Tag Archives: living in faith

19 March, Monday – Eeny, Meenie, Miney, Mo

19 March – Solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Joseph is a descendant of the house of David. A layman and a carpenter, he was the earthly spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and foster and adoptive father of Jesus Christ. He was a visionary who was visited by angels, and is noted for his willingness to immediately get up and do what God told him.

Prayer to St. Joseph

Blessed Joseph, husband of Mary, be with us this day.
You protected and cherished the Virgin;
loving the Child Jesus as your Son,
you rescued Him from the danger of death.
Defend the Church, the household of God,
purchased by the blood of Christ.

Guardian of the Holy Family,
be with us in our trials.
May your prayers obtain for us
the strength to flee from error
and wrestle with the powers of corruption
so that in life we may grow in holiness
and in death rejoice in the crown of victory. Amen.

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2 Samuel 7:4-5,12-14,16

The word of the Lord came to Nathan:
‘Go and tell my servant David, “Thus the Lord speaks: “When your days are ended and you are laid to rest with your ancestors, I will preserve the offspring of your body after you and make his sovereignty secure. (It is he who shall build a house for my name, and I will make his royal throne secure for ever.) I will be a father to him and he a son to me; if he does evil, I will punish him with the rod such as men use, with strokes such as mankind gives. Yet I will not withdraw my favour from him, as I withdrew it from your predecessor. Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me and your throne be established for ever.”’

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Romans 4:13,16-18,22

The promise of inheriting the world was not made to Abraham and his descendants on account of any law but on account of the righteousness which consists in faith. That is why what fulfils the promise depends on faith, so that it may be a free gift and be available to all of Abraham’s descendants, not only those who belong to the Law but also those who belong to the faith of Abraham who is the father of all of us. As scripture says: I have made you the ancestor of many nations – Abraham is our father in the eyes of God, in whom he put his faith, and who brings the dead to life and calls into being what does not exist.

Though it seemed Abraham’s hope could not be fulfilled, he hoped and he believed, and through doing so he did become the father of many nations exactly as he had been promised: Your descendants will be as many as the stars. This is the faith that was ‘considered as justifying him.’

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Matthew 1:16,18-21,24

Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary; of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.

This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do.

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“She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus.”

 St. Joseph is never referred to as the guardian, or the father of Jesus. Being more often known as the husband of Mary, he lived a life of humility and service, supporting God’s plan while working tirelessly outside of the limelight. I empathized with him, as he wrestled with the news of how the birth of Jesus would forever change his life, regardless of his response. He could either have stood by Mary’s side and fulfilled his duties as a husband, or he could have walked away and started afresh.

Sometimes God entrusts us with responsibilities that we may not want to undertake. These duties fill us with fear and anxiety, and make us question our worthiness to live up to grand expectations perpetuated by society, and ourselves. In today’s ‘empowered’ world where the ability to make our own choices is held so dearly, we wrestle with the constant dilemma of choosing to live for God wholeheartedly, to live the life that we tweak and adjust so that it seems like we are living in accordance to God’s will, or to dive completely into the mission that God tasks us with.

But is the choice really one between similar outcomes? I’ve been guilty of making ‘good’ choices, only to feel a deep sense of restlessness that only subsides once I tweak my original plan. I have also made choices after much prayer and reflection, only to still have to face God’s silence, as I work through the consequences of my actions while managing the uncertainty that still lingers for a long time after. Choice, it would seem, is just the beginning of a pact we make with God and ourselves.

Our loving God not only grants us the wisdom to make choices out of our own free will, but he also empowers us to follow-through on those choices in spite of the fog of confusion or doubt that is along that path. It is the beauty of the relentless cycle of choices being presented, discerning and praying before choosing, and leaning on God as we work through the consequences of our actions, that make the Christian life so rigorous, and comforting. The simplicity and difficulty of this cycle, help us to plant deep roots into the rich field of our earthly life so that no storm or tempest could ever sway us beyond our limits.

St. Joseph made his choice all those years ago and his legacy is something that we give thanks for everyday. Fellow journeyers in Christ, how will the choices you make today leave a legacy that would be pleasing to God?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we ask you to reveal your plan for our life’s vocation, and to give us the courage to do whatever it takes to answer your call.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for the quiet workers in our lives. With gratitude, we praise you for the giants on whose shoulders we stand.

