Tag Archives: God’s presence

10 November, Thursday – The Lord is with us

10 November – Memorial for St. Leo the Great, Pope, Doctor

Leo (c.400 – 461) was born of Italian nobility. He was a strong student, especially in scripture and theology. As a priest, he was an eloquent writer and homilist.

He was pope from 440-461 during the time of the invasion of Attila the Hun. When Attila marched on Rome, Leo went out to meet him and pleaded for leave. As Leo spoke, Attila saw the vision of a man in priestly robes, carrying a bare sword, and threatening to kill the invader if he did not obey Pope Leo. As Leo had a great devotion to St. Peter, it is generally believed that the first pope was the visionary opponent to the Huns. When Genseric invaded Rome, Leo’s sanctity and eloquence saved the city again.

Pope Leo called the Council of Chalcedon to condemn the heresies of the day, which were Nestorianism (Christ as a human person joined to the divine person of God’s Son), Monophysitism (Christ’s human nature ceases to exist when the divine person of God’s Son assumed it), Manichaeism (Gnostic system resting on a dualistic concept of the world’s structure), and Pelaianism (no supernatural grace is needed for one to choose good).

He built churches and wrote letters and sermons encouraging and teaching the flock, many of which survive today. It is for these writings that Leo was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1574.

“Virtue is nothing without the trial of temptation, for there is no conflict without an enemy, no victory without strife.” – Pope St. Leo the Great

– Patron Saint Index

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Philemon 1:7-20

I am so delighted, and comforted, to know of your love; they tell me, brother, how you have put new heart into the saints.

Now, although in Christ I can have no diffidence about telling you to do whatever is your duty, I am appealing to your love instead, reminding you that this is Paul writing, an old man now and, what is more, still a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I am appealing to you for a child of mine, whose father I became while wearing these chains: I mean Onesimus. He was of no use to you before, but he will be useful to you now, as he has been to me. I am sending him back to you, and with him – I could say – a part of my own self. I should have liked to keep him with me; he could have been a substitute for you, to help me while I am in the chains that the Good News has brought me. However, I did not want to do anything without your consent; it would have been forcing your act of kindness, which should be spontaneous. I know you have been deprived of Onesimus for a time, but it was only so that you could have him back for ever, not as a slave any more, but something much better than a slave, a dear brother; especially dear to me, but how much more to you, as a blood-brother as well as a brother in the Lord. So if all that we have in common means anything to you, welcome him as you would me; but if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, then let me pay for it. I am writing this in my own handwriting: I, Paul, shall pay it back – I will not add any mention of your own debt to me, which is yourself. Well then, brother, I am counting on you, in the Lord; put new heart into me, in Christ.

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Luke 17:20-25

Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was to come, Jesus gave them this answer, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God does not admit of observation and there will be no one to say, “Look here! Look there!” For, you must know, the kingdom of God is among you.’

He said to the disciples, ‘A time will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man and will not see it. They will say to you, “Look there!” or, “Look here!” Make no move; do not set off in pursuit; for as the lightning flashing from one part of heaven lights up the other, so will be the Son of Man when his day comes. But first he must suffer grievously and be rejected by this generation.’

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“The Lord will reign forever…”

Growing up, I was brought to live with my grandaunt from the time I was a few months old. At that time in the 1970s, divorce was not common and I had a hard time growing up away from my parents. While I loved my grandaunt and I knew she loved me, I was looking forward and imagining the day I could move back home to live with my dad.

Over the years, I was to get only a few occasions to spend time with my dad and, to be totally honest, I was disappointed on many of these occasions as he did not turn up, or turned up very late.

Ultimately, it came to pass that I never went back to live with him.

The period with my grandaunt, however, allowed me to experience the love that would have been lacking had my desire to live with my father been met. While I could not see it then, not leaving her was the best for me.

So it was in the gospel of today. The Israelites of day were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah, when He was already in their midst.  That was the message that Jesus was pointing out to them. Similarly, for us, while we are waiting for our Lord to come back again (or what is known as perousia), we need to be mindful that our God is already present here with us, through the Holy Spirit, and that we need to live our lives as such.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

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Prayer: Lord, allow us to have the grace to recognise your presence amongst us. Help us to always be open to the Spirit and for us to always live our faith everyday.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for gifting us to experience you today. We are truly grateful that we are able to journey with you and that you always reach out to us, allowing us to walk closer with you.

9 November, Wednesday – Celebrating Mother Church

9 November – Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the cathedral of the church of Rome and the official ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome, who is the Pope. It is officially named “Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour, St. John Baptist and St. John the Evangelist at the Lateran”.

