Tag Archives: grace

12 December, Tuesday – On Knowing

Dec 12 – Memorial for Our Lady of Guadalupe

Guadalupe is, strictly speaking, the name of a picture, but the name was extended to the church containing the picture and to the town which grew up around the church. It marks the shrine, it occasions the devotion, it illustrates Our Lady. It is taken as representing the Immaculate Conception, being the lone figure of a woman with the sun, moon, and star accompaniments of the great apocalyptic sign with a supporting angel under the crescent. The word is Spanish Arabic, but in Mexico, it may represent certain Aztec sounds.

Its tradition is long-standing and constant, and in sources both oral and written, Indian and Spanish, the account is unwavering. The Blessed Virgin appeared on Saturday, 9 December 1531 to a 55-year-old neophyte named Juan Diego, who was hurrying down Tepeyac Hill to hear Mass in Mexico City. She sent him to Bishop Zumarraga to have a temple built where she stood. She was at the same place that evening and Sunday evening to get the bishop’s answer.

The bishop did not immediately believe the messenger, had him cross-examined and watched, and he finally told him to ask the lady who said she was the mother of the true God for a sign. The neophyte agreed readily to ask for the sign desired, and the bishop released him.

Juan was occupied all Monday with Bernardino, an uncle who was dying of fever. Indian medicine had failed and Bernardino seemed at death’s door. At daybreak on Tuesday 12 December 1531, Juan ran to nearby St. James’ convent to ask for a priest. To avoid the apparition and the untimely message to the bishop, he slipped round where the well chapel now stands. But the Blessed Virgin crossed down to meet him and said, “What road is this thou takest son?”

A tender dialogue ensued. She reassured Juan about his uncle, to whom she also briefly appeared and instantly cured. Calling herself “Holy Mary of Guadalupe”, she told Juan to return to the bishop. He asked for the sign he required. Mary told him to go to the rocks and gather roses. Juan knew it was neither the time nor the place for roses, but he went and found them. Gathering many into the lap of his tilma (a long cloak or wrapper used by Mexican Indians), he came back. The Holy Mother rearranged the roses, and told him to keep them untouched and unseen until he reached the bishop.

When Juan met with Zumarraga, Juan offered the sign to the bishop. As he unfolded his cloak, the roses, fresh and wet with dew, fell out. Juan was startled to see the bishop and his attendants kneeling before him. The life-size figure of the Virgin Mary, just as Juan had described her, was glowing on the tilma. The picture was venerated, guarded in the bishop’s chapel, and soon after, carried in procession to the preliminary shrine.

Painters have not understood the laying on of the colours. They have deposed that the “canvas” was not only unfit but unprepared, and they have marvelled at the apparent oil, water, distemper, etc. colouring in the same figure. They are left in equal admiration for the flower-like tints and the abundant gold. They, and other artists, find the proportions perfect for a maiden of fifteen. The figure and the attitude are of one advancing. There is flight and rest in the eager supporting angel. The chief colours are deep gold in the rays and stars, blue green in the mantle, and rose in the flowered tunic.

The clergy, secular and regular, has been remarkably faithful to the devotion towards Our Lady of Guadalupe, the bishops fostering it, even to the extent of making a protestation of faith in the miracle a matter of occasional obligation. Pope Benedict XIV decreed that Our Lady of Guadalupe should be the national patron, and made 12 December a holiday of obligation with an octave, and ordered a special Mass and Office.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 40:1-11

‘Console my people, console them’ says your God.

‘Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call to her that her time of service is ended, that her sin is atoned for, that she has received from the hand of the Lord double punishment for all her crimes.’

A voice cries, ‘Prepare in the wilderness a way for the Lord. Make a straight highway for our God across the desert. Let every valley be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low. Let every cliff become a plain, and the ridges a valley; then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all mankind shall see it; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

A voice commands, ‘Cry!’ and I answered, ‘What shall I cry?’” – ‘All flesh is grass and its beauty like the wild flower’s. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on them. (The grass is without doubt the people.) The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God remains for ever.’

Go up on a high mountain, joyful messenger to Zion. Shout with a loud voice, joyful messenger to Jerusalem. Shout without fear, say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God.’ Here is the Lord coming with power, his arm subduing all things to him. The prize of his victory is with him, his trophies all go before him. He is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against his breast and leading to their rest the mother ewes.

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Matthew 18:12-14

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘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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“Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word”

Earlier this week, we read about how “with The Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day” (2 Peter 3:8). It’s a difficult concept to grasp. Our human understanding is mostly limited to events that happen within our lifetime – where do I see myself in 5 years? What are we doing this weekend? How do I get through the week? How do I get the kids through college? We plan for the next 5 years, 10 years at most. But God sees generations ahead, connecting the dots forward for his faithful beloved. He allows us to ‘glimpse’ at His plans by grace. We, in turn, accept this grace in faith.

