Tag Archives: josephine dionisappu

5 September, Tuesday – See Good Things in the Land of the Living

5 Sept – St Teresa of Kolkata

Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910 – 1997)

Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born on 26 August 1910 at Skopje in Macedonia. She left home at the age of 18 to join the Sisters of Loreto in Ireland, where she received the name Sister Mary Teresa, after St Thérèse of Lisieux. In 1931 she was assigned to the order’s Calcutta house and taught at their school there. where she eventually became headmistress.

She received a new vocation to help the poor and destitute, and in 1948, obeying this call, she left the convent and took up a new life caring for them wherever they might be: lying sick in the street or even dying in dustbins. Some of her former pupils joined her, one by one, and the new congregation of the Missionaries of Charity was established in the Diocese of Calcutta in 1950, spreading across India and eventually onto every continent, even behind the Iron Curtain. Many related orders followed, involving men and women, clergy and laity, and both the active and the contemplative life. Mother Teresa died on 5 September 1997 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 19 October 2003 and canonized by Pope Francis on 4 September 2016.

Mother Teresa’s widespread appeal comes from the directness of her inspiration, and her direct response to it. She went out and did things where they were needed. When we think of big problems we inevitably think that they can only be solved by a big campaign. Perhaps that is true, perhaps not; but while the campaign is getting going, why not go out and help one person in the name of Mother Teresa? If there are 1,000 hungry people in your city, why not make it 999? If each of us did that – well, in most countries where this is being read, there are more Catholics than there are people in need.

As Monsignor Ronald Knox has said:
“I am not advocating world-movements or public meetings… my appeal is rather to the individual conscience than to the public ear; my hope is rather to see the emergence of a Saint, than that of an organization…

“There is no harm in besieging heaven for the canonization of such and such holy persons now dead. But should we not do well to vary these petitions of ours by asking for more Saints to canonize?”

(From Universalis)

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1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, 9-11

You will not be expecting us to write anything to you, brothers, about ‘times and seasons’, since you know very well that the Day of the Lord is going to come like a thief in the night. It is when people are saying, ‘How quiet and peaceful it is’ that the worst suddenly happens, as suddenly as labour pains come on a pregnant woman; and there will be no way for anybody to evade it.

But it is not as if you live in the dark, my brothers, for that Day to overtake you like a thief. No, you are all sons of light and sons of the day: we do not belong to the night or to darkness, so we should not go on sleeping, as everyone else does, but stay wide awake and sober. God never meant us to experience the Retribution, but to win salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that, alive or dead, we should still live united to him. So give encouragement to each other, and keep strengthening one another, as you do already.

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Luke 4:31-37

Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because he spoke with authority.

In the synagogue there was a man who was possessed by the spirit of an unclean devil, and it shouted at the top of its voice, ‘Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the devil, throwing the man down in front of everyone, went out of him without hurting him at all. Astonishment seized them and they were all saying to one another, ‘What teaching! He gives orders to unclean spirits with authority and power and they come out.’ And reports of him went all through the surrounding countryside.

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Dwell in the house of the Lord ….
In the past, I frequently found myself indulging in the self-talk that I will have a breakthrough in my life; that all my problems will be no more once I have reached my Father’s house, our eternal home. I thought that I had to endure life and all the pains it brings upon me, while I am still alive. But in today’s Psalms, we are reassured that we will see the great work of the Lord in the land of the living. It certainly takes a lot more faith to expect great things to happen in our lives while we are here on earth as mortal beings, living a life we already know. Today, we need to learn to confront and diminish anything that keeps us from claiming this promise that we will be blessed in the here and now.
Today’s readings remind us that we need to be alert and sober, stout-hearted even while others we know might be asleep and aloof. Clearly, we are called not to just set a standard; we are also called to lead and encourage others to live a life that prepares us to meet our Maker. We are called to bring others along, to follow the good deeds, to adhere to the call of His kingdom.
It is in those moments when we are tempted to do it on our own, when we really need to call our colleagues, friends and family members so as to share in His kingdom. He never meant for anyone one of us to perish and we are His instruments wherever we are planted, without any exceptions whatsoever.
In my dealings in church ministry, I have felt countless times the Lord urging me to reach out to others; to be patient with them, to believe in them. In some cases, He has even prompted me to slow down with certain brothers and sisters, knowing full well that everyone is at a different stage in their faith journey. It should never be about achieving targets and completing tasks for we Catholics are formed amidst people. While we realise and wholly accept this, let us not refrain from the temptation of judging others, dismissing others and even making assumptions that we are more spiritually superior that the others.
We need to walk with each other, stopping, pausing, reflecting, coaxing and challenging each other as Christ did with a heart full of love and wisdom, choosing the right approach for each person and situation. In a recent homily, a priest exhorted that Jesus loves the greatest sinner the most, so who are we to not accept His most beloved on our quest for holiness for His kingdom? If, in the past, we have done this, let us make a new start today, knowing that our Father wills us to walk together with our brothers and sisters, and not as lone individals towards Him.
Today, let us think of all the times we have failed to encourage others in our midst. Let us also receive with a contrite heart, the encouragement of others when we have failed to live as we have been called to. No finger pointing, no favourites, no judgments. We are all His and He loves us all.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)
Prayer: Lord, we pray that you give the right dose of boldness and patience to lead people towards your Kingdom. We ask you to make a way for us to reach others.
Thanksgiving: Thank you for your great love that though we ‘sleep’ sometimes, you have sent your most precious Son to suffer and die for us sinners so that we may be yours forever.

