Tag Archives: Lorraine Wong

29 February, Saturday – Spiritual Reset

29 February

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Isaiah 58:9-14

The Lord says this:

If you do away with the yoke,
the clenched fist, the wicked word,
if you give your bread to the hungry,
and relief to the oppressed,
your light will rise in the darkness,
and your shadows become like noon.
The Lord will always guide you,
giving you relief in desert places.

He will give strength to your bones
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water
whose waters never run dry.

You will rebuild the ancient ruins,
build up on the old foundations.
You will be called ‘Breach-mender’,
‘Restorer of ruined houses.’

If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,
and doing business on the holy day,
if you call the Sabbath ‘Delightful’,
and the day sacred to the Lord ‘Honourable’,
if you honour it by abstaining from travel,
from doing business and from gossip,
then shall you find your happiness in the Lord
and I will lead you triumphant over the heights of the land.
I will feed you on the heritage of Jacob your father.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

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Luke 5:27-32

Jesus noticed a tax collector, Levi by name, sitting by the customs house, and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And leaving everything he got up and followed him.

In his honour Levi held a great reception in his house, and with them at table was a large gathering of tax collectors and others. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples and said, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus said to them in reply, ‘It is not those who are well who need the doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the virtuous, but sinners to repentance.’

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 “You will be like a spring whose waters never run dry”

How wonderful and delightful to read of the promises of Christ in today’s first reading. He has made all these great and mighty plans for us, for me, imagine that! I want to be all those things He promised, full of life, strong and resourceful. Filled with joy, happiness with endless possibilities. He has painted such a beautiful picture, that my heart yearns to live up to His promises.

I see this passage as an instruction manual — a clear step-by-step guide of how to attain this promise of His. It has also become clearer for me, what this season of Lent is all about. It is a purification process, ridding all of the darkness that consumes us, a spiritual reset button. Not that we shouldn’t repent and return to God throughout the year, but the Church has given us this period to focus on cleansing ourselves so that we can rise again with our Lord on Easter Sunday, to fully live in His glory.

This has also given me a different perspective of the season. It is not about the doom and gloom of our sinful nature that we should focus on. Yes, we need to repent and do our part, however, in today’s gospel Jesus declared it is for you and me that He became man and walked this world, it is for our salvation that He came. So yes, we are sinful and we need saving, that’s a fact! Nevertheless, He is with us, by our side, there’s nothing to fear but more importantly, we ought to cast our sight further, to that image and vision He has created us for, to claim that promise He has given… to be that spring whose waters never run dry!

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, how wonderful to be called to greatness, how delightful that, in you, we can be the light that rises in darkness. As we continue our Lenten observances, let us cast our sight a little further, while we mourn for our sinful ways, to see the promises you’ve made knowing we will rise again victoriously in you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for your promises and for the gift of this season, for the chance to re-examine our sinful ways, to have the opportunity to hit the reset button time and time again.

28 February, Friday – Outward sign of an inward shift

28 February

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Isaiah 58:1-9

Thus says the Lord:

Shout for all you are worth,
raise your voice like a trumpet.
Proclaim their faults to my people,
their sins to the House of Jacob.

They seek me day after day,
they long to know my ways,
like a nation that wants to act with integrity
and not ignore the law of its God.

They ask me for laws that are just,
they long for God to draw near:
‘Why should we fast if you never see it,
why do penance if you never notice?’

Look, you do business on your fast-days,
you oppress all your workmen;
look, you quarrel and squabble when you fast
and strike the poor man with your fist.

Fasting like yours today
will never make your voice heard on high.
Is that the sort of fast that pleases me,
a truly penitential day for men?

Hanging your head like a reed,
lying down on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call fasting,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me
 – it is the Lord who speaks –
to break unjust fetters and
undo the thongs of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,
and break every yoke,
to share your bread with the hungry,
and shelter the homeless poor,

to clothe the man you see to be naked
and not turn from your own kin?
Then will your light shine like the dawn
and your wound be quickly healed over.

Your integrity will go before you
and the glory of the Lord behind you.
Cry, and the Lord will answer;
call, and he will say, ‘I am here.’

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Matthew 9:14-15

John’s disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?’ Jesus replied, ‘Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of mourning as long as the bridegroom is still with them? But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then they will fast.’

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“The sort of fast that pleases me.”