It is the oldest and ranks first (being the cathedral of Rome) among the four major basilicas of Rome, and holds the title of ecumenical mother church (mother church of the whole inhabited world). An inscription on the façade, Christo Salvatore, dedicates the Lateran as the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour, for the cathedrals of all patriarchs are dedicated to Christ Himself. As the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, containing the papal throne, it ranks above all other churches, even above St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

– Wikipedia

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Ezekiel 47:1-2,8-9,12

The angel brought me to the entrance of the Temple, where a stream came out from under the Temple threshold and flowed eastwards, since the Temple faced east. The water flowed from under the right side of the Temple, south of the altar. He took me out by the north gate and led me right round outside as far as the outer east gate where the water flowed out on the right-hand side. He said, ‘This water flows east down to the Arabah and to the sea; and flowing into the sea it makes its waters wholesome. Wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live. Fish will be very plentiful, for wherever the water goes it brings health, and life teems wherever the river flows. Along the river, on either bank, will grow every kind of fruit tree with leaves that never wither and fruit that never fails; they will bear new fruit every month, because this water comes from the sanctuary. And their fruit will be good to eat and the leaves medicinal.’

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1 Corinthians 3:9-11,16-17

You are God’s building. By the grace God gave me, I succeeded as an architect and laid the foundations, on which someone else is doing the building. Everyone doing the building must work carefully. For the foundation, nobody can lay any other than the one which has already been laid, that is Jesus Christ.

Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.

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John 2:13-22

Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money changers sitting at their counters there. Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.’ Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: Zeal for your house will devour me. The Jews intervened and said, ‘What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?’ Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary: are you going to raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said.

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The temple of God is sacred

Since I became a Catholic in the 1980s, going to church was both a weekly obligation and an opportunity to catch up with friends for a good meal and some socialising.  I would step into church and find my seat in the pew and wait for mass to begin. Very often, during mass, I would think about what to have for lunch, frequently checking my watch to see when mass would end. Post-mass, I would go off, happy to have done my part as a ‘good Catholic’.

The big change happened when I attended a retreat. I was blessed that we spent a lot of time before the Blessed Sacrament. Before I realized it, I began to experience God’s presence, fully and in a way that I have never before. In my reflections, I felt that I had been chastised, gently, about the cavalier way which I had towards our Lord.

This was what happened in today’s gospel. Over time, the people had forgotten the sacredness of the temple, and increasingly, selfish human nature took over. Jesus, in driving the traders out of the temple, seeks to remind them (and us) that we are to always be reverential towards our God. The irreverence of the traders was so extensive that Jesus literally lashed out in anger, using a cord to physically whip and drive them out of the temple.

Today also celebrates the feast day of the dedication of the St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome, the only feast day to do so. While St Peter’s Basilica is often thought to be the main church of the Catholic Church, it is not. Instead, the Pope’s official church is the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the land of which was given to the Church by the Emperor Constantine in the year 324, although the current Basilica was rebuilt in the 16th century. As the official home of the Pope as Bishop of Rome, this structure is truly magnificent.

Brothers and sisters, as we celebrate this special feast today, let us remember that when we step into the house of God, we are there to celebrate the sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ, who gave himself up for all of us. Let us always maintain a reverence and sense of decorum in His house.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

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Prayer: Lord, help us to never keep score about what we are doing; the ‘good things’, thinking that this would help us to secure our place in heaven. Help us Lord, to offer all these to you in love, as a gift to You.

Thanksgiving: Father God, thank you for always loving us and being there for us. Thank you for sending your precious Son, Jesus, to die for us. Thank you for giving us the gift of eternal life.

2 October, Sunday – Breaking away from the everyday

2 October

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Habakkuk 1:2-3,2:2-4

How long, O Lord, am I to cry for help
while you will not listen;
to cry ‘Oppression!’ in your ear
and you will not save?
Why do you set injustice before me,
why do you look on where there is tyranny?
Outrage and violence, this is all I see,
all is contention, and discord flourishes.
Then the Lord answered and said,

‘Write the vision down,
inscribe it on tablets
to be easily read,
since this vision is for its own time only:
eager for its own fulfilment, it does not deceive;
if it comes slowly, wait,
for come it will, without fail.
See how he flags, he whose soul is not at rights,
but the upright man will live by his faithfulness.’

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2 Timothy 1:6-8,13-14

I am reminding you to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God.

Keep as your pattern the sound teaching you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. You have been trusted to look after something precious; guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

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Luke 17:5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ The Lord replied, ‘Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.

‘Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal immediately”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper laid; make yourself tidy and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink yourself afterwards”? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”’

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God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the spirit of power, and love, and self control.

I have just come back from Spain, where I walked the Camino de Santiago, along the Camino Frances, starting from Leon. By all accounts, the three weeks I spent journeying outside of the comforts of home (literally), exposed me to the elements as well as to myself. From the harsh noonday sun prior to crossing into Galicia, where the whether was unpredictable, chilly and damp, each day brought forth challenges which we’d normally not face back home.

I also met dozens of pilgrims and listened to their stories of why and how they were on this road. Some were seeking answers, some carried the prayers and burdens of loved ones, others were heavily laden by their own circumstances back home; yet, despite their sufferings, you could see and hear in them the conviction they had as they spoke powerfully about how Christ sustained them through each day.

As for me, I was rewarded each and every day on the road. With shelter, food and a camaraderie forged through hours of walking. And just as I was wondering if Jesus would ever appear, He did so, about 12km outside of Santiago. The moment is forever etched in my heart as He gave me a smile and a big hug through tear-stained eyes. And then He walked with us into Santiago and dined with us. I could never ever describe well enough the feelings I experienced that day – joy, relief, sadness, fear – all rolled into one. But for me, this was my ‘Camino moment’.

