Tag Archives: love

8 November, Tuesday – Doing Our Duty

8 November

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Titus 2:1-8,11-14

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

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Luke 17:7-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

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

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

5 November, Saturday – Trust – Big Word

5 November

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Philippians 4:10-19

It is a great joy to me, in the Lord, that at last you have shown some concern for me again; though of course you were concerned before, and only lacked an opportunity. I am not talking about shortage of money: I have learnt to manage on whatever I have, I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty. There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength. All the same, it was good of you to share with me in my hardships. In the early days of the Good News, as you people of Philippi well know, when I left Macedonia, no other church helped me with gifts of money. You were the only ones; and twice since my stay in Thessalonika you have sent me what I needed. It is not your gift that I value; what is valuable to me is the interest that is mounting up in your account. Now for the time being I have everything that I need and more: I am fully provided now that I have received from Epaphroditus the offering that you sent, a sweet fragrance – the sacrifice that God accepts and finds pleasing. In return my God will fulfil all your needs, in Christ Jesus, as lavishly as only God can.

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Luke 16:9-15

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?

‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and laughed at him. He said to them, ‘You are the very ones who pass yourselves off as virtuous in people’s sight, but God knows your hearts. For what is thought highly of by men is loathsome in the sight of God.’

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‘And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?’

I used to report to multiple bosses whose instructions were sometimes conflicting with one another.  It was really complicated and confusing because we could move forward unless they were all in agreement. One boss wants to change this part.  Another boss wants to alter another part.  Then there is another, who wants change to the same part with a different content.  Well, it was an adventure.

I definitely agree with “No servant can be the slave of two masters.”  Well, in my case, I experienced more than two masters.  Similar with our spiritual life, we can only serve our one and only God.

“You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.” This line reminds us that our love for God and money should not be the same.  We know in our hearts that we must always put God first.  However, we tend to do otherwise sometimes because of our job demands.  There can be instances that we neglect our Sabbath because we have other things to do like work and stuff.  But it does not mean that we should be lazy.  The analogy is that we work in order to earn more so we can serve the Lord more.  Our material wealth will just be supplementary to our spiritual life.

When we give more priority to money, it is a way of isolating ourselves from God.  It makes us more vulnerable to sin and thus wanting more material things.  This expanded desire for earthly things pushes us to be greedy and causes us to do anything for the sake of money. Who does not want money? I agree that it is a necessity to live. But physical need is not the only thing that we need to fill. We also have this spiritual need. And we must fill this need even more.

“If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches?”  Money, in itself, is not bad. But things we do for the sake of money like stealing, cheating, corruption, etc…, is not good.  With money, we can have companions and not friends. True friends stay even though we have nothing anymore. Those true friends trust us and we trust them.

We must prepare our life to receive those genuine riches. It is our eternal life. Our eternal gift from God.  Little by little we can do simple things. Simple things like refraining from telling small lies. Those small lies are dangerous because there may come a time that we will think that it is the truth. Let us be sincere with what we can do and not promise anything unrealistic.

We can never know other people’s story.  Hard as it is, let us pray to God to trust and be trusted.  A simple step of honesty goes a long way.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

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Prayer: Almighty ever-living God, please help us be honest with ourselves, with others, and with You. Teach our hearts to be always sincere and faithful.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for Your love and mercy. That as sinful as we are, you still love and forgive us.

31 October, Monday – God’s way of love

31 October

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Philippians 2:1-4

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

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Luke 14:12-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

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

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

27 October, Thursday – Bye Felicia!

27 October

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Ephesians 6:10-20

Grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of his power. Put God’s armour on so as to be able to resist the devil’s tactics. For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the Sovereignties and the Powers who originate the darkness in this world, the spiritual army of evil in the heavens. That is why you must rely on God’s armour, or you will not be able to put up any resistance when the worst happens, or have enough resources to hold your ground.

