,13-14

As I watched:

Thrones were set in place
and one of great age took his seat.
His robe was white as snow,
the hair of his head as pure as wool.
His throne was a blaze of flames,
its wheels were a burning fire.
A stream of fire poured out,
issuing from his presence.
A thousand thousand waited on him,
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
A court was held
and the books were opened.

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

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2 Peter 1:16-19

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

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

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Luke 9:28-36

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up the mountain to pray. As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning. Suddenly there were two men there talking to him; they were Moses and Elijah appearing in glory, and they were speaking of his passing which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep, but they kept awake and saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As these were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ – He did not know what he was saying. As he spoke, a cloud came and covered them with shadow; and when they went into the cloud the disciples were afraid. And a voice came from the cloud saying, ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’ And after the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. The disciples kept silence and, at that time, told no one what they had seen.

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…take it as a lamp for lighting a way through the dark until the dawn comes and the morning star rises in your minds.

“It has come to pass/It will come to pass.” These are the words that have continued to uplift my soul in recent weeks, particularly when I am kneeling down at Mass after receiving our Lord in the Eucharist. Sometimes I am filled with such joy, that I am in tears. Sometimes I am filled with sorrow for my weakness of faith, that I am in tears. Sometimes I am overwhelmed with thanksgiving and hushed by gratitude. When no words suffice, I am always in tears.

As I write my reflections these past few days, I am also frantically preparing to relocate to Boston with my fiance, where he will work for a year. How did I get here, I wonder? Sometimes I cannot believe the turns life takes, and the ways God chooses to manifest His plans. But of course, I believe. Yet, I often beseech Jesus, “Lord, help me with my unbelief!” I am very stubborn, but always humbled. This is the extent to which I am so very human.

I see myself in Peter and John in today’s Gospel reading of the Transfiguration account. ‘Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ How often I find myself clinging (stubbornly) to two moments. The first — the feeling of comfort and closeness the Lord gives when I go to Him in prayer for my needs and heart’s desires. I experience an intimate sense that He hears me, that I am cradled in His palms. The second — the sense of wonder and promise when I intuit His assurance, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer 29:11). These are the tents that I want to erect. But I do not go further…

Like Peter and John, I build altars to memorialise the feelings of closeness, that I lose the presence of mind to contemplate and deeply ponder on God’s love and, strangely enough, to look forward with trusting hope and fervent faith that whatever I prayed for will come to pass. I remain in my constructed dreams of what I prayed for, and how they would best materialise, that I lose sight of the ‘being-answered-prayer-in-the-making’ events that are taking place right before my very eyes! Which is literally, everyday!

This is what Jean-Pierre de Cassaude SJ called ‘the sacrament of the present moment’ or, ‘abandonment to divine providence.’ The Transfiguration took place on a mountain-top, because mountain-top experiences are, themselves, gifted moments which God uses to impress upon our hearts His promises, love, and peace. But here comes the cloud, which covered the disciples with a shadow, when they foolishly wanted to freeze the moment and memorialise it. It cannot be done. And so, being human, they froze with fear.

The cloud that covers them with a shadow is the very veil which separates even our wildest and best imaginations from God’s Divine Will. His is the divine knowledge, while mine is truly finite. This is what I keep on learning.

I desired to find my soulmate in the Catholic faith. I wished for the chance to live and study overseas in my undergraduate years. I dreamt of one day taking theology classes. There must have been dozens of tiny prayers which I have whispered throughout my life (and have forgotten), and other monumental prayers hanging always on my lips. I knew the Lord heard them all, although it was not always easy to wait. The tears I often weep now are joyful and contrite. They are my humbled acknowledgement that His thoughts are not my thoughts, nor my ways His ways; for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than my ways and His thoughts than my thoughts.

I want to encourage all my friends who are praying and waiting and wondering about your many intentions, to never doubt the Lord’s love and beautiful will for your life. Your dreams have come to pass before/Your dreams will come to pass.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: 

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.

Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me. (Suscipe prayer, St. Ignatius of Loyola).

Thanksgiving: Jesus, I trust in You.

31 July, Sunday – Why do I fret?

31 July – Memorial for St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest

St. Ignatius (1491-1556) was wounded in the leg by a cannonball at the siege of Pampeluna on 20 May 1521, an injury that left him partially crippled for life. During his recuperation the only books he had access to were The Golden Legend, a collection of lives of the saints, and the Life of Christ by Ludolph the Carthusian. These books, and the time spent in contemplation, changed him.