18 March, Saturday – Grace: God’s gift

18 Mar – Memorial for St. Cyril of Jerusalem, bishop and doctor

Cyril (315-386) was raised a Christian in Jerusalem. He was well-educated, especially in religion. He was ordained a priest by St. Maximus, and was a great instructor of catechumens. His instructions are still source documents for the Church’s early teachings. He became Bishop of Jerusalem in 348. He was exiled three times by the Arians, usually on some trumped up charge like selling church furniture, but actually on theological grounds. He attended the Council of Seleucia in 359, and the Council of Constantinople in 381. He is a Greek Father of the Church, and a Doctor of the Church.

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Micah 7:14-15,18-20

With shepherd’s crook, O Lord, lead your people to pasture,
the flock that is your heritage,
living confined in a forest
with meadow land all around.
Let them pasture in Bashan and Gilead
as in the days of old.
As in the days when you came out of Egypt
grant us to see wonders.

What god can compare with you: taking fault away,
pardoning crime,
not cherishing anger for ever
but delighting in showing mercy?
Once more have pity on us,
tread down our faults,
to the bottom of the sea
throw all our sins.

Grant Jacob your faithfulness,
and Abraham your mercy,
as you swore to our fathers
from the days of long ago.

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Gospel
Luke 15:1-3,11-32

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.

‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.

‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.
‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”

‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”’

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“… all I have is yours”

The story of the Prodigal Son is a well-known parable and is always shared and reflected upon. Many of us identify so much with the younger son and with his repentance, turning back to his father after a long period of debauchery and licentiousness.

We read about the father’s love for his son, who upon hearing of the latter’s return, ordered his servants to slaughter the calf in celebration.

In recent years, however, the story of the elder son has been foremost on my mind.  It is in his story that has really given me a better understanding of God’s kingdom.

I imagined myself in his position, working hard for his father.  In my mind, in a similar situation, I would have thought that I would stand to inherit everything, especially after how my younger brother had demanded for, and received, his share of the inheritance. Whatever I work hard for would ultimately be for myself!

I can commiserate with him when he then saw his brother receive the kind of treatment he did upon his return. All his work and dedication had been for nothing, and he must have felt less important than his brother.

And yet, when we reflect on this passage, we understand when we remember that God’s grace is given and not earned. In the older son’s story, he had earned and deserved his position. It wasn’t fair that his brother could still come back to a good life! On the other hand, God’s grace is a gift that no amount of ‘work’ on our part gives us a right to!

I teach Catechism to primary school level children and even at such a young age, they express the view that they cannot sin, so that they can go to heaven. These children consistently share the view that we need to always work hard (either doing good or not doing bad) in order to earn the right to heaven.  This is ‘elder son’ thinking!

We need to remember that our place in heaven is assured and that while we still need to do good, this desire should stem from God’s love in us and not the desire to earn something out of it. Thank goodness for this, for if a meritocracy-based approach were applied, so many of us would fail miserably!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father, help us to always remember that your love for us is infinite and that our place in heaven is a gift given by you. Help us to do good because of your love for us, and that no matter what we do, we could never hope to earn our place by your side.

Thanksgiving – Thank You Father God, for loving us and for sending your son Jesus to die for our sins and to be a bridge back to you.

17 March, Friday – Living Responsible Lives

17 Mar – Memorial for St. Patrick, bishop

St. Patrick (387-390 – 461-464) was kidnapped from the British mainland when he was about 16, and shipped to Ireland as a slave. He was sent to the mountains as a shepherd, and spent his time in prayer. After six years of this life, he had a dream in which he was commanded to return to Britain. Seeing it as a sign, he escaped.

He studied in several monasteries in Europe. He was a priest, then a bishop. He was sent by Pope St. Celestine to evangelize England, then Ireland, during which his chariot driver was St. Odran, and St. Jarlath was one of his spiritual students.

In 33 years, he effectively converted Ireland. In the Middle Ages, Ireland become known as the ‘Land of Saints’, and during the Dark Ages, its monasteries were the great repositories of learning in Europe, all a consequence of Patrick’s ministry.