As I box up the memories in my old house, I’ve been overcome by both melancholy and wonder. God has moved me through so many places. I’ve lived so many lives. At every step, I feel He has laid the foundations for the next 5-10 years. I could have never planned things out myself to the degree that He has done, with the kind of attention to detail that He has seen to. Looking back, things have happened exactly as they were supposed to. Surrendering my fate to God, He put in place all that I needed even before I realized what was necessary.

In today’s gospel reading, Mary is called ‘full of grace’ because she was given a glimpse of God’s plan for the salvation of humankind. Though she saw it only as a faint sketch, she accepted the role she was to play in full confidence. When the Holy Spirit prompts us, it is manifest as a kind of ‘feeling’ that there is something we have to do or that we are meant to be some place. This sense of ‘knowing’ speaks in soft tones. You have to strain to hear it. Some people call it intuition. Scripture calls it the “gentle whisper” of the Holy Spirit (1 Kings 19:12). Not all of us will heed its promptings. Sometimes, we let human judgment get the better of us. We overthink things, overanalyze the costs and benefits. Witness Eve’s more calculated response. Eve was shown the beauty of God’s paradise yet still reached for more. The Spirit’s promptings were there; she knew what she was not supposed to do. But she chose against it.

‘Grace’ is a gift of faith. If we believe, God lets us see the broad sketches. It might only be an inkling, a feeling that this is the right path, as impossible as it might seem. But often, that’s all that is needed, a feeling. He asks us to trust Him. And in so doing, we gain a life we would never even have dreamed for ourselves.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the wisdom to discern His purpose for us, even if that means upending the normalcy of our daily life.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to God for helping us to connect the dots forward. We give thanks for His providence, that even before we knew what was needed, He was already laying the foundation of our life ahead.  

24 October, Tuesday – Living God’s Call

Oct 24 – Memorial for St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop

Anthony Mary Claret (1807–1870) was a weaver and a seminary student with Blessed Francis Coll. He was ordained on 13 June 1835, and became a missionary in Catalonia and the Canary Islands. He directed retreats and founded the Congregation of Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Claretians). He became Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba on 20 May 1850, and founded the Teaching Sisters of Mary Immaculate.

Following his work in the Caribbean, Blessed Pope Pius IX ordered him back to Spain where he became confessor to Queen Isabella II and was exiled with her. He had the gift of prophecy and miracles, and was reported to have preached 10,000 sermons, published 200 works. He spread devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Romans 5:12, 15, 17-21

Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned; but the gift itself considerably outweighed the fall. If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift. If it is certain that death reigned over everyone as the consequence of one man’s fall, it is even more certain that one man, Jesus Christ, will cause everyone to reign in life who receives the free gift that he does not deserve, of being made righteous. Again, as one man’s fall brought condemnation on everyone, so the good act of one man brings everyone life and makes them justified. As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. When law came, it was to multiply the opportunities of failing, but however great the number of sins committed, grace was even greater; and so, just as sin reigned wherever there was death, so grace will reign to bring eternal life thanks to the righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Luke 12:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready.’

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…grace will reign to bring eternal life

Just as Adam brought sin into the world and hence, as humans, we bear in us ‘original sin’ – which is the sin of origin – Jesus came to give us life eternal. He is the second Adam. Who then is the second Eve? For without Eve in the Old Testament, Adam would not have taken a bite from the forbidden fruit.

Mary, having conceived Jesus in her womb, is the second Eve. But unlike Eve, Mary stands firmly with God and conquers the serpent (the Devil) and remains humble and steadfast, in spite of the many trials that come her way. And in giving birth to Jesus, she gives birth to the church. We were recently asked to ponder the question of Jesus’ formation before he began his public ministry. Everyone is aware of how Christ spent 3 years preaching and healing; but what of his first thirty years here on earth? Who took on the responsibility of teaching him, forming him and imparting values to him? It was his earthly parents – Mary and Joseph.

In Mother Mary, we have a living example of how God’s graces can flow through someone who is willing to give up his or her life in faith, truly dedicated to God’s mission. And in today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us to stay awake because we never know when God will call us. So how are we to ensure that we will always be ready? Simply by living the life that God has called us to live. Because by living the life God called Mary to live, she helped to mould and prepare Jesus for his ministry on earth. So, just as God called Mary, He too calls us each and every day so that we can slowly shape and mould ourselves more and more to live Christ-centred lives. Thanks to Mary and Jesus, we now have the Sacraments as well as the rosary to help us get through each day as we struggle.