Growing up as a little girl, I recall there was a constant drive to seek affirmation from my parents, especially my mother. As I reflect deeper, even up to the point when I became a mother myself, I still yearn for her approval. Of course, as an earthly mother, she is not without her struggles and issues, so this imperfect measuring up to her caused me much turmoil and pain, which manifested in the need to appear good, proper, and competent to other authorities in my life as well. It took me much soul searching during CER and after, to finally be at peace with who I am, and to realize truly who it is I ought to please.

Galatians 1:10 gave me wisdom and set me on the right path “Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.” With this realization came peace and ease, no longer do I need to put up appearances, constantly shifting and adjusting myself to please others; the course became clearer. The only question I need to ask myself from now on is, “What will please my Lord?”

As we perform penance during this season of Lent, what is our purpose? Fasting needs to lead to repentance and a true conversion of the spirit, for without which, it is just vain and hypocritical. We all need to pray earnestly for God’s assistance in examining ourselves; in purifying our intentions and motivations. Ultimately, whatever we choose to do as a sacrifice, is with the aim of having a closer relationship with our Heavenly Father.

As in today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us not to fast as the Pharisees do, without clear intention and purpose, just for the sake of following the laws. Purpose driven actions are imperative, and as Christians, our purpose must be Christ-centered and focussed on our Heavenly Father.

Conversely, be mindful of falling into the trap of thinking we can do without any outward signs. In our egocentricity, convincing ourselves that we do not need any acts of penance and charity, because we are saved and have attained conversion. Pride stands in our way, for if we truly love God and are sorry for our transgressions, then this conversion of the spirit will manifest into works of charity and sacrifice.

For me, a simple way of looking at it is ‘Outward Sign of An Inward Shift’. Conversion of heart, mind and spirit translates into outward signs of right actions and deeds.

In this season of Lent, let us walk closer to God with Jesus by our side, with purification of our heart every step of the way, so that we shall be light of world and salt of the earth.

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to purify our hearts, to examine our intentions and motivations, for we love you and want to draw closer to you during this season of Lent. We yearn for a deepening of our faith and to come face to face with our Father. In you we draw strength and power. Help us O, Lord.

Thanksgiving: Our Father, we are so grateful for your faithfulness and love. For never abandoning us despite our iniquities, we thank you Father. 

27 February, Thursday – WWJD

27 February

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Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Moses said to the people: ‘See, today I set before you life and prosperity, death and disaster. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoin on you today, if you love the Lord your God and follow his ways, if you keep his commandments, his laws, his customs, you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to make your own. But if your heart strays, if you refuse to listen, if you let yourself be drawn into worshipping other gods and serving them, I tell you today, you will most certainly perish; you will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today: I set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live, in the love of the Lord your God, obeying his voice, clinging to him; for in this your life consists, and on this depends your long stay in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob he would give them.’

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Luke 9:22-25

Jesus said to his disciples:
‘The Son of Man 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.’

Then to all he said:

‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to have won the whole world and to have lost or ruined his very self?’

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“Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live…”

 Do we choose life in our daily lives? Do we choose to give life in our words and deeds? Are we a blessing to others or a curse?

It is so hard to be part of this world as a Christian. The world will always tempt and entice us with fame, glitz and glory; it’s about survival of the fittest, to win at all cost, but truly at what cost? Our soul? A high price to pay indeed. Jesus is not forcing us to follow Him blindly and certainly not threatening us with fears and damnation. The invitation is to respond to Him in love! In all that I do, in my choices every day, to renounce the way of the world no matter how difficult it may be.

Our Church emphasizes the concept of Imitatio Christi (imitation of Christ), which can be summarized in the phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” (WWJD), a movement in the 1990s as a personal motto for adherents of Christianity. In my daily struggles, to ask myself “WWJD?”, that will be a Christ-centered way of examining our motivations, choices and decisions; offering it all up in supplication to be led by His light.

To follow Jesus is a conscious living and giving of life and to be a blessing to everyone we encounter, for ours is a Living God and Jesus is alive and lives in us and through us. When we refuse to be drawn into the way of the world, when we choose life, we have won back our soul!

As we enter the season of Lent, let’s ask ourselves, what choices can I make today that bring life to others? WWJD?

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Jesus, you came to show us the way. Let us continue to fix our gaze upon you, our Lord, leaving the world behind us, choosing to love you no matter what. And even when we falter, which we will, help us to turn back to you in humility, and start again.