4 September, Monday – Bringing Good Tidings to the Poor

4 September

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1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about those who have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with him. We can tell you this from the Lord’s own teaching, that any of us who are left alive until the Lord’s coming will not have any advantage over those who have died. At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then those of us who are still alive will be taken up in the clouds, together with them; to meet the Lord in the air. So we shall stay with the Lord for ever. With such thoughts as these you should comfort one another.

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Luke 4:16-30

Jesus came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me.

He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’

But he replied, ‘No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”’ And he went on, ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.’

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

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They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town

Jesus walked upon this earth and came to live like you and me. Yet there were some quarters who never believed in Him. Over 2000 years later, there are still people who do not believe in Him.

I can imagine like me, you believe that He is the Son of God and He is the Almighty. This is really great and so what are we to do, we have found God and we have identified that it is Him we long for in our hearts. Today’s gospel is a reminder of our call to be active Christians, to reach out to the downtrodden and marginalised, and to be a witness where we are today in our lives.

How faithful are we towards this call? Are random acts of kindness and charity sufficient? I would think not, simply because our benchmark is always to do as Christ would have done. I sometimes cannot believe that He would want me to love that person who constantly ridicules my faith; that I should be merciful to the person in my ministry who never shows up on time nor does any work; the colleague who backstabs; the reckless driver on the road; the person who hurts my loved ones; the migrant workers I see daily at work and at my apartment. Let us reflect today on our choice of words and deeds in order to bring sight to the blind and to make the captives free.

While we focus on all the good deeds so as to be more like Him, let us not lose sight of Him. Let us not act like someone who is in love, but who has completely lost sight of the lover. It becomes easier to give Him his rightful place if we continue to be faithful in our primary relationships as children, spouses, parents, employees, employers, students and teachers, parishioners, leaders and citizens. It is when we have been faithful to our loved ones and when we have performed our responsibilities do we realise that, none of this satisfies but Jesus alone. That way, we can go on to worship Him wholeheartedly, knowing that our relationships and our loved ones, our wealth, our status, our popularity and our beauty can never complete us. It is Jesus that we have desired all along and we belong, first and foremost, to Him. If we have move away today from our family and responsibilities or our Lord, let us come right back to it immediately.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Father, you are the ruler of the world and the prince of our hearts. We ask you to bless us and bless our nation, Malaysia which celebrated its Independence Day recently.

Thanksgiving: He shall rule the world with justice and the peoples with his constancy. He is our Lord, yesterday, today and forever.

4 July, Tuesday – Who is that man?

4 July – Memorial for St. Elizabeth of Portugal

Elizabeth (1271-1336) was a princess with a pious upbringing who became Queen of Portugal before she was a teenager. Elizabeth suffered through years of her husband’s abuse and adultery, praying all the while for his conversion, and working with the poor and sick. She rode onto the battlefield to reconcile her family members twice; once between her husband and son when they clashed in civil war, and between her son and his son-in-law years later, preventing bloodshed. This led to her patronage as a peacemaker, and as one invoked in time of war and conflict.

– Patron Saint Index

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Genesis 19:15-29

The angels urged Lot, ‘Come, take your wife and these two daughters of yours, or you will be overwhelmed in the punishment of the town.’ And as he hesitated, the men took him by the hand, and his wife and his two daughters, because of the pity the Lord felt for him. They led him out and left him outside the town.

As they were leading him out he said, ‘Run for your life. Neither look behind you nor stop anywhere on the plain. Make for the hills if you would not be overwhelmed.’ ‘No, I beg you, my lord,’ Lot said to them ‘your servant has won your favour and you have shown great kindness to me in saving my life. But I could not reach the hills before this calamity overtook me, and death with it. The town over there is near enough to flee to, and is a little one. Let me make for that – is it not little? – and my life will be saved.’ He answered, ‘I grant you this favour too, and will not destroy the town you speak of. Hurry, escape to it, for I can do nothing until you reach it.’ That is why the town is named Zoar.