The recent visit of the statue of Fatima to Singapore opened the door for me to better appreciate Mother Mary’s role in our church and also to listen to the preaching of Fr Francis Tiquia, a truly anointed son of God. He exhorted that as Catholics, we needed to practice CARE in our lives. To go for weekly Confession, daily Adoration, say the Rosary (4 to 5 times a day) and to go for daily Eucharist.

Brothers and sisters, we have been saved by Mary and Jesus through their sacrifices in humble obedience to God the Father. Let us honour them by living a life of sacrifice and humility so that others may see through us the living example of what it means to be a child of God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace of humility as you call us to mission.

Thanksgiving: Thank you dear Lord for your patience and everlasting love.

25 September, Sunday – Mercy & Grace

25 September

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Amos 6:1,4-7

The almighty Lord says this:
Woe to those ensconced so snugly in Zion
and to those who feel so safe on the mountain of Samaria,
those famous men of this first of nations
to whom the House of Israel goes as client.
Lying on ivory beds
and sprawling on their divans,
they dine on lambs from the flock,
and stall-fattened veal;
they bawl to the sound of the harp,
they invent new instruments of music like David,
they drink wine by the bowlful,
and use the finest oil for anointing themselves,
but about the ruin of Joseph they do not care at all.
That is why they will be the first to be exiled;
the sprawlers’ revelry is over.

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1 Timothy 6:11-16

As a man dedicated to God, you must aim to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle. Fight the good fight of the faith and win for yourself the eternal life to which you were called when you made your profession and spoke up for the truth in front of many witnesses. Now, before God the source of all life and before Christ, who spoke up as a witness for the truth in front of Pontius Pilate, I put to you the duty of doing all that you have been told, with no faults or failures, until the Appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,

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

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Luke 16:19-31

Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.” “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”

‘The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too.” “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham “let them listen to them..” “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”’

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“If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”

As we begin the new week, we begin with an uncomfortable realisation. What is our faith about? How is our relationship with God? What are we living for? How are we living our lives?

The readings today remind us of the many things we have taken for granted of. Not to say that we must live in poverty, in suffering, pain or shame, but are we aware of the people around us, the people in our lives? Do we live as people of the light, people of love, proclaimers of the Gospel, defenders of the truth?

As in the Gospel today, are we like the rich man that is consumed by his wealth or do we count our blessings?

Many of us fear what’s to come after death, we go for daily mass, say daily prayers, offer much donation in order that we will not suffer eternally. However, our actions usually show otherwise, where we fail to see the “poor” standing right in front of us, whether it’s the “poor” intellectually, physically, emotionally or financially. We criticise, judge, condemn, make fun and abuse them rather than bless them with what God has blessed us with.

It eventually comes down to where we choose to stand, on the side of love and truth or that of selfishness and pride. We see the life of God’s only begotten Son and the side He chose, not just for Himself but also for all of us. It meant, the pain, suffering and death that He had to go through but it also meant the life and the glory that He brought to all of us and to His Father.

What is it we want? What is it we really need? For when the rich man knew that there was no way he could save himself, he finally asked if his brothers could be warned. Do we need to wait till we are in that position for us to realise?

It is this mercy and grace that we need for what God has given, He too can also take away. Our calling is that understanding that we are called also to be givers of this love, mercy and grace to the people around us in order that all may have a share in God’s kingdom here on earth and especially when we all return to Him, as one, for eternity.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

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Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for this mercy and grace that we so often overlook, as we ourselves are consumed by the things of this world. Help us to focus on you, on love, in order that we may live as one and return to our home with you when the day comes.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your love, your Word and the Truth. Thank you for this freedom.

31 May, Tuesday – Hail, Full of Grace

31 May – Feast of The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The feast of the Visitation recalls to us the following great truths and events: The visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth shortly after the Annunciation; the cleansing of John the Baptist from original sin in the womb of his mother at the words of Our Lady’s greeting; Elizabeth’s proclaiming of Mary—under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost—as Mother of God and “blessed among women”; Mary’s singing of the sublime hymn, Magnificat(“My soul doth magnify the Lord”) which has become a part of the daily official prayer of the Church. The Visitation is frequently depicted in art, and was the central mystery of St. Francis de Sales’ devotions.

The Mass of today salutes her who in her womb bore the King of heaven and earth, the Creator of the world, the Son of the Eternal Father, the Sun of Justice. It narrates the cleansing of John from original sin in his mother’s womb. Hearing herself addressed by the most lofty title of “Mother of the Lord” and realizing what grace her visit had conferred on John, Mary broke out in that sublime canticle of praise proclaiming prophetically that henceforth she would be venerated down through the centuries:

“My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me, and holy is His name” (Lk. 1:46).

