Tag Archives: prayer

12 July, Friday – Loving God through our lives

12 July 2019

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Genesis 46:1-7, 28-30

Israel left Canaan with his possessions, and reached Beersheba. There he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God spoke to Israel in a vision at night, ‘Jacob, Jacob’, he said. ‘I am here’, he replied. ‘I am God, the God of your father’, he continued. ‘Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I myself will go down to Egypt with you. I myself will bring you back again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.’ Then Jacob left Beersheba. Israel’s sons conveyed their father Jacob, their little children and their wives in the waggons Pharaoh had sent to fetch him.

Taking their livestock and all that they had acquired in the land of Canaan, they went to Egypt, Jacob and all his family with him: his sons and his grandsons, his daughters and his grand-daughters, in a word, all his children he took with him to Egypt.

Israel sent Judah ahead to Joseph, so that the latter might present himself to him in Goshen. When they arrived in the land of Goshen, Joseph had his chariot made ready and went up to meet his father Israel in Goshen. As soon as he appeared he threw his arms round his neck and for a long time wept on his shoulder. Israel said to Joseph, ‘Now I can die, now that I have seen you again, and seen you still alive.’

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Matthew 10:16-23

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Remember, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; so be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves.

‘Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you. ‘Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved. If they persecute you in one town, take refuge in the next; and if they persecute you in that, take refuge in another. I tell you solemnly, you will not have gone the round of the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.’

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The Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you
Fear of public speaking is certainly an issue which many people grapple with. I believe that for us as Catholic Christians, it is perhaps the fear of publicly proclaiming the Word of God to the people around us. The readings today share with us that such a fear is unfounded and that we have Jesus with us who will guide us in what to do.
Jesus has shown us the importance of trusting in Him. Unfortunately, not all of us can remember this point well. Sometimes we go about our own actions and think that this is probably what God wants us to do, resulting in us engaging in behaviours which may not be the most prudent, nor the wisest to engage in. It is prudent for us to pause and ask ourselves if what we are doing is grounded in a solid foundation of love for God and love for our neighbour. The importance of this cannot be overstated because it will allow us to bear with the pain and suffering of persecution which is mentioned in the Gospel. Deepening our prayer life will allow us to trust in God and this will help guide our actions in our daily life.
The love of God must animate all our actions. We need not always speak out loud to the people around us, of how God has worked wonders within us; although, that is certainly one way. The way we treat our parents, siblings, relatives, friends, colleagues and strangers is perhaps the most visible way we can share the Gospel message to the people around us. Let us ask God to help us with this wonderful task.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the love to share your Word to all around us.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all missionaries.

6 July, Saturday – Mixed Identities

6 July 2019 – Memorial for St. Maria Goretti, Virgin & Martyr

Maria Goretti (1890-1902) was a beautiful and pious farm girl, one of six children of Luigi Goretti and Assunta Carlini. In 1896 the family moved to Ferriere di Conca. Soon after, Maria’s father died of malaria, and the family was forced to move onto the Serenelli farm to survive.

In 1902, at the age of 12, Maria was attacked by 19-year-old farm hand Alessandro Serenelli. He tried to rape the girl who fought, yelled that it was a sin, and that he would go to hell. He tried to choke her into submission, then stabbed her 14 times. She survived in hospital for two days, forgave her attacker, asked God’s forgiveness of him, and died holding a crucifix and medal of Our Lady. She is counted as a martyr.

While in prison for his crime, Alessandro had a vision of Maria. He saw a garden where a young girl, dressed in white, gathered lilies. She smiled, came near him, and encouraged him to accept an armful of lilies. As he took them, each lily transformed into a still white flame. Maria then disappeared. This vision of Maria led to Alessandro’s conversion, and he latter testified at her cause for beatification.

– Patron Saint Index

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Genesis 27:1-5, 15-29

Isaac had grown old, and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see. He summoned his elder son Esau, ‘My son!’ he said to him, and the latter answered, ‘I am here.’ Then he said, ‘See, I am old and do not know when I may die. Now take your weapons, your quiver and bow; go out into the country and hunt me some game. Make me the kind of savoury I like and bring it to me, so that I may eat, and give you my blessing before I die.’

