Tag Archives: living our faith

Thursday, 23 February – Flavourless salt

23 Feb – Saint Polycarp, Bishop, Martyr

St Polycarp (-155) He was a disciple of the Apostles, bishop of Smyrna, and a friend of St Ignatius of Antioch. He went to Rome to confer with Pope Anicetus about the celebration of Easter. He was martyred in about 155 by being burnt to death in the stadium. Polycarp is an important figure in the history of the Church because he is one of the earliest Christians whose writings still survive. He bears witness to the beliefs of the early Christians and the early stages of the development of doctrine.

___________________________

Ecclesiasticus 5:1-10

Do not give your heart to your money,
  or say, ‘With this I am self-sufficient.’
Do not be led by your appetites and energy
  to follow the passions of your heart.
And do not say, ‘Who has authority over me?’
  for the Lord will certainly be avenged on you.
Do not say, ‘I sinned, and what happened to me?’
f or the Lord’s forbearance is long.
Do not be so sure of forgiveness
  that you add sin to sin.
And do not say, ‘His compassion is great,
  he will forgive me my many sins’;
for with him are both mercy and wrath,
  and his rage bears heavy on sinners.
Do not delay your return to the Lord,
  do not put it off day after day;
for suddenly the Lord’s wrath will blaze out,
  and at the time of vengeance you will be utterly destroyed.
Do not set your heart on ill-gotten gains,
  they will be of no use to you on the day of disaster.

___________________________

Mark 9:41-50

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.

  ‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go out. For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is a good thing, but if salt has become insipid, how can you season it again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.’

___________________________

If salt has become insipid, how can you season it again?

Salt was an extremely important and valuable commodity in ancient times. It can be used to flavour and preserve foods. Salt, in ancient times, did not go through the purification that modern technology provides, so it was possible for the salt from the Dead Sea to lose its saltiness through exposure to air, contamination with impurities or through exposure to excessive sunlight. A chemical reaction must occur for the salt to lose its saltiness, and the process is irreversible.

How can we lose our flavour when it comes to the faith? Very easily. We live in times where worldly ideas of ‘freedom’ are the social norm, or even if they are not yet the social norm, people fight to make it so. Without a solid foundation in the faith, it is easy to fall prey to the reasoning behind secular worldviews. A lifestyle where one places work and other priorities before Christ is another characteristic of this age of busyness, and almost inevitably the faith becomes lukewarm or even non-existent.

The silver lining in all this is that, unlike salt, we can still regain our saltiness. For me, I find that it is crucial for me to be in constant contact with spiritual writings or faith communities. Since most of us do work that does not directly involve scripture or religion, there has to be that extra effort made to be constantly reminded of Christ’s teachings. It is only when we ourselves feel refreshed, invigorated and inspired by the faith, that we can reach out effectively to others.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we will not be led by our own appetites and energy to follow the passions of our hearts. Instead, let us be led by Christ and His love.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the invisible hand of the Lord that guides us and brings us up when we fall.

26 December, Monday – Dying to Self

Dec 26 – Feast of St. Stephen, protomartyr

Stephen is the first martyr. He was one of the deacons appointed by the Apostles to organize the distribution of food to the poor. He performed many miracles and confounded the Jews in disputation. They fabricated false charges against him. At his trial he preached the risen Christ to them, so they stoned him to death. He prayed for his persecutors as he was dying. One of them, Saul of Tarsus, who was looking after the cloaks of the stone-throwers, was later converted and became the great missionary St Paul.

– Universalis

_____________________________

Acts 6:8-10,7:54-59

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. 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.’

___________________________

Matthew 10:17-22

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you.

‘Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved.’

______________________

The man who stands firm to the end will be saved

 Today’s first reading reminds me of a soon-to-be-released film by Martin Scorsese, entitled ‘Silence’. It is a movie that is supposedly 28 years in the making, about two Jesuit priests who travel to Japan to meet their mentor whom they heard had committed apostasy. The film is based on a novel written by Japanese author Sh?saku End?. During the climax of the story, the lead character Sebastião Rodrigues, one of the Jesuits, decides to renounce his faith by stepping on a fumie (a carved image of Christ) in order to free local Christians from further torture.