Christ shield me this day:
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me

– Saint Patrick, from his breastplate

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Genesis 37:3-4,12-13,17-28

Israel loved Joseph more than all his other sons, for he was the son of his old age, and he had a coat with long sleeves made for him. But his brothers, seeing how his father loved him more than all his other sons, came to hate him so much that they could not say a civil word to him.
His brothers went to pasture their father’s flock at Shechem. Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘Are not your brothers with the flock at Shechem? Come, I am going to send you to them.’ So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.

They saw him in the distance, and before he reached them they made a plot among themselves to put him to death. ‘Here comes the man of dreams’ they said to one another. ‘Come on, let us kill him and throw him into some well; we can say that a wild beast devoured him. Then we shall see what becomes of his dreams.’
But Reuben heard, and he saved him from their violence. ‘We must not take his life’ he said. ‘Shed no blood,’ said Reuben to them ‘throw him into this well in the wilderness, but do not lay violent hands on him’ – intending to save him from them and to restore him to his father. So, when Joseph reached his brothers, they pulled off his coat, the coat with long sleeves that he was wearing, and catching hold of him they threw him into the well, an empty well with no water in it. They then sat down to eat.

Looking up they saw a group of Ishmaelites who were coming from Gilead, their camels laden with gum, tragacanth, balsam and resin, which they were taking down into Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, ‘What do we gain by killing our brother and covering up his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, but let us not do any harm to him. After all, he is our brother, and our own flesh.’ His brothers agreed.

Now some Midianite merchants were passing, and they drew Joseph up out of the well. They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty silver pieces, and these men took Joseph to Egypt.

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Matthew 21:33-43,45-46

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad. When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son” he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance.” So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They answered, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:

It was the stone rejected by the builders
that became the keystone.
This was the Lord’s doing
and it is wonderful to see?

‘I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.’

When they heard his parables, the chief priests and the scribes realised he was speaking about them, but though they would have liked to arrest him they were afraid of the crowds, who looked on him as a prophet.

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“This was the Lord’s doing and it is wonderful to see”

As a parent, we often cringe when we see our children make decisions which we think may not be correct. We jump in, trying hard to guide them into making right ones, cajoling, encouraging and sometimes even threatening them; then sit back when they see the folly of their potentially (wrong) decisions.

Yet, it is not possible to do so, especially when they become older. Many times, they will willfully disregard your counsel and insist on their ways. For the ‘tiger parents’ among us, this would probably end up in very robust confrontations and fights. How difficult it is being parents!

What struck me about today’s gospel is that we have a God who does not do that. Whatever our decision and thoughts, God’s voice comes in a whisper through the Holy Spirit and we are free to do whatever we decide, guided by our conscience.

Another thing that struck me was in the first reading, which relates how Joseph came to be sold into slavery into Egypt.

Beginning as a slave, Joseph ended up becoming a very powerful man in Egypt, second only to the Pharoah. He certainly did not have the smoothest of paths getting there. He did not have vast riches in the beginning and had to endure many hardships.

Similarly, doing God’s will does not ensure that everything will be given us automatically. Success does not mean that God would give us vast amounts of wealth and power. Success should not equate to a smooth road, and it does not mean that without these, we are not blessed by Him.

Let us pray to our Father God, that we would always be open to His guidance and gentle cajoling, and that whatever our circumstances, we have been given the gift of eternal life. Whatever station we find ourselves in life, we must remember that we are blessed with His love.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Lord, help us to believe and depend on You completely. We pray that we will exercise our free will responsibly and with love.

ThanksgivingThank you Father, for allowing us to make our own choices. Thank you for being there, whatever the circumstances, as You were there with Joseph as he lived his life in slavery.

12 March, Sunday – Faith-Driven Action

12 March 2017

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Genesis 12:1-4

The Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name so famous that it will be used as a blessing.

‘I will bless those who bless you:
I will curse those who slight you.
All the tribes of the earth
shall bless themselves by you.’

So Abram went as the Lord told him.

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2 Timothy 1:8-10

With me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy – not because of anything we ourselves have done but for his own purpose and by his own grace. This grace had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time, but it has only been revealed by the Appearing of our saviour Christ Jesus. He abolished death, and he has proclaimed life and immortality through the Good News.

