25 February 2018
25 February 2018
25 February 2018
1 Samuel 15:16-23
Samuel said to Saul, ‘Stop! Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.’ Saul said, ‘Tell me.’ Samuel continued, ‘Small as you may be in your own eyes, are you not head of the tribes of Israel? the Lord has anointed you king over Israel. The Lord sent you on a mission and said to you, “Go, put these sinners, the Amalekites, under the ban and make war on them until they are exterminated.” Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you fall on the booty and do what is displeasing to the Lord?’ Saul replied to Samuel, ‘But I did obey the voice of the Lord. I went on the mission which the Lord gave me; I brought back Agag king of the Amalekites; I put the Amalekites under the ban. From the booty the people took the best sheep and oxen of what was under the ban to sacrifice them to the Lord your God in Gilgal.’ But Samuel replied:
‘Is the pleasure of the Lord in holocausts and sacrifices or in obedience to the voice of the Lord?
Yes, obedience is better than sacrifice, submissiveness better than the fat of rams.
Rebellion is a sin of sorcery, presumption a crime of teraphim.
‘Since you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.’
One day when John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, some people came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Why is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?’ Jesus replied, ‘Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of fasting while the bridegroom is still with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they could not think of fasting. But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then, on that day, they will fast. No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak; if he does, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins too. No! New wine, fresh skins!’
“Obedience is better than sacrifice”
Growing up, I would often comply with instructions in a bid to obey others; however, I would often question these instructions because I believed that things could be done in a different way, while achieving the same results. I would slowly start to tweak the instructions (and sometimes even sacrifice my nerves) in apprehension that it would not work. Should everything go according to plan, I would celebrate secretly as I had outwitted those who provided me with the instructions.
Likewise, in my relationship with God, I often convinced myself that I was doing what the Lord wanted by tweaking His instructions and plans. I compensated by sacrificing my time and energy to the ministry I was serving in, as well as at the workplace. However, I realized that despite all that I have been doing, I have not been obedient to what He wants me to do. I have slackened in my quiet time with Him, not responding entirely to His call when He has asked me to do something. I would also often bargain with Him, telling Him that I had already sacrificed enough for Him.
My wake-up call came when I started questioning my purpose in life. I realized that despite doing so much (by my standards), I felt empty. I decided to take a step back from everything that I had busied myself with, and to rebuild my relationship with God. I asked God for forgiveness because I was full of pride, built up from over the years, and I invited God to renew my spirit to do His work according to His will. It has been a few months, and I am still on this journey as obedience is not something that comes easily to me.
Brothers and sisters, today’s reading from Samuel reminds us that God first looks not at our sacrifices, but our obedience to Him. When we obey God, He renews our spirit and gives us the grace to experience meaning in our lives.
(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)
Prayer: Dearest Father, we pray for the grace to listen to Your voice, and to be obedient in all that You have asked us to do.
Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank You for loving us even though we are disobedient, often questioning your plans for us.
“let what you have said be done to me” (Mary’s Fiat)
St Irenaeus tells us that death came into the world by the disobedience of one virgin (Eve), and so our redemption was brought about the obedience of another virgin, Mary, the new Eve.
I tend to speak about obedience quite a bit and I cant help but come back to this point again. I would say that the 2 things that would make our ministry lives more pleasant and less tense would be — obedience and honesty.
Through disobedience, Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden, a metaphor for falling out of grace; they lost their preternatural gifts. The church teaches us that these are the preternatural gifts they lost: impassibility (freedom from pain), immortality (freedom from death), integrity (freedom from concupiscence, or disordered desires), infused knowledge (freedom from ignorance in matters essential for happiness). And so for us, disobedience to parents, to ministry leaders, our priests, Holy Mother Church and even bosses, will lead us down this slippery slope because we have been cut off (so to speak) from our head, our authority. In spiritual life, I liken this as well to protection from evil.
Let’s take two quotes to drive home this point on obedience.
“The Devil doesn’t fear austerity but holy obedience.” – St. Francis de Sales
“Obedience unites us so closely to God that in a way transforms us into Him, so that we have no other will but His. If obedience is lacking, even prayer cannot be pleasing to God.” – St. Thomas Aquinas
Honesty lets everyone know what kind of space you are in, in life, at the moment. Many arguments and disagreements and even false judgements are formed when people are dishonest. In community, we practice something called ‘checking in’. Before we begin a meeting or prayer, it is always helpful to know where a person is in life. We should be less concerned with the ‘quality of work’ a person produces and more in tune with the actual person. Often, we will hear of people who are coming from tough circumstances — a tense atmosphere at home, the loss of a loved one, loss of a job — and if we just continue to pile on them like machines, we get very unhappy ministries. Very recently, I made this mistake and it left me with a sick feeling in my stomach because I didn’t see two sides of a story. With Mary’s help, we might be a little more human. So let us see, with Jesus’ eyes, people for who they are — themselves.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)
Prayer: Hail Mary, full of Grace the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death. Amen.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving us a mother who was human, so that we too might be more human and see more humanly!