As the sun rose over the land and Lot entered Zoar, the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord. He overthrew these towns and the whole plain, with all the inhabitants of the towns, and everything that grew there. But the wife of Lot looked back, and was turned into a pillar of salt.

Rising early in the morning Abraham went to the place where he had stood before the Lord, and looking towards Sodom and Gomorrah, and across all the plain, he saw the smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.

Thus it was that when God destroyed the towns of the plain, he kept Abraham in mind and rescued Lot out of disaster when he overwhelmed the towns where Lot lived.

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Matthew 8:23-27

Jesus got into the boat followed by his disciples. Without warning a storm broke over the lake, so violent that the waves were breaking right over the boat. But he was asleep. So they went to him and woke him saying, ‘Save us, Lord, we are going down!’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened, you men of little faith?’ And with that he stood up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and all was calm again. The men were astounded and said, ‘Whatever kind of man is this? Even the winds and the sea obey him.’

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… but he was asleep

Don Moen songs say that ‘He never sleeps’, which is quite contrary to today’s gospel. But he was asleep when the boat was swamped by the waves. Today are we disappointed with God? Do we think that He can do much more for us?

One of the great things about love and friendship is to trust that the other person will come through for you. In several occasions I have trusted my friends, like how we used to hang out late into the night, I know that they would do anything to protect me if danger stricks. Even with my colleagues, I know that I can come to work without my wallet and not go hungry, because I know that they would not want to see me hungry and they to trust that I would pay them back the next day. Relationships are based on trust.

Our experience in life may have made it difficult for us to trust others. I once knew 2 loving sisters who would do anything for their friends but they found it hard to trust others and not choosing to trust brought a lot of stress to their relationships.

If today, we have a problem with trust in general, it is quite likely that we are disconnected and not in touch with the essence of what it means to be human.

Jesus is not asleep but really, I wonder what He is doing right now? Is He thinking about me and smilling at me? Is He waiting for me at the Eucharist? Is He holding the hands of the people I have failed? I am only human, I could never guess. But as a Catholic, I know that He loves me and His is my lover and my loving Lord; He adores me and Has great plans for me. Do I need to know more? I trust Him enough to know that He will feed me more than my colleagues can, trust me more than my friends do, accepts me even when I am disappointed with myself and when that is not enough for my restless heart, I will run hastily towards His bosom and even when I cannot go to Him, He will never let me go.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Father, we pray for the people of America as they celebrate their independence day. May they (and we too) continue to trust in You.

Thanksgiving: Lord I run to you, all my hope and trust is in you. Jesu Ufam Tobie.

3 July, Monday – Believe yet not seen

3 July – Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle

Thomas (d. 72) was ready to die with Jesus when Christ went to Jerusalem, but he is best remembered for doubting the Resurrection until allowed to touch Christ’s wounds. He preached in Parthia, Persia and India, though he was so reluctant to start the mission that he had to be taken into slavery by a merchant headed that way.

He eventually gave in to God’s will, was freed, and planted the new Church over a wide area. He formed many parishes and built many churches along the way. An old tradition says that Thomas baptised the wise men from the Nativity into Christianity.

His symbol is the builder’s square. There are several stories that explain it:

  • – he built a palace for King Guduphara in India
  • – he built the first church in India with his own hands
  • – it is representative of building a strong spiritual foundation as he had complete faith in Christ (though initially less in the Resurrection)
  • – he offered to build a palace for an Indian king that would last forever; the king gave him money, which Thomas promptly gave away to the poor; he explained that the palace he was building was in heaven, not on earth.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 2:19-22

You are no longer aliens or foreign visitors: you are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household. You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.

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John 20:24-29

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:

‘You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

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You believe because you can see me

It is interesting that we continue to have faith in the operators of theme parks, sellers of miracle skin care ranges and diet supplements, and even each other. But when it comes to believing God, we can sometimes be sceptical.

While writing this piece, I was trying to find out if the Apostle Thomas ever came to Malaysia, since he was in India. After spending some time researching I wondered why was it so important to me, that one of the apostles of Jesus walked on the same land as I do today. Would I have doubted Jesus’ resurrection like Thomas did?

We are all sinners and yet our perfect God continues to believe in us. We have failed, not kept to His word or ours and yet it is He who chooses to continue believing in us. Why would the Lord of all the earth, whose credibility is spotless and accountability unquestionable, be the object of our doubts? Sometimes it is because we simply lack faith; but sometimes, I think we feel that we are close enough to Jesus that we could ask Him as Thomas did. After journeying with Jesus, Thomas must have really loved Jesus and just as we would sometimes think of our departed loves, Thomas yearned to see His Lord again just once more. In his grief, he could have been disappointed that the others had seen Jesus, but not himself.