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Matthew 17:1-9

Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone. There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them; they were talking with him. Then Peter spoke to Jesus. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’

He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and from the cloud there came a voice which said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.’ When they heard this the disciples fell on their faces overcome with fear. But Jesus came up and touched them. ‘Stand up,’ he said ‘do not be afraid.’ And when they raised their eyes they saw no one but only Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain Jesus gave them this order, ‘Tell no one about the vision until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.’

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“So Abram went as the Lord told him”

I first started going to church in my late teens and joined the choir.  I found that I really enjoyed singing and had been told I had a good singing voice.  I also learned to play the guitar and was progressing well.  A priest, who shall remain unnamed, thought I had what it took to join the church’s music ministry.

I felt really happy to have been ‘selected’, and I had, indeed, planned to go try out for a spot. Days turned to weeks, weeks to months and months to years, and I ended up not going for the auditions. All good intentions remained only that, only intentions.

Fast forward to today, and my daughter is at the age I was when I first discovered I enjoyed singing.  Her passion, however, is with musicals and plays.  She knows the histories and backstories of the different musicals. She knows about the actors and actresses, which troupes they worked with and what roles they were best in.  Before I knew it, she had signed up to volunteer with a professional theatre company and had thrown herself headlong into her passion.

In the first reading of today, Abram was asked by God to leave his country, father’s home and his own family. What a big ask! Imagine that! Abram had no detailed plans from God; he didn’t know where to go and what exactly was going to happen to him. Yes, despite this, Abram did as he was told. All he had was faith and his willingness to act on God’s promptings and instructions.

Today’s readings tell that He needs us to take action when we receive His promptings. Without us taking the first step, God would not be able to work through us, nor for us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father God, we pray that we will always have courage to act on Your promptings. Give us strength O God.

ThanksgivingThank You, Father God, for always sending Your Spirit to be there with us. Thank you for blessing us always with Your love and constant guidance and protection.

9 March, Thursday – In God we Trust

9 Mar – Memorial for St. Frances of Rome, religious

St. Frances (1384-1440) was an aristocrat by birth. She married at the age of 12, and her marriage lasted 40 years. She was a mother of three before becoming a widow. She joined the Benedictines, and was the foundress of the ‘Oblates of the Tor de’ Specchi’ (Collatines). She is said to have been guided by an archangel only she could see. She spent her life and fortune, both as a laywoman and a religious, in the service of the sick and the poor, including the founding of the first home in Rome for abandoned children. She dictated 97 ‘Visions’, in which she saw the many pains of Hell.

On her feast day, priests bless cars due to her patronage of cars and drivers. Frances certainly never drove, but legend says that when she went abroad at night, her guardian angel went before her lighting the road with a headlight-live lantern, keeping her safe in her travels.

Prayer to St. Frances

Dear Frances, you were an exemplary wife, ever faithful to your husband. After his death, you founded and governed the Congregation of Mount Olivet, revealing your great devotion to our Lord’s Passion. Your faith in Angels was rewarded by frequent visions of them. Please pray for Catholics in our day that they may be as dedicated to God as you were. Amen.

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Esther 4:17

Queen Esther took refuge with the Lord in the mortal peril which had overtaken her. She besought the Lord God of Israel in these words:

‘My Lord, our King, the only one,
come to my help, for I am alone
and have no helper but you
and am about to take my life in my hands.

‘I have been taught from my earliest years, in the bosom of my family,
that you, Lord, chose
Israel out of all the nations
and our ancestors out of all the people of old times
to be your heritage for ever;
and that you have treated them as you promised.

‘Remember, Lord; reveal yourself
in the time of our distress.

‘As for me, give me courage,
King of gods and master of all power.
Put persuasive words into my mouth
when I face the lion;
change his feeling into hatred for our enemy,
that the latter and all like him may be brought to their end.

‘As for ourselves, save us by your hand,
and come to my help, for I am alone
and have no one but you, Lord.’

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Matthew 7:7-12

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. Is there a man among you who would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or would hand him a snake when he asked for a fish? If you, then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
‘So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.’

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Remember Lord; reveal yourself in the time of our distress.