4 July – Memorial for St. Elizabeth of Portugal
Elizabeth (1271-1336) was a princess with a pious upbringing who became Queen of Portugal before she was a teenager. Elizabeth suffered through years of her husband’s abuse and adultery, praying all the while for his conversion, and working with the poor and sick. She rode onto the battlefield to reconcile her family members twice; once between her husband and son when they clashed in civil war, and between her son and his son-in-law years later, preventing bloodshed. This led to her patronage as a peacemaker, and as one invoked in time of war and conflict.
– Patron Saint Index
The angels urged Lot, ‘Come, take your wife and these two daughters of yours, or you will be overwhelmed in the punishment of the town.’ And as he hesitated, the men took him by the hand, and his wife and his two daughters, because of the pity the Lord felt for him. They led him out and left him outside the town.
As they were leading him out he said, ‘Run for your life. Neither look behind you nor stop anywhere on the plain. Make for the hills if you would not be overwhelmed.’ ‘No, I beg you, my lord,’ Lot said to them ‘your servant has won your favour and you have shown great kindness to me in saving my life. But I could not reach the hills before this calamity overtook me, and death with it. The town over there is near enough to flee to, and is a little one. Let me make for that – is it not little? – and my life will be saved.’ He answered, ‘I grant you this favour too, and will not destroy the town you speak of. Hurry, escape to it, for I can do nothing until you reach it.’ That is why the town is named Zoar.
As the sun rose over the land and Lot entered Zoar, the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord. He overthrew these towns and the whole plain, with all the inhabitants of the towns, and everything that grew there. But the wife of Lot looked back, and was turned into a pillar of salt.
Rising early in the morning Abraham went to the place where he had stood before the Lord, and looking towards Sodom and Gomorrah, and across all the plain, he saw the smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.
Thus it was that when God destroyed the towns of the plain, he kept Abraham in mind and rescued Lot out of disaster when he overwhelmed the towns where Lot lived.
Jesus got into the boat followed by his disciples. Without warning a storm broke over the lake, so violent that the waves were breaking right over the boat. But he was asleep. So they went to him and woke him saying, ‘Save us, Lord, we are going down!’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened, you men of little faith?’ And with that he stood up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and all was calm again. The men were astounded and said, ‘Whatever kind of man is this? Even the winds and the sea obey him.’
“… but he was asleep”
Don Moen songs say that ‘He never sleeps’, which is quite contrary to today’s gospel. But he was asleep when the boat was swamped by the waves. Today are we disappointed with God? Do we think that He can do much more for us?
One of the great things about love and friendship is to trust that the other person will come through for you. In several occasions I have trusted my friends, like how we used to hang out late into the night, I know that they would do anything to protect me if danger stricks. Even with my colleagues, I know that I can come to work without my wallet and not go hungry, because I know that they would not want to see me hungry and they to trust that I would pay them back the next day. Relationships are based on trust.
Our experience in life may have made it difficult for us to trust others. I once knew 2 loving sisters who would do anything for their friends but they found it hard to trust others and not choosing to trust brought a lot of stress to their relationships.
If today, we have a problem with trust in general, it is quite likely that we are disconnected and not in touch with the essence of what it means to be human.
Jesus is not asleep but really, I wonder what He is doing right now? Is He thinking about me and smilling at me? Is He waiting for me at the Eucharist? Is He holding the hands of the people I have failed? I am only human, I could never guess. But as a Catholic, I know that He loves me and His is my lover and my loving Lord; He adores me and Has great plans for me. Do I need to know more? I trust Him enough to know that He will feed me more than my colleagues can, trust me more than my friends do, accepts me even when I am disappointed with myself and when that is not enough for my restless heart, I will run hastily towards His bosom and even when I cannot go to Him, He will never let me go.
(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)
Prayer: Father, we pray for the people of America as they celebrate their independence day. May they (and we too) continue to trust in You.