If I were in his shoes, I could imagine the pain he would have felt. That the Saviour appears to all his friends except him and the feelings that arose may not be of jealously and envy, but simply because of the deep yearning to see the One he loves. Look at his response, “My Lord and My God.” He did not question Him when they met face to face.

This could be a familiar feeling to some of us when a loved one who lives abroad comes home on a visit. One of my close friends lived abroad for 20 years. We kept in touch, writing letters, phone calls, emails, Skype sessions and sending each other cards for birthdays, Christmas and sometimes just for no occasion at all.  On most of her visits, we got to meet each other at the airport as she stayed at my place. On her more recent visits, it was challenging for us to meet. In her conversations, she would sometimes mention that she met one of our mutual friends and if on her trip home, we had yet to meet, I would yearn just to see her and be in her presence. In anticipation of our face to face meeting we both yearned just to see each other, which is not uncommon among good friends.

In Thomas’ case, he was not just friends with Jesus. He knew that Jesus Christ was his Lord. In that same sense, when we move away from Christ because of our lifestyles or because we stop praying and receiving Holy Communion, there is such a deep longing within us for Him that we feel lost and sometimes we even ache inside.

Today, let us continue to foster this friendship with our Father. Let us ask Him to come and show Himself to us. And when He does (because He surely will) let us embrace His words, His ways and His truth. Let us boldly place our hands in His wounds to address the suffering faced by others around us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Heal our unbelief in You. Lead us to a friendship and total sonship with You that in every situation we would believe, though we have not seen. St Thomas, pray for us.

Thanksgiving: O My Lord and My God, we long for You. Our souls are restless until they rest in You.

2 July, Sunday – Love Unveiling

2 July 2017

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2 Kings 4:8-11, 13-16

One day as Elisha was on his way to Shunem, a woman of rank who lived there pressed him to stay and eat there. After this he always broke his journey for a meal when he passed that way. She said to her husband, ‘Look, I am sure the man wno is constantly passing our way must be a holy man of God. Let us build him a small room on the roof, and put him a bed in it, and a table and chair and lamp; whenever he comes to us he can rest there.’ One day when he came, he retired to the upper room and lay down. He said to his servant Gehazi, ‘Call our Shunammitess. Tell her this: “Look, you have gone to all this trouble for us, what can we do for you? Is there anything you would like said for you to the king or to the commander of the army?”’ But she replied, ‘I live with my own people about me.’ ‘What can be done for her then?’ he asked. Gehazi answered, ‘Well, she has no son and her husband is old.’ Elisha said, ‘Call her.’ The servant called her and she stood at the door. This time next year,’ he said ‘you will hold a son in your arms.’

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Romans 6:3-4, 8-11

When we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death; in other words, when we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.

But we believe that having died with Christ we shall return to life with him: Christ, as we know, having been raised from the dead will never die again. Death has no power over him any more. When he died, he died, once for all, to sin, so his life now is life with God; and in that way, you too must consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.

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Matthew 10:37-42

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.

‘Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.

‘Anyone who welcomes a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes a holy man will have a holy man’s reward.

‘If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.’

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Can something be done for her

In today’s reading, we hear of the woman without a child. In the times of Elisha and even in modern day Malaysia, women are expected to be life-giving by having their own offsprings. Society is rather unforgiving of this and some may utter hurtful words to ladies who do not have children.

God’s favour comes upon the lady in today’s gospel in the form of a son. But that need not be the only way God chooses to bless us – through children. Are we rooted enough to see all His works in our life? Are we able to look beyond the murmuring of people and trust in our Lord?

In the gospel, He clearly says that we are not worthy of Him if we love our children or parents more. This is a tough one for me as I simply adore my parents. Yet I know that God is my primary Father and He is my all in all. In matters of giving him a first class place in my heart, I have to rely on Him; there is no other way.

Recently, there was a brutal murder of a young man in Malaysia. He was 19 and was tortured for hours by his peers. There had been other such cases recently — young people being bullied to death by people they knew. As the investigations unfolded, it was revealed that these children had been bullied before by the same assilants and even other adults knew about it. Why did the other adults not speak up? This could have saved lives. Sadly, many people I spoke with on this admitted that they would not do anything if they saw a child being bullied, simply because the child was not their own.

Children are a gift from God. As adults, we have a duty of care towards any child, even strangers. If people loved God more than they loved their own children, they would have done or said something. Because they would have seen God in the child that was being bullied. The Beautitudes state – “blessed are the meek, they shall inherit the earth.”