I have been asked where God is in our lives during the moments where we are down, or going through a difficult patch in our lives. We face various challenges at work or at home and sometimes, all these come along together to make our lives seemingly unbearable. Yet the readings of today remind us that God always hears our prayers; though his response to us may not be in our desired manner.

Esther was facing a situation where the Jews were about to be eliminated because of the evil plot of Haman. She knew that it fell upon her to become the person to speak up for the entire Jewish race and she did indeed go about doing so, at risk to her personal life. It is her strong faith in God which allowed her to continue with what she needed to do. Having faith in God is important because it allows us to entrust to the good Lord all the issues which we are struggling with.

Jesus reminds us that the Heavenly Father wants the best of us. We may not be able to see it in our lives but when we look back, the various events which have occurred in our lives which have brought us to where we are, is a possible opportunity for us to trust God to make a decision which will be in line with His plans. Let us now take this opportunity to enter into a deep reflection and converse with God on what He wants for us, and grant us the strength to accept the plans He has for us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear God, we pray for strength to accept your will for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who show us what it means to give up everything for God.

6 March, Monday – Purpose of our Lives

6 March 2017

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Leviticus 19:1-2,11-18

The Lord spoke to Moses. He said: ‘Speak to the whole community of the sons of Israel and say to them:

‘“Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.
‘“You must not steal nor deal deceitfully or fraudulently with your neighbour. You must not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God. I am the Lord. You must not exploit or rob your neighbour. You must not keep back the labourer’s wage until next morning. You must not curse the dumb, nor put an obstacle in the blind man’s way, but you must fear your God. I am the Lord.

‘“You must not be guilty of unjust verdicts. You must neither be partial to the little man nor overawed by the great; you must pass judgement on your neighbour according to justice. You must not slander your own people, and you must not jeopardise your neighbour’s life. I am the Lord. You must not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. You must openly tell him, your neighbour, of his offence; this way you will not take a sin upon yourself. You must not exact vengeance, nor must you bear a grudge against the children of your people. You must love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”’

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Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

‘Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

‘Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?” Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.”

‘And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’

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In so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.

I once overheard a question being asked on the bus, “What do you see in him? There is nothing in him which is worth knowing and befriending.” We live in a world where people judge and assess us on the basis of our material outcomes and status. Indeed, it does appear that all these external appearances are the ones which people assess and judge us on; which is why we decide to do things to improve this part of our life. The readings of today remind us that we should not do so but instead focus on the human person for who he is – a fellow child of God.

The first reading of today is all about instructions on how to ensure that our neighbour is given a just response to a world where might is right. Indeed it may appear that there are many laws being enacted to make it cumbersome for us to live our lives, but I believe that the basis of the commandments can be summarised in the last verse where God calls us to love our neighbour. This commandment is easy to hear but it is difficult to live out. Indeed, I believe that if we all bothered to abide by this for half of the time when we meet others, the world will indeed become a better place.

Jesus asks that we bear the joy of knowing the Gospel to all around us. We need to realise that Christianity is a practical religion which demands that our Faith be put into action towards our neighbours. Our lives are meant to be a witness to the people around us. A witness can stand up to the scrutiny of others because he is very clear of the Truth in His heart. We need to communicate to God daily in prayer and to discover what it means to remain faithful to him. This may entail the stripping away of all things that shackle us from enjoying true freedom to live as a child worthy of Christ. It may be painful but I believe that it will be a worthwhile process which will see us grow deeper in Christ.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that you allow us to be open to your promptings and put our Faith in action.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who are Spiritual Directors.

20 February, Monday – Faith & Prayer

20 February 2017

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Ecclesiasticus 1:1-10

All wisdom is from the Lord,
and it is his own for ever.
The sand of the sea and the raindrops,
and the days of eternity, who can assess them?
The height of the sky and the breadth of the earth,
and the depth of the abyss, who can probe them?
Before all other things wisdom was created,
shrewd understanding is everlasting.
For whom has the root of wisdom ever been uncovered?
Her resourceful ways, who knows them?
One only is wise, terrible indeed,
seated on his throne, the Lord.
He himself has created her, looked on her and assessed her,
and poured her out on all his works
to be with all mankind as his gift,
and he conveyed her to those who love him.