Although the story is a work of fiction, it seems plausible that such methods were indeed used to threaten and torture priests during the persecution of Japanese Catholics. I have tried, but failed to imagine myself in the shoes of the priest made to renounce his faith in order to save his fellow Christians from torment. What is the right thing to do? To step on the fumie, or not renounce the faith but let the torment of others continue?

Something that I am sort of figuring out, and which is perhaps more related to the circumstances of my life, is the dying to self for the purpose of honouring God. There are certain actions that I like to do without feeling much guilt, although I know that they are technically contrary to the teachings of the church and of the Bible. At some point recently, I realised that I need to make a conscious decision to constantly die to myself and reject those sinful actions, so that I can truly stand and say that I am a follower of Christ. During the Advent Penitential Service this year, I confessed sins that had long been buried in my heart and which I had not even realised were there. I just somehow decided that there was no need to be a slave to fear or shame, and to make a decisive move to love Christ rather than waver and fret and make half-hearted attempts.

In this Christmas season, let us be open to renewing our hearts for Christ.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the courage to die to ourselves constantly so as to give glory to our God.

Thanksgiving:  We give thanks for the martyrs of the faith whom we know are praying for us and our salvation.

24 December (Saturday), Vigil Mass – Inheritance

24 December 2016

___________________

Isaiah 62:1-5

About Zion I will not be silent,
about Jerusalem I will not grow weary,
until her integrity shines out like the dawn
and her salvation flames like a torch.

The nations then will see your integrity,
all the kings your glory,
and you will be called by a new name,
one which the mouth of the Lord will confer.
You are to be a crown of splendour in the hand of the Lord,
a princely diadem in the hand of your God;

no longer are you to be named ‘Forsaken’,
nor your land ‘Abandoned’,
but you shall be called ‘My Delight’
and your land ‘The Wedded’;
for the Lord takes delight in you
and your land will have its wedding.

Like a young man marrying a virgin,
so will the one who built you wed you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride,
so will your God rejoice in you.

_________________________

Acts 13:16-17,22-25

When Paul reached Antioch in Pisidia, he stood up in the synagogue, held up a hand for silence and began to speak:

‘Men of Israel, and fearers of God, listen! The God of our nation Israel chose our ancestors, and made our people great when they were living as foreigners in Egypt; then by divine power he led them out.

‘Then he made David their king, of whom he approved in these words, “I have selected David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will carry out my whole purpose.” To keep his promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour, whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel. Before John ended his career he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandal.”’

________________________

Matthew 1:1-25

A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, Tamar being their mother,
Perez was the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram was the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon was the father of Boaz, Rahab being his mother,
Boaz was the father of Obed, Ruth being his mother,
Obed was the father of Jesse;
and Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Azariah,
Azariah was the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah;
and Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers.
Then the deportation to Babylon took place.
After the deportation to Babylon:
Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor was the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud was the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob;
and Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary;
of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.

The sum of generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to 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.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son
and they will call him Emmanuel,

a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home and, though he had not had intercourse with her, she gave birth to a son; and he named him Jesus.

____________________________

Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

As Advent draws to a close and we enter Christmas, we are reminded that today is the day that we have long been waiting for. For four weeks, we have lit an advent candle each Sunday, waiting in hope and patience for our Lord to arrive. Yet, it is not simply in Advent that we wait. Indeed, we have waited generations for our Saviour, and He has finally arrived.

While the wait has been long, it had always been filled with hope. Indeed, Matthew recounts this wait for us, from Abraham to David, from David to Joseph. and finally from Joseph to Jesus. Of course, I over-simplify — we have waited 42 generations for our Lord to arrive. But the wait has been filled with sweet longing, for has Jesus’s coming not already been foretold in scripture?

So it is the same for us today. We are pilgrims awaiting the return of our Lord and Master. It is often easy to be lulled into a sense of ennui while waiting, perhaps to wile away the time with our little games and entertainment as we wait (Halo, anyone?). But when the Master arrives, will we be truly ready to welcome Him? How often have we been told in the Bible of what happens to those who are not ready when the Lord arrives?

Tonight as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, may we remember to always keep ourselves awake in prayer, ready to receive our Lord. Indeed, we have already been receiving Him in communion at mass. All we ever needed to do was to open our eyes to the reality of Christ in the Eucharist, then we will see that perhaps, just perhaps, we have been preparing ourselves for the coming of the Lord all through the year.

