Tag Archives: living

25 October, Tuesday – Yeast

25 October

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Ephesians 5:21-33

Give way to one another in obedience to Christ. Wives should regard their husbands as they regard the Lord, since as Christ is head of the Church and saves the whole body, so is a husband the head of his wife; and as the Church submits to Christ, so should wives to their husbands, in everything. Husbands should love their wives just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her to make her holy. He made her clean by washing her in water with a form of words, so that when he took her to himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless. In the same way, husbands must love their wives as they love their own bodies; for a man to love his wife is for him to love himself. A man never hates his own body, but he feeds it and looks after it; and that is the way Christ treats the Church, because it is his body – and we are its living parts. For this reason, a man must leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one body. This mystery has many implications; but I am saying it applies to Christ and the Church. To sum up; you too, each one of you, must love his wife as he loves himself; and let every wife respect her husband.

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Luke 13:18-21

Jesus said, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it with? It is like a mustard seed which a man took and threw into his garden: it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air sheltered in its branches.’

Another thing he said, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God with? It is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’

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It is like yeast… mixed in with three measures of wheat flour, until the whole batch of dough was leavened.

When I was a teenager, someone in my bible study group proclaimed with much certainty that as Christians, we were not supposed to date someone ‘outside the faith’, so as not to be ‘unequally yoked’. At the time, it struck me as a strange thing to say. Jesus Christ himself ate in the house of tax collectors and counted prostitutes as friends. So what was wrong with me fraternizing with someone who was not Christian? But this person was adamant in her view, and so, being new to the faith then, I simply went along.

Absolutes are dangerous pronounciations, especially when made carelessly in front of new believers. It is misleading to think of people as absolutely good or absolutely bad. Good and bad are always and everywhere intertwined – in our churches, in our homes, and often even in our hearts. The parable of the yeast in today’s gospel reminds us of this truth about our faith. We need only a little bit of yeast to leaven an entire loaf of bread. The yeast is not of the dough, and yet it has the power to change it. We exist in this world of good and evil; we are not a part of it, but we have the power to affect its conversion. Throughout Scripture, God’s people have existed amongst the non-believing masses. Think of Moses, who spent most of his young adult life as an Egyptian prince. And Joseph, who rose from slave to the highest ranks of Pharoah’s court. And Jesus, who was rejected by the Jewish elders in the synagogues. It is as if God deliberately puts us in the midst of cross-fire. But why?

In John 17:15, Christ prayed for us, “I do not ask you to remove them from the world, but to keep them from the evil one”. God intended for us to live amongst the secular forces of this world, not to be corrupted by it, but to bring about its conversion. We are His change agents, in our workplace, in our schools, in our churches, even in our own homes. We are here, placed by Him in often hostile surroundings, to shine His light on those who have yet to see Him or who have forgotten His goodness. For if there was no darkness, how would we be able to appreciate the Light?

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for the perseverance to bear patiently with those around us who are non-believers or who have fallen away from God. We pray for their conversion, that they find their way back to Him.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the means and the resources to be His agents of change in the societies we live in.

23 October, Sunday – On Prayer

23 October

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Ecclesiasticus 35:12-14, 16-19

The Lord is a judge
who is no respecter of personages.

He shows no respect of personages to the detriment of a poor man,
he listens to the plea of the injured party.

He does not ignore the orphan’s supplication,
nor the widow’s as she pours out her story.

The man who with his whole heart serves God will be accepted,
his petitions will carry to the clouds.

The humble man’s prayer pierces the clouds,
until it arrives he is inconsolable,

And the Lord will not be slow,
nor will he be dilatory on their behalf.

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2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18

My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.

The first time I had to present my defence, there was not a single witness to support me. Every one of them deserted me – may they not be held accountable for it. But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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Luke 18:9-14

Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else: ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

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The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds

Nagging is quite possibly one of the ugliest traits a person can have. The basic premise of nagging is trust, or more accurately, the lack of it. We nag because we don’t trust that things will get done unless we are actively micro-managing it. But when we repeat petitions and prayers to God, isn’t that a little like nagging? And nagging God, no less? I was reflecting on this while at church last Sunday, as I rattled off a litany of petitions to Him. As request number 25 rolled off my tongue, I wondered — how must it feel to be God? To be talked to like some bearded, blue-tinged genie? If I were to weigh out how often I asked of Him, ‘Can you please do this/that…’, versus how often I said ‘Thank you’, or ‘Forgive me’, what would that ratio look like? 2:1? 10:1? 50:1? When it comes down to it, what is the quality of our prayer?