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Mark 9:14-29

When Jesus, with Peter, James and John came down from the mountain and rejoined the disciples, they saw a large crowd round them and some scribes arguing with them. The moment they saw him the whole crowd were struck with amazement and ran to greet him. ‘What are you arguing about with them?’ he asked.

A man answered him from the crowd, ‘Master, I have brought my son to you; there is a spirit of dumbness in him, and when it takes hold of him it throws him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and goes rigid. And I asked your disciples to cast it out and they were unable to.’ ‘You faithless generation’ he said to them in reply. ‘How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.’

They brought the boy to him, and as soon as the spirit saw Jesus it threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell to the ground and lay writhing there, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ ‘From childhood,’ he replied ‘and it has often thrown him into the fire and into the water, in order to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.’ ‘If you can?’ retorted Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for anyone who has faith.’

Immediately the father of the boy cried out, ‘I do have faith. Help the little faith I have!’ And when Jesus saw how many people were pressing round him, he rebuked the unclean spirit. ‘Deaf and dumb spirit,’ he said ‘I command you: come out of him and never enter him again.’ Then throwing the boy into violent convulsions it came out shouting, and the boy lay there so like a corpse that most of them said, ‘He is dead.’ But

Jesus took him by the hand and helped him up, and he was able to stand. When he had gone indoors his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why were we unable to cast it out?’ ‘This is the kind’ he answered ‘that can only be driven out by prayer.’

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“I do have faith. Help the little faith I have!”

The last line of today’s Gospel kind of struck me the most. “This is the kind,” he answered “that can only be driven out by prayer”. The reality is that most of us tend to rely on our own strengths. Moving in this direction, we tend to prevent Christ from working through us. Hence it is us who heal, it is our effort, it is our session…

Usually we will then only turn to prayer after we have exhausted trying everything we know. We hear prayers like “Lord, I don’t know what to do anymore, I’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work”. We treat God as our last resort but the only one who loses out is ourselves, if we don’t trust Him enough to offer our work and lives to Him, we probably won’t be able to see His hand in our lives daily.

We forget whose work we are doing, using our strengths, it’s also normal for us to seek the recognition and appreciation for OUR work. But we know that the best outcome is when we prepare all we can, to the best of our abilities and allow God to work through us, to use our gifts and talents to glorify HIS name.

Faith isn’t about the results/outcomes, it’s the process, the journey. It’s the patience, the perseverance and really about wisdom, to see through the lenses of faith. Faith doesn’t remove the obstacles, it helps us to overcome them. When we pray, our faith strengthens and when our faith strengthens, we pray.

Let us make Christ not only our priority but our everything. He lives in us and we will be able to do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to learn to trust, to grow in faith. To see your hand moving in my life, for the wisdom to discern. Help me persevere when things aren’t going my way, because maybe they are going Your way.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always being there and being available to us. Thank you for allowing us to turn to you even when we place you as our last resort at times. Thank you for my faith!

13 February, Monday – Show me the way

13 February 2017

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Genesis 4:1-15,25

The man had intercourse with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. ‘I have acquired a man with the help of the Lord’ she said. She gave birth to a second child, Abel, the brother of Cain. Now Abel became a shepherd and kept flocks, while Cain tilled the soil. Time passed and Cain brought some of the produce of the soil as an offering for the Lord, while Abel for his part brought the first-born of his flock and some of their fat as well.

The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering. But he did not look with favour on Cain and his offering, and Cain was very angry and downcast. The Lord asked Cain, ‘Why are you angry and downcast? If you are well disposed, ought you not to lift up your head? But if you are ill disposed, is not sin at the door like a crouching beast hungering for you, which you must master?’

Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let us go out’; and while they were in the open country, Cain set on his brother Abel and killed him.
The Lord asked Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ ‘I do not know’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s guardian?’ ‘What have you done?’ the Lord asked. ‘Listen to the sound of your brother’s blood, crying out to me from the ground. Now be accursed and driven from the ground that has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood at your hands. When you till the ground it shall no longer yield you any of its produce. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer over the earth.’

Then Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear. See! Today you drive me from this ground. I must hide from you, and be a fugitive and a wanderer over the earth. Why, whoever comes across me will kill me!’ ‘Very well, then,’ the Lord replied ‘if anyone kills Cain, sevenfold vengeance shall be taken for him.’ So the Lord put a mark on Cain, to prevent whoever might come across him from striking him down.