Thanksgiving: Our Father, thank you for allowing us this freedom to choose and be co-operators of your plan. Not because you need us but because we need it to reciprocate our love for you.

21 December, Saturday – True Joy

21 December – Memorial for St. Peter Canisius, priest, doctor of the Church

Peter (1521–1597) was the son of Jacob Canisius, a wealthy burgomeister, and Ægidia van Houweningen, who died shortly after Peter’s birth. He was educated in Cologne, Germany, where he studied art, civil law, and theology. He received a master’s degree by age 19. His closest friends at university were monks and clerics.

He joined the Jesuits on May 8, 1543 after attending a retreat conducted by Bl. Peter Faber. He taught at the University of Cologne, and helped found the first Jesuit house in the city. He was ordained in 1546. He was theologian of Cardinal Otto Truchsess von Waldburg, Bishop of Augsburg in 1547.

He travelled and worked with St. Ignatius of Loyola who was his spiritual director in Rome, Italy. He taught rhetoric in Messina, Sicily in 1548, preaching in Italian and Latin. He was doctor of theology in 1549. He began teaching theology and preaching at Ingolstadt, Germany in 1549, and was rector of the university the following year.

In 1552 he began teaching theology, and preaching in the Cathedral of St. Stephen in Vienna, Austria. He was the royal court confessor even as he continued to work in hospitals and prisons. During Lent in 1553 he travelled to preach in abandoned parishes in Lower Austria.

During Mass one day, he received a vision of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and ever after offered his work to the Sacred Heart. He led the Counter-Reformation in Germany, Austria, Bohemia, and Switzerland, and his work led to the return of Catholicism to Germany. His catechism went through 200 editions during his lifetime, and was translated into 12 languages. In some places catechisms were referred to as “Canisi”.

He attended the Diets of Augsburg (1555), Ratisbon (1556, 1557), and founded Jesuit colleges in Ingolstadt, Prague, Dilingen, and Fribourg. Everywhere he worked he became a noted preacher, and often worked with children, teaching them and hearing their confessions.

He represented Pope Paul IV at the imperial Diet of Pieternow. He addressed the Council of Trent on the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. He recommended St. Stanislaus Kostka for reception as a Jesuit. He was court preacher to Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria.

While in Fribourg, Switzerland, he received a message from the city’s patron saint, Nicholas of Myra, that he should stop travelling. Canisius spent the rest of his life there. He taught, preached, edited books, and worked to support the Catholic press and printers in many cities. His advice was sought by St. Francis de Sales, and by his friend St. Charles Borromeo. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1925 by Pope Pius XI.

– Patron Saint Index

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Song of Songs 2:8-14

I hear my Beloved.
See how he comes
leaping on the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My Beloved is like a gazelle,
like a young stag.

See where he stands
behind our wall.
He looks in at the window,
he peers through the lattice.

My Beloved lifts up his voice,
he says to me,
‘Come then, my love,
my lovely one, come.
For see, winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth.
The season of glad songs has come,
the cooing of the turtledove is heard
in our land.
The fig tree is forming its first figs
and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance.
Come then, my love,
my lovely one, come.
My dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock,
in the coverts of the cliff,
show me your face,
let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet
and your face is beautiful.’

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Luke 1:39-45

Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’

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Filled with the Holy Spirit

Christmas is truly my favorite season of the year; it has always been since I was a child, even though my family were non-Catholics in my growing up years and they never really celebrated Christmas. Somehow it has this magical spirit that was so captivating to me. Only years later, when I received Christ, did I truly comprehend its significance!

It was also during this season that my husband and I met (over caroling practice) and this year, we celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary. What makes it even more special for me as I reflected on today’s first reading in Song of Songs, it was one of the readings chosen for our wedding mass and he sang these verses as I walked down the aisle.

There is such an atmosphere of joy and good cheer during Christmas and today’s readings remind us of his triumphant coming. So what is joy really? To me joy is not the absence of pain and suffering but to have joy in spite of it. 22 years of marriage has its fair share of ups and downs. We have gone through many trials, but through it all, we never felt abandoned by the Lord. These difficulties strengthened us and our marriage and it is because Jesus has been with us through it all, and He still is! When Mary visited Elizabeth carrying the child Jesus, the baby in Elizabeth leapt for joy and “she was filled with the Holy Spirit.” So it is in our marriage and in our lives, wherever we go, as long as we have Christ in us, joy follows! True joy is not found in the future or the often mistaken view that we will be happy “only if” …  only if we live in a bigger house; only if we have that promotion; only if we get to go on that holiday etc. True joy is found here and now for His spirit lives in us!