On reading the gospel from Luke today, the image of the Pharisee in ‘self-congratulatory prayer’ struck me. Most of us would probably go, “That’s so not me! Of course I give thanks! Of course I’m grateful for His blessings!” But words are empty unless they’re spoken from the heart. The Pharisee also ‘gave thanks’ but what is thankfulness without humility and self-awareness – “Oh God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity…” Is it really thanksgiving?

The quality of my prayer has been something I’ve started to think about a lot lately. I tend to ‘list’ things. I list my thanks for all His blessings. I list my requests. I list my sins or what I can think of at least, and ask for His forgiveness. But always, I am checking off lists, making new lists, updating lists, deleting lists. Somehow, I don’t think that’s how we’re supposed to be praying. I’d like to have a conversation with God sometimes, a heart-to-heart without the tyranny of all these lists and boxes I need to complete. I know He knows my heart – all the things I want to say, the things I can’t say, the things I’m too afraid to speak. And He has already given me all that I need, all the gifts for this journey called Life. Wouldn’t it be great for once, to be able to just sit with God, and be?

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(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for the honesty to engage God in thoughtful, prayerful, mindful conversation.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for The Word, our guide to how to live a prayerful, purposeful life.

12 October, Wednesday – Fruit of the earth, work of human hands

12 October

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Galatians 5:18-25

If you are led by the Spirit, no law can touch you. When self-indulgence is at work the results are obvious: fornication, gross indecency and sexual irresponsibility; idolatry and sorcery; feuds and wrangling, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels; disagreements, factions, envy; drunkenness, orgies and similar things. I warn you now, as I warned you before: those who behave like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control. There can be no law against things like that, of course. You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires.

Since the Spirit is our life, let us be directed by the Spirit.

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Luke 11:42-46

The Lord said to the Pharisees:

‘Alas for you Pharisees! You who pay your tithe of mint and rue and all sorts of garden herbs and overlook justice and the love of God! These you should have practised, without leaving the others undone. Alas for you Pharisees who like taking the seats of honour in the synagogues and being greeted obsequiously in the market squares! Alas for you, because you are like the unmarked tombs that men walk on without knowing it!

A lawyer then spoke up. ‘Master,’ he said ‘when you speak like this you insult us too.’

‘Alas for you lawyers also,’ he replied ‘because you load on men burdens that are unendurable, burdens that you yourselves do not move a finger to lift.’

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What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control

There was a vacant pot of soil in my family’s apartment corridor garden. Once, after eating a delightfully sweet blood orange, I decided to lay two seeds in the soil. Then, I buried a random assortment of other seeds into this pot. This was a strange magpie instinct in me to hoard the seeds in my ‘pot of treasures,’ curiously waiting for what might erupt from the soil. When my dad found out, he laughed and called me ‘kooky’ for not even labeling them in separate pots. Who knew which would grow? What if the different seedlings strangle each other as they vied for root space?

It is a mysterious thing: how life forms, how nature pushes forth from the deep darkness of seeming nothingness but a single seed. Lo and behold, one sturdy stalk sprung forth and just kept on growing. It was anyone’s guess which plant it was. But we committed to water and watch it. Its leaves grew larger, its ring of branches began to exhibit a pattern of growth. So, from pot to bigger pot, dad then moved it to the common ground below my window. It was only two feet tall then. Left outside to grow, we learnt to surrender our tending and tilling to the aid of the elements. Stood the assault of wind and rain it did. Once, bending almost halfway down.

And so it goes, that the work of our hands is really both about the graces given by God in opportunities and talents, as well as the intention and effort we pour into our work. In today’s Galatians verse, it is no coincidence that each fruit of the Spirit is both a noun and a verb. It may be a given quality, but it too needs to be cultivated by action. This is what virtue is: in unequal parts nature and nurture, by God’s design.

So as the priest prays these words over the bread and wine on the Altar before they are consecrated to God and become transubstantiated as the Body and Blood of Christ:

“Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink.”

