Tag Archives: obedience

9 April, Sunday – Welcoming the King

9 April 2017

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Isaiah 50:4-7

The Lord has given me
a disciple’s tongue.
So that I may know how to reply to the wearied
he provides me with speech.
Each morning he wakes me to hear,
to listen like a disciple.
The Lord has opened my ear.

For my part, I made no resistance,
neither did I turn away.
I offered my back to those who struck me,
my cheeks to those who tore at my beard;
I did not cover my face
against insult and spittle.

The Lord comes to my help,
so that I am untouched by the insults.
So, too, I set my face like flint;
I know I shall not be shamed.

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Philippians 2:6-11

His state was divine,
yet Christ Jesus did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

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Matthew 26:14-27:66
The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew

Key: N. Narrator. + Jesus. O. Other single speaker. C. Crowd, or more than one speaker.

N. One of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said,
O. What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?
N. They paid him thirty silver pieces, and from that moment he looked for an opportunity to betray him.
Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus to say,
C. Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the passover?
N. He replied:
+ Go to so-and-so in the city and say to him, ‘The Master says: My time is near. It is at your house that I am keeping Passover with my disciples.’
N. The disciples did what Jesus told them and prepared the Passover.
When evening came he was at table with the twelve disciples. And while they were eating he said:
+ I tell you solemnly, one of you is about to betray me.
N. They were greatly distressed and started asking him in turn,
C. Not I, Lord, surely?
N. He answered,
+ Someone who has dipped his hand into the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!
N. Judas, who was to betray him, asked in his turn,
O. Not I, Rabbi, surely?
N. Jesus answered:
+ They are your own words.
N. Now as they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to the disciples and said:
+ Take it and eat; this is my body.
N. Then he took a cup, and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them, saying:
+ Drink, all of you, from this, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. From now on, I tell you, I shall not drink wine until the day I drink the new wine with you in the kingdom of my Father.
N. After psalms had been sung they left for the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them,
+ You will all lose faith in me this night, for the scripture says: I shall strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered, but after my resurrection I shall go before you to Galilee.
N. At this, Peter said,
O. Though all lose faith in you, I will never lose faith.
N. Jesus answered him,
+ I tell you solemnly, this very night, before the cock crows, you will have disowned me three times.
N. Peter said to him,
O. Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.
N. And all the disciples said the same.
Then Jesus came with them to a small estate called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples,
+ Stay here while I go over there to pray.
N. He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with him. And sadness came over him, and great distress. Then he said to them,
+ My soul is sorrowful to the point of death. Wait here and keep awake with me.
N. And going on a little further he fell on his face and prayed:
+ My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it.
N. He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter:
+ So you had not the strength to keep awake with me one hour? You should be awake, and praying not to be put to the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
N. Again, a second time, he went away and prayed:
+ My Father, if this cup cannot pass by without my drinking it, your will be done!
N. And he came back again and found them sleeping, their eyes were so heavy. Leaving them there, he went away again and prayed for the third time, repeating the same words. Then he came back to the disciples and said to them,
+ You can sleep on now and take your rest. Now the hour has come when the Son of Man is to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up! Let us go! My betrayer is already close at hand.
N. He was still speaking when Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared, and with him a large number of men armed with swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests and elders of the people. Now the traitor had arranged a sign with them. He had said,
O. ‘The one I kiss, he is the man. Take him in charge.’
N. So he went straight up to Jesus and said,
O. Greetings, Rabbi.
N. and kissed him. Jesus said to him,
+ My friend, do what you are here for.
N. Then they came forward, seized Jesus and took him in charge. At that, one of the followers of Jesus grasped his sword and drew it; he struck out at the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear. Jesus then said,
+ Put your sword back, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father who would promptly send more than twelve legions of angels to my defence? But then, how would the scriptures be fulfilled that say this is the way it must be?
N. It was at this time that Jesus said to the crowds,
+ Am I a brigand, that you had to set out to capture me with swords and clubs? I sat teaching in the Temple day after day and you never laid hands on me.
N. Now all this happened to fulfil the prophecies in scripture. Then all the disciples deserted him and ran away.
The men who had arrested Jesus led him off to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. Peter followed him at a distance, and when he reached the high priest’s palace, he went in and sat down with the attendants to see what the end would be.
The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus, however false, on which they might pass the death sentence. But they could not find any, though several lying witnesses came forward. Eventually two stepped forward and made a statement,
O. This man said: ‘I have power to destroy the Temple of God and in three days build it up.’
N. The high priest then stood up and said to him,
O. Have you no answer to that? What is this evidence these men are bringing against you?
N. But Jesus was silent. And the high priest said to him,
O. I put you on oath by the living God to tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.
N. Jesus answered:
+ The words are your own. Moreover, I tell you that from this time onward you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.
N. At this, the high priest tore his clothes and said,
O. He has blasphemed. What need of witnesses have we now? There! You have just heard the blasphemy. What is your opinion?
N. They answered,
C. He deserves to die.
N. Then they spat in his face and hit him with their fists; others said as they struck him,
C. Play the prophet, Christ! Who hit you then?
N. Meanwhile Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came up to him and said,
O. You too were with Jesus the Galilean.
N. But he denied it in front of them all, saying:
O. I do not know what you are talking about.
N. When he went out to the gateway another servant-girl saw him and said to the people there,
O. This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.
N. And again, with an oath, he denied it:
O. I do not know the man.
N. A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter,
C. You are one of them for sure! Why, your accent gives you away.
Then he started calling down curses on himself and swearing:
O. I do not know the man.
N. At that moment the cock crew, and Peter remembered what Jesus had said, ‘Before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.
When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people met in council to bring about the death of Jesus. They had him bound, and led him away to hand him over to Pilate, the governor.
When he found that Jesus had been condemned, Judas his betrayer was filled with remorse and took the thirty silver pieces back to the chief priests and elders, saying:
O. I have sinned. I have betrayed innocent blood.
N. They replied:
C. What is that to us? That is your concern.
N. And flinging down the silver pieces in the sanctuary he made off and hanged himself. The chief priests picked up the silver pieces and said,
C. It is against the Law to put this into the treasury: it is blood-money.
N. So they discussed the matter and bought the potter’s field with it as a graveyard for foreigners, and this is why the field is called the Field of Blood today. The words of the prophet Jeremiah were then fulfilled: And they took the thirty silver pieces, the sum at which the precious One was priced by children of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, just as the Lord directed me.
Jesus, then, was brought before the governor, and the governor put to him this question:
O. Are you the king of the Jews?
N. Jesus replied,
+ It is you who say it.
N. But when he was accused by the chief priests and the elders he refused to answer at all. Pilate then said to him,
O. Do you not hear how many charges they have brought against you?
N. But to the governor’s complete amazement, he offered no reply to any of the charges.
At festival time it was the governor’s practice to release a prisoner for the people, anyone they chose. Now there was at that time a notorious prisoner whose name was Barabbas. So when the crowd gathered, Pilate said to them,
O. Which do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?
N. For Pilate knew it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. Now as he was seated in the chair of judgement, his wife sent him a message,
O. Have nothing to do with that man; I have been upset all day by a dream I had about him.
N. The chief priests and the elders, however, had persuaded the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas and the execution of Jesus. So when the governor spoke and asked them,
O. Which of the two do you want me to release for you?
N. they said,
C. Barabbas.
N. Pilate said to them:
O. But in that case, what am I to do with Jesus who is called Christ?
N. They all said:
C. Let him be crucified!
N. Pilate asked:
O. Why? What harm has he done?
N. But they shouted all the louder,
C. Let him be crucified!
N. Then Pilate saw that he was making no impression, that in fact a riot was imminent. So he took some water, washed his hands in front of the crowd and said,
O. I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your concern.
N. And the people, to a man, shouted back,
C. His blood be on us and on our children!
N. Then he released Barabbas for them. He ordered Jesus to be first scourged and then handed over to be crucified.
The governor’s soldiers took Jesus with them into the Praetorium and collected the whole cohort round him. Then they stripped him and made him wear a scarlet cloak, and having twisted some thorns into a crown they put this on his head and placed a reed in his right hand. To make fun of him they knelt to him saying,
C. Hail, king of the Jews!
N. And they spat on him and took the reed and struck him on the head with it. And when they had finished making fun of him, they took off the cloak and dressed him in his own clothes and led him away to crucify him.
On their way out, they came across a man from Cyrene, Simon by name, and enlisted him to carry his cross. When they had reached a place called Golgotha, that is, the place of the skull, they gave him wine to drink mixed with gall, which he tasted but refused to drink. When they had finished crucifying him they shared out his clothing by casting lots, and then sat down and stayed there keeping guard over him.
Above his head was placed the charge against him; it read: ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.’ At the same time two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.
The passers-by jeered at him; they shook their heads and said,
C. So you would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days! Then save yourself! If you are God’s son, come down from the cross!
N. The chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him in the same way, saying:
C. He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the king of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He puts his trust in God; now let God rescue him if he wants him. For he did say, ‘I am the son of God.’
N. Even the robbers who were crucified with him taunted him in the same way.
From the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
+ Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?
N. That is, ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’ When some of those who stood there heard this, they said,
C. The man is calling on Elijah.
N. and one of them quickly ran to get a sponge which he dipped in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave it him to drink. The rest of them said:
C. Wait! See if Elijah will come to save him.
N. But Jesus, again crying out in a loud voice, yielded up his spirit.
Here all kneel and pause for a short time.
At that, the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked; the rocks were split; the tombs opened and the bodies of many holy men rose from the dead, and these, after his resurrection, came out of the tombs, entered the Holy City and appeared to a number of people. Meanwhile the centurion, together with the others guarding Jesus, had seen the earthquake and all that was taking place, and they were terrified and said,
C. In truth this was a son of God.
N. And many women were there, watching from a distance, the same women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and looked after him. Among them were Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
When it was evening, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, called Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate thereupon ordered it to be handed over. So Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean shroud and put it in his own new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a large stone across the entrance of the tomb and went away. Now Mary of Magdala and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulchre.
Next day, that is, when Preparation Day was over, the chief priests and the Pharisees went in a body to Pilate and said to him,
C. Your Excellency, we recall that this impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I shall rise again.’ Therefore give the order to have the sepulchre kept secure until the third day, for fear his disciples come and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ This last piece of fraud would be worse than what went before.
N. Pilate said to them:
O. You may have your guard. Go and make all as secure as you know how.
N. So they went and made the sepulchre secure, putting seals on the stone and mounting a guard.