 (Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to see the joy that is around us in our everyday life; to see the joy that is within us, and to celebrate being alive in the Spirt. For you are with us and nothing else matters.

Thanksgiving: Our Father in Heaven, we are grateful for your unyielding love and for giving us Jesus to redeem our sins and for the Holy Spirit that lives in us.

20 December, Friday – God is with us

20 Dec 2019

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Isaiah 7:10-14

The Lord spoke to Ahaz and said, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign for yourself coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above.’ ‘No,’ Ahaz answered ‘I will not put the Lord to the test.’

Then Isaiah said:

‘Listen now, House of David:
are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men
without trying the patience of my God, too?
The Lord himself, therefore,
will give you a sign.
It is this: the maiden is with child
and will soon give birth to a son
whom she will call Immanuel,
a name which means “God-is-with-us.”’

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Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

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Immanuel

God is with us. Just pause for a moment and let these words sink in slowly — GOD IS WITH US.

I am guilty of keeping this at the head level and not hold this dear to my heart. In the busyness of everyday life, worrying about my business, worrying about the children and what is ahead of me, I have often relied on my own strength and understanding. Even in times of joy and happiness, I have often neglected to stop and ponder on this beautiful mystery. And yet, and especially when life becomes overwhelming, it is important to slow down, to pause and remind myself of His presence.

Our family took a trip to Hokkaido recently and were exposed to subzero temperatures. The silence was deafeningly beautiful and, in that moment, standing in the snow with the wind blowing, I found God once again. This reminded me of Saint Teresa’s quote: “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass — grow in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

Just like our beautiful Mother, her purpose in life was fulfilled when she was deep in prayer, during the silence of the night. As in today’s Gospel, when she said those famous words, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me.” None of this would have happened if not because of Mary’s devotion to God and seeking him in the silence.

I am reminded today to persevere in my quiet time with the Lord, so as to hold dear in my heart that God is with us, as Saint Teresa said that nature grows in silence, and we need silence to be able to touch souls. I am part of nature and his creation and I grow and move in silence.

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, let my soul be touched by you in silence. Help me to remain faithful to you throughout my day. Even in the busyness of the season, I can find silence; to reach into my heart and soul to encounter you in every moment and hear the whisper, “I am with you.”

Thanksgiving: Our Father in Heaven, thank you for blessing us with nature and the changing of seasons, for in these encounters with your creation, we are reminded of your presence here on earth.

19 December, Thursday – Faithful and Dutiful

19 Dec 2019

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Judges 13:2-7,24-25

There was a man of Zorah of the tribe of Dan, called Manoah. His wife was barren, she had borne no children. The angel of the Lord appeared to this woman and said to her, ‘You are barren and have had no child. But from now on take great care. Take no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean. For you will conceive and bear a son. No razor is to touch his head, for the boy shall be God’s nazirite from his mother’s womb. It is he who will begin to rescue Israel from the power of the Philistines.’ Then the woman went and told her husband, ‘A man of God has just come to me; his presence was like the presence of the angel of God, he was so majestic. I did not ask him where he came from, and he did not reveal his name to me. But he said to me, “You will conceive and bear a son. From now on, take no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean. For the boy shall be God’s nazirite from his mother’s womb to his dying day.”’

The woman gave birth to a son and called him Samson. The child grew, and the Lord blessed him; and the spirit of the Lord began to move him.

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Luke 1:5-25

In the days of King Herod of Judaea there lived a priest called Zechariah who belonged to the Abijah section of the priesthood, and he had a wife, Elizabeth by name, who was a descendant of Aaron. Both were worthy in the sight of God, and scrupulously observed all the commandments and observances of the Lord. But they were childless: Elizabeth was barren and they were both getting on in years.

Now it was the turn of Zechariah’s section to serve, and he was exercising his priestly office before God when it fell to him by lot, as the ritual custom was, to enter the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense there. And at the hour of incense the whole congregation was outside, praying.