Thanksgiving: Lord I run to you, all my hope and trust is in you. Jesu Ufam Tobie.
14 June 2017
2 Corinthians 3:4-11
Before God, we are confident of this through Christ: not that we are qualified in ourselves to claim anything as our own work: all our qualifications come from God. He is the one who has given us the qualifications to be the administrators of this new covenant, which is not a covenant of written letters but of the Spirit: the written letters bring death, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the administering of death, in the written letters engraved on stones, was accompanied by such a brightness that the Israelites could not bear looking at the face of Moses, though it was a brightness that faded, then how much greater will be the brightness that surrounds the administering of the Spirit! For if there was any splendour in administering condemnation, there must be very much greater splendour in administering justification. In fact, compared with this greater splendour, the thing that used to have such splendour now seems to have none; and if what was so temporary had any splendour, there must be much more in what is going to last for ever.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.’
“I have come not to abolish but to fulfill”
As I read today’s gospel, I am comforted by a reality that is so fundamental to our Christian faith: Obedience. Today, Jesus taught that “whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heave”. The opposite is, of course, also true, i.e. disobeying the commandments will also lead to one being called least in the Kingdom of heaven. There are two interesting dimensions to today’s gospel passage.
First, in teaching about the importance of obeying the commandments, Jesus Himself exhibits a deep obedience to God. Indeed, Jesus started off by saying that “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill”. Yes, even God Himself (incarnate as Jesus) is obedient to His own commandments. This is an example of the sort of interior consistency that we, as Christians, need to display as well. In other words, we need to practice what we preach.
Second, Jesus makes an interesting point when He says that “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven”. He did not say that those who break a commandment will be condemned. Rather they will simply be called least, albeit still in the Kingdom of heaven, where the last is supposed to come first. How do we square this circle? The key to understanding this seeming conundrum lies in mercy.
While Jesus makes clear that breaking the commandments is an act of sin, He does not condemn the sinner. As always, the hope of salvation and forgiveness is held out, like an olive branch from God Himself. For those of us who have sinned (it is safe to say that all of us fall into this category, unless you are reading this from heaven – in which case, please pray for me), Jesus is telling us that there is space in Heaven for us still.
There is space in Heaven for us. There is no greater assurance of God’s love for His children, no greater cause for hope than the gates of Heaven left open to us always. All we need to do is to take a step towards those pearly gates, and that first step is to repent – to repent for our sins and seek the Lord’s forgiveness. As Jesus promised, He has come not to abolish, but to fulfil. He was not simply talking about the commandments. He has also come not to abolish us, we who have sinned so woefully, but to fulfil our destiny as children of God and co-heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven.
(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)
Prayer: Lord, we pray for Your forgiveness, for in the depths of our hearts, we are sorrowful for all the times that we have let You down. But we are weak, often even too weak to admit our failings. We pray for your love and patience.
Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for His everlasting love and forgiveness, for granting us admittance to His Kingdom, and asking of us no more than our love and repentance.
May 3 – Feast of Sts. Philip and James, Apostles
Philip was a disciple of St. John the Baptist, and a convert. He was one of the Twelve Apostles, and brought St. Nathanael to Christ. He was a confidant of Jesus. Little is known about him, but scriptural episodes give the impression of a shy, naïve, but practical individual. He preached in Greece and Asia Minor, and died a martyr for the faith.
James the Lesser was the cousin of Jesus, and brother of St. Jude Thaddeus. He was raised in a Jewish home of the time with all the training in Scripture and Law that was part of that life. He was a convert, and one of the Twelve Apostles. He was one of the first to have visions of the risen Christ.
He was the first bishop of Jerusalem. He met with St. Paul the Apostle to work out Paul’s plans for evangelization. He supported the position that Gentile converts did not have to obey all Jewish religious law, though he continued to observe it himself as part of his heritage. He may have been a vegetarian. He was a just and apostolic man known for his prayer life and devotion to the poor.
He was martyred for his faith in c.62 when he was thrown from a pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem, and then stoned and beaten with clubs while praying for his attackers. Having been beaten to death, a club almost immediately became his symbol, leading to his patronage of fullers and pharmacists, both of whom use clubs in their professions.
He is reported to have spent so much time in prayer that his knees thickened, and looked like a camel’s. Soon after the Crucifixion, James said he would fast until Christ returned; the resurrected Jesus appeared to him, and fixed a meal for James Himself.
1 Corinthians 15:1-8
Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you – believing anything else will not lead to anything.