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This is Jesus, the King of the Jews”

Today, we re-enact the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem by receiving palm fronds. In the Greco-Roman tradition, palms were used as a symbol of victory and triumph, and often used to welcome triumphant kings. It is in this context that Palm Sunday came about, as the people of Jerusalem lined the streets with palms to welcome the entry of Jesus into their city. However, the readings also tell us that the whole city was ‘shaken’ upon seeing Jesus.

One reason for this could be that Jesus did not, in the minds of the people in Jerusalem then at least, appear to fulfill their expectations of what a king should look like. First, he rode in on a donkey. Unlike the strong steeds that kings tended to ride on, a donkey symbolizes humility rather than triumph in battle. Futhermore, Jesus was humbly dressed and accompanied by a rag tag band of disciples. Kings were expected to be lavishly dressed and surrounded by a whole coterie of royal subjects and even troops.

Indeed, the confusion that Jerusalem had felt continues to reverbrate in our societies today. Like the people of Jerusalem, we are still waiting for that king who will vanquish all our foes and solve all our problems. And when we pray, we frequently ask God to help us decipher some conundrum that we are facing, or right a wrong that we have been saddled with. But when we do not get the answer that we are looking for, we too are shaken with confusion.

The entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and His subsequent Passion serve to remind us that even the Son of God had to suffer. Even when Jesus asked for God to ‘let this cup pass from me’, or when He asked His Father “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, He did not always receive an answer. But being obedient to death, Jesus showed us the perfect model of Holiness, expressed through subservience to the Will of God. It is this kingship that we are preparing for today: a kingship based on humility and obedience to God – a kingship that is directed to a divine Other, rather than its human self.

A kingship that, while manifested in the person of Jesus, is really a conduit to the reality of God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, grant us the grace and humility to welcome You into the cities of our hearts. Let our hearts and souls be fertile grounds for the sowing of Your Word.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for His sacrificial love for us, and for allowing us to love Him in return. 

11 November, Friday – Always Be Prepared

11 November – Memorial for St. Martin of Tours, Bishop

Martin (316-397) was born to pagan parents. His father was a Roman military officer and tribune. Martin was raised in Pavia, Italy, where he discovered Christianity and became a catechumen in his early teens. He joined the Roman imperia army at the age of 15, serving in a ceremonial unit that acts as the emperor’s bodyguard, and was rarely exposed to combat. He became a cavalry officer and was assigned to garrison duty in Gaul.

Trying to live his faith, he refused to let his servant wait on him. Once, while on horseback in Amiens in Gaul (modern France), he encountered a beggar. Having nothing to give but the clothes on his back, he cut his heavy officer’s cloak in half, and gave it to the beggar. Later, he had a vision of Christ wearing the cloak.

Martin was baptized into the Church at the age of 18. Just before a battle, Martin announced that his faith prohibited him from fighting. Charged with cowardice, he was jailed, and his superiors planned to put him in the front of the battle. However, the invaders sued for peace, the battle never occurred, and Martin was released from military service at Worms.

On a visit to Lombardy to see his parents, he was robbed in the mountains – but managed to convert one of the thieves. At home, he found that his mother had converted, but his father had not. The area was strongly Arian, and openly hostile to Catholics. Martin was badly abused by the heretics, and at one point even by the order of the Arian bishop. Learning that the Arians had gained the upper hand in Gaul and exiled St. Hilary of Poitiers, his spiritual teacher, Martin fled to the island of Gallinaria (modern Isola d’Albenga).

In 361, Martin learned that the emperor had authorized Hilary’s return, and Martin ran to him and became a hermit for ten years in the area now know as Ligugé. A reputation for holiness attracted other monks, and they formed what would become the Benedictine abbey of Ligugé. He preached and evangelised through the Gallic countryside. Many locals held strongly to the old beliefs, and tried to intimidate Martin by dressing asthe old Roman gods, and appearing to him at night, but Martin continued to win converts. He destroyed old temples, and built churches on the land.

When the bishop of Tours died in 371, Martin was the immediate choice to replace him. Martin declined, citing unworthiness. Rusticus, a wealthy citizen of Tours, claimed his wife was ill and asked for Martin. When he arrived in the city, he was declared bishop by popular acclamation, and was consecrated on Jul 4, 372.

He moved to a hermit’s cell near Tours. Other monks joined him, and a new house, Marmoutier, soon formed. He rarely left his monastery, but sometimes went to Trier to plead with the emperor for his city, his church, or his parishioners. Once when he went to ask lenience for a condemned prisoner, an angel work the emperor to tell him that Martin was waiting to see him; the prisoner was reprieved.

Martin himself was given to visions, but even his contemporaries sometimes ascribed them to his habit of lengthy fasts. An extensive biography of Martin was written by Sulpicius Severus. When he died, he was buried, at his request, in the Cemetery of the Poor. Martin was the first non-martyr to receive the cultus of saint. His relics rested in the basilica of Tours, a scene of pilgrimages and miracles until 1562 when the cathedral and relics were destroyed by militant Protestants. Some small fragments on his tomb were found during construction excavation in 1860.

St. Martin of Tours is patron against poverty; alcoholism; hotel-keepers; quartermasters; soldiers, among others.

Prayer to Continue to Fight for God

“Lord, if your people still have need of my services, I will not avoid the toil. Your will be done. I have fought the good fight long enough. Yet if you bid me continue to hold the battle line in defense of your camp, I will never beg to be excused from failing strength. I will do the work you entrust to me. While you command, I will fight beneath your banner.” – St  Martin of Tours, Italian Soldier, Hermit, Bishop

– Patron Saint Index

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2 John 1:4-9

It has given me great joy to find that your children have been living the life of truth as we were commanded by the Father. I am writing now, dear lady, not to give you any new commandment, but the one which we were given at the beginning, and to plead: let us love one another.