Then there appeared to him the angel of the Lord, standing on the right of the altar of incense. The sight disturbed Zechariah and he was overcome with fear. But the angel said to him, ‘Zechariah, do not be afraid, your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth is to bear you a son and you must name him John. He will be your joy and delight and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord; he must drink no wine, no strong drink. Even from his mother’s womb he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, and he will bring back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah, he will go before him to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children and the disobedient back to the wisdom that the virtuous have, preparing for the Lord a people fit for him.’

Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is getting on in years.’ The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel who stand in God’s presence, and I have been sent to speak to you and bring you this good news. Listen! Since you have not believed my words, which will come true at their appointed time, you will be silenced and have no power of speech until this has happened.’ Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were surprised that he stayed in the sanctuary so long. When he came out he could not speak to them, and they realised that he had received a vision in the sanctuary. But he could only make signs to them, and remained dumb.

When his time of service came to an end he returned home. Some time later his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept to herself. ‘The Lord has done this for me’ she said ‘now that it has pleased him to take away the humiliation I suffered among men.’

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Worthy in the sight of God, and scrupulously observed all commandments and observances of the Lord

It has been 2 years since leaving my corporate job to start something on my own. At times, it has been unnerving, not knowing when I will land the next assignment, or how I am to provide for the family. These difficult times have taught me to rely on His providence completely. The decision 2 years ago was a prompting to do something purposeful; to heed His calling. So, I did the one thing I could during turbulent times, that is, to turn to him fully and completely — “God, this is what you asked of me, so I did and now I look to you to help me through.”

And He did; He saw me through! And continues to do so.

This whole experience taught me to remain faithful and dutiful; remaining faithful to God and His promises, at the same time doing what is required of me at any given moment; this was really the only thing I had control over. No amount of planning or looking into the future nor lamenting on things past helped. On the contrary, I felt more stuck and powerless. When I let go, and let God, miracles happened.

Just as it is written in today’s gospel, both Zechariah and Elizabeth “… were worthy in the sight of God, and scrupulously observed all commandments and observances of the Lord.” And, in the case of Manoah’s wife in the first reading, there have been accounts of her obedience and faithfulness in the bible as well. In their simple everyday life, through their struggles, their deepest desires were granted while they were dutifully carrying out God’s work. Today’s reading reminds me to stay present and lift up my work daily to Him and to not fret about what is to come, trusting that God’s promises will be fulfilled through me, when the time is right.

Miracles, not just in the bible, are happening around us every day. Do we pay attention to these miracles around us? Do we play our part in our faithfulness and dutifulness and allow God to do His work through us?

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, it is not always easy to let go of our ego and our tendency to control events, things, or people around us. Help us to stay faithful and dutiful to the work that you have blessed us with this very moment, trusting that you have your divine plan and we are but your instruments. Use us the way you know best, teach us to surrender to the Holy Spirit, to surrender to your Will.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for all the miracles you have worked in our lives. You are the good good Father who always gives us the best, and takes care of us. You know our deepest desires and we know that nothing is impossible with you.

17 Aug, Saturday – Only in His presence can we see our true essence

 

17 Aug 2019

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Joshua 24:14-29

Joshua said to all the people, ‘Fear the Lord and serve him perfectly and sincerely; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if you will not serve the Lord, choose today whom you wish to serve, whether the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are now living. As for me and my House, we will serve the Lord.’

The people answered, ‘We have no intention of deserting the Lord and serving other gods! Was it not the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors out of the land of Egypt, the house of slavery, who worked those great wonders before our eyes and preserved us all along the way we travelled and among all the peoples through whom we journeyed? What is more, the Lord drove all those peoples out before us, as well as the Amorites who used to live in this country. We too will serve the Lord, for he is our God.’

Then Joshua said to the people, ‘You cannot serve the Lord, because he is a holy God, he is a jealous God who will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you desert the Lord to follow alien gods he in turn will afflict and destroy you after the goodness he has shown you.’ The people answered Joshua, ‘No; it is the Lord we wish to serve.’ Then Joshua said to the people, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.’ They answered, ‘We are witnesses.’ ‘Then cast away the alien gods among you and give your hearts to the Lord the God of Israel!’ The people answered Joshua, ‘It is the Lord our God we choose to serve; it is his voice that we will obey.’

That day, Joshua made a covenant for the people; he laid down a statute and ordinance for them at Shechem. Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a great stone and set it up there, under the oak in the sanctuary of the Lord, and Joshua said to all the people, ‘See! This stone shall be a witness against us because it has heard all the words that the Lord has spoken to us: it shall be a witness against you in case you deny your God.’ Then Joshua sent the people away, and each returned to his own inheritance.