Well then, in the first place, I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared first to Cephas and secondly to the Twelve. Next he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died; then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles; and last of all he appeared to me too; it was as though I was born when no one expected it.
Jesus said to Thomas:
‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
No one can come to the Father except through me.
If you know me, you know my Father too.
From this moment you know him and have seen him.’
Philip said, ‘Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.’
‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip,’ said Jesus to him ‘and you still do not know me?
‘To have seen me is to have seen the Father,
so how can you say, “Let us see the Father”?
Do you not believe
that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words I say to you I do not speak as from myself:
it is the Father, living in me, who is doing this work.
You must believe me when I say
that I am in the Father and the Father is in me;
believe it on the evidence of this work, if for no other reason.
I tell you most solemnly,
whoever believes in me
will perform the same works as I do myself,
he will perform even greater works,
because I am going to the Father.
Whatever you ask for in my name I will do,
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If you ask for anything in my name,
I will do it.’
“After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at once”
It is thought that St Paul’s letters to the Corinthians was written between 53-57AD. Here St Paul tells us that he is handing down what was handed to him by Our Lord himself. Then he makes 2 points — that the death and resurrection of Jesus were in accordance with the scriptures, and that there were eyewitnesses. In the 40 days between Our Lord’s resurrection and ascension, He appeared to the Apostles and the women of Jerusalem a few times, and at one time, to 500 brothers and sisters.
It seems like the point here is that this was a historical event. There were eyewitnesses to attest to the fact that a man was scourged and left on a cross to die, they saw the lifeless body carried down and laid in a tomb and then sometime after that, they saw this man walk, talk and eat. It is also to be noted that St Paul’s letter, being dated 50+ years after the events took place, in the context of historical accuracy, is remarkably close to the event. There are more well-believed rumours around that were written hundreds of years after the event in question.
Today, as we celebrate 2 pillars of the church, I’d like to reflect on the simple obedience they had, along with the other 10. What if they did it their way instead of Jesus’ way? Or what if Jesus did it his way instead of the Father’s way? I think the church wouldn’t exist, let alone this blog. Obedience was key and is still key today. I’m sure many of us have faced issues in ministry and community life. Single out one example that comes to mind and apply obedience to the situation and most of the time, there would not have been an issue.
If we believe in the power and working of the Holy Spirit and if we seek to do God’s will and not ours, then let us all obey the authority God has placed over us in loving humility, get out of the way, and watch as things fall into place. I daresay we’ll be attending less long-winded meetings if we were a little more obedient. St Paul talks about handing down what he received. It has been handed down all the way to us because he obeyed the command of God for him. Let us receive (from our authority) and keep God’s commandment of spreading the good news.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)
Prayer: Father, just as Apostolic succession continues unbroken in our Church, may that anointing continue to flow down to our time and let us be obedient channels to keep this unbroken succession going.
Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord, for the people whose prayers have brought me here and in turn, I offer up the merits of this day for all of them, whoever they may be.
9 April 2017
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.
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.
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,
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.
“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 – 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
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.
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.’
“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)
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!
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.
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal immediately”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper laid; make yourself tidy and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink yourself afterwards”? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”’
“We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”
Quite some time ago, someone I knew was in emotional difficulty and often reached out to me to vent her anger and frustration. She sent me messages at various times of day or night. I responded to her and listened to her. All this, of course, was done with the knowledge of my wife.
Some time later, I got a call from her, in which she accused me of betraying her and of doing something I did not do. I lost my temper and told her off. All I could think of was: “How could she do this, in spite of everything that I’ve done for her!”
This spell of anger and disappointment took control of me until one day, when I was sharing with my kids in a Home Catechism session. We were talking about how God gave us the grace so we could go to heaven; that no matter what we did to try and ‘earn’ our place in heaven, we could never! In the course of the session, the children could see that we need to do our ‘good works’ (be it helping others, being the best we can be, being holy…) not to get to heaven, but because of God’s love for us (and our love for Him), which makes it important that we do good.
It became clear to me that no matter what happened, it was important for me to be there for the other person, no matter how she felt or what she thought I did. It was simply important for me to do so… because it was my job to do so as a child of God.
(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)
Prayer: Lord, help us to never keep score about what we are doing; the “good things”, thinking that this would help us to secure our place in heaven. Help us Lord to offer all these to You in love, as a gift to You.
Thanksgiving: Father God, thank you for always loving us and being there for us. Thank you for sending your precious Son, Jesus, to die for us. Thank you for giving us the gift of eternal life.