Rebekah happened to be listening while Isaac was talking to his son Esau. So when Esau went into the country to hunt game for his father, Rebekah took her elder son Esau’s best clothes, which she had in the house, and dressed her younger son Jacob in them, covering his arms and the smooth part of his neck with the skins of the kids. Then she handed the savoury and the bread she had made to her son Jacob.

He presented himself before his father and said, ‘Father.’ ‘I am here;’ was the reply ‘who are you, my son?’ Jacob said to his father, ‘I am Esau your first-born; I have done as you told me. Please get up and take your place and eat the game I have brought and then give me your blessing.’ Isaac said to his son, ‘How quickly you found it, my son!’ ‘It was the Lord your God’ he answered ‘who put it in my path.’ Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Come here, then, and let me touch you, my son, to know if you are my son Esau or not.’ Jacob came close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, ‘The voice is Jacob’s voice but the arms are the arms of Esau!’ He did not recognise him, for his arms were hairy like his brother Esau’s, and so he blessed him. He said, ‘Are you really my son Esau?’ And he replied, ‘I am.’ Isaac said, ‘Bring it here that I may eat the game my son has brought, and so may give you my blessing.’ He brought it to him and he ate; he offered him wine, and he drank. His father Isaac said to him, ‘Come closer, and kiss me, my son.’ He went closer and kissed his father, who smelled the smell of his clothes.

He blessed him, saying:

‘Yes, the smell of my son

is like the smell of a fertile field blessed by the Lord.

May God give you dew from heaven,

and the richness of the earth,

abundance of grain and wine!

May nations serve you and peoples bow down before you!

Be master of your brothers; may the sons of your mother bow down before you!

Cursed be he who curses you;

blessed be he who blesses you!’

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Matthew 9:14-17

John’s disciples came to him and said, ‘Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?’ Jesus replied, ‘Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of mourning as long as the bridegroom is still with them? But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunken cloth on to an old cloak, because the patch pulls away from the cloak and the tear gets worse. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; if they do, the skins burst, the wine runs out, and the skins are lost. No; they put new wine into fresh skins and both are preserved.’

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And they will fast

In yesterday’s reading, we saw Rebekah as someone attuned to God’s will but in today’s reading, she was deceitful in her ways and changed the course of God’s plans. Are we able to recognise the ‘Rebekah’ in us? We sometimes are so carried away about our godly deeds and then we fall right into sin with our faces flat on the ground. This is what makes us human, and therefore we must be watchful over ourselves, and understand ourselves better.

Rebekah suffered the wrath of the Lord because she changed God’s plans; don’t we sometimes do that too? We know what is right and we hear a gentle voice telling us to stay faithful, but we ignore it and go against it. We are called to ‘sin-proof’ our lives but also to be so much more and shine His light. Avoiding the occurrence of sin alone will not allow us to shine His light, but it has to be coupled with us praising and adoring the Lord.

We need Jesus in the Eucharist and the sacraments, read the bible and follow the teaching of the Church.

Recently, I was healed from gastritis and anemia. When I was diagnosed, I stopped fasting on Fridays. And today in a conversation with a friend, I realised that I have not resumed fasting. Do we have set dates for fasting?

How does our prayer life look like? Do we have daily prayer time? Do we attend mass on Sundays? What about spending some time in front of the Blessed Sacrament?

Are we able to distinguish the old wineskin from the new? Do we allow ourselves to be nourished by the wisdom and knowledge of our Catholic tradition, so that we are able to live our best lives yet?

For the grace that we need, let us pray diligently today and remain steadfast for the rest of our lives.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer:  Lord, help us to remain holy by having holiness as a goal. We know that you made us for so much more and that you don’t want us only to defuse sins but to eat and drink at your table as your children.

Thanksgiving: Praise you God, who has chosen me as your own possession. My God and saviour.