My dear sisters and brothers, let us learn to talk when it matters and when it really counts, knowing that, that will not make us empty vessels but rather ones that love God more than we love anyone else. This world desperately needs to see the love of Christ through our words and deeds.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the victims and assailants in the recent bullying cases, also those who have chosen not to act. Be our voice and protector of all danger. St Michael the Archangel, pray for us.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord, for giving us a longing so deep so that we cannot ignore you, the Love or all Loves, you who are Love.

2 May, Tuesday – Jezu Ufam Tobie – Jesus I trust in You

May 2 – Memorial for St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor

Athanasius (c. 295) studied the classics and theology in Alexandria, Egypt. He was a deacon, secretary, and student of Bishop Alexander of Alexandria. He attended the Council of Nicaea in 325, where he fought for the defeat of Arianism and the acceptance of the divinity of Jesus. He formulated the doctrine of homo-ousianism, which says that Christ is the same substance as the Father; Arianism taught that Christ was different and a creation of the Father, a creature and not part of God.

He became Bishop of Alexandria c. 328; he served for 46 years. When the dispute over Arianism spilled over from theology to politics, Athanasius got exiled five times, spending more than a third of his episcopate in exile.

He was the biographer of St. Anthony the Abbot. Confessor of the faith and Doctor of the Church, he fought for the acceptance of the Nicene Creed.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 7:51-8:1

Stephen said to the people, the elders and the scribes: ‘You stubborn people, with your pagan hearts and pagan ears. You are always resisting the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Can you name a single prophet your ancestors never persecuted? In the past they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, and now you have become his betrayers, his murderers. You who had the Law brought to you by angels are the very ones who have not kept it.’

They were infuriated when they heard this, and ground their teeth at him.

But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. ‘I can see heaven thrown open’ he said ‘and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this all the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they all rushed at him, sent him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man called Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and said aloud, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’; and with these words he fell asleep. Saul entirely approved of the killing.

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John 6:30-35

The people said to Jesus, ‘What sign will you give to show us that we should believe in you? What work will you do? Our fathers had manna to eat in the desert; as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’

Jesus answered:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven,
it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven,
the true bread;
for the bread of God
is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.’

‘Sir,’ they said ‘give us that bread always.’ Jesus answered:

‘I am the bread of life.
He who comes to me will never be hungry;
he who believes in me will never thirst.’

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I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Sometimes, we try to intellectualise things overly, by totally ignoring the voices in our heart. We think that it is not humanly possible to withstand hunger and thirst or, taking it further, to think that it is impossible to always trust in God. If you are in that place in your lives or you see that you are approaching it, run back to God. I say run because it has to be immediate and prompt so that any unbelief that you have does not grow. It is our little act of running to Him that can snap out any roots of unbelief.

In today’s reading we read of Saul who consented to the death of St Stephen. Can we trust God that He restores the situations of death which we have consented to?

Trust has become a rare virtue and could be difficult to some of us. But the Lord promises us in today’s gospel that those who believe in Him will never thirst. It is possible that some of us can relate to the time in our lives when we never stopping believing in God, and how that gave us peace and joy despite our hardship. Could we revisit that place of belief and trust in our hearts?

In my life, I am blessed to have been in that place of trusting God, despite my personal suffering. But I could not have done it without reading the scriptures, attending mass and praying fervently. I am not implying that trusting God takes a lot of effort. But rather I have experienced that if I wanted to continue to ensure that I never distrust Him and doubt Him, I have to seek Him fervently in prayers, and have others carry my prayers to the Lord. I know that even to trust Him is a blessing from Him.

When I do not trust Him, I am in shambles, I am lost, broken and troubled. I feel like my life wire has been unplugged. To go on in peace and in joy, I have to ensure that I am connected to Him. Maybe some of you can relate to this? Maybe you cannot. But either way, you and I need to trust in the Lord all the time.

He is not a magician nor a medium but He is the all in all, our everything. Without Him, there is no you and me. Our hunger and thirst for Him can be fulfilled if we continue to walk with Him and at times, race to Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Jesus, my precious Lord, I trust in you. Help me while I run, I walk and I crawl to you, also when I turn my back on you. Free me from living a life without You.

Thanksgiving: Lord, I thank you for the bread from heaven. I thank you for teaching me each time that you are worthy of trust.

1 May, Monday – Beautiful are those who follow His law

May 1 – Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

Joseph (d. 1st century) was a descendant of the House of David. He was a layman, a builder by trade; traditionally a carpenter, but may have been a stone worker. He was the earthly spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the foster and adoptive father of Jesus Christ. He was a visionary who was visited by angels. He was noted for his willingness to immediately get up and do what God had told him to do. He died of natural causes, prior to the Passion of Christ.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 6:8-15

Stephen was filled with grace and power and began to work miracles and great signs among the people. But then certain people came forward to debate with Stephen, some from Cyrene and Alexandria who were members of the synagogue called the Synagogue of Freedmen, and others from Cilicia and Asia. They found they could not get the better of him because of his wisdom, and because it was the Spirit that prompted what he said.