So stand your ground, with truth buckled round your waist, and integrity for a breastplate, wearing for shoes on your feet the eagerness to spread the gospel of peace and always carrying the shield of faith so that you can use it to put out the burning arrows of the evil one. And then you must accept salvation from God to be your helmet and receive the word of God from the Spirit to use as a sword.
Pray all the time, asking for what you need, praying in the Spirit on every possible occasion. Never get tired of staying awake to pray for all the saints; and pray for me to be given an opportunity to open my mouth and speak without fear and give out the mystery of the gospel of which I am an ambassador in chains; pray that in proclaiming it I may speak as boldly as I ought to.

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Luke 13:31-35

Some Pharisees came up. ‘Go away’ they said. ‘Leave this place, because Herod means to kill you.’ He replied, ‘You may go and give that fox this message: Learn that today and tomorrow I cast out devils and on the third day attain my end. But for today and tomorrow and the next day I must go on, since it would not be right for a prophet to die outside Jerusalem.

‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you refused! So be it! Your house will be left to you. Yes, I promise you, you shall not see me till the time comes when you say:

‘Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!’

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Grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of his power.

I have found myself becoming very short of patience lately. I guess we all go through cycles like that, when we feel run over by people whose sole putpose in life seems to be to take as much as they can get, without ever giving back. Takers are tiring to be around. Their ‘Dementor-like’ demeanors suck the joy out of any occasion. They’re never happy and they refuse to allow anyone else to be happy when they’re around. Exhausting! Jerusalem in today’s gospel reminds me so much of people like that. The Bible is old as eternity, yet its echoes are as fresh as if they were yesterday. Why? Because people are inherently the same! The one certainty in life is that there will always be ingratitude in our lives. Jesus had to deal with it over and over, and in some sense, gave us the playbook for how to handle ingrates without losing our mind. He died for the ingrates in his life, asking for forgiveness on their behalf with his last breath. Most of us would have just cursed them on the cross. Not him. Yesterday, we touched on the ‘narrow gate’, how to love someone who doesn’t allow you to love them back. You know you’re at the ‘narrow gate’ when you can find in your heart the ability to love the takers and the users in your life.

I’ve been feeling run down lately, and I think part of the reason is that I’ve let the ingrates in my life suck the joy out of me. “Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power” it seems. I wish sometimes, that my Lord would rescue me, ‘Superman like’, from all the users, the takers, the no-good-backstabbers, the complainers, the Polly-Put-Downs who won’t be happy and refuse to let me be happy as a result. Yes, I am sensitive to barbed words and passive aggressive plays. Who wouldn’t be? I am not so strong that I can just let their arrows bounce off me. Yet I know that in tears and suffering, the cadences of the Holy Spirit are all the clearer. “Draw your strength from the Lord and his mighty power”. We hear his voice, not with our ears, but with our hearts, and when we are heartbroken, we are most attuned to his voice. I’ve found my Lord in my exhaustion and despair. He has opened his playbook for me to see, and made it clear that as tired as I am, what I feel now is not even a half measure of the suffering he endured on the cross for me. So I have to gird myself up and hold on to my joy, because my joy should come not from the affirmation of people in my life. My joy should come from him. To the rest of the ingrates – bye Felicia!

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for the fortitude to draw on the Lord’s mighty power in times of stress.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for His great love for us, that while we were unworthy, he died for us on the cross.

26 October, Wednesday – The Narrow Gate

26 October

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Ephesians 6:1-9

Children, be obedient to your parents in the Lord – that is your duty. The commandment that has a promise attached to it is: Honour your father and mother, and the promise is: and you will prosper and have a long life in the land. And parents, never drive your children to resentment but in bringing them up correct them and guide them as the Lord does.

Slaves, be obedient to the men who are called your masters in this world, with deep respect and sincere loyalty, as you are obedient to Christ: not only when you are under their eye, as if you had only to please men, but because you are slaves of Christ and wholeheartedly do the will of God. Work hard and willingly, but do it for the sake of the Lord and not for the sake of men. You can be sure that everyone, whether a slave or a free man, will be properly rewarded by the Lord for whatever work he has done well. And those of you who are employers, treat your slaves in the same spirit; do without threats, remembering that they and you have the same Master in heaven and he is not impressed by one person more than by another.