To love is to live according to his commandments: this is the commandment which you have heard since the beginning, to live a life of love.

There are many deceivers about in the world, refusing to admit that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. They are the Deceiver; they are the Antichrist. Watch yourselves, or all our work will be lost and not get the reward it deserves. If anybody does not keep within the teaching of Christ but goes beyond it, he cannot have God with him: only those who keep to what he taught can have the Father and the Son with them.

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Luke 17:26-37

Jesus said to the disciples:

‘As it was in Noah’s day, so will it also be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating and drinking, marrying wives and husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It will be the same as it was in Lot’s day: people were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but the day Lot left Sodom, God rained fire and brimstone from heaven and it destroyed them all. It will be the same when the day comes for the Son of Man to be revealed.

‘When that day comes, anyone on the housetop, with his possessions in the house, must not come down to collect them, nor must anyone in the fields turn back either. Remember Lot’s wife. Anyone who tries to preserve his life will lose it; and anyone who loses it will keep it safe. I tell you, on that night two will be in one bed: one will be taken, the other left; two women will be grinding corn together: one will be taken, the other left.’ The disciples interrupted. ‘Where, Lord?’ they asked. He said, ‘Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather.’

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“They are happy who follow God’s law”

My son has had the wonderful opportunity to learn and play 2 sports: table tennis and judo, although he has played the former for a much longer time. Since he started some 4 years ago, he has gone through so many sessions with coaches to hone his skills.

Last year, in a table tennis competition, my son came face to face with a player who was known for his ‘chopping’ skills.  This involves playing the ball in a defensive way, ‘chopping’ the ball (with a strong backspin).  Because he had never trained to play against such a player, my son’s coach spent a few minutes teaching him the strategy to play against such a player, focusing on the type of strokes to use.  Guess what happened in this match?

Unsurprisingly, my son lost, and by quite a huge margin.

This happened mainly because of the lack of preparation.  Following that competition, a lot more time was spent on preparing and training for future games against ‘choppers’ and while he still finds it challenging, my son is now much more prepared.

In today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us of what to expect at perousia, or during the time Christ returns.  We need to be prepared, and not be caught off guard like some of the bridesmaids (Matthew 25).

Like many others, I am guilty of not keeping myself ready as well. In my mind, I somehow think and feel that Perousia would never happen during my lifetime; but this is a dangerous attitude. It is this similar attitude that the bridesmaids had as well, resulting in them missing the bridegroom.

Brothers and sisters, let us all pray that we always remain vigilant for when God calls on us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

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Prayer: Lord, help us to keep our eyes upon You. Help us to be prepared for the day of your return, and for the time that we will meet you in heaven.

Thanksgiving: Thank you dear Jesus, for your repeated reminders to us to be always prepared, and for showing us the right things to do in order to do so. Amen!

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.

4 November, Friday – Finding Art in Anything

4 November – Memorial for St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop

Charles (1538-1584) was born to a wealthy, noble family, the third of six children, and the son of Count Giberto II Borromeo and Marghertita de’ Medici. He was the nephew of Pope Pius IV. He suffered from a speech impediment, but studied in Milan and at the University of Pavia, at one point studying under the future Pope Gregory XIII.

He became a civil and canon lawyer at the age of 21, and a cleric at Milan, taking the habit on Oct 13, 1547. He became Abbot of three different abbeys until Jan 13, 1560. He was protonotary apostolic participantium and referendary of the papal court to Pope Pius IV. He was also a member of the counsulta for the administration of the Papal States on Jan 20, 1560. He was appointed abbot commendatario for an abbey in Portugal, and an abbey in Flanders on Jan 27, 1560.

On Jan 31, 1560, he was apostolic administrator of Milan, Italy. On Feb 8, 1560, then a papal legate to Bologna and Romandiola for two years beginning on Apr 26, 1560. He was made a deacon on Dec 21, 1560, and appointed Vatican Secretary of State. He was made an honorary citizen of Rome on Jul 1, 1561, and founded the “Accademia Vaticana” in 1562.

He was finally ordained on Sep 4, 1563, helped reopen the Council of Trent, and participated in its sessions during 1562 and 1563. He was ordained Bishop of Milan on Dec 7, 1563 and was President of the commission of theologians charged by the pope to elaborate the Catechismus Romanus. He also worked on the revision of the Missal and Breviary, and was a member of a commission to reform church music.

He participated in the conclave of cardinals in 1565-66 that chose Pope Pius V, and he asked the new pope to take the name. Due to his enforcement of strict ecclesiastical discipline, some disgruntled monks in the order of the Humiliati hired a lay brother to murder him on the evening of Oct 26, 1569. He was shot at, but not hit.

He also participated in the conclave in 1572 that chose Pope Gregory XIII. He worked with the sick, and helped bury the dead during the plague outbreak in Milan in 1576. He established the Oblates of St. Ambrose on Apr 26, 1578, and was a teacher, confessor, and parish priest to St. Aloysius Gonzaga, giving him his first communion on Jul 22, 1580.