25 February, Monday – In Desolation

25 February 2019

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Ecclesiasticus 1:1-10

All wisdom is from the Lord,
and it is his own for ever.
The sand of the sea and the raindrops,
and the days of eternity, who can assess them?
The height of the sky and the breadth of the earth,
and the depth of the abyss, who can probe them?
Before all other things wisdom was created,
shrewd understanding is everlasting.
For whom has the root of wisdom ever been uncovered?
Her resourceful ways, who knows them?
One only is wise, terrible indeed,
seated on his throne, the Lord.
He himself has created her, looked on her and assessed her,
and poured her out on all his works
to be with all mankind as his gift,
and he conveyed her to those who love him.

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Mark 9:14-29

When Jesus, with Peter, James and John came down from the mountain and rejoined the disciples, they saw a large crowd round them and some scribes arguing with them. The moment they saw him the whole crowd were struck with amazement and ran to greet him. ‘What are you arguing about with them?’ he asked. A man answered him from the crowd, ‘Master, I have brought my son to you; there is a spirit of dumbness in him, and when it takes hold of him it throws him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and goes rigid. And I asked your disciples to cast it out and they were unable to.’ ‘You faithless generation’ he said to them in reply. ‘How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.’

They brought the boy to him, and as soon as the spirit saw Jesus it threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell to the ground and lay writhing there, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ ‘From childhood,’ he replied ‘and it has often thrown him into the fire and into the water, in order to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.’ ‘If you can?’ retorted Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for anyone who has faith.’ Immediately the father of the boy cried out, ‘I do have faith. Help the little faith I have!’

And when Jesus saw how many people were pressing round him, he rebuked the unclean spirit. ‘Deaf and dumb spirit,’ he said ‘I command you: come out of him and never enter him again.’ Then throwing the boy into violent convulsions it came out shouting, and the boy lay there so like a corpse that most of them said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him up, and he was able to stand. When he had gone indoors his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why were we unable to cast it out?’ ‘This is the kind’ he answered ‘that can only be driven out by prayer.’

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“This is the kind that can only be driven out by prayer”

Despair, desperation and desolation — words that begin with the 3 first letters in my name. I have had occasion to deal with them over the past few months and while they aren’t pleasant states to be in, I believe that everyone will encounter them during their lives here on earth. When someone is in desolation, nothing you can say or do will cheer up that person. It is a season in their life that they are going through and they themselves have to work out their own timeline as to when or how quickly they are going to emerge from their private cocoon.

It is private; because in public, they might seem normal and alright. Someone in desolation is unlikely to adopt a ‘woe is me’ or ‘the world is against me’ sort of attitude in public. No one can understand their suffering because to those around them, there is probably nothing wrong with their life. They have a career (or not), a loving family (or not), a nice house (or not) and a decent bank account (or not). So what could be so wrong that nothing seems to provide any source of gratitude or solace to those in desolation?

I believe that people in desolation are living in a desert (there you go, those 3 letters again), where they wander searching for sustenance – an oasis or a well – so that they can quench their thirst for whatever it is they seek. It could be something as simple as an affirmation from a particular person at work (which may never come, especially if that person is several rungs above them), a windfall, or perhaps a reconciliation with a lost relative. It may never happen in their lifetime, it may require an intervention from someone else, or it may require divine intervention – the kind that can only be driven out by prayer.

If the person suffering is wandering around aimlessly, then he/she may be destined to do so for the whole of their earthly life. But if the person recognizes the dilemma they are in and takes active steps in seeking out a solution, there is a chance that they will emerge from this season of their life stronger and better-equipped to negotiate life’s challenges in future.

I am no trained counselor nor the most reliable of compasses in the grand journey of life. All I know is that people in desolation simply need us to be there and to listen. Most of all, they do not need us to judge nor react to any negative emotions because it is not personal. They just need to go deal with the sandstorms, the changing desert-scapes and the unrelenting heat knowing that we will be there to hold their hand and to be gentle with them when they need to put their heads down and rest for the night. Because each day is a new journey for them and until they see the glimmer of an oasis or the light reflecting off what could be water from a well, they wander about in hope.