After these things Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died; he was a hundred and ten years old.

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Matthew 19:13-15

People brought little children to Jesus, for him to lay his hands on them and say a prayer. The disciples turned them away, but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children alone, and do not stop them coming to me; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ Then he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

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“It is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”

There have been instances when I will go to mass or sit in an adoration room marveling in awe at His power and majesty — praising Him for His blessings and gifts; my heart buzzing with warmth as I soak in His presence and I pour my heart out to him; contemplating on His awesomeness, feeling blessed and grateful as I sit under His watchful eyes and simply adore Him, with no need for words.

Sadly, I have to admit, there were times too many to count, where I would sit in His presence physically, but my mind and soul would be somewhere else. As an adult, often I am distracted by worldly ways, burdened by responsibilities and worries. At times, pride, ego, the lure of fame, status and glory of this world consumes my soul and my entire being! And the noise of this world, these other gods, drowns out the precious moments I have set aside for God. How then, do we hang onto the innocence of a child as we approach God?

I am not sure if I have the answers and I continue to struggle. As one grows up, we are tainted by the environment and the people around us. This drives us to skepticism, to build up defenses to protect ourselves, inflate our ego to appear better than we are, just to be accepted by those around us and by the world at large. For the sake of survival, we mistakenly think that this is the only way to toughen ourselves, and the only way to get love and recognition, to belong. Through it all, we lose sight of the most fundamental truth and that is — we are a child of God!

I guess the more I seek Him in earnestness, the more He will reveal to me who He intends for me to be. Only in His presence can we see our true essence, our essence as a child of our Creator. And only by returning to Him with childlike disposition, can we feel complete and whole; for that is where we truly belong. In John 15:18-19 “we do not belong to this world”, no amount of trying to fit in with this whole world will give us the joy and happiness our heart desires.

To serve the Lord as little children seems like a life-long struggle. As I reflect further, I recall how my children were like and draw lessons from them. I will go to my Lord with trust, adoration, awe and wonder. With a pure and joyful heart, always happy to see Him, running to tell Him about my days and my life experiences. This is how I imagine what it will be like, and I take consolation that as long as I continue to strive, I believe He will see my yearning of my soul and lay his hands on me.

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, have mercy on me for times where I have put other gods before you. For times where I have sought acceptance and consolation in others, and worldly things. Teach me Lord, to seek you and to serve you and you only, as a child of yours.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for the reminder that nothing of this world will ever satisfy my soul, only in you Lord I truly belong.

15 Aug, Thursday – Saved through Christ

Aug 15 – Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mary is taken up body and soul into the glory of Heaven and with God, and in God, she is Queen of Heaven and earth. And is she really so remote from us? The contrary is true. Precisely because she is with God and in God, she is very close to each one of us. While she lived on this earth she could only be close to a few people. Being in God, who is close to us, actually, ‘within’ all of us, Mary shares in this closeness of God. Being in God and with God, she is close to each one of us, knows our hearts, can hear our prayers, can help us with her motherly kindness and has been given to us, as the Lord said, precisely as a “mother” to whom we can turn at every moment. – Pope Benedict XVI  

  • http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2005/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20050815_assunzione-maria_en.html

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Apocalypse 11:19,12:1-6,10

The sanctuary of God in heaven opened and the ark of the covenant could be seen inside it. Then came flashes of lightning, peals of thunder and an earthquake, and violent hail.

Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown. She was pregnant, and in labour, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth. Then a second sign appeared in the sky, a huge red dragon which had seven heads and ten horns, and each of the seven heads crowned with a coronet. Its tail dragged a third of the stars from the sky and dropped them to the earth, and the dragon stopped in front of the woman as she was having the child, so that he could eat it as soon as it was born from its mother. The woman brought a male child into the world, the son who was to rule all the nations with an iron sceptre, and the child was taken straight up to God and to his throne, while the woman escaped into the desert, where God had made a place of safety ready, for her to be looked after in the twelve hundred and sixty days.

Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, ‘Victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now that the persecutor, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down.’

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1 Corinthians 15:20-26

Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him. After that will come the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, having done away with every sovereignty, authority and power. For he must be king until he has put all his enemies under his feet and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death, for everything is to be put under his feet.

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Luke 1:39-56

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’
And Mary said:

‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.