Charles spent his life and fortune in the service of the people of his diocese. He directed and fervently enforced the decrees of the Council of Trent, fought tirelessly for peace in the wake of the storm caused by Martin Luther, founded schools for the poor, seminaries for clerics, hospitals for the sick, conducted synods, instituted children’s Sunday school, did great public and private penance, and worked among the sick and dying, leading his people by example.

He is patron saint for bishops; catechists; catechumens; seminarians; spiritual directors; and spiritual leaders.

Prayer to St. Charles Borromeo

O Saintly reformer, animator of spiritual renewal of priests and religious, you organized true seminaries and wrote a standard catechism. Inspire all religious teachers and authors of catechetical books. Move them to love and transmit only that which can form true followers of the Teacher who was divine. Amen.

– Patron Saints Index

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Philippians 3:17-4:1

My brothers, be united in following my rule of life. Take as your models everybody who is already doing this and study them as you used to study us. I have told you often, and I repeat it today with tears, there are many who are behaving as the enemies of the cross of Christ. They are destined to be lost. They make foods into their god and they are proudest of something they ought to think shameful; the things they think important are earthly things. For us, our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body. He will do that by the same power with which he can subdue the whole universe.

So then, my brothers and dear friends, do not give way but remain faithful in the Lord. I miss you very much, dear friends; you are my joy and my crown.

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Luke 16:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘There was a rich man and he had a steward denounced to him for being wasteful with his property. He called for the man and said, “What is this I hear about you? Draw me up an account of your stewardship because you are not to be my steward any longer.” Then the steward said to himself, “Now that my master is taking the stewardship from me, what am I to do? Dig? I am not strong enough. Go begging? I should be too ashamed. Ah, I know what I will do to make sure that when I am dismissed from office there will be some to welcome me into their homes.”

Then he called his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?” “One hundred measures of oil” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond; sit down straight away and write fifty.” To another he said, “And you, sir, how much do you owe?” “One hundred measures of wheat” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond and write eighty.”

‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness. For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.’

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‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness.’

When I was younger, I learned that it is not good to lie or to cheat. Though I know it is wrong, there are instances where I have cheated to get the job done. I could argue that it was a ‘white lie.’ Still, it is a lie.

Our Gospel today teaches us to apply ingenuity in life. It talks about a master who found out that his servant was wasteful of his property. He called that servant and asked for the account of his management because he was going to be dismissed. That servant had been thinking hard about what he would do next.  He was not strong enough to dig and too ashamed to go begging. Then he thought of something so that people will welcome him in their homes. When he collected the notes from the people who owed his master, he reduced the amount unknown to his master.  It may be right to say that he just slashed off his commission. The indicated amount was the actual sum owed by the debtors. By his actions, the servant and the debtors would have a good relationship.

The master applauded his servant. This is not to condone the dishonesty of the steward. Rather, his being resourceful. He was able to think of what to do to save him.

The Gospel reminds us that our resourcefulness quickly surfaces in times of need. Being creative and resourceful is truly a great quality. They are tools that can lift us in any situation. But it is suggested that the use of our resourcefulness and creativity is not for our own good only. We should extend our capabilities to others who need our help.

Another thing to remember is our responsibilities. As a servant, there is a master. We must remember our status and be obedient to our master. We must always instil in our hearts the faithfulness and trustworthiness, not just as a follower but as a person.  We may face a lot of trials tempting us to shatter our values. But when we completely surrender ourselves to God, we can continue to be faithful and trustworthy servants of the Lord.

Coincidentally, today is the memorial for St. Charles Borromeo. He is an example of a creative person.  His artistic sense contributed to the reformation of the Catholic Church. He initiated the steps for people to have a conversion to a better life. He set an example by living a life with humility and charity. He did a wonderful job as a pastor while entrusting everything to God.

Let us be like St. Charles Borromeo to live a life in conformity to the Divine will.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

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Prayer: Father God, I ask for the grace that my heart always seeks to do Your will. Please guide us as when we encounter our struggles and choices in life.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father for the gift of wisdom and for the gift of strength, which enables us to face our trials.

28 October, Friday – Community

28 October – Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles

Simon was an apostle called the Cananean or Zealot because of his zeal for the Jewish law. He was not from Cana, nor a member of the Zealot party. Like all the Apostles, he was a convert, and was trained by St. Peter the Apostle. He evangelised in Egypt and Mesopotamia, though there are traditions of him being in several other locations. Several places claim to have been the site of his martyrdom – Abyssinians claim he was crucified in Samaria; Lipsius says he was sawn in half at Suanir, Persia; Moses of Chorene writes that he was martyred at Weriosphora in Iberia.

– Patron Saint Index

Jude Thaddeus was the son of Cleopas who died a martyr, and Mary who stood at the foot of the Cross and who anointed Christ’s body after death. He was the brother of St. James the Lesser, and nephew of Mary and Joseph. He was the blood relative of Jesus Christ, and reported to look a lot like him. He may have been a fisherman, and was an apostle.

He was the writer of a canonical letter. He preached in Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia with St. Simon. He was a healer and an exorcist, and could exorcise pagan idols, which caused the demons to flee and the statues to crumble. He was beaten to death with a club, then beheaded post-mortem in 1st century Persia.

His patronage of lost or impossible causes traditionally derives from confusion by many early Christians between Jude and Judas; not understanding the difference between the names, they never prayed for Jude’s help, and devotion to him became something of a lost cause.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 2:19-22

You are no longer aliens or foreign visitors: you are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household. You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.