Finally, Matthew’s gospel reminds us of the awesome inheritance that Jesus brings with Him, an inheritance that He shares with us. Through Him, we are one with all the holy men and women who have pleased God throughout the ages. It also reminds me of one of my favourite hymns:

Thou mine inheritance, now and always

Thou and Thou only, first in my heart

High King of heaven my treasure Thou art

Let us cherish and reverence the true treasure that is our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray with joyful and faithful hearts for your saving grace in each and every one of our lives. May your birth at Christmas remind us of our own baptismal promises to You.

Thanksgiving: We are thankful tonight for our Lord Jesus Christ, who has come to save, redeem, and love us without end.

3 December, Saturday – Labour’s Lost

Dec 3 – Feast of St. Francis Xavier, presbyter, religious, missionary (Principal Patron of Foreign Missions)

Francis (1506-1552) was a nobleman from the Basque region. He studied and taught philosophy at the University of Paris, and planned a career as a professor. He was a friend of St. Ignatius of Loyola who convinced him to use his talents to spread the Gospel. He was one of the founding Jesuits, and the first Jesuit missionary.

In Goa, India, while waiting to take the ship, he preached in the street, worked with the sick, and taught children their catechism. He would walk through the streets ringing a bell to call the children to their studies. He was said to have converted the entire city.

He scolded his patron, King John of Portugal, over the slave trade: “You have no right to spread the Catholic faith while you take away all the country’s riches. It upsets me to know that at the hour of your death you may be ordered out of paradise.”

He was a tremendously successful missionary for the ten years he was in India, the East Indies, and Japan, baptizing more than 40,000 converts. His epic finds him dining with head hunters, washing the sores of lepers in Venice, teaching catechism to Indian children, baptizing 10,000 in a single month. He tolerated the most appalling conditions on long sea voyages, enduring extremes of heat and cold. Wherever he went he would seek out and help the poor and forgotten. He travelled thousands of miles, most on his bare feet, and he saw the greater part of the Far East. He had the gift of tongues, and was a miracle worker. He raised people from the dead, calmed storms. He was a prophet and a healer.

  • Patron Saint Index

________________

Isaiah 30:19-21,23-26

Thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:

People of Zion, you will live in Jerusalem and weep no more. He will be gracious to you when he hears your cry; when he hears he will answer. When the Lord has given you the bread of suffering and the water of distress, he who is your teacher will hide no longer, and you will see your teacher with your own eyes. Whether you turn to right or left, your ears will hear these words behind you, ‘This is the way, follow it.’ He will send rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the bread that the ground provides will be rich and nourishing. Your cattle will graze, that day, in wide pastures. Oxen and donkeys that till the ground will eat a salted fodder, winnowed with shovel and fork. On every lofty mountain, on every high hill there will be streams and watercourses, on the day of the great slaughter when the strongholds fall. Then moonlight will be bright as sunlight and sunlight itself be seven times brighter – like the light of seven days in one – on the day the Lord dresses the wound of his people and heals the bruises his blows have left.

______________

Matthew 9:35-10:1,5,6-8

Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness.

And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.’

He summoned his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and sickness. These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them as follows: ‘Go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils. You received without charge, give without charge.’

______________

The harvest is abundant but the labourers are few

Hundreds of years ago, Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, preaching and healing as he did. He was a lone foreign missionary, carrying out God’s work. He recognized that the people were hungry for God as they had been in spiritual need for so long, and to fulfil the need to minister to as many of the lost and abandoned as possible, he sent out the twelve apostles to far-flung places to do God’s work. Thus you could say, began the foreign missions.

St Francis Xavier was one such missionary. His work carried him from present day Spain where he was born, to Goa, India, Malacca, Japan, and China, to name a few. There, his mission work was often met with resistance, cultural and language differences, lack of funds and support, and opposition. But he, like Jesus, recognized that the people were like lost sheep, and needed spiritual guidance. In most places, he was the first Jesuit, and therefore he had to carve out a road where no road had been before. There was much work to be done, and many a time he would get side-tracked and remain longer at a place than he had intended. Where there had been some in-roads before his arrival, those efforts had been previously focused on the nobility and officers; St Francis Xavier instead reached out to the ordinary folk in lower classes, and concentrated on teaching the children especially. He believed that there was an abundance of ‘lost sheep’ in China and had set his sights on missionary work there, but sadly he died before he could fulfil his purpose there.