Adam had intercourse with his wife, and she gave birth to a son whom she named Seth, ‘because God has granted me other offspring’ she said ‘in place of Abel, since Cain has killed him.’

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Mark 8:11-13

The Pharisees came up and started a discussion with Jesus; they demanded of him a sign from heaven, to test him. And with a sigh that came straight from the heart he said, ‘Why does this generation demand a sign? I tell you solemnly, no sign shall be given to this generation.’ And leaving them again and re-embarking, he went away to the opposite shore.

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“…no sign shall be given to this generation.”

Everyone who embarks on a journey relies on signposts to help guide them towards their destination. Most signs are informative and helpful, while there are some which signal some danger ahead and provide us with a warning to either slow down or avoid the road ahead.

There have been many signs recently that the world is changing rapidly and that it is getting harder and harder to plan for the journey ahead. I am sure most of us have heard that often used line “The only constant is change”. Some welcome this and thrive, while many others tend to look for some sort of ‘comfort zone’ or – a road with clear signs that point the way forward. I find that quite true of my younger staff because few have the gumption nor fortitude to ‘tough it out’ and just venture into the unknown without some reassurance of a favourable outcome.

So when Jesus tells the Pharisees that ‘no sign will be given to this generation’, I can relate to His sense of frustration. For me, everyone needs to plan his or her own route and take responsibility for his or her decisions. For that is what God has given us, the free will to choose which road to take as we journey along in life. Because if we were to rely on someone to always show us the way, I am not sure if that person could say truthfully that he or she lived a full life.

I never had the benefit of a mentor or coach as I started my career journey 27 years ago. Everything was learnt on the job and through trial and error. These days, I find myself having to coach and cajole, sometimes even becoming a personal cheerleader to some of my younger staff just to get them going. In doing so, I realise that for so long, even as I made my own choices in life, there has indeed been a cheerleader and ‘coach’ supporting me through my good and bad decisions. And while he may not have given me any signs, he was certainly there standing at the various forks in the road as I pondered hard and took my tentative steps forward.

Ultimately, whatever decisions I’ve taken on this rather circuitous and winding road, God has always been there for me. And as I look ahead, I am beginning to see a rather straight road in front of me, with hardly any side streets to worry about. For me, the destination is clear. All I need to be wary of are the potholes and the odd diversion along the way.

Brothers and sisters, I am quite sure you will agree that whatever road we are on at this point, there shouldn’t be much need for any signs if we are clear about our final destination. All we need to do is to keep our eyes fixed on the goal, and let God lead us to Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: We pray Lord, that you will always be our compass and guide us back to you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for carrying us through our ups and downs, and for straightening the road ahead for us whenever we lean on you.

24 January, Tuesday – Sitting with foes

24 Jan – Memorial for St. Francis de Sales, bishop and doctor of the Church

St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) was born in a castle to a well-placed family. His parents intended him to become a lawyer, enter politics, and carry on the family line and power. He studied at La Roche, Annecy, Clermont College in Paris, and law at the University of Padua. He became a Doctor of Law, returned home, and found a position as Senate advocate.

It was at this point that he received a message telling him to “Leave all and follow Me”. He took this as a call to the priesthood, a move his family fiercely opposed. However, he pursued a devoted prayer life, and his gentle ways won over the family.

He became a priest, and a provost in the diocese of Geneva, Switzerland, a stronghold of Calvinists. He was a preacher, writer and spiritual director in the district of Chablais. His simple, clear explanations of Catholic doctrine and his gentle way with everyone, brought many back to the Roman Church.

He was ordained Bishop of Geneva at the age of 35. He travelled and evangelized throughout the Duchy of Savoy, working with children whenever he could. He was a friend of St. Vincent de Paul. He turned down a wealthy French bishopric. He helped found the Order of the Visitation with St. Jeanne de Chantal. He was a prolific correspondent. He was declared a Doctor of the Church.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Hebrews 10:1-10

Since the Law has no more than a reflection of these realities, and no finished picture of them, it is quite incapable of bringing the worshippers to perfection, with the same sacrifices repeatedly offered year after year. Otherwise, the offering of them would have stopped, because the worshippers, when they had been purified once, would have no awareness of sins. Instead of that, the sins are recalled year after year in the sacrifices. Bulls’ blood and goats’ blood are useless for taking away sins, and this is what he said, on coming into the world:

You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation,
prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin;
then I said,
just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book,
‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’

Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.