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Luke 13:22-30

Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.

‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!”

‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’

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Honour your father and mother …

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor 13:11). There comes a time in every child’s life when she realizes that she has outgrown her parents and must soon assume the role of their caregiver and steward. Whether through illness, death, divorce or simply the passage of time, it’s an inevitable reversal of roles that happens to all of us. Old age is spiteful. It robs our parents of their human dignity, of their self-respect. It takes their health and their minds, and all we can do is watch them retreat until they’re but a reflection through a glass darkly.

In a reduced state, people say and do things that are hurtful. It’s as if they lose their inhibitions and revert to child-like versions of themselves. The gospel says to us, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough” (Luke 13:24). Well, the ‘narrow gate’ is when someone you love turns on you despite all your efforts to love them and make things easier for them. Those who most need to be helped are often the ones who refuse it most viciously. The easy thing to do is to walk away, to give up because we feel unappreciated, insulted, unloved. Yet Christ loved us despite our ingratitude, our insults and our attacks on him. And he asked forgiveness for us with his dying breath. The greatest act of love you can perform, that which is most Christ-like, is to love someone and to persevere in your efforts to love them, despite their ingratitude. Christ paved the way for all believers when he did it for us. He was the perfect embodiment of love for us, because despite our efforts to push him away, he remained faithful to us.

One day, we too will lose ourselves – to illness, or dementia, or early on-set Alzheimer’s. We might have a stroke and find that suddenly we’ve lost our motor skills. We could be struck down by cancer, and be so pumped full of morphine that we’re too dazed to realize who or what we’re about. Old age is cruel and it comes for everyone. The narrow gate is to love those who are hard to love because one day, we too will become hard to be around. And then, we pray for the blessing of those who are not afraid to love us despite ourselves.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for all caregivers, those who persevere on despite the ingratitude of those whom they love. We pray for them to find strength in His grace.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who are caregivers and stewards, who love us despite ourselves.

24 October, Monday – The Rage In Her Heart

24 October – Memorial for St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop

Anthony Mary Claret (1807–1870) was a weaver and a seminary student with Blessed Francis Coll. He was ordained on 13 June 1835, and became a missionary in Catalonia and the Canary Islands. He directed retreats and founded the Congregation of Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Claretians). He became Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba on 20 May 1850, and founded the Teaching Sisters of Mary Immaculate.
Following his work in the Caribbean, Blessed Pope Pius IX ordered him back to Spain where he became confessor to Queen Isabella II and was exiled with her. He had the gift of prophecy and miracles, and was reported to have preached 10,000 sermons, published 200 works. He spread devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 4:32-5:8

Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ.

Try, then, to imitate God as children of his that he loves and follow Christ loving as he loved you, giving himself up in our place as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God. Among you there must be not even a mention of fornication or impurity in any of its forms, or promiscuity: this would hardly become the saints! There must be no coarseness, or salacious talk and jokes – all this is wrong for you; raise your voices in thanksgiving instead. For you can be quite certain that nobody who actually indulges in fornication or impurity or promiscuity – which is worshipping a false god – can inherit anything of the kingdom of God. Do not let anyone deceive you with empty arguments: it is for this loose living that God’s anger comes down on those who rebel against him. Make sure that you are not included with them. You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light.

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Luke 13:10-17

One sabbath day Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who for eighteen years had been possessed by a spirit that left her enfeebled; she was bent double and quite unable to stand upright. When Jesus saw her he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are rid of your infirmity’ and he laid his hands on her. And at once she straightened up, and she glorified God.