Brothers and sisters, if you know of someone who needs that hope, reach out and offer it just by saying, “I am here and I will pray for you.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, we are like the woman at the well, seeking answers for our predicaments. Give us the grace to recognize others who seek this well, who are despairing and need to feel hope in their lives. Give us the courage and heart to reach out in spite of our own challenges.

Thanksgiving:  We thank you for all the blessings, however small, you send our way.

7 January, Monday – Devoted in Prayer

7 Jan – Memorial for St. Raymond of Penyafort, priest

St. Raymond (1175-1275) was of Aragonian nobility. He was educated at the cathedral school in Barcelona, and became a philosophy teacher at the age of 20. He was a priest. He graduated from law school in Bologna, Italy, and joined the Dominicans in 1218. He was summoned to Rome in 1230 by Pope Gregory IX, and assigned to collect all official letters of the popes since 1150. Raymond gathered and published five volumes, and helped write Church law.

He was made Master General of the Dominicans in 1238. He reviewed the Order’s Rule, made sure everything was legally correct, then resigned his position in 1240 to dedicate himself to parish work. The pope wanted to make Raymond an archbishop, but he declined, instead returning to Spain and the parish work he loved. His compassion helped many people return to God through Reconciliation.

During his years in Rome, Raymond heard of the difficulties missionaries faced trying to reach non-Christians of Northern Africa and Spain. Raymond started a school to teach the language and culture of the people to be evangelized. With St. Thomas Aquinas, he wrote a booklet to explain the truths of faith in a way non-believers could understand. His great influence on Church law led to his patronage of lawyers.

  • Patron Saint Index

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1 John 3:22-4:6

Whatever we ask God,
we shall receive,
because we keep his commandments
and live the kind of life that he wants.
His commandments are these:
that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ
and that we love one another
as he told us to.
Whoever keeps his commandments
lives in God and God lives in him.
We know that he lives in us
by the Spirit that he has given us.

It is not every spirit, my dear people, that you can trust;
test them, to see if they come from God,
there are many false prophets, now, in the world.
You can tell the spirits that come from God by this:
every spirit which acknowledges that Jesus the Christ has come in the flesh
is from God;
but any spirit which will not say this of Jesus
is not from God,
but is the spirit of Antichrist,
whose coming you were warned about.
Well, now he is here, in the world.
Children,
you have already overcome these false prophets,
because you are from God and you have in you
one who is greater than anyone in this world;
as for them, they are of the world,
and so they speak the language of the world
and the world listens to them.
But we are children of God,
and those who know God listen to us;
those who are not of God refuse to listen to us.
This is how we can tell
the spirit of truth from the spirit of falsehood.

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Matthew 4:12-17,23-25

Hearing that John had been arrested, Jesus went back to Galilee, and leaving Nazareth he went and settled in Capernaum, a lakeside town on the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali. In this way the prophecy of Isaiah was to be fulfilled:

‘Land of Zebulun! Land of Naphtali!
Way of the sea on the far side of Jordan,
Galilee of the nations!
The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light;
on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death
a light has dawned.’

From that moment Jesus began his preaching with the message, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’
He went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness among the people. His fame spread throughout Syria, and those who were suffering from diseases and painful complaints of one kind or another, the possessed, epileptics, the paralysed, were all brought to him, and he cured them. Large crowds followed him, coming from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judaea and Transjordania.

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But we are children of God and those who know God listen to us

I often wondered how a fellow Catholic can recognise another Catholic in his surroundings? Is it the way he speaks or the way he behaves which gives some sort of clue? I believe that perhaps Catholics are recognised for their general lukewarm response to matters in the world which would often see other people holding different faiths respond more strongly in line with their faith. The readings of today remind us of the need to be the difference to those around us.

However, the main query is then to discover how can we go about doing so? The answer, I believe, lies in us first discovering what is the status of our relationship with God. To use common internet terminology, are we constantly “online” with God?  Are we constantly “updating” God on how we are doing throughout the day and asking him for help and advice? We must be ready to accept the message which God has for us which we might not necessarily agree with. When we stay in communication with God, we become closer to Him and allow Him to work through us. Gradually, we become closer to God and follow Him in his image and likeness.