Things have not changed much since. Few hundred years spanned between the time of Jesus and that of St Francis, and few hundred years have now passed between the time of St Francis and the present day. Yet one thing remains — that there are still many of us searching and yearning for Jesus. Our loneliness makes us feel abandoned, and the emptiness in our hearts makes us wish we were wanted and loved. We seek solace and comfort in other ways, sometimes in not so positive ways. As a result, we turn to habits that destroy us rather than help us, but thinking that these are resolutions to our emotional needs, we continue doing them until we realize too late that it has not helped us. We are now stuck in a vicious cycle, unable to break the habit, and nowhere near emotional fulfilment.

God is around us, and He could be our next door neighbor, or the soccer mum you see on the school run, or your colleague. God sends His labourers out to do His work and He hears our cry. He knows our hearts. Maybe it feels like He is distant or does not hear us. Sometimes we even question whether He is there. However, turn away from these thoughts and remember that God searches for His lost sheep, and He rejoices for every lost sheep that is found (Luke 15: 4-7). Every now and then, God sends out his labourers to find and gather His sheep; take heart that we too will be found.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer – Lord, I pray for your comfort for our loneliness, love for our empty hearts, and direction for our wandering souls. Hear our hearts as they cry out for you, and fill us with the Holy Spirit that we may rejoice with hearts overflowing at being found.

Thanksgiving – Thank you Lord, for the labourers that you send out to do your work. We pray for wisdom to recognize them, strength to emulate them, and courage to do your will.

15 November, Tuesday – Either/Or

15 November

_____________________

Nov 15 – Memorial for St. Albert the Great, bishop, religious, doctor

Albertus (1206-1280) was the son of a military nobleman. A Dominican priest, he taught theology at Colgone and Paris and was the teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas. He was an influential teacher, preacher, and administrator, and became the Bishop of Regensburg. He introduced Greek and Arabic science and philosophy to medieval Europe.

He is known for his wide interest in what became later known as the natural sciences – botany, biology, etc. He wrote and illustrated guides to his observations, and was considered on par with Aristotle as an authority on these matters. He was a theological writer, and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church.

“It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where charity is not found, God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for “God is Charity” (1 John 4:8)” – St. Albert the Great

_____________________

Apocalypse 3:1-6,14-22

I, John, heard the Lord saying to me: ‘Write to the angel of the church in Sardis and say, “Here is the message of the one who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: I know all about you: how you are reputed to be alive and yet are dead. Wake up; revive what little you have left: it is dying fast. So far I have failed to notice anything in the way you live that my God could possibly call perfect, and yet do you remember how eager you were when you first heard the message? Hold on to that. Repent. If you do not wake up, I shall come to you like a thief, without telling you at what hour to expect me. There are a few in Sardis, it is true, who have kept their robes from being dirtied, and they are fit to come with me, dressed in white. Those who prove victorious will be dressed, like these, in white robes; I shall not blot their names out of the book of life, but acknowledge their names in the presence of my Father and his angels. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”

‘Write to the angel of the church in Laodicea and say, “Here is the message of the Amen, the faithful, the true witness, the ultimate source of God’s creation: I know all about you: how you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one or the other, but since you are neither, but only lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth. You say to yourself, ‘I am rich, I have made a fortune, and have everything I want’, never realising that you are wretchedly and pitiably poor, and blind and naked too. I warn you, buy from me the gold that has been tested in the fire to make you really rich, and white robes to clothe you and cover your shameful nakedness, and eye ointment to put on your eyes so that you are able to see. I am the one who reproves and disciplines all those he loves: so repent in real earnest. Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share his meal, side by side with him. Those who prove victorious I will allow to share my throne, just as I was victorious myself and took my place with my Father on his throne. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”’

_____________________

Luke 19:1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the town when a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance: he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. He was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him: ‘Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.’

And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house’ they said. But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, ‘Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.’

_____________________

For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.