But the synagogue official was indignant because Jesus had healed on the sabbath, and he addressed the people present. ‘There are six days’ he said ‘when work is to be done. Come and be healed on one of those days and not on the sabbath.’ But the Lord answered him. ‘Hypocrites!’ he said ‘Is there one of you who does not untie his ox or his donkey from the manger on the sabbath and take it out for watering? And this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan has held bound these eighteen years – was it not right to untie her bonds on the sabbath day?’ When he said this, all his adversaries were covered with confusion, and all the people were overjoyed at all the wonders he worked.

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And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit

­My grandmother died with anger in her heart. Hers was a slow deterioration — a long, sad, bewildering goodbye. I feel she lost herself before she left us. Towards the end, she seemed to obsess over things that had happened years ago, old hurts that had been inflicted on her, but she would forget what you said to her ten minutes before. She was like a different person altogether. Who was once a loving, happy force in my life, changed into someone I didn’t recognize. It was as if a black pall came over her. When she finally let go and breathed her last, it felt like she had been set free. Whatever evil had taken hold of her mind, it was gone and she had returned to God.

I’ll never understand why her manner changed towards the end. I read that the dying know their time is up, and as the days pass, they relinquish more of the banalities of life, until what’s left is just the essence of their soul. It hurts me to think it was anger that resided at the core of her heart. Anger and bitterness. Because in life, she wasn’t like that. She was a beautiful person. I still don’t know what could have happened to change her at the end, or how the unresolved conflicts in her life became so large that they consumed her.

In today’s gospel, we read that the woman was gripped by an evil spirit. That’s what anger does to the heart when we hold on to it. Grudges, nurtured by resentment and unforgiveness, become hatred with the passage of time. Caught up in our rage, love dies in our heart. My grandmother pushed everyone away at the end. She didn’t mean to, she just couldn’t help herself. Her anger defined her and she died holding on to it.

I want to believe that she is with Jesus now, that he has freed her from the rage that held her hostage at the end. I pray he frees us too, those of us who loved her but were stung by her sharp words at the end. Those of us she left behind, who are still holding on to the hurt and confusion in our hearts. I want to only remember the loving, devoted woman who was so much a part of my happy childhood. I pray that she is at peace now. I pray she is with God now.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for those who have passed on, may they find the peace that eluded them in life.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, who calms us during the storms of our life, who saves us from ourselves.

21 October, Friday – Knowing the signs

21 October

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Ephesians 4:1-6

I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.

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Luke 12:54-59

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud looming up in the west you say at once that rain is coming, and so it does. And when the wind is from the south you say it will be hot, and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the face of the earth and the sky. How is it you do not know how to interpret these times?

‘Why not judge for yourselves what is right? For example: when you go to court with your opponent, try to settle with him on the way, or he may drag you before the judge and the judge hand you over to the bailiff and the bailiff have you thrown into prison. I tell you, you will not get out till you have paid the very last penny.’

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‘How is it you do not know how to interpret these times?’

Are we sensitive to God’s presence? God is ever in our midst, but how do we tell that He is with us in our good times and bad times? Often, we rely on signs and wonders to see if God is really at work in our lives, just as we rely on signs in the sky to tell the weather. For example, when we miraculously complete a difficult project at work, we say that God was helping us along the way.

Yes, indeed God was and is helping us. But even in our smallest tasks at work or at home, something that we take for granted, God was there to give us a helping hand too, and sometimes we might fail to see that.

How feeble are we in faith, if all we ever do was to search high and low for signs and wonders to know the coming of the Lord.

Yet, if we really read the Word, we know that God is with us as He promised.

Today’s first reading also reminds us that we are one, and we should do all we can to preserve the unity. St Paul exhorts us to bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness. If we are to see the Lord in one another, then surely we need to love one another as commanded by the Lord.

At some point in our lives, we might have had certain people that we could see eye to eye with. This is when St Paul’s plea to us ring true: to lead a life worthy of our vocation: to love. How do we know if God is present in our lives? The most obvious, and maybe not so obvious way, is seeing God in the people around us.