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Luke 6:12-16

Jesus went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God. When day came he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them; he called them ‘apostles’: Simon whom he called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.

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…and, you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.

Not much is known about the saints of today’s feast, St. Jude and St. Simon. We know they spent their last years together preaching the gospel in Persia. We know they were both martyred. Yet, there are scant details around what they actually did. God tells us that if we want to know about someone, all we need to do is examine the fruit they produce. That’s the thing about both saints; the fruit of their labours has been enduring. They established whole communities devoted to Christ.

Jesus chose his apostles from a motley band of characters. Left to their own devices, they would surely not have found a common cause to rally behind, nor would they have achieved their feats of ministry. Simon the Zealot and Jude, cousin of Jesus, had no reason to make each other’s acquaintance if not for Christ. Yet they heeded His call to ministry and drew their strength from Our Lord and because of that, they were able to do extraordinary things. “As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and, you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:21-22).

When we look at the relationships in our life, especially the ones we forged doing God’s work, it is marvellous to see how our faith is a faith of community. We need each other to reach our full purpose in Christ. God reminds us in Hebrews, to “…consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this is all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Being part of a faith community keeps us on the path to his ‘narrow gate’. Both Simon and Jude were able to do the things they did because they built up communities to support them when they were weak, and to carry on the work they did when they were gone.

Today, reflect upon the motivation of your faith. Are you worshipping alone, or in the fellowship of other believers? God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things – but we have to commit to His cause and be held accountable to our faith communities. Dare we accept His challenge and see what extraordinary things we too could achieve?

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for all those starting faith communities, may God strengthen their faith and commitment to the cause.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the faith communities that we belong to, that hold us close and keep us safe.

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.

20 October, Thursday – Knowing the truth

20 October

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Ephesians 3:14-21

This is what I pray, kneeling before the Father, from whom every family, whether spiritual or natural, takes its name:

Out of his infinite glory, may he give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God.

Glory be to him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine; glory be to him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen.

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Luke 12:49-53

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!

‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’

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I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already!’

I have to admit that today’s gospel was quite a challenge to read and reflect on. How could Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and whom the prophets spoke of His coming, bring division? These are such contradictory statements. So I had to read up commentaries and reflections by priests and eventually found: The Truth!

Indeed, Jesus came to bring division. But this division, as I have read, stems from the truth. Families are divided because of the truth. And yes, the truth hurts. Jesus is the way, the TRUTH and the life, as He said it Himself. Hence, following the truth, following Him will bring division.

In Luke 14:26, Jesus said: “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple!” And more than anything, we as Christians are called to be followers of Jesus above all else. In other words, if we know the truth, we will have to follow Him, Jesus.

Often, I am selective about the truth. If it benefits and sits well with me, it is the truth. If it doesn’t, then I try to justify my actions. That in itself causes a division within myself. If I am to follow Jesus, I have to follow Him wholeheartedly and not selectively. Yet, as St Paul prays in today’s first reading, may God give us the power through His Spirit for our hidden selves to grow strong, so that Christ may live in our hearts.

My brothers and sisters, God will give us the strength to grow strong and walk in His love. And as St Paul says, God can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Lee)

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Prayer: Father, help me to know Your truth and to stand by it. Knowing that You are the way, the truth and the life. Grace me to live my life according to Your truth.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank You for giving me the grace to differentiate right from wrong, truth from falsehood. Thank You for guiding and leading me in Your righteousness daily.

19 October, Wednesday – Knowing God

19 October – Memorial for Sts. John de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, martyrs; Memorial for St. Paul of the Cross, Priest

John de Brebeuf (1593–1649) was a French Jesuit. He wanted to enter the priesthood since young, but his health was so bad there were doubts he could make it. His posting as a missionary to frontier Canada at the age of 32 was a literal godsend. He spent the rest of his life there, and the harsh and hearty climate so agreed with him that the Natives, surprised at his endurance, called him “Echon”, which means “load bearer”. His massive size made them think twice about sharing a canoe with him for fear of sinking.

John had great difficulty learning the Huron language. “You may have been a famous professor or theologian in France,” he wrote in a letter home, “but here you will merely be a student, and with what teachers! The Huron language will be your Aristla crosse.” However, he eventually wrote a catechism in Huron, and a French-Huron dictionary for use by other missionaries.

According to the histories of the game, it was John who named the present-day version of the Indian game “lacrosse” because the stick used reminded him of a bishop’s crosier (la crosse).

He was martyred in 1649, tortured to death by the Iroquois. By 1650, the Huron nation was exterminated, and the laboriously built mission was abandoned. But it proved to be “one of the triumphant failures that are commonplace in the Church’s history”. These martyrdoms created a wave of vocations and missionary fervour in France, and it gave new heart to the missionaries in New France.

– Patron Saint Index

Isaac Jogues (1607–1646) joined the Jesuits at Rouen, France in 1624. He was ordained a priest and taught literature. He became a missionary to New France (Canada) in 1636, starting in Quebec and working among the Hurons and Petuns in the area of the Great Lakes. This was a rough assignment – not only were the living conditions hard, but the locals blamed the “Blackrobes” for any disease, ill luck, or other problems that occurred where they were.

He was captured on 3 August 1642 by the Mohawks, enslaved, tortured and mutilated for 13 months, but he taught the Faith to any who would listen. With the help of local Dutch settlers he finally escaped and was sent back to France to recover.