We are called to make choices every day. From the most minute details – ‘What should I have for lunch? Should I get my coffee hot or iced?’; to important decisions of our lives — Should I stay at my job, or should I find a new one? Do we want to have children? Should I reach out to an estranged relative or friend?. In almost all cases, we end up facing two choices, and having to pick one out of these two.

It is the same with our faith lives. As disciples of the Lord, we are called to choose between light and darkness, good and evil, compassion and apathy. These choices beckon to us every single day. Do we comfort a colleague or a friend in need? Or do we shrug and turn back to our screens? Do we stop to listen to the homeless man? Or do we just keep walking? Do we choose to address the darkness in our souls, or do we continue to find comfort in our gadgets and entertainment?

The great Christian philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, was well aware of this binary nature of faith when he wrote his seminal work Either/Or. In the book, the reader is confronted with two vastly different narratives. In the first part of the book, we read about the aesthetic life of Victor Eremita, who seeks only pleasure in his life. This is juxtaposed by the second half of the book, which is narrated by Judge Vilheim and which espouses an ethical (rather than aesthetic or superficial) life.

Today’s readings place a strong emphasis on choices. In choosing to host the Lord and give up his belongings to the poor and needy, Zaccheus has chosen to follow the Lord and lead the Christian life. A starker warning is given in the first reading, where the lukewarm person, who is neither hot nor cold, will be rejected, while the one who heeds the voice of the Lord will be victorious by His side.

The message is clear. We cannot be lukewarm Christians, buffeted around by the tides of our times. Instead, we must stand firm on our beliefs. As Jesus says in Matthew 12:30, “Whoever is not with me is against me”. There are no two ways about it. Those who are familiar with the work of Kierkegaard will also know that Either/Or is really a false choice, for the philosopher subsequently wrote in Fear and Trembling that the goal for us, as Christians, is neither an aesthetic nor an ethical life, but a religious life.

This requires us to take, as Kierkegaard has famously said, a ‘leap of faith’ into the great unknown, knowing only that God our Father will reach out and catch us, so long as we are leaping into His way of life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)

_____________________

Prayer: Lord, we pray for your wisdom and fortitude, so that we may always make the right choices in our everyday lives, and that we will always choose you.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for giving us our free will, so that we can freely love and serve Him from the depths of our souls.  

12 November, Saturday – Unafraid to Ask

12 November – Memorial for St. Josaphat, Bishop, Religious, Martyr

John (1580-1623) had a father who was a municipal counsellor, and a mother who was known for her piety. He was raised in the Orthodox Ruthenian Church which, on 23 Nov 1595, in the Union of Brest, united with the Church of Rome. He was trained as a merchant’s apprentice in Vilna, and was offered partnership in the business and marriage to his partner’s daughter.

Feeling the call to religious life, he declined both and became a monk in the Ukrainian Order of St. Basil in Vilna at the age of 20 in 1604, taking the name Brother Josaphat. He was ordained a Byzantine rite priest in 1609.

His superior, Samuel, never accepted unity with Rome, and looked for a way to fight against Roman Catholicism and the Uniats, the name given to those who brought about and accepted the union of the churches. Learning of Samuel’s work and fearing the physical and spiritual damage it could cause, Josaphat brought it to the attention of his superiors. The archbishop of Kiev removed Samuel from his post, replacing him with Josaphat.

He was a famous preacher, worked to bring unity among the faithful and bring strayed Christians back to the Church. He became Bishop of Vitebsk. Most religious, fearing interference with the natively developed liturgy and customs, did not want union with Rome. Bishop Josaphat believed unity to be in the best interests of the Church and, by teaching, clerical reform, and personal example, Josaphat won the greater part of the Orthodox in Lithuania to the union. Never completely suitable to either side, Roman authorities sometimes raised objection to Josaphat’s Orthodox actions. He became Archbishop of Polotsk, Lithuania in 1617.

While Josaphat attended the Diet of Warsaw in 1620, a dissident group supported by Cossacks set up anti-Uniat bishops for each Uniat one, spread the accusation that Josaphat had “gone Latin” and that his followers would be forced to do the same, and place an usurper on the archbishop’s chair. Despite warnings, Josaphat went to Vitebsk, a hotbed of trouble, to try to correct the misunderstandings and settle disturbances. The army remained loyal to the king who remained loyal to the Union, and so the army tried to protect Josaphat and his clergy.