Brothers and sisters, let us open our eyes and our hearts to learn to see and appreciate God’s presence not just in our lives but in the people around us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Lee)

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Prayer: Father, help me to see Your presence in my life and to learn to live my life worthy of my vocation. Help me to love my neighbour the way you love him or her.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank You for loving me and revealing Your love for me through the people around me.

17 October, Monday – You are handmade with love

17 October – Memorial for St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr

Ignatius (c. 50–107) was a convert from paganism to Christianity. He succeeded Peter as bishop of Antioch, Syria. He served during persecution of Domitian. During the persecution of Trajan, he was ordered to be taken to Rome to be killed by wild animals. On the way, a journey which took months, he wrote a series of encouraging letters to the churches under his care. He was the first writer to use the term The Catholic Church. He was an apostolic father and a martyr. His name occurs in the Canon of the Mass. Legend says he was the infant that Jesus took into his arms in Mark 9.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 2:1-10

You were dead through the crimes and the sins in which you used to live when you were following the way of this world, obeying the ruler who governs the air, the spirit who is at work in the rebellious. We all were among them too in the past, living sensual lives, ruled entirely by our own physical desires and our own ideas; so that by nature we were as much under God’s anger as the rest of the world. But God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ – it is through grace that you have been saved – and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.

This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how infinitely rich he is in grace. Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.

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Luke 12:13-21

A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.’ ‘My friend,’ he replied, ‘who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, “What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” But God said to him, “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?.” So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.’

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For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you, it is a gift, so no one may boast.

I like to make greetings cards, and behind it I sign off as ‘handmade with love by Josephine Dionisappu, especially for you’ . My boss, who likes to make soaps, has the same label ‘handmade with love’ stuck on her handmade soaps. Both she and I have an unspoken understanding that when something is handmade, it is indeed made out of love, especially since it takes much of our time. In Genesis, we learn that men (we), were created on the 6th day by God and “He breathed His breath on us and that we are made in His image”. We were surely made by love by God and we should never doubt that our being and existence is founded by love. You and I are handmade with love and so are the people who love us and the ones who hate us too.

In today’s readings we are reminded of grace that we have received, grace that has saved us and yet does not come from us, something we cannot take credit for. Why does God give us grace? Grace, just like the gift of our lives, is unmerited. God gives us grace for our sanctification so that we can share a home with Him forever. And while earth is our home, we are able to live our lives in a manner that is worthy of Him.

A gift of grace can be seen in the person of our priests and religious. They have taken vows of obedience, poverty and chastity so that they can serve God’s people as a priority. I have been in conversation where people challenge these vows and the need for it. An agnostic colleague once told me why should we pay the priests, we did not ask for them to serve us. Our tithes are not our gifts; it’s our offering, not a repayment of sorts. It is hard for us to fully comprehend why we receive something when we have not expressed an interest in it and valuing it is a bigger challenge.

On a simpler note, let’s look at home-cooked meals. Many people I know will not expect to have meals cooked for them daily, but many of them have hot meals waiting for them each evening. We are aware that we can buy take-away for our dinner instead, or just skip our meal as an option. The home-cooked meal we receive is something like grace — we cannot expect it and it does not come from us, but it is prepared out of love by our mothers and/or spouses.

Are we thankful for the gift of grace? How can we show are gratitude? How can we live out this grace daily? How have we cherished those who have shown us grace?

Are we sharing our inheritance and blessings or are we hoarding and storing?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

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Prayer: Lord give us a heart of generosity so to that we share what we have for we cannot take credit for anything that we own for all good things come from you.

Thanksgiving: Lord you handmade us with love, we belong to you.

15 October, Saturday – Wisdom discerns what is best for us

15 October – Memorial for St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor

Also known as Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Jesus (1515–1582) was born to the Spanish nobility, the daughter of Don Alonso Sanchez de Cepeda and Dona Beatriz. She grew up reading the lives of the saints, and playing at “hermit” in the garden.