When we have reached that level, I believe it will be the case that others will listen to us when we speak because they can see that we have the spirit of God within us which animates all of us. As we continue in the last week of the season of Christmas, let us ask God to help us acknowledge our failings and ask Him to help us in this aspect.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Father, we pray for the spirit of discernment to help us appreciate our weaknesses.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all those who help others in their faith journey.

19 November, Monday – Sight for Life

19 November

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Apocalypse 1:1-4,2:1-5

This is the revelation given by God to Jesus Christ so that he could tell his servants about the things which are now to take place very soon; he sent his angel to make it known to his servant John, and John has written down everything he saw and swears it is the word of God guaranteed by Jesus Christ. Happy the man who reads this prophecy, and happy those who listen to him, if they treasure all that it says, because the Time is close.

From John, to the seven churches of Asia: grace and peace to you from him who is, who was, and who is to come, from the seven spirits in his presence before his throne.

Write to the angel of the church in Ephesus and say, “Here is the message of the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and who lives surrounded by the seven golden lamp-stands: I know all about you: how hard you work and how much you put up with. I know you cannot stand wicked men, and how you tested the impostors who called themselves apostles and proved they were liars. Know, too, that you have patience, and have suffered for my name without growing tired. Nevertheless, I have this complaint to make; you have less love now than you used to. Think where you were before you fell; repent, and do as you used to at first, or else, if you will not repent, I shall come to you and take your lamp-stand from its place.”

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Luke 18:35-43

As Jesus drew near to Jericho there was a blind man sitting at the side of the road begging. When he heard the crowd going past he asked what it was all about, and they told him that Jesus the Nazarene was passing by. So he called out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.’ The people in front scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ Jesus stopped and ordered them to bring the man to him, and when he came up, asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Sir,’ he replied ‘let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight. Your faith has saved you.’ And instantly his sight returned and he followed him praising God, and all the people who saw it gave praise to God for what had happened.

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Your faith has saved you.

Have you ever been so restless to the point that you felt there was nobody who cares?  Worse, there were people who ridiculed us on the situation we are in.  What do we do? Do we lose hope or do we keep moving on?

The gospel for the day speaks about a blind man who called for Jesus.  The crowd must have been annoyed by this so they told him to be quiet.  Personally I would feel bad if I was ordered to be quiet when I call someone.  The blind man did not mind the people and even shouted more loudly.  With this, Jesus stopped and ordered that the blind man be brought to Him. Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said, “Sir, let me see again.” Jesus grants this request because of the faith of that blind man.

Whatever circumstance we are in, we must continue to hang on and rely on God.  Our prayers may not be answered the first time we ask.  But if God wills it, it will be given to us eventually.  We may face a lot of discouragement in our life.  Let us not make this a reason to be discouraged with our faith.  Rather, we must make this an opportunity to seek more help from the Lord.

There can also be times when we thought we are so helpless but in reality we just cannot see that the help is right in front of us.  Or maybe what we asked is not what we really need.  Sometimes we must also seek help to realise what we really need.  We pray to God that our eyes be opened to the things that matter.  We pray to have the vision to see what God wants us to see.   We must be unceasing with our prayer life.  If our life keeps getting harder, it is when our prayer should be the hardest.  Whatever hindrances we will encounter in life, our prayer will help us through.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, I pray that we may always recognise your presence.  May we always lift our worries to You.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for giving us the gift of faith.  Thank You for Your continual love despite our unworthiness.

17 November, Saturday – Staying the Course

17 November – Memorial for St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Married woman, Religious

Elizabeth (1207-1231) was a princess, the daughter of King Andrew of Hungary, and the great-aunt of St. Elizabeth of Portugal. At the age of 13, she married Prince Louis of Thuringia. She built a hospital at the foot of the mountain on which her castle stood, and tended to the sick herself. Her family and courtiers opposed this, but she insisted she could only follow Christ’s teachings, not theirs.