Late in 1623, an anti-Uniat priest named Elias shouted insults at Josaphat from his own courtyard, and tried to force his way into the residence. When he was removed, a mob assembled and forced his release. Mob mentality took over, and they invaded the residence. Josaphat tried to insure the safety of his servants before fleeing himself, but did not get out in time, and was martyred by the mob. His death was a shock to both sides of the dispute, brought some sanity and a cooling off period to both sides of the conflict.

“You people of Vitebsk want to put me to death. You make ambushes for me everywhere, in the streets, on the bridges, on the highways, and in the marketplace. I am here among you as a shepherd, and you ought to know that I would be happy to give my life for you. I am ready to die for the holy union, for the supremacy of Saint Peter, and of his successor the Supreme Pontiff.” – St. Josaphat

– Patron Saint Index

_____________________

3 John 1:5-8

My friend, you have done faithful work in looking after these brothers, even though they were complete strangers to you. They are a proof to the whole Church of your charity and it would be a very good thing if you could help them on their journey in a way that God would approve. It was entirely for the sake of the name that they set out, without depending on the pagans for anything; it is our duty to welcome men of this sort and contribute our share to their work for the truth.

_____________________

Luke 18:1-8

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town’ he said ‘who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, “I want justice from you against my enemy!” For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death.”’

And the Lord said ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’

_____________________

“Pray continually and never lose heart”

My prayer life has experienced extreme highs and lows over the years.  In the past, when I seldom or never prayed, I found myself dropping to my knees only when there was something I needed to ask our Lord for.  Over time, I began to feel that God become somewhat like my ATM — that I would only pray if there was something I needed from Him. I began to feel like a hypocrite and even started to pray even less.

Thanks to various programmes that I attended, and also to a strong Christian community, I began to pray more regularly, having conversations with our Lord. As I spent more time with Him, I began to lose my aversion to prayer, and began to be able to pray and petition Him. More importantly, I began to lose the feeling that I only turned to God only in times of need. God became more like a close confidant.

Jesus exhorts us to pray continually and He tells us about a poor widow who comes before an unjust judge persistently, in order to seek justice against an enemy. Initially rejecting her, the judge finally accedes to her. I have always likened us to be the widow.

However, I heard another interesting view.  What if we were the judge and God was the widow… and that God continually is the one reaching out to us continually?  Will we ever accede to God and allow Him to touch us?

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

_______________________

Prayer: Lord, help us to have the desire to always reach out to You. Help us to be unafraid to speak with you and to let you know our deepest thoughts and desires.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for always being there for us, whether we are aware of it or not. Thank you for listening to us and touching us in our hearts.

8 November, Tuesday – Doing Our Duty

8 November

_____________________

Titus 2:1-8,11-14

It is for you to preach the behaviour which goes with healthy doctrine. The older men should be reserved, dignified, moderate, sound in faith and love and constancy. Similarly, the older women should behave as though they were religious, with no scandal-mongering and no habitual wine-drinking – they are to be the teachers of the right behaviour and show the younger women how they should love their husbands and love their children, how they are to be sensible and chaste, and how to work in their homes, and be gentle, and do as their husbands tell them, so that the message of God is never disgraced. In the same way, you have got to persuade the younger men to be moderate and in everything you do make yourself an example to them of working for good: when you are teaching, be an example to them in your sincerity and earnestness and in keeping all that you say so wholesome that nobody can make objections to it; and then any opponent will be at a loss, with no accusation to make against us. You see, God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions; we must be self-restrained and live good and religious lives here in this present world, while we are waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the Appearing of the glory of our great God and saviour Christ Jesus. He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.

_____________________

Luke 17:7-10

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

_____________________

“We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”

Quite some time ago, someone I knew was in emotional difficulty and often reached out to me to vent her anger and frustration. She sent me messages at various times of day or night. I responded to her and listened to her. All this, of course, was done with the knowledge of my wife.

Some time later, I got a call from her, in which she accused me of betraying her and of doing something I did not do. I lost my temper and told her off. All I could think of was: “How could she do this, in spite of everything that I’ve done for her!”