Crippled by disease in her youth, which led to her being well educated at home, she was cured after prayer to St. Joseph. Her mother died when she was 12, and Teresa prayed to Our Lady to be her replacement. Her father opposed her entry into religious life, so she left home without telling anyone, and entered a Carmelite house at 17. Seeing her conviction to her call, her father and family consented.

Soon after taking her vows, Teresa became gravely ill, and her condition was aggravated by the inadequate medical help she received; she never fully recovered her health. She began receiving visions and was examined by Dominicans and Jesuits, including St. Francis Borgia, who pronounced her visions to be holy and true.

She considered her original house too lax in its rule, so she founded a reformed convent of St. John of Avila. She founded several houses, often against fierce opposition from local authorities. She was a mystical writer, and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 27 September 1970 by Pope Paul VI. She is known for ‘holy wit’.

“God, deliver me from sullen saints.” – St. Teresa of Avila

– Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 1:15-23

I, having once heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus, and the love that you show towards all the saints, have never failed to remember you in my prayers and to thank God for you. May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers. This you can tell from the strength of his power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven, far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named not only in this age but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.

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Luke 12:8-12

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I tell you, if anyone openly declares himself for me in the presence of men, the Son of Man will declare himself for him in the presence of the angels. But the man who disowns me in the presence of men will be disowned in the presence of God’s angels.

‘Everyone who says a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

‘When they take you before synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say, because when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say.’

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A spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed.

 Our family is going through a tough period now. A time where we are learning to let go of our own selfish intentions – though filled with loving intent. Coming to terms with the impending departure of a loved one is never easy. Especially so when we are close to, and love the person so dearly. The pain is immense and we wonder how we will ever get through it.

Today’s reflection is dedicated to my loving cousin. She is such a woman of faith and trust in our Lord. She was diagnosed with Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumours or GISTs some six years ago. This type of tumour is uncommon and there is no effective known treatment for this. As traditional chemotherapy has not worked well against GISTs, no standard chemo regimens were recommended. My cousin was given 12 -18 months before the inevitable. The advice was to go on a clinical trial. But that’s all it was – a trial. She participated in the clinical trial but never completed it. The drugs affected her health and heart, so she stopped taking them. Yet she was the only one who survived. The others on the clinical trial have since passed on. Each time she heard about the passing of someone on the trial, her heart sank. Nonetheless, our Lord cannot be outdone in His generosity. He has blessed her in ways beyond our comprehension and expectations. Six glorious years have passed since her dismal diagnosis. She travelled, ate well, spent precious time with loved ones and, above all, continued to serve the Lord in whatever way she could.

Today, the news is a little less upbeat. The cancer is back and is spreading fast and furious. Just two month ago, we were enjoying each other’s company on a cousins-only vacation. Today, the excruciating pain engulfs her entire body and she is unable to eat. However, she remains strong in spirit, is alert when the pain is controlled and continues to trust and praise God. She is fully aware of what is happening to her body, and she is not afraid. A priest that went to see her recently asked that in her agony and pain, she lift up her prayers for all priests, especially for him! He needed her intercession. I learnt that day that the prayers of those suffering are very powerful. She good naturedly agreed and has been praying for the priests and those who asked her to pray for them. How selfless and trusting she is of Our Lord! She always knew that whatever time given was by God’s grace and she was going to spend each moment to the very fullest. At the same time, she is at peace with God and is prepared for the day when the Lord calls her home.

For the rest of us, the mere thought of death frightens us. Hence we never ever give it a thought. Even those of us suffering terminal illnesses, choose not to address it – the eventuality. Those of us grieving over the loss of loved ones, or people like me, who refuse to come to terms with the eventual departure of a loved one.  We are so blinded and engulfed by our own selfish sadness that we fail to see God’s hand in this. We hold onto to our sick loved one, even when the person is at peace and ready. But God has given us a spirit of wisdom, to seek God, to trust and give us hope. To see beyond our current circumstance. To see what God wants of us, to see what hope his calls holds for you, what rich glories he has promised.