Once, when she was taking food to the poor and sick, Prince Louis stopped her and looked under her mantle to see what she was carrying; the food had been miraculously changed to roses. Upon Louis’ death, Elizabeth sold all that she had, and worked to support her four children. Her gifts of bread to the poor, and of a large gift of grain to a famine-stricken Germany, led to her patronage of bakers and related fields.

– Patron Saint Index

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3 John 1:5-8

My friend, you have done faithful work in looking after these brothers, even though they were complete strangers to you. They are a proof to the whole Church of your charity and it would be a very good thing if you could help them on their journey in a way that God would approve. It was entirely for the sake of the name that they set out, without depending on the pagans for anything; it is our duty to welcome men of this sort and contribute our share to their work for the truth.

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Luke 18:1-8

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town’ he said ‘who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, “I want justice from you against my enemy!” For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death.”’

And the Lord said ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’

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“When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”

We are a living generation of ‘instants’ — instant gratification, instant food, instant connection, instant convenience, Instagram, instant results. In a very sobering thought, God ‘unfortunately’ does not operate in an Insta-world. As we are familiar, everything operates in God’s time.

I remember praying for a transfer once and I had been looking forward to it. I prayed really hard for it, and it took three months to come through. Every day I waited for a ‘ding’ on my phone to go off, signaling an incoming email and I would immediately check it to see if it was the approval, and got dejected when it wasn’t. It’s an awful way to pass the day I can tell you!

I sometimes laugh to myself that if God saw me then, He might have been highly amused by my antics, and I imagine that the more I became a ‘slave’ to my phone beeps, the longer He would prolong the wait, just to let me learn about patience and praying without giving up hope. That’s just my satirical take on things. We are, of course, wise enough to know that not only do things happen in God’s time, but also when God thinks we are ready for it.

But what happens if the outcome isn’t quite as we expect it to be? What if, for example, it was a job that we were praying for but when we got it, it wasn’t quite the terms that we wanted? No doubt that we would feel disappointed, but do we then discard what has been given to us? To me, that seems a little childish, like a child who wished for a Hot Wheels car, but in the end received a car from an unheard of brand without all the bells and whistles. If you were the giver, you would feel rejected and disappointed nonetheless. What does this say about our trust in God to provide us with what He thinks is best for us? What does it show about us “letting go, and letting God”? There is an almost foolish, unappreciative, ‘smarty-pants’ attitude about it, almost as though we know what is best for us. As it is said in today’s gospel, when Jesus comes will He find faith on earth? If we do not get what we want, what we are praying for, will we think that God doesn’t care and isn’t fair, and stop praying altogether? Or will we keep praying, and say “well God, this isn’t quite what I hoped for, but I will leave it with you, you know what you are doing” and ask God unwaveringly, reverently to show us the way with what we have been given?

Jesus said we have to pray without getting weary. But the prayer needs to go hand in hand with faith. For as today’s reading puts it, if a dishonest judge can finally give in to the widow’s persistence, what more with God Almighty when we press our petitions to Him?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, I present my prayers and petitions and humbly ask for patience and perseverance, that even if they do not turn out the way I expected, I am secure in the joy that You nonetheless heard my every word.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for hearing and answering my prayers, though I am a sinner and am small in the greater scheme of things.

7 November, Wednesday – On Carrying Our Crosses

7 November

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Philippians 2:12-18

My dear friends, continue to do as I tell you, as you always have; not only as you did when I was there with you, but even more now that I am no longer there; and work for your salvation ‘in fear and trembling.’ It is God, for his own loving purpose, who puts both the will and the action into you. Do all that has to be done without complaining or arguing and then you will be innocent and genuine, perfect children of God among a deceitful and underhand brood, and you will shine in the world like bright stars because you are offering it the word of life. This would give me something to be proud of for the Day of Christ, and would mean that I had not run in the race and exhausted myself for nothing. And then, if my blood has to be shed as part of your own sacrifice and offering-which is your faith I shall still be happy and rejoice with all of you, and you must be just as happy and rejoice with me.