We recognise the mystery of our co-operation in God’s grace. As we have received the earth and seeds as gifts through God’s goodness, these wheat and grapes have grown from the earth by God’s blessing by the movements of Nature. At the same time, the bread and wine are indeed the work of human hands – through our tilling, cultivation, harvesting, threshing, milling, ingenuity and baking. It is the same when grapes are amazingly transformed into wine. Hence we offer to Him the fruit of our labours through our participation in His design, yet recognising that the very origin of these produce comes alone from His goodness.

Finally, in our offering on the Altar, we surrender to Him what we have worked on and created unto His Will. We return the true and divine Authorship of mystery unto the Lord, just as we cannot see nor comprehend how the first seeds of all manner of life first came to be, God shall transform this bread of life and spiritual drink yet again – mystically – into the real Body and Blood of Christ (John 6:53-56; Matthew 16:5-12).

We are collaborators with God in His work of creation. True spiritual fruits require both divine grace and human effort to become abiding virtues that stand the test of time.

Over the past months, the plant has grown taller than me. Its once small leaves now larger than my palm. Its green stalk browns now as it turns to a wider trunk. We don’t quite know which of the seeds this is. But certainly its flowers and fruits will tell.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: Let us see the work of our hands as a means of worship and praise to the Lord. May our work be suffused with true virtue and charity. No work is too menial when offered for God’s delight.

Thanksgiving: We bless the Lord for giving us hope that the fruit of our work, when offered to God, is eternally significant.

4 October, Tuesday – Decluttering from the every day

4 October – Memorial for St. Francis of Assisi

Francis Bernardone (1181–1226) was the son of Pietro Bernadone, a rich cloth merchant. Though he had a good education and became part of his father’s business, he also had a somewhat misspent youth. He was a street brawler and some-time soldier. He was captured during a conflict between Assisi and Perugia, and spent over a year as prisoner of war. During this time, he had a conversion experience, including a reported message from Christ calling him to leave this worldly life. Upon release, Francis began taking his religion seriously.

He took the Gospel as the rule of his life, Jesus Christ as his literal example. He dressed in rough clothes, begged for his sustenance, and preached purity and peace. His family disapproved, and his father disinherited him; Francis formally renounced his wealth and inheritance. He visited hospitals, served the sick, preached in the streets, and took all men and women as siblings.

He began to attract followers in 1209, and with papal blessing founded the Franciscans based on a simple statement by Jesus: “Leave all and follow me.” In 1212, Clare of Assisi became his spiritual student, which led to the founding of the Poor Clares. He visited and preached to the Saracens. He composed songs and hymns to God and nature. He lived with animals, worked with his hands, cared for lepers, cleaned churches, and sent food to thieves. In 1221 he resigned direction of the Franciscans.

While in meditation on La Verna (Mount Alvernia) in the Apennines in September 1224, Francis received the stigmata, which periodically bled during the remaining two years of his life. This miracle has a separate memorial on 17 September.

In the Middle Ages, people who were believed to be possessed by Beelzebub especially called upon the intercession of St. Francis, the theory being that he was the demon’s opposite number in heaven.

“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.” – St. Francis of Assisi

– Patron Saint Index

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Galatians 1:13-24

You must have heard of my career as a practising Jew, how merciless I was in persecuting the Church of God, how much damage I did to it, how I stood out among other Jews of my generation, and how enthusiastic I was for the traditions of my ancestors.

Then God, who had specially chosen me while I was still in my mother’s womb, called me through his grace and chose to reveal his Son in me, so that I might preach the Good News about him to the pagans. I did not stop to discuss this with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were already apostles before me, but I went off to Arabia at once and later went straight back from there to Damascus. Even when after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days, I did not see any of the other apostles; I only saw James, the brother of the Lord, and I swear before God that what I have just written is the literal truth. After that I went to Syria and Cilicia, and was still not known by sight to the churches of Christ in Judaea, who had heard nothing except that their one-time persecutor was now preaching the faith he had previously tried to destroy; and they gave glory to God for me.

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Luke 10:38-42

Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered: ‘Martha, Martha,’ he said ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’

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…and yet few are needed, indeed only one.

Many of us tend to be more like Martha – always planning ahead, worrying and fretting about this and that. Over the past few months, while preparing for my long holiday in Spain, I tried to accomplish as much as possible at work so that my team would be able to function as best as possible while I was away. Indeed, at my last debrief with my unit heads, I told them that I would not be checking emails each day (as I usually do when on holiday) as I would be on the road walking most of the time.