So brothers and sisters, today we pray that we might have eyes to see prophetically.  To see as God sees. To have the courage to ask God what He wants to show us during this time of crisis, to open our eyes to understand the purposes of our calling. Two days ago, my cousin sent me a message to say that she missed me and wanted to see me for a quiet and personal chat. We have a date tomorrow. I believe that through all of her suffering, there is also a role for me in all of this. I just have to let the Lord show me what my purpose is.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

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Prayer: Lord, may we be filled with the spirit of wisdom to see what Jesus is seeing, doing, revealing and saying. Open our eyes to see as you see. Open our ears to hear what you are saying and give us the courage to say “Yes!” to what you are asking of us.

Thanksgiving: Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of wisdom – for our living, for our service and for our worship.

11 October, Tuesday – Faith IS Love IS Works

11 October

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Galatians 5:1-6

When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. It is I, Paul, who tell you this: if you allow yourselves to be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you at all. With all solemnity I repeat my warning: Everyone who accepts circumcision is obliged to keep the whole Law. But if you do look to the Law to make you justified, then you have separated yourselves from Christ, and have fallen from grace. Christians are told by the Spirit to look to faith for those rewards that righteousness hopes for, since in Christ Jesus whether you are circumcised or not makes no difference – what matters is faith that makes its power felt through love.

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Luke 11:37-41

Jesus had just finished speaking when a Pharisee invited him to dine at his house. He went in and sat down at the table. The Pharisee saw this and was surprised that he had not first washed before the meal. But the Lord said to him, ‘Oh, you Pharisees! You clean the outside of cup and plate, while inside yourselves you are filled with extortion and wickedness. Fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside too? Instead, give alms from what you have and then indeed everything will be clean for you.’

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… what matters is faith that makes its power felt through love.

 A good friend messaged me recently to understand the contention between the Reformation ‘sola fide’ (justification by faith alone) and the Catholic notion of justification (or salvation) ‘by faith and good works.’ I have always found this debate intriguing. I know that in many places, the Bible clearly said that we do not ‘earn’ our salvation – that we are saved by grace through faith in God through Christ alone.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast… (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Indeed, I would agree. But to complete the picture puzzle, I would like to point to the book of James.

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead… You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. (James 2:14-17, 24)

Indeed, no one but God alone shall be the judge of it all.

Yet certainly it is no coincidence, that I am presented with the scripture readings today. It is true that when we pray for wisdom in the words to speak, we will never be left tongue-tied.

St Paul tells the Galatian people that Christ died for them to save them, and His death alone freed them once and for all. But he warns, that should they look to the Law to justify themselves (through circumcision – which marked the Jews), ‘then you have separated yourselves from Christ, and have fallen from grace… what matters is faith that makes its power felt through love.’ (Galatians 5:4-6).

Okay… Imagine the Galatians scratching their heads!

However, in this complementary gospel text, Jesus solves the puzzle with his warning to the Pharisees who were judging him for not first washing himself before the meal. “Atrocious! Just like the Gentiles!” they must have thought. Instead, Jesus points out that geniune faith is not a mere performance of ablutions and prostrations. So what if you clean the outside of the cup and plate, yet inside, your intentions are muddied?

The Christian faith is not about a club membership nor a racial or cultural association. But the only way one can be sure he/she is within the covenant of love is that their faith makes its power felt and visible by the love that flows forth as loving actions or good works. After all, the Latin for Christian love (of humankind) is caritas – and caritas is charity. ‘Instead give alms from what you have and then indeed everything will be clean for you’ said the Lord. (Luke 11:41)

Perhaps when considered this way, we could cease debate, to find truth and harmony — that our faith in God is made visible in our love for our fellow men, which is manifest in humble and sincere charity.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: May we meditate on the words Jesus prayed to the Father for us: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through [my] message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you… I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for calling us out of darkness into your light and truth. May we ever strive for Christian unity and charity as our work of thanksgiving and praise to you.