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Luke 14:25-33

Great crowds accompanied Jesus on his way and he turned and spoke to them. If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

‘And indeed, which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers would all start making fun of him and saying, “‘ Here is a man who started to build and was unable to finish.” Or again, what king marching to war against another king would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other who advanced against him with twenty thousand? If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace. So in the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.’

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“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple”

Before we were Catholics, my family and I were Buddhists. I remember the first time I embraced Christianity.  At the time, I was a fresh-eyed fifteen year old. What did I know about what it would mean to embrace Christ?  Instead of encouragement and support, I was yelled at by my father for fraternizing with ‘those Christian fanatics’ (he had a real flair for hyperbole in his younger days!). Any talk of Christ at home was considered an act of rebellion. I remember countless dinner table conversations spiralling into shouting matches when I tried to witness to him. So I staged a revolt in my own way. I held my faith in my heart and continued praying and witnessing to him. When he dragged us for worship at the Buddhist temple, I would sit outside in the hot sun and resolutely refuse to enter. I wouldn’t pick up his joss sticks or pray at the ancestral altar in my grandmother’s house. Typical teenage behaviour, and then some! In the end, Dad relented and even found his own way to Christ. It took him 20 years, but that’s just a blink of an eye in God’s time. Dad is back with God now, and I know he is well and at peace.

Looking back, that act of rebellion as a willful 15yr old was my first taste of ‘carrying my cross’. I was completely out of my depth. What did I know about what I was doing? I didn’t know where to look for help. There was no internet, no Universalis or USCCB or Word On Fire homilies to give me hope. I didn’t have guidance. My father banned me from Christian Bible study groups and from going to mass, so I didn’t have a steady support network. I only had the Holy Bible, and a King James’ at that, not the easiest of versions to grasp. And I had prayer. So I turned to both.

Connecting the dots backwards, I can see that every trial back then was preparation for my faith journey today. With necessity and the Holy Spirit as my teachers, I reached for His Word because it was the only source of comfort that I had. It’s a common complaint these days that it’s hard to read the Bible, that the verses are difficult to decipher.  Yes, the Word can be hard to grasp, so I will always be thankful for the start that I got because of my circumstances.

God helped me to carry my cross as a 15yr old; He’s still helping me to carry my cross as an adult. The challenges are a little more complex now (family, marriage, children) and the path ahead, more obscured than before.  But His Word, the Holy Spirit and prayer are the same, reassuring constants I hold on to. God’s faithfulness to us truly never ends.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the courage, patience and fortitude to carry our crosses daily.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for His Word, for the Holy Spirit’s inspiring power and for the people God puts in our lives to give us help, hope, encouragement and sustenance.

6 October, Saturday – Finding the anchor to God

6 October – Memorial for St. Bruno, Priest

Bruno (1030–1101) was educated in Paris and Rheims, France. He was ordained in 1055. He taught theology, and one of his students later became Blessed Pope Urban II. He presided over the cathedral school at Rheims from 1057 to 1075. He criticised the worldliness he saw in his fellow clergy. He opposed Manasses, Archbishop of Rheims, because of his laxity and mismanagement. He was chancellor of the Archdiocese of Rheims.

Following a vision he received of a secluded hermitage where he could spend his life becoming closer to God, he retired to a mountain near Chartreuse in Dauphiny in 1084 and with the help of St. Hugh of Grenoble, he founded what became the first house of the Carthusian Order. He and his brothers supported themselves as manuscript copyists.

He became assistant to Pope Urban in 1090, and supported his efforts at reform. Retiring from public life, he and his companions built a hermitage at Torre where the monastery of Saint Stephen was built in 1095. Bruno combined in the religious life living as a hermit and living in a community; his learning is apparent from his scriptural commentaries.