The time away proved absolutely refreshing and essential for my spiritual renewal. To my own surprise, I quickly dismissed all thoughts about work and other commitments the moment I got to the airport. I even checked myself out of quite a few group chats, saying that I would rejoin when I got back home. It was rather uncharacteristic of me but I knew that all my physical preparation for my journey would come to naught if I was going to worry about what was happening back home all the time.

And while on my walk, stripped of many of the creature comforts of home, I fould myself enjoying each day as we headed towards our destination. I began to enjoy ‘living in the present’ and being more attuned to the sights, sounds and smells that the Spanish countryside and villages had to offer. Even after we had arrived in Santiago and spent a few days in Madrid, I hardly (I can’t say ‘never’) checked on emails from the office. For the first time in a long while, I wasn’t planning ahead and fussing about what we were going to have for dinner while eating breakfast. I left everything in His hands and trusted fully that He would deliver each and every day.

Brothers and sisters, it is very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day ‘doing’ of things at work, running errands, completing chores, attending meetings, fulfilling appointments and just generally living the hectic lives that WE choose for ourselves. But in the end, what’s more important is that we must learn and develop the habit of being still in order to listen effectively to Christ speaking to us – in the faces that we meet, the helping hand that we shake, the greeting from an office cleaner first thing in the morning, the ‘free cuppa’ from the pantry – the list goes on. It is difficult to keep calm and carry on while all around us, things are turning topsy-turvy or becoming chaotic. But are they? Or are we simply fretting about things just so that we can keep our minds occupied?

Taking it one step further — are we really that busy at work, at home, even in church, that we can’t spare 15 minutes (at the very least) being ‘busy’ with God?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

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Prayer: Dear God, bless us with patience and humility so that we learn to me more attuned to you and to your constant presence in our hustle-and-bustle lives. Teach us to enjoy the present rather than to constantly fret about the future.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for the being so patient with us and for always being there for us in spite of our inattentiveness.

25 September, Sunday – Mercy & Grace

25 September

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Amos 6:1,4-7

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

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1 Timothy 6:11-16

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

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

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Luke 16:19-31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

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

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

23 September, Friday – In Memoriam

23 September – Memorial for St. Pius of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio), Priest

Pio (1887-1968) was ordained when he was 22. He founded the House for the Relief of Suffering in 1956, a hospital that serves 60,000 a year. In the 1920s he started a series of prayer groups that continue today with over 400,000 members worldwide.

His canonisation miracle involved the cure of Matteo Pio Colella, age 7, the son of a doctor who works in the House for Relief of Suffering, the hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo founded by Padre Pio. On the night of 20 June 2000, Matteo was admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital with meningitis. By morning doctors had lost hope for him as nine of the boy´s internal organs had ceased to give signs of life.

That night, during a prayer vigil attended by Matteo´s mother and some Capuchin friars of Padre Pio´s monastery, the child’s condition improved suddenly. When he awoke from the coma, Matteo said that he had seen an elderly man with a white beard and a long, brown habit, who said to him: “Don´t worry, you will soon be cured.”

– Patron Saints Index

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven:

A time for giving birth,
a time for dying;
a time for planting,
a time for uprooting what has been planted.

A time for killing,
a time for healing;
a time for knocking down,
a time for building.

A time for tears,
a time for laughter;
a time for mourning,
a time for dancing.

A time for throwing stones away,
a time for gathering them up;
a time for embracing,
a time to refrain from embracing.

A time for searching,
a time for losing;
a time for keeping,
a time for throwing away.

A time for tearing,
a time for sewing;
a time for keeping silent,
a time for speaking.

A time for loving,
a time for hating;
a time for war,
a time for peace.

What does a man gain for the efforts that he makes? I contemplate the task that God gives mankind to labour at. All that he does is apt for its time; but though he has permitted man to consider time in its wholeness, man cannot comprehend the work of God from beginning to end.

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Luke 9:18-22

One day when Jesus was praying alone in the presence of his disciples he put this question to them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ And they answered, ‘John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ It was Peter who spoke up. ‘The Christ of God’ he said. But he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.

‘The Son of Man’ he said ‘is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’

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He has made everything appropriate to its time

A dear priest and family friend passed away recently. Reverend Father Phillips Muthu passed away, aged 56, from a heart attack on 10 September 2016. He was at the time, the sole Catholic priest in the state of Terengganu, Malaysia.