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Mark 3:31-35

The mother and brothers of Jesus arrived and, standing outside, sent in a message asking for him. A crowd was sitting round him at the time the message was passed to him, ‘Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you.’ He replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking round at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.’

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Sitting in a circle about him

When you are in the hospitality industry, particularly one who works in the kitchen, you often get requests from people around you to hold a party at home. It is always a pleasure to host a party with the guests sitting around as you enjoy the company of people that come to share a meal. The challenge, somehow, is to invite people whom you are close with, or even knowing some of the friends whom have been known to be quiet and alone most times.

In today’s Gospel, if we are to take the bible story literally, Jesus seems to be a rather rude person, ignoring the arrival of his own birth mother, Mary and his brothers. Of course, this is not the sentiment. He is in the presence of those around Him. Jesus has made himself available to everyone, to every individual who is invited and willing to eat at the same table as Him. Surely, Mother Mary will not be disappointed about this because she understands Jesus’ ministry here on Earth. Jesus is all about being inclusive, not exclusive, when it comes to being with God. God does not discriminate and definitely does not alienate.

This brings us to challenge the way we show our presence for those who actually are in need of Christ’s presence. Yes, so often we talk and laugh with our fellow buddies and close friends, but have we talked about inviting the socially awkward whom we laugh about? Sometimes, even if I would like to, the other friends of mine will shun the idea of having the other person over.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to make those around us more inclusive and reach out to people who have depression.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord, for family, for friends, for all the wonderful relationships around me.

17 January, Tuesday – An Honest God

17 January 2017

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Hebrews 6:10-20

God would not be so unjust as to forget all you have done, the love that you have for his name or the services you have done, and are still doing, for the saints. Our one desire is that every one of you should go on showing the same earnestness to the end, to the perfect fulfilment of our hopes, never growing careless, but imitating those who have the faith and the perseverance to inherit the promises.

When God made the promise to Abraham, he swore by his own self, since it was impossible for him to swear by anyone greater: I will shower blessings on you and give you many descendants. Because of that, Abraham persevered and saw the promise fulfilled. Men, of course, swear an oath by something greater than themselves, and between men, confirmation by an oath puts an end to all dispute. In the same way, when God wanted to make the heirs to the promise thoroughly realise that his purpose was unalterable, he conveyed this by an oath; so that there would be two unalterable things in which it was impossible for God to be lying, and so that we, now we have found safety, should have a strong encouragement to take a firm grip on the hope that is held out to us.

Here we have an anchor for our soul, as sure as it is firm, and reaching right through beyond the veil where Jesus has entered before us and on our behalf, to become a high priest of the order of Melchizedek, and for ever.

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Mark 2:23-28

One sabbath day Jesus happened to be taking a walk through the cornfields, and his disciples began to pick ears of corn as they went along. And the Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing something on the sabbath day that is forbidden?’ And he replied, ‘Did you never read what David did in his time of need when he and his followers were hungry – how he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the loaves of offering which only the priests are allowed to eat, and how he also gave some to the men with him?’

And he said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; the Son of Man is master even of the sabbath.’

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It was impossible for God to be lying

Sometimes I believe we take the way the world works and transfer it to our relationship with God. We enter into an agreement with God with terms favourable on our side. We seek to adopt a contractual approach towards our relationship with God without any concern for the other party. When we do not get what we want, we become angry and upset with God.

God loves us and He does not lie about it. It is more often than not our side of the bargain which we do not fulfil. God has loved us unconditionally and hence we need to reciprocate and also offer our unconditional love for the other. It may appear to be difficult but it is necessary because only a total surrender to God’s love will enable us to discover what it means to become a true child of God.

The Pharisees adopted a legalistic approach towards obeying the Law but Jesus asked that we adopt a more holistic approach towards our love for God and to share with others the same spirit of charity and love which He has shown us on the Cross.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer Dear God, we pray for total submission to your will.

ThanksgivingWe give thanks for your love.