In 1644, he returned to Canada to continue his work with the natives and negotiate peace with the Iroquois. He was martyred with fellow Jesuit priest John de Brebeuf and several lay missionaries when the natives blamed Christian sorcery for an epidemic and crop failure. He is one of the North America Martyrs.

– Patron Saint Index

Paul of the Cross (1694–1775) was the son of a merchant and a pious youth. After receiving a vision and while still a layman, he founded the Congregation of Discalced Clerks of the Most Holy Cross and Passion (Passionists) in 1721 to preach about Jesus Crucified. He was a preacher of such power that hardened soldiers and bandits were seen to weep.

The community lived a penitential life, in solitude and poverty, teaching people in the easiest possible way how to meditate on the Passion of Jesus. He was ordained in 1727 along with his brother John Baptist by Pope Benedict XIII. After ordination, they devoted themselves to preaching missions in parishes, particularly in remote country places where there were insufficient priests pastorally involved. Their preaching apostolate and the retreats they gave in seminaries and religious houses brought their mission to the attention of others and gradually the community began to grow.

However, the austere life of the Passionists did not encourage large numbers and at one point all the brothers in the Order deserted him. But Paul preferred a slow, at times painful, growth to something more spectacular. In 1741 his Rule was approved by Pope Benedict XIV, and the community began to grow again.

During his lifetime, Paul of the Cross was best known as a popular preacher and a spiritual director. More than two thousand of his letters, most of them letters of spiritual direction, have been preserved. By the time of his death, the congregation had 80 fathers and brothers. He is considered among the greatest Catholic mystics of the 18th century.

– Patron Saint Index, Wikipedia

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Ephesians 3:2-12

You have probably heard how I have been entrusted by God with the grace he meant for you, and that it was by a revelation that I was given the knowledge of the mystery, as I have just described it very shortly. If you read my word you will have some idea of the depths that I see in the mystery of Christ. This that has now been revealed through the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets was unknown to any men in past generations; it means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Jesus Christ, through the gospel. I have been made the servant of that gospel by a gift of grace from God who gave it to me by his own power. I, who am less than the least of all the saints have been entrusted with this special grace, not only of proclaiming to the pagans the infinite treasure of Christ but also of explaining how the mystery is to be dispensed. Through all the ages, this has been kept hidden in God, the creator of everything. Why? So that the Sovereignties and Powers should learn only now, through the Church, how comprehensive God’s wisdom really is, exactly according to the plan which he had had from all eternity in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is why we are bold enough to approach God in complete confidence, through our faith in him.

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Luke 12:39-48

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

Peter said, ‘Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?’ The Lord replied, ‘What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you truly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time coming,” and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.

The servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes. When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.’

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‘…because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

A question that I find myself asking often is “Do I really know the Lord?” Do I really know His love and mercy?

One popular hymn I remember singing when I was a young boy is ‘The Greatest Thing’. The gist of the song is about how the greatest thing in one’s life is knowing you (God), followed by loving God, and then serving God. It is in that particular order for a reason, as I have learnt, because before we can talk about serving God, we need to love Him. And before we can love Him, we need to come to know Him.

So the next question that comes to mind is, “Do I know the full measure of His love and mercy?” St Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, tells us that the mystery of God and His grace has been made known through scripture so that we now “share the same inheritance…”, and “parts of the same body”. In that respect, do I spend time to read the Word (scripture) in order to know God and His grace?

We know that cultivating a relationship requires spending time with each other before it blossoms. The same goes for knowing God and developing a relationship with Him. It requires spending time and effort in reading the Word and, where possible, spending time before God who is ever-present in the Blessed Sacrament. Developing such a relationship allows us to be ever-mindful of the Lord’s presence and keeping ourselves in check, and ultimately living in holiness.

Today’s gospel is exactly that. Living in holiness and being mindful of God’s presence, and preparing for the coming of the Son of Man at an hour which we least expect it. May we continue to live in holiness and wait in anticipation for the coming of our Lord. The hour known to Him only.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Lee)

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Prayer: Father, help me to stand ready at all times. Ready to know You, ready to love You and ready to serve You. May I always be mindful of Your loving presence in my life.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank You for calling me Your child and giving me the grace to know, love and serve You.

13 October, Thursday – Saying ‘Yes!’

13 October

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Ephesians 1:1-10

From Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, to the saints who are faithful to Christ Jesus. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ.
Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ,
to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence,
determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ
for his own kind purposes,
to make us praise the glory of his grace,
his free gift to us in the Beloved,
in whom, through his blood, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.
Such is the richness of the grace
which he has showered on us
in all wisdom and insight.
He has let us know the mystery of his purpose,
the hidden plan he so kindly made in Christ from the beginning
to act upon when the times had run their course to the end:
that he would bring everything together under Christ, as head,
everything in the heavens and everything on earth.

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Luke 11:47-54

Jesus said:

‘Alas for you who build the tombs of the prophets, the men your ancestors killed! In this way you both witness what your ancestors did and approve it; they did the killing, you do the building.

‘And that is why the Wisdom of God said, “I will send them prophets and apostles; some they will slaughter and persecute, so that this generation will have to answer for every prophet’s blood that has been shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was murdered between the altar and the sanctuary.” Yes, I tell you, this generation will have to answer for it all.

‘Alas for you lawyers who have taken away the key of knowledge! You have not gone in yourselves, and have prevented others going in who wanted to.’