This spell of anger and disappointment took control of me until one day, when I was sharing with my kids in a Home Catechism session. We were talking about how God gave us the grace so we could go to heaven; that no matter what we did to try and ‘earn’ our place in heaven, we could never!  In the course of the session, the children could see that we need to do our ‘good works’ (be it helping others, being the best we can be, being holy…) not to get to heaven, but because of God’s love for us (and our love for Him), which makes it important that we do good.

It became clear to me that no matter what happened, it was important for me to be there for the other person, no matter how she felt or what she thought I did.  It was simply important for me to do so… because it was my job to do so as a child of God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

_______________________

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

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

7 November, Monday – Consistency Inwards and Out

7 November

_____________________

Titus 1:1-9

From Paul, servant of God, an apostle of Jesus Christ to bring those whom God has chosen to faith and to the knowledge of the truth that leads to true religion; and to give them the hope of the eternal life that was promised so long ago by God. He does not lie and so, at the appointed time, he revealed his decision, and, by the command of God our saviour, I have been commissioned to proclaim it. To Titus, true child of mine in the faith that we share, wishing you grace and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our saviour.

The reason I left you behind in Crete was for you to get everything organised there and appoint elders in every town, in the way that I told you: that is, each of them must be a man of irreproachable character; he must not have been married more than once, and his children must be believers and not uncontrollable or liable to be charged with disorderly conduct. Since, as president, he will be God’s representative, he must be irreproachable: never an arrogant or hot-tempered man, nor a heavy drinker or violent, nor out to make money; but a man who is hospitable and a friend of all that is good; sensible, moral, devout and self-controlled; and he must have a firm grasp of the unchanging message of the tradition, so that he can be counted on for both expounding the sound doctrine and refuting those who argue against it.

_____________________

Luke 17:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Obstacles are sure to come, but alas for the one who provides them! It would be better for him to be thrown into the Sea with a millstone put round his neck than that he should lead astray a single one of these little ones. Watch yourselves!

If your brother does something wrong, reprove him and, if he is sorry, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times a day and seven times comes back to you and says, “I am sorry,” you must forgive him.’

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

_____________________

“Each of them must be a man of irreproachable character”

I am a movie buff and especially enjoy a good action or thriller movie.  One particularly memorable movie I remember was ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’. The movie still sends chills down my spine even after so many years.

In this movie, a poor young man schemes, forges, lies and murders his way to a life of luxury and wealth. Along the way, he assumes the identity of another, making others around him believe that he is extremely wealthy and cultured, while he hatches his various plots to hang on to his ill-gotten wealth.

As the movie progresses, his façade unravels at an increasing pace, and Ripley is forced to take drastic measures to prevent others finding out his falsehoods. Despite having the money he has obtained from his ruses, Ripley remains a poor imitation of the real thing. He is, at the end of the movie, clearly well-off, but destined to live a life of loneliness and continued deceit.

Unlike such a character, the apostle Paul, in the reading today, lists the qualities of the elders he wanted appointed in every town. These qualities required the men to be authentic, that their behavior must reflect their values; so much so that the men would remain steadfast and have a consistent grasp of defending and explaining the message of the Gospel.

Brothers and sisters, in our spiritual lives, we too need to always remain steadfast and firm. The temptations of the world are numerous and sin is literally around every corner. Let us always keep our eyes focused on Jesus and not be swayed by those around us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

_______________________

Prayer: Lord, may we be always mindful that You can truly see us for who we are. We ask that You may give us strength to truly live a truly authentic Christian life.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for showing us how to live our lives Father. We are grateful for the freedom that this truth brings to our lives O God!

2 November, Wednesday – Living out a life

2 November – All Souls Day

Today we celebrate a feast in commemoration of the faithful departed in purgatory, that is, the faithful departed who have not yet been purified and reached Heaven. After Abbot Odilo of Cluny instituted it in the monasteries of his congregation in 998, other religious orders took up the observance, and it was adopted by various dioceses and gradually by the whole Church. The Office of the Dead must be recited by the clergy on this day and Pope Benedict XV granted to all priests the privilege of saying three Masses of requiem: one for the souls in purgatory, one for the intention of the Holy Father, one for the priest’s.