Prior to that, Fr. Phillips had been the parish priest of Assumption Church in Petaling Jaya, which is where my parents got acquainted with him. While I cannot claim a close acquaintance with Fr. Phillips, I am well acquainted with his works and gentle temperament. Everyone who knew him loved him, young and old alike. He had a special interest in migrants and the youth, and had just returned from Poland, where he had accompanied a contingent of youth for World Youth Day. Ironically the last thing that he did before going out for a brisk walk that fateful Saturday evening, was to hold a cathecism and youth programme for children at a chapel in the town of Chukai. Being the sole catholic priest in Terengganu meant that Fr. Phillips had to travel between towns to celebrate mass.

Being based in Singapore, I only ever got the chance to attend mass with my parents when I came home to visit. My late father had been critically ill at the time when they first got to know Fr. Phillips, and had talked to him about conversion and baptism. Fr. Phillips was very encouraging and had welcomed my parents to his church with open arms. Open arms would also describe Fr. Phillips’ way with the children of his parish. Children would flock to him after mass, where he would reach out and bless each one of them, give an encouraging pat on the back, or a comforting hug, but each one always had a smile from him. I have a picture burned in my memory of him surrounded by little ones, and it brought to mind Jesus being surrounded by the little children.

He had done so much and was in the pinkest of health, and so it was with great shock and disbelief when the news of his untimely death first broke. Many hearts were broken and tears were shed, for a priest who cared about his congregation, for a friend who cared about your well-being, for a father figure who loved each one like his own. His passing was all too soon, for his time with us felt like just a fleeting breath. In his passing though, we recognize and acknowledge all that he had done for his parishes, and for his people, and we thank God for the blessings bestowed upon us through Fr. Phillips’s presence. God giveth, and God taketh; in Fr. Phillips, God had given us a man after God’s own heart to do His will, and in so doing, perhaps Fr. Phillips’ work on earth here was deemed done by God. Everything happens in God’s time, and though we struggle in our despair to come to grips with his passing, at the end of the day we give thanks to God Almighty and look to celebrate Fr. Phillips through his life.

As with all our loved ones who have gone before us, he is now in a better place with God. May he rest in peace forevermore.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Thanksgiving: Lord, we pray for the family, parishes and friends of Fr Phillips, that they may find comfort in You, and in knowing that he is with you, watching over us. May he rest in peace.

Prayer: We give you thanks Lord, for the life of Fr. Phillips who devoted himself to Your service and Your people. We pray that he will always be a shining example of Christ’s servant, and that we will be able to continue his good works.

22 September, Thursday – Vanity Of Vanities

22 September

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Ecclesiastes 1:2-11

Vanity of vanities, the Preacher says. Vanity of vanities. Vanity of vanities. All is vanity! For all his toil, his toil under the sun, what does man gain by it?

A generation goes, a generation comes, yet the earth stands firm for ever. The sun rises, the sun sets; then to its place it speeds and there it rises. Southward goes the wind, then turns to the north; it turns and turns again; back then to its circling goes the wind. Into the sea all the rivers go, and yet the sea is never filled, and still to their goal the rivers go. All things are wearisome. No man can say that eyes have not had enough of seeing, ears their fill of hearing. What was will be again; what has been done will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun. Take anything of which it may be said, ‘Look now, this is new.’ Already, long before our time, it existed. Only no memory remains of earlier times, just as in times to come next year itself will not be remembered.

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Luke 9:7-9

Herod the tetrarch had heard about all that was being done by Jesus; and he was puzzled, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life. But Herod said, ‘John? I beheaded him. So who is this I hear such reports about?’ And he was anxious to see Jesus.

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For all his toil, what does Man gain by it?

What a question! These existentialist questions have long been written about by philosophers who posited that Man’s very true essence is his individuality, his independent actions and his conscious ‘being’ in the world, through which he creates his own values and determines a meaning to his life. There is a kind of hapless desperation to such a worldly definition of man’s existence. It creates a need in one to ‘make good of life’, or else there is nothing worthy to be talked of about one’s existence at the end of life!

By the world’s standards, we count our gain from the successes of our toils. What is my worth? For some, “I am my paycheck; I am my job description; I am the praises or insults that others accord me; I am the success of my career; I am the beautiful house and property I own.” This we count as our legacy.