When he left the house, the scribes and the Pharisees began a furious attack on him and tried to force answers from him on innumerable questions, setting traps to catch him out in something he might say.

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He chose us in Christ

 By the time you read this reflection, I would have celebrated a milestone birthday. Last week, my better half threw me a huge surprise birthday party, with the help of some close friends. Quite frankly, I am happy to let the event slip by quietly. If you know me well enough, I absolutely abhor surprises and I do not like being the centre of attention. I am not the ‘fade into the background’ kind of person, but am happy to be added entertainment to a party. Not the main act. My friends told me after the fact that they were afraid that I’d throw a hissy fit over this surprise, ruining everything my loved ones had planned. But I went along with the evening’s festivities and really enjoyed myself. It was great to see a sea of familiar faces screaming ‘Surprise!’ It’s like a tapestry of my life made up of family (I have a huge, extended one), old and new friends. Just looking at all of them, I was reminded about different phases of my life, where I have been, where I came from and where I am today.

So as I celebrate this milestone birthday, I reflect upon my life and am amazed at where I am today. Before the world was made, he chose us….. for his own kind purpose.  Indeed He has chosen me. Recently, I was asked what my conversion story was. I responded “It was a matter of time!” I converted to the Catholic faith some twenty four years ago, with the blessing of my parents. Unlike some of you who have amazing ‘hit you square in the eye’ type of conversion stories, mine is slow, gingerly but definite. And because our Lord knows I do not like huge surprises, He has been kind with me as well. Slowly and gently coaxing me along into a life that (I think) He has chosen for me.

Ten years ago, when I celebrated my then milestone birthday, I had quite definite ideas and plans about my goals and where my life would lead. Today, I have no idea where my life is leading me, except I trust that our Lord already has it all mapped out. Yeah, I freak out time and again wondering what on earth am I to do – and He continues to surprise me with events that unfold, projects he decrees and people that I meet. Is it anything I had envisioned my life to be ten years ago? Certainly not! Not by any measure of the imagination. Then again, what we imagine is but a small scene of a larger feature film; the vastness of what God sees and plans. Do I like what I am experiencing? Nope. I hate surprises remember? God may have chosen us, but we also need to co-operate in His plans. He needs us to say ‘Yes!’ And that one single decision could change everything and set you on an amazing adventure you never dreamed possible. That ‘Yes’ is actually the perfect path for God’s plan for your life. Just like my surprise birthday party – I simply let go of my natural tendency to control; and what an amazing time I had! Will you say ‘Yes; to God’s plan? He has chosen you, my brothers and sisters.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

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Prayer: Teach us Lord, to be obedient to your will. To be silent and to heed your call. For you have chosen us to be your sons and daughters. Give us the courage to take that very first step and allow you to work in our lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for choosing us – to be holy and spotless. For your spiritual gifts. For working you perfect plan in our lives the moment we said ‘Yes!’ For taking us on this amazing life journey and giving us this perfect opportunity to be and to show love to our fellow brothers and sisters.

8 October, Saturday – Prepared by the Law

8 October

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Galatians 3:22-29

Scripture makes no exceptions when it says that sin is master everywhere. In this way the promise can only be given through faith in Jesus Christ and can only be given to those who have this faith.

Before faith came, we were allowed no freedom by the Law; we were being looked after till faith was revealed. The Law was to be our guardian until the Christ came and we could be justified by faith. Now that that time has come we are no longer under that guardian, and you are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.

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Luke 11:27-28

As Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, ‘Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!’ But he replied, ‘Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!’

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The Law was to be our guardian until the Christ came.

Whenever an athlete prepares for a competition, the athlete has to follow an exercise regimen faithfully. He has to eat according to his needs, train according to his training plan, and rest according to schedule. This training period restricts an athlete’s activities in preparation for the big day. These restrictions are necessary for an athlete’s preparation.

The Law that was given by God was to prepare us to accept what Christ had planned to teach us. When we were young, our parents stopped us from harming ourselves by saying ‘no.’ ‘No, you can’t eat mud.’ ‘No, you can’t put your fingers in the electric socket.’ ‘No, you can’t jump from that height.’ These are just pure laws, without explanations. When we were younger, even if our parents explained the rationale behind these laws, we probably would not have understood.

Jesus came to explain that Law, which was intended for our good. The Law trained us to do charitable acts, and Jesus Christ taught us that beyond doing charitable acts, we have to be charitable. Being charitable does not only mean doing charitable acts, it’s doing these acts with charity – with love. It might have been difficult for us to understand Christ’s teachings on what charity really is if we ourselves have not been performing acts of charity.

The Law was our guardian, because it helped us do what was right even when we didn’t want to, even when we didn’t feel like it. Be kind to those who hurt you. This is something I am struggling with right now; and I must admit that I am merely following the law when I don’t go out there and be nasty to the people who have hurt me. Right now, I am only doing it because it is the right thing to do. But I’m hoping that once I am able to let Christ into this part of my heart, I will be kind not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it is the loving thing to do.

I still can’t live without the Law in many parts of my life. And until I can welcome Christ in my heart, I will keep on training, like an athlete, in this ‘rigorous’ law. Because without the Law, I will never be prepared to have Christ enter in that aspect of my life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

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Prayer: Help me, Lord, to live my life in Christ, to learn to appreciate the laws, and to submit myself in humility to the laws You have made while I grow in my understanding of my faith.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for giving us a guide in our lives. And even if we sometimes resent it, we know that it is for our good.