In the ensuing days which I spent in Santiago and the surrounding towns, I fully understood why some pilgrims do this each year. It is an opportunity for us to really break away from our normal, everyday lives and to just be ourselves. And to be with God. From the glorious sunrises I had the privilege of enjoying on high mountain passes each morning, to the cool breeze and pitter patter of an incessant drizzle, the Lord was always present. In the faces, gestures, laughter and tears of our fellow peregrinos, to the welcoming smiles of those who ran the albergues, we never lacked anything along the Way. All we had to do was to ask.

Brothers and sisters, not all of us will have the opportunity to walk the Camino. I have been truly blessed and, as many testify, a part of me remains there in Spain. But as Christians, we are all called to walk our own ‘Way’ each and every day of our life. The signposts are there and He is definitely walking with us. Let us all learn to harness the power that He has given us and not allow ourselves to wallow in fear and anxiety. Rather, let us walk on proudly as sons and daughters of a loving, merciful and giving God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

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Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for boldness to confront our fears and to take courage each day as we awake, so that we can confidently face all the challenges that come our way.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for empowering us with your spirit.

27 July, Wednesday – Just A Father’s Love

27 July

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Jeremiah 15:10,16-21

‘Woe is me, my mother, for you have borne me
to be a man of strife and of dissension for all the land.
I neither lend nor borrow,
yet all of them curse me.

‘When your words came, I devoured them:
your word was my delight
and the joy of my heart;
for I was called by your name,
the Lord, God of Hosts.
I never took pleasure in sitting in scoffers’ company;
with your hand on me I held myself aloof,
since you had filled me with indignation.
Why is my suffering continual,
my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?
Do you mean to be for me a deceptive stream
with inconstant waters?’

To which the Lord replied,
‘If you come back,
I will take you back into my service;
and if you utter noble, not despicable, thoughts,
you shall be as my own mouth.
They will come back to you,
but you must not go back to them.
I will make you
a bronze wall fortified against this people.
They will fight against you
but they will not overcome you,
because I am with you
to save you and to deliver you
– it is the Lord who speaks.
I mean to deliver you from the hands of the wicked
and redeem you from the clutches of the violent.’

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Matthew 13:44-46

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.’

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For I am with you, to deliver and rescue you…

I recently attended a retreat entitled ‘Get Out Of The Boat’ and it was a 3D2N getaway in a rustic retreat centre in Johor Bahru. I shared my experience with a one or two other people and today, I would like to share it with all of you.

From the time we arrived at the retreat centre, I knew the Lord would be speaking to me and true enough, the first night was a revelation. I struggled to sleep the entire night as I had an asthma attack and did not have an inhaler with me. It has been at least 18 months since my last attack yet instead of panicking, I told myself, “He wants me to spend time with Him in the chapel.” I had been tossing and turning in bed since 10pm and I knew it was affecting my roommate. So at 2pm, I went to the small chapel within our block and settled down in the soft chair, hoping to get some respite from being horizontal and counting the hours to when I could venture out to a pharmacy to buy an inhaler.

I ended up being woken up at 5.30am and very soon, it was time for breakfast. Of course, the other retreatants (there were 11 of us in total) were concerned and one of them offered a decongestant, which I stubbornly refused. However, something prompted me to reach out and take the pill, which provided me some relief. By 11am, when the others were preparing to go for mass, I decided to go head back to my room to take a nap so that I could drive out during lunch to the nearby pharmacy. By 1pm on the second day, I had my inhaler in hand and the rest of the retreat was a breeze.

So what, you may ask, did the Lord reveal to me? Between the first night and the time I got hold of the inhaler, I could sense His presence right by my side. There is no way I could have remained so calm during the few hours I was struggling to breathe. And even before dinner on the first day, when our spiritual director drew a small boat asked us to take stock of our family, parish, ministry, neighbourhood, health, recreation, work and vocation, God had already revealed to me the many boats I find myself in and the many characters I am called to be in each life situation. I wasn’t being asked to get out of one boat.

Because at work, I am on a speedboat and at times, am called to be Christ, to be Peter, to be the rough waters, to be the boat itself. In ministry, I am on an 80-ft yacht and am one of the disciples on the boat. In my family, we are on a small sampan, floating on a calm sea and I am called to be Peter and to take the lead. My health has gone through a very calm patch and I have recently been able to wean myself off certain medication. So I am in a dinghy on calm seas, wondering what lies ahead.

Brothers and sisters, we all, at some pointing our lives, have to take courage and step out of our boat(s) in order to experience the awesome, saving touch of the Almighty Father. Again, it is something that is beyond human comprehension. I know that my Lord is always there for me, whatever the circumstances (rough seas or calm waters). Are you aware of God’s presence in your life today? When is the last time you called out to him in faith, “Master, save me!”

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: O God, you who are always there for us. We ask that you never leave us to drown in our daily battles but empower us with your loving touch and show us your almighty hand in everything we do.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for never abandoning us in our struggles. Thank you for always being there when we call out to you.