“Into the sea all the rivers go, and yet the sea is never filled, and still to their goal the rivers go […] What was will be again; what has been done will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun.” This we are told in today’s first reading. Let us not feel sorry for ourselves that our lives are but the river waters that flow into the same sea, or that our lives and accomplishments are in reality nothing new under the sun. Let us rejoice in this amazing truth that we are all made for eternity – that, our lives having been redeemed by Christ is worth far more than the dollars and cents that we count, scrimp, and save, in this world. We live this life not by taking or keeping, but by giving and sharing.

How does this transform your understanding of your existence today? You are part of God’s great plan of humanity; your search for meaning in this life, in your daily toils is shared by the people who trudge alongside you in this seeming daily drudgery. Your quenchless thirst for significance beyond your economic contribution to this country, your loved ones, is deeply felt by Jesus who came down to earth and lived a life like yours. Do not feel alone. Do not feel helpless. Do not despair. Come to the Father who will give you a true meaning and purpose in life.

“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, says the Lord; No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

P.S. This reflection is pulled from our Archives of 2012.

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Prayer: Jesus, I ask you to show me the way to eternity. Show me the little simple ways in which I can grow in faith in You and discover my life’s meaning.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord Jesus for walking beside me as I search for the meaning of my life, as I try to grapple with your purpose for me as I am here in this family, this workplace, this world.

22 July, Friday – Out with the old, in with the new

22 July – Memorial for St. Mary Magdalen

There is actually very little solid information about her, and both scholars and traditions differ on the interpretation of what we do know.

She was a friend and follower of Jesus. Filled with sorrow over her sin, she anointed Christ, washed his feet with her hair. He exorcised seven demons from her. She was the first to have been visited by the Risen Christ. While there are several arguments about her life after the Crucifixion, the Greek Church maintains that she retired to Ephesus with the Blessed Virgin Mary and lived there the rest of her life.

Some things we do know for certain – Mary wasn’t Jesus’ wife or mistress, she wasn’t the mother of His child, and she didn’t found a royal dynasty or separate branch of Christianity.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Corinthians 5:14-17

The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.

From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.

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John 20:1-2,11-18

It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

Meanwhile Mary stayed outside near the tomb, weeping. Then, still weeping, she stooped to look inside, and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet. They said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away’ she replied ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ As she said this she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not recognise him. Jesus said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’ Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master. Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ So Mary of Magdala went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had said these things to her.

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The old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.

In the early days of my advertising career, I was like a sponge, soaking up whatever I could in terms of technical know-how because I was a novice in terms of what went on in the studio. Then, as I began to establish myself, a certain level of pride began to set in. I told myself that I was developing my own style and that others had to learn to understand where I was coming from. In a competitive environment where teams are pitted against each other in order to have their ideas presented to clients, my ego began to take over.

Naturally, I was brought crashing down to earth more than a few times and the phrase ‘the higher they climb, the harder they fall’ became a reality. Eventually, when I started my own small business, I learnt that in order to do well, I had to learn to be more humble and less obstinate. For me, it was a balancing act between fighting for my ideas and winning a piece of business or even the client’s trust. What I learnt as well was to learn to trust my feelings a lot more when it came to interactions with others. That stood me in good stead for when I moved to Dubai and had to deal with a variety of very ‘emotional’ people.

Even then, I had not yet encountered Jesus and was basing my judgment of people purely on whether I liked them or not and whether they could do something for me, at work or outside of work. It was very much transactional and a ‘zero sum game’ – you do something for me, I do something or you. At the same time, I developed very close friendships with a few others who were genuinely nice people. I also opened myself up to betrayal from colleagues, subordinates and even a close friend.

As I look back on the past few years, a new me has emerged. And after my encounters with Jesus at various retreats, I can happily reveal that it has been a 180-degree change in terms of my priorities in life. I know that this would not have been humanly possible as the old ‘me’ would probably have carried on living a meaningless, empty life based on what I owned and who I was seen with. In fact, he would look at me now and likely not bother to give me the time of day.

Brothers and sisters, like Mary in today’s gospel, we sometimes need an encounter with Jesus in order to wake up and realise what is truly important in our lives. I pray that each of us arises each day with an open heart, ready to encounter Christ when he calls us by name. Because only then will we be able to start living as new creations in His likeness. And to run to others telling them about who our Lord and Saviour truly is.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the gift of an open heart each day so that we may receive you at the door when you come knocking.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for making us new each day.