So they procured some men to say, ‘We heard him using blasphemous language against Moses and against God.’ Having in this way turned the people against him as well as the elders and scribes, they took Stephen by surprise, and arrested him and brought him before the Sanhedrin. There they put up false witnesses to say, ‘This man is always making speeches against this Holy Place and the Law. We have heard him say that Jesus the Nazarene is going to destroy this Place and alter the traditions that Moses handed down to us.’

The members of the Sanhedrin all looked intently at Stephen, and his face appeared to them like the face of an angel.

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John 6:22-29

After Jesus had fed the five thousand, his disciples saw him walking on the water. Next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side saw that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that the disciples had set off by themselves. Other boats, however, had put in from Tiberias, near the place where the bread had been eaten. When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into those boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’
Jesus answered:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs
but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.
Do not work for food that cannot last,
but work for food that endures to eternal life,
the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you,
for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.’

Then they said to him, ‘What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?’ Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’

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“Rabbi! When did you get here?

Today’s reading illustrates the splendour of a man filled with the Holy Spirit. I am always in awe when I read about these fervent saints; and that includes St Stephen. And after praying various novenas seeking their intercession, I sometimes feel a little inclined to want to be like these saints. Though very quickly, I feel like running in the other direction to avoid ‘having to live the life of a saint.’ This is, in some sense, like the apostles who seek Jesus but only for their own gain. Why do we seek Jesus today?

Can we seek Him so that we become like Him? Are we ready to be like Him only during the resurrection? Have we forgotten that there is no resurrection without the crucifixion?

The Lord knows that we pick and choose, that sometimes we are half-hearted. Are we ready to turn our hearts to Him, just as it is right now? There are things that He is ready to do for us that only He can do.

How beautiful are the ones who obey his laws and yearn for His will. Brothers and sisters, let us be such as these today.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, heal my heart and ways that are self-seeking. Bless me with the grace to receive your body and blood every Sunday. Ignite me with your love and teach me your ways.

Thanksgiving: Lord, I believe in the one who was sent for me.

30 April, Sunday – Did I not recognise you?

30 Apr – Memorial for St. Pius V, pope

Antonio Ghislieri (1504-1572) was born to impoverished Italian nobility, the son of Paolo Ghislieri and Domenica Augeria. He worked as a shepherd as a boy, and received an excellent education in piety and holiness, including a scholastic education from a Dominican friar. He joined the Order in 1518, taking the name Michele. He studied in Bologna, Italy, and was ordained in 1528 in Genoa.

He was appointed teacher of philosophy and divinity in Genoa, and was a professor of theology in Pavia for 16 years. He was the Master of novices and prior of several Dominican houses, and he worked for stricter adherence to the Order’s rule.

He was an inquisitor in Como and Bergamo, and the commissary general of the Roman Inquisition in 1551. On Sep 4, 1556, he was ordained Bishop of Nepi and Sutri against his will. He was Inquisitor in Milan and Lombary in the same year, and created cardinal on Mar 15 the following year, made Grand Inquisitor on Dec 14, 1558, and was part of the conclave of 1559. He was appointed Bishop of Mondovi, Italy on Mar 17, 1560. As bishop, he worked to lead his flock with words and examples, and served as a continual messenger encouraging personal piety and devotion to God.

He became the 225th pope in 1566, and immediately faced the task of enacting the reforms of the Council of Trent. New seminaries were opened, a new breviary, new missal, and new catechism were published. Foundations were established to spread the faith and preserve the doctrine of the Church. He spent much time personally working with the needy. He built hospitals and used the papal treasury to care for the poor. He faced many difficulties in the public forum, both in the implementation of the Tridentine reforms and interaction with other heads of state. He created 21 cardinals. At the time of his death he was working on a Christian European alliance to break the power of the Islamic states.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 2:14,22-33

On the day of Pentecost Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed the crowd in a loud voice: ‘Men of Israel, listen to what I am going to say: Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God by the miracles and portents and signs that God worked through him when he was among you, as you all know. This man, who was put into your power by the deliberate intention and foreknowledge of God, you took and had crucified by men outside the Law. You killed him, but God raised him to life, freeing him from the pangs of Hades; for it was impossible for him to be held in its power since, as David says of him:

I saw the Lord before me always,
for with him at my right hand nothing can shake me.
So my heart was glad
and my tongue cried out with joy;
my body, too, will rest in the hope
that you will not abandon my soul to Hades
nor allow your holy one to experience corruption.
You have made known the way of life to me,
you will fill me with gladness through your presence.