– Patron Saints Index

_____________________

Isaiah 25:6-9

On this mountain,
the Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples
a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines,
of food rich and juicy, of fine strained wines.
On this mountain he will remove
the mourning veil covering all peoples,
and the shroud enwrapping all nations,
he will destroy Death for ever.
The Lord will wipe away
the tears from every cheek;
he will take away his people’s shame
everywhere on earth,
for the Lord has said so.
That day, it will be said: See, this is our God
in whom we hoped for salvation;
the Lord is the one in whom we hoped.

_____________________

Romans 5:5-11

Hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us. We were still helpless when at his appointed moment Christ died for sinful men. It is not easy to die even for a good man – though of course for someone really worthy, a man might be prepared to die – but what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Having died to make us righteous, is it likely that he would now fail to save us from God’s anger? When we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, we were still enemies; now that we have been reconciled, surely we may count on being saved by the life of his Son? Not merely because we have been reconciled but because we are filled with joyful trust in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have already gained our reconciliation.

_____________________

Luke 7:11-17

Jesus went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people. When he was near the gate of the town it happened that a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her. When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her. ‘Do not cry’ he said. Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you to get up.’ And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Everyone was filled with awe and praised God saying, ‘A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.’ And this opinion of him spread throughout Judaea and all over the countryside.

_____________________

Hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us

Yesterday, we celebrated All Saints Day, where we commemorated people who are in the Church Triumphant and the Church Militant. Today, we take time to pause for those who are in the Church Suffering. Today’s celebration is a celebration of life and, in particular, of how the lives of the people who have passed away have inspired us to continue to live a life worthy of following.

Funeral masses tend to be sad and if we observe carefully, the readings for today are all from the readings used in funeral masses. The readings give us hope. They remind us of the importance of being close to God and that God is with us. This is important for each one of us as we continue with our lives. Our lives are temporary in this world and what we are called to do is to make it meaningful for the people around us by sharing with them the joy of knowing Christ. Our relationship with Christ is the witness to the people around us through the behaviours and actions we carry out.

All Souls’ Day is a day where we reflect on the people who have gone before us and identify what is it within them which makes us see good behaviour in them. Have they espoused the meaning of the Beatitudes in their lives and if so, how can we allow these values to manifest in the world around us. Let us spend time today to pause and ask the Lord to grant us the grace of discernment to live a life worthy of others to follow.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

_______________________

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for all the souls whom have gone before us.

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

31 October, Monday – God’s way of love

31 October

_____________________

Philippians 2:1-4

If our life in Christ means anything to you, if love can persuade at all, or the Spirit that we have in common, or any tenderness and sympathy, then be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind. That is the one thing which would make me completely happy. There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everybody is to be self-effacing. Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, So that nobody thinks of his own interests first but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead.

_____________________

Luke 14:12-14

Jesus said to his host, one of the leading Pharisees, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’

_____________________

There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everyone is to be self-effacing.

There is a song which has a verse which goes “Anything you can do, I can do better”. I think this is the driving force for most people whom I meet. Everyone wants to be better than the other party, be it in academic results, appearance, salary, job title and even the type of property they live in. The Gospel of today is inviting us to be radically different; to put aside this approach and instead ask God to be an integral part of our lives. This means putting aside all other worldly pursuits and be united with the Holy Spirit.

The desire to be better than our neighbour stems from a need to be validated. However, God accepts us for who we are, just as we are. With our flaws and weaknesses, this may seem difficult. In fact, some people engage in competition to hide away their imperfections. God the Holy Spirit wants to enter into our lives to heal us from all the pains which we suffer from. All these external pursuits must be oriented towards a purpose — to glorify the name of Jesus in this world, so as to bring people to know and love him.

Jesus shows us how to pursue this interest by instructing the Pharisee to invite the people who cannot pay him back. This is something which is radical. We live in a world guided by the principle of ‘I scratch your back if you scratch mine’. So to move towards an approach where we are expected to help those who have no possibility of repaying back is something which is counter-cultural. Yet, this is what God desires of each one of us today – to be His witness to the world and to show the goodness of His love through our actions.

We should start small. Let us look at one thing in our lives where we can change, which allows us to glorify God’s name. It could be the resolution to say a kind word to the pantry lady, offering a listening ear to the people around us and finally, to perhaps share why we remain so driven to help others – the need to let our actions glorify the name of God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

_______________________

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to be your witness to the world.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who continue to spread the Word of God in this world.