—Excerpted from the Cathedral Daily Missal

(Source: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2016-05-31)

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And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

On this beautiful feast of the Visitation, I am reminded of my spiritual journey in the Catholic faith as I was baptised and received my First Holy Communion and Confirmation in the Church of Visitation Seremban, in Malaysia. My parents got married there. My uncles were ordained there. And my grandmother’s funeral was held in that church which I now consider my home parish. Mere memories aside, I see how growing both from childhood and also in my faith is as rich as it gets when Our Mother is its patron. I have many times asked, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” I would like to elaborate about this in three parts: Personal faith, Community and Our Mother’s Intercession.

Personal faith
I was raised devoutly Catholic by my parents and it was hard to even change things related to my Catholic prayer life even when I moved out to live in the city when I was twenty-one. It was more than a personal effort on my part to remain rooted in the faith. As I look back, I realise that Our Mother simply refused to let go of my hand, nor let me lose Her Son.

I was a minority ethnic individual, a junior staff, among majority Muslims in a workplace where colleagues and superiors openly implied that I should embrace Islam. I had my doubts and sometimes felt very harassed. Being a twenty-something year old, I know I did not do it on my own. It was my Mother who protected me and shielded me from leaving her Son.

As children, we used to pray the rosary daily at 8 pm and 12 noon during the school holidays. Things changed when we moved to our own house. I was about eleven at the time and our prayer time was a decade of the rosary. In my heart I knew something was amiss yet I was thrilled that prayer time was shortened. So I never complained about it. The one decade we prayed each day sustained us as a family. Our Blessed Mother is not impressed with how long we spent praying. Just like any loving mother she would love, care and pray for us, no matter what.

In my early twenties when life seemed impossible and there was no where to turn, one night I decided that I would pray the rosary before I went to bed in the hostel room I stayed at. That was the beginning of my prayer life as an adult Catholic and I never once looked back. She has never let me go and kept me faithful to my daily prayer even when my life seemed futile and my choices looked very distant from grace.

Community
The parishes I served were always Marion parishes. In the city, it was Our Lady of Fatima and then Church of Assumption. I learned how to grow with others while serving in these two parishes. It was with the youths at Church of Assumption that I learnt the spirit of Christian community and its necessity. I finally had a family out of my own within my parish. As any family we had our struggles, our joys, our hopes and our laughter and like any Mother she continues to pray for peace in this “family” of ours. She helped us to love, share and care for each other despite our personal differences. This sort of love is impossible yet God and our Mother, gave us glimpses of their love when we were opened to love as they did.

Our Mother’s Intercessions
Our Mother kept watching me and I started praying the 54 days rosary novena. I noticed that during the duration of the novena, how grace filled my life. At every occasion there was an answer to my prayers. My Mother led me to the areas of life that I never knew were within me. She gave me answers that I was not seeking and she loved me just the same when I was doubtful of her precious Son.

I started wearing the rosary bracelet about a year ago. It recently dawned on me that it really felt like the Mother, who held the Lord, now continually holds my hand. Especially when I am fearful and feel unworthy, this bracelet reminds me that the hands which rocked that cradle, continues to be with me, totally claiming the promise of Jesus, “Behold, thy Mother.”

She has calmed my fears, kissed away my sadness, and cheered me on even at my most measly achievements. She was and continues to be my true Mother.

Recently on a rather challenging day at work, I went to visit my parents though I live some sixty kilometers away. It was an impromptu decision. When I parked my car in the driveway, I saw my mother looking at me as she knew that something was not right, though she did not probe. She brought me a cup of tea and we spend hours talking, though not about what was really eating me up at that time. After that time, I felt my whole burden lifted. I feel the same way about Our Mother Mary and praying the rosary. I am praying a set of prayers from the Bible, in the Hail Marys, Holy Marys, Our Fathers and although it can sometimes feel repetitive and irrelevant, I feel that she (in her great mercy and love) not only removed my burdens but she clothes me with grace. And I am convicted of the power of One Hail Mary.

Dear sisters and brothers, there is no pain that she cannot kiss away. No tears of ours compares to the ones she has shed. She knows sorrows and pain and she loves us. Call out to Our Mother as a child would in need. In good times; in times that could have been better. She is filled with grace. She is the most blessed among women and the Mother of the only perfect child, our Lord Jesus Christ.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Hail Mary, full of grace. Our Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Blessed are you, O Virgin Mary, who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.