On his recovery he took a vow of chastity, hung his sword before the altar of the Virgin of Montserrat, and donned a pilgrim’s robes. He lived in a cave for a year, contemplating the way to live a Christian life. His meditations, prayers, visions and insights led to forming the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ecclesiastes 1:2,2:21-23

Vanity of vanities, Qoheleth says. Vanity of vanities. All is vanity!

For so it is that a man who has laboured wisely, skilfully and successfully must leave what is his own to someone who has not toiled for it at all. This, too, is vanity and great injustice; for what does he gain for all the toil and strain that he has undergone under the sun? What of all his laborious days, his cares of office, his restless nights? This, too, is vanity.

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Colossians 3:1-5,9-11

Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.

That is why you must kill everything in you that belongs only to earthly life: fornication, impurity, guilty passion, evil desires and especially greed, which is the same thing as worshipping a false god; and never tell each other lies. You have stripped off your old behaviour with your old self, and you have put on a new self which will progress towards true knowledge the more it is renewed in the image of its creator; and in that image there is no room for distinction between Greek and Jew, between the circumcised or the uncircumcised, or between barbarian and Scythian, slave and free man. There is only Christ: he is everything and he is in everything.

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Luke 12:13-21

A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.’ ‘My friend,’ he replied, ‘who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, “What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” But God said to him, “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?.” So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.’

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Look for things that are in heaven

I have been thinking about death recently. What will it be like when my time comes? What will the state of my life be? More specifically, what will my life look like in this secular world at the point of my death? What would my legacy be? What will people remember me for? Or will they remember me at all?

Recently I attended a funeral of a dear friend’s husband. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October last year. When I last saw him in November, he was already looking weak from the effects of the illness. At the wake, I was completely shocked and deeply saddened. He was not at all the person I remember him to be. The sickness has ravaged my friend to an unrecognizable 40kg shell. Seeing how shocked I was, his wife said to me ‘Remember him as he was. Happy.’

As I look at the photograph the family picked for the occasion, I will always remember him that way. Not the person lying in the box – that’s just a shell. He had returned home; to the arms of Jesus, accompanied by the multitudes of Saints and Angels; happy, healthy and at peace.

It is a reminder for us all. We benchmark ourselves according to the secular culture’s call to a measureable success. All over the news today is the panic about Brexit, the uncertain economy, people losing jobs. As we fret and are anxious about our lives today, what we have, where we are, our positions in life, will this all matter when the Lord calls us to our eternal home?

For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has laboured under the sun?

Don’t misunderstand me. We live in the secular world. Even as we strive to be holy, the truth is, there are some realities and we all have our earthly responsibilities and yes – worries.  I am definitely guilty of this. I sometimes ask God “So how do I do this Lord? Eat bread and drink honey and hope for the best? And who is going to pay the rent, school fees, put food on the table, Lord?” Some well-meaning friends will come forth and sprout scripture and that makes me even angrier. And guilty.

Why guilty? Because Jesus is so ever present in our lives. In my life. I look back on the last few years in sheer amazement. Where I came from and where I am today – it is most definitely God’s hand in it.

I shared previously that I walked away from a corporate job some years ago and while I waffle and meander through these past 2.5 years asking Jesus, ‘So what’s the plan? What is my vocation? Just what you want me to go on to?’. Recently in prayer, He answered me. Shot the answer square in between my eyes …. “You are living your vocation! If only you would let me lead.” Wow! His mercy and blessings far outweigh what this world can possibly give us…and more. I am actually living quite a happy existence but I still whine like a spoilt child. So why do I get anxious?

If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.

So my brothers and sisters, fret not what we attain on earth but seek to gather what matters in heaven. Live out your vocation today, be the person God meant for each of us to be. Look for things that are in heaven.

I know my friend lived his vocation – he was a loving and supportive husband, a doting and giving father and a very genuine friend.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Teach us oh Lord, to gain wisdom of heart. That we may fully surrender our lives to you and let you lead. Teach us not to hanker after things that do not matter but seek to love as you loved us. Help us live out our lives, as you had meant for each one of us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for being so present in our lives. For being ever so patient with us, especially during the times when we become arrogant and hard-hearted.