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all men will be brought to life in Christ

As the first disciple of our Lord, Mary certainly endured much trials and tribulations. Her life’s journey is plagued with difficulties and challenges — from the very moment the angel appeared to her and when she conceived by the Holy Spirit, there must have much fear and uncertainty. Even though she had no inclination of what is to come, she carried out her role as a mother to Jesus dutifully. And when she had to witness her beloved son’s passion, crucifixion and death, she remained faithful and trusted fully in God’s plan — a quiet witness to our Lord’s work here on earth.

Our lady showed us what being a true disciple is all about! Yes, the days are hard, and the road ahead uncertain, but she never once doubted our Father’s plan and love. She showed us what it means to be obedient, the importance of journeying on with Jesus by our side. For as long as we keep him close, we can face whatever life has installed for us. And at the end of it all, when our time here on earth comes to an end, our Father will reward us with a place in His heavenly kingdom.

There is sun after the rain, light after darkness, life after death. In the second reading, Saint Paul reminds us that our salvation comes from Jesus and Jesus alone. “Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ”! Through Him, with Him and in Him, we can conquer all difficulties and challenges along the way.

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to grow in faith and obedience just like our blessed Virgin Mary. No matter how challenging or uncertain our paths may be, with Jesus we can conquer all!

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for giving us Mary to be our mother, who lovingly intercedes for us and shows us what being a disciple is all about.

 

29 June, Saturday – The Lord stands by us and gives us power

29 June – Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, apostles

Peter (c.1–64) was a professional fisherman. He was the brother of St. Andrew the Apostle, the man who led him to Christ. Given the name Simon, he was renamed ‘Peter’ (Rock) by Jesus to indicate that Peter would be the rock-like foundation on which the Church would be built. He later became a bishop and was the first pope. He was also a miracle worker.

Paul (c.3–c.65) was a Jewish Talmudic student and a Pharisee. He was a tent-maker by trade. Saul the Jew hated and persecuted the Christians as heretical, even assisting at the stoning of St. Stephen the Martyr. On his way to Damascus, Syria, to arrest another group of faithful, he was knocked to the ground, struck blind by a heavenly light, and given the message that in persecuting him, causing his conversion to Christianity.

He was baptized, changed his name to Paul to reflect his new persona, and began travelling, preaching, and teaching. His letters to the churches he help found form a large percentage of the New Testament. He knew and worked with many of the earliest saints and Fathers of the Church. He died a martyr for the faith.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 12:1-11

King Herod started persecuting certain members of the Church. He beheaded James the brother of John, and when he saw that this pleased the Jews he decided to arrest Peter as well. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread, and he put Peter in prison, assigning four squads of four soldiers each to guard him in turns. Herod meant to try Peter in public after the end of Passover week. All the time Peter was under guard the Church prayed to God for him unremittingly.

On the night before Herod was to try him, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, fastened with double chains, while guards kept watch at the main entrance to the prison. Then suddenly the angel of the Lord stood there, and the cell was filled with light. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him. ‘Get up!’ he said ‘Hurry!’ – and the chains fell from his hands. The angel then said, ‘Put on your belt and sandals.’ After he had done this, the angel next said, ‘Wrap your cloak round you and follow me.’ Peter followed him, but had no idea that what the angel did was all happening in reality; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed through two guard posts one after the other, and reached the iron gate leading to the city. This opened of its own accord; they went through it and had walked the whole length of one street when suddenly the angel left him. It was only then that Peter came to himself. ‘Now I know it is all true’ he said. ‘The Lord really did send his angel and has saved me from Herod and from all that the Jewish people were so certain would happen to me.’

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2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18

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 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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Matthew 16:13-19

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’

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The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom!

As I reflected on the fearlessness and courage of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, as well as the steadfastness of God’s love and protection over them, I am also reminded of the ways both saints failed Jesus – the first, in his cowardice renounced Jesus three times and the other, a zealous persecutor of Christians. In the eyes of the world, they would have been condemned for their betrayal, and yet, instead of writing them off, God touched their hearts and they became powerful instruments in His plans. This conversion of hearts drove them to proclaim the works of Jesus and proliferate Christianity throughout the world. From a place of love for God, they abandoned fully into the mission Christ had set forth for them, always trusting in His plans, and obedience unto death.