‘Brothers, no one can deny that the patriarch David himself is dead and buried: his tomb is still with us. But since he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn him an oath to make one of his descendants succeed him on the throne, what he foresaw and spoke about was the resurrection of the Christ: he is the one who was not abandoned to Hades, and whose body did not experience corruption. God raised this man Jesus to life, and all of us are witnesses to that. Now raised to the heights by God’s right hand, he has received from the Father the Holy Spirit, who was promised, and what you see and hear is the outpouring of that Spirit.’

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1 Peter 1:17-21

If you are acknowledging as your Father one who has no favourites and judges everyone according to what he has done, you must be scrupulously careful as long as you are living away from your home. Remember, the ransom that was paid to free you from the useless way of life your ancestors handed down was not paid in anything corruptible, neither in silver nor gold, but in the precious blood of a lamb without spot or stain, namely Christ; who, though known since before the world was made, has been revealed only in our time, the end of the ages, for your sake. Through him you now have faith in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory for that very reason – so that you would have faith and hope in God.

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Luke 24:13-35

Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.

Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’

Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.

When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’

They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.

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Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”

In the past few days, I wondered what was making my heart burn. I was fully aware of how I let myself and my self-worth stand on the words and deeds of others. It made me realise that when I allow myself to be consumed by the works and words of mere men, I am setting myself up for disappointment and, more importantly, creating room for drifting from my Lord. I have no doubt that I was made for Him and that without Him I am not just nothing, I am definitely not me. Do you, like me, give room for the words of others to take hold in your life? Are you holding on to words of hurt, sin and anger? Isn’t this the time to ask the Lord to take His rightful place, right at the centre of our lives and our hearts?

I was recently reading an article written by a man who faces same sex attraction. In his sharing, he said that his ways were bad and God knew it; but He kept praying even though he continued to be attracted to men. He shares that it’s because God knew his heart and knew that he wanted to be attracted to women so that he could be immoral like most men he knew. He realised that God was interested in his heart and wanted to make it right first and foremost – to want God above everything. We could have been there, praying for something and waiting in vain with our unanswered prayers. It can be hard, it can hurt and be painful. What are we called to do here? We are asked to look to Him, to help us carry this cross with faith. And despite a horrendous burden on our backs, to help our sisters and brother carry their cross – this is the call of Christianity.

We need to constantly let our hearts burn with the Scriptures, sacraments and devotions. Give Him your whole heart, let Him mould it, heal it, guard it and fill it in the way we need it to be filled. Only He can and knows how to do it. Trust in Him to inflame your heart and recognise His gentle presence.

I will be praying for you at mass today, that He inflames your heart for the rest of your days.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, show us your path, let us hear your voice. We are desperate for you.

Thanksgiving: My lips and my hearts will sing of your praises.

28 February, Sacrifices of My Heart

28 February 2017

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First reading
Ecclesiasticus 35:2-15

A man multiplies offerings by keeping the Law;
he offers communion sacrifices by following the commandments.
By showing gratitude he makes an offering of fine flour,
by giving alms he offers a sacrifice of praise.
Withdraw from wickedness and the Lord will be pleased,
withdraw from injustice and you make atonement.
Do not appear empty-handed in the Lord’s presence;
for all these things are due under the commandment.
A virtuous man’s offering graces the altar,
and its savour rises before the Most High.
A virtuous man’s sacrifice is acceptable,
its memorial will not be forgotten.
Honour the Lord with generosity,
do not stint the first-fruits you bring.
Add a smiling face to all your gifts,
and be cheerful as you dedicate your tithes.
Give to the Most High as he has given to you,
generously as your means can afford;
for the Lord is a good rewarder,
he will reward you seven times over.
Offer him no bribe, he will not accept it,
do not put your faith in an unvirtuous sacrifice;
since the Lord is a judge
who is no respecter of personages.

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Mark 10:28-31

‘What about us?’ Peter asked Jesus. ‘We have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.

‘Many who are first will be last, and the last first.’

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Receive a hundred times more now in this present age

In today’s reading the God promises that we will receive blessings in a hundredfold. This was similar to a promise He made in Mark 9:1 “I tell you solemnly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God comes to power.”

Do we believe that God is talking to us and offering this promise to us? Are we being evasive and wondering that He must be talking to some self-righteous dude, someone holy and almost saintly? Let us deny that way of thinking!

Let us get it right from this day forward, that our God (my God) does not have favourites and he will repay you sevenfold. As our Father, He teaches us to pay within our means and with joy, to be generous, to refrain from evil and not to bribe. How have we fared as obedient children to our loving Father?

In my walk of life, I know that God is asking me to be calm and patient, revealing areas that are challenging to me. This is my challenge especially when I feel the need to stand up for myself. Some well-meaning friends told me, use these situations for the glory of God. Yes how true and my failure to do so reminds me that I am weak and I am relying on my Father to rescue me.

Who would be relying on today? Is it an astrologer, our doctors, our bosses, our teachers or even our parents and spouses? My strength is in the Lord. When everyone is bound to fail, my Lord remains steadfast and constant. He promises to bless you and me a hundredfold and repay us sevenfold, He is at work right now. We sometimes may not be plugged into the right network, help us Lord to disconnect from all false networks so we get the see the strength of your ‘signal’.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord break down these walls, break all my fears, I am here ready to receive from your blessings.

Thanksgiving: Your amazing love has captured me, all the days of my life I will sing of your praises.

18 October, Tuesday – No excess baggage

18 October – Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist

Luke (d. 74) was born to pagan Greek parents, and possibly a slave. He was one of the earliest converts, and a physician studying in Antioch and Tarsus. He probably travelled as a ship’s doctor, and many charitable societies of physicians are named after him. Legend has that he was also a painter who may have done portraits of Jesus and Mary, but none have ever been correctly or definitively attributed to him; this story, and the inspiration his Gospel has always given artists, led to his patronage of them.

He met St. Paul at Troas, and evangelised Greece and Rome with him, being there for the shipwreck and other perils of the voyage to Rome, and stayed in Rome for Paul’s two years in prison. He wrote the Gospel According to Luke, much of which was based on the teachings and writings of Paul, interviews with early Christians, and his own experiences. He also wrote a history of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles. He was likely to have been martyred for his faith.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Timothy 4:10-17

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

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

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Luke 10:1-9

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

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Peace to this household

Would you go on a journey without a change of clothes and money? Imagine the freedom of not having to pack or unpack nor having to lug along a heavy piece of luggage to the airport – that can sure sound refreshing to some of us.

Some of us are all too familiar with the meaning of excess baggage – of dragging along items in our lives which we do not need anymore — hoarding ill feelings, unforgiveness, hurt, anger, resentment and even unrequited love. It is sensible for us to realise what sort of baggage we still carry. Just as car which is overloaded with things consumes more fuel, a part of us works extra hard to carry the burden that is no longer ours to bear. What baggage do we carry today which you can check in to God?

On my recent pilgrimage to Poland for World Youth Day, I was under the impression that I travelled light. I carried 4 t-shirts, 2 pants, a light jacket, clothes for our performances and my prayer books and bible as well as souvenirs. It was easy to handle my luggage and there was still room for the other material we received there. I felt liberated to carry a bag which I could handle. One of the other things that I had to do was to apply for 15 days of annual leave, leaving me with 3 days of leave from August to the end of the year.

In September, my dad feel ill. There were days when I could not follow him for doctor’s appointments or even send my parents to the hospital. While he was hospitalised, my mum had to take a cab each morning from my house to visit him. I found myself in a constant dilemma about how best to utilise the 3 days of leave. The guilt was eating me when I could only take time off work; when I would rather be by his bedside or even to be around and talk to the doctors. I was desperately wishing that I had not gone for World Youth Day. Over the 3 weeks of hospital visits and doctor’s appointment, I started realising that I had to learn to lean on God, to send us the right person or the solution to fulfil my needs. It was then that I realised that those few weeks were not so stressful at work and I managed to take time off, as and when required. Thankfully, my other family members were around for my parents on the days that I could not.

My pilgrimage was an experience of mercy and peace and during my dad’s illness, everything seemed like it was swept away. But I realised His peace remained and so did His mercy. The only change was my perception.

As members of the International Centre of Evangelisation at World Youth Day, we were reaching out to so many people. On a daily basis, my group would be out in the streets handing out leaflets on our faith, talking to people and praying with and for them. It is not much different from what the 72 did in today’s gospel. We ate the food that was served as I had run out of funds and walked endlessly although most of us travelled by car everywhere on a daily basis. Was it too big a price to pay for the salvation of others? This cannot be the case.

What is God asking of you today, so that you bring His peace to others? What is He asking us to check in at His counter of mercy, the mercy which He offers in equal measure to both you and your trespassers. Are you convinced of His blessings in your life? Do you believe that you are made an instrument of His peace and mercy to a world who knows you and not Him?

How can you be like the faithful 72 disciples he sent out, today and for the rest of your life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

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Prayer: Lord help me to trust in you, believe in your providence and be always aware that I can expect it. Mary, let me never lose my God. St Luke, pray for us and all the doctors who treat us.

Thanksgiving: Lord I thank you for your peace and mercy. I will pass it on.