Recently, a member of the family was making some poor choices and the chosen behavior and actions really did not sit well with me. The person is someone I love very much, and it was difficult for me to reconcile her actions with our faith and values. However, speaking up might have caused a further rift in our relationship. This dilemma caused much heartache and many sleepless nights. It would have been easier for me to sweep it under the carpet and ignore the turbulence I felt in my heart. Instead, I sought solace in our Lord, turned to our Father in prayer and sought guidance from the Holy Spirit. Through the grace of God, I was prompted with a message and felt it was really God speaking through me. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the outcome was one of acceptance and respect on both sides. To be able to stand firm in my belief and faith while at the same time, conveying my feelings with clarity and in love, gave me peace. The courage and the power of conviction was so strong that I know only He could provide. Truth be told, I have never felt I had it in me to do something like that. Today, I am reminded of these words I once heard; God does not call the abled but enables those He calls. Despite our sinfulness, God calls us and uses us in ways unimaginable, all He asks of us, is to respond to Him in love!

For Jesus taught us and showed us that Love is the greatest commandment of all! The love of our Father though gentle and tender, is also powerful and strong. His love moves mountains and transforms hearts. And when we stand up in love for our faith, and for Christ, our Lord will in turn stand by us, protect us and bring us home safely to his heavenly kingdom!

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, enable us, your sinful children, to always turn to you for inspiration and direction in all that we say and do. May our efforts be pleasing to you and when our work is done here on earth, bring us home safely to you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for calling us to be your children, for choosing us to be your instruments. Even though we are broken, you make us whole again through the work we offer you. Thank you for your mercy, your grace and your love! 

28 June, Friday – He will bring the lost sheep home

28 June 2019 – The Sacred Heart of Jesus

The Heart of the Shepherd

We celebrate the love of Christ the Good Shepherd who gave his life for his sheep.

  • The Sunday Missal

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Ezekiel 34:11-16

The Lord God says this: I am going to look after my flock myself and keep all of it in view. As a shepherd keeps all his flock in view when he stands up in the middle of his scattered sheep, so shall I keep my sheep in view. I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered during the mist and darkness. I shall bring them out of the countries where they are; I shall gather them together from foreign countries and bring them back to their own land. I shall pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in every inhabited place in the land. I shall feed them in good pasturage; the high mountains of Israel will be their grazing ground. There they will rest in good grazing ground; they will browse in rich pastures on the mountains of Israel. I myself will pasture my sheep, I myself will show them where to rest – it is the Lord who speaks. I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong. I shall watch over the fat and healthy. I shall be a true shepherd to them.

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Romans 5:5-11

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.

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Luke 15:3-7

Jesus spoke this parable to the scribes and Pharisees:

‘What man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” he would say “I have found my sheep that was lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.’

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I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered during the mist and darkness

As parents these days, we find ourselves in constant tug of war with the influence of social media, what deem as norms in society today, prevalence of LGBTQ, the pro-choice movement, redefinition of what constitutes a family etc. How do we continue to instill our faith and beliefs with the insurgence of societal norms that goes against the core of Christianity? What is more heartbreaking is when our teenagers make choices in life that goes against the very grain of Christian values? How do we respond? As parents, we cling onto Jesus’ teachings that the greatest of all commandments is Love. We strive to love as Jesus did, tenderly and unconditionally but we stumble time and again due to our fallen nature. At times blaming ourselves for the choices our children make. At times, blaming them or the external influences, none of which solves the problem and we are left disheartened and broken.

Reflecting on today’s readings gives comfort and reminds  us of the mercy and love of our Abba Father. The reassurance that He watches over us and will never abandon us, no matter how far we stray, He will rescue us from darkness and despair! As long as, He is keeping watch; not a single one of us will be lost. The passage from Ezekiel paints such a vivid picture of how our Heavenly Father not only keeps watch but gives us the best and takes such good care of us like a good Shepherd does. Only the best will be given to His flock.

So today, we entrust ourselves and our children to our good good Shepherd, trusting in His ways and even though what may seem lost in our eyes, our Father in Heaven will bring the lost sheep home!

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer Heavenly Father, continue to strengthen the bonds of marriage and family, for the evil one is attacking the foundation of our home. This tug of war is so real and at times, we are at a lost of what to do. Arm us with your Holy Spirit to love, inspire, and transform, with our words and deeds, so that more may return to your fold.

ThanksgivingThank you Father for giving us Jesus so that we may be reconciled with you in His dying and be saved in His resurrection.