– Patron Saint Index

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Job 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17

This was the answer Job gave to the Lord:

I know that you are all-powerful:
what you conceive, you can perform.
I am the man who obscured your designs
with my empty-headed words.
I have been holding forth on matters I cannot understand,
on marvels beyond me and my knowledge.
I knew you then only by hearsay;
but now, having seen you with my own eyes,
I retract all I have said,
and in dust and ashes I repent.

The Lord blessed Job’s new fortune even more than his first one. He came to own fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand she-donkeys. He had seven sons and three daughters; his first daughter he called ‘Turtledove’, the second ‘Cassia’ and the third ‘Mascara.’ Throughout the land there were no women as beautiful as the daughters of Job. And their father gave them inheritance rights like their brothers.

After his trials, Job lived on until he was a hundred and forty years old, and saw his children and his children’s children up to the fourth generation. Then Job died, an old man and full of days.

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Luke 10:17-24

The seventy-two came back rejoicing. ‘Lord,’ they said ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.’

It was then that, filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, he said, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

Then turning to his disciples he spoke to them in private, ‘Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’

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Happy the eyes that see what you see

It is often said that “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. I can attest to this as my mind has been entering this state very often, ever since I left a full-time job and returned to life as a student. It is not a healthy state to remain in, and I have to make a daily effort to plan my time so as to spend it meaningfully. A recent spiritual activity I embarked on has been very helpful in this regard. It is an online retreat from Creighton University, structured according to the spiritual exercises of St Ignatius. The retreat guide introduces a new theme each week that builds upon those explored earlier, and the retreatant is given guidelines for prayer and reflection. I have found that when I set aside the time and resources to follow the guidelines faithfully, I experienced a kind of steadfast focus during the week, enabling me to adopt a much more positive and loving outlook towards everything and everyone I came across.

In today’s first reading, Job had railed at God about his sufferings, but he hung on to his faith and received rich rewards. In the gospel, the disciples of Jesus obediently did their work in God’s name, and found themselves filled with joy at the outcome. My point is that one needs to keep the mind and heart firmly anchored to God in order to be able to experience the joy that comes from Him. Without that anchor of committed prayer and focus on the Lord, we will find ourselves floating along, trying to latch on to brief moments of pleasure but failing to find real meaning in them.

The message of praying more and praying often is not a mere platitude. It really is the way to maintain the connection with God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the presence of mind and the habit of taking actions that will lead us to remain in your presence.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the joys and rewards we have received from God.

23 September, Sunday – Wisdom from above, Peace from within

23 September 2018

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Wisdom 2:12,17-20

The godless say to themselves:

‘Let us lie in wait for the virtuous man, since he annoys us
and opposes our way of life,
reproaches us for our breaches of the law
and accuses us of playing false to our upbringing.

‘Let us see if what he says is true,
let us observe what kind of end he himself will have.
If the virtuous man is God’s son, God will take his part
and rescue him from the clutches of his enemies.
Let us test him with cruelty and with torture,
and thus explore this gentleness of his
and put his endurance to the proof.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death
since he will be looked after – we have his word for it.’

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James 3:16-4:3

Wherever you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony, and wicked things of every kind being done; whereas the wisdom that comes down from above is essentially something pure; it also makes for peace, and is kindly and considerate; it is full of compassion and shows itself by doing good; nor is there any trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it. Peacemakers, when they work for peace, sow the seeds which will bear fruit in holiness.

Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? You want something and you haven’t got it; so you are prepared to kill. You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force. Why you don’t have what you want is because you don’t pray for it; when you do pray and don’t get it, it is because you have not prayed properly, you have prayed for something to indulge your own desires.

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Mark 9:30-37

After leaving the mountain Jesus and his disciples made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.

They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’ He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms round him, and said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’

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This wisdom that comes from above makes for peace 

Today’s second reading reminds me of the two homilies at my parish. One homily was about jealousy and envy. One was about praying, in particular, praying for what we want in the right way.

Most people use envy as a synonym for jealousy. However, as explained by Msgr. Charles Pope, in traditional theology, envy is different from jealousy. When I am jealous of you, there is something good about you or something good that you have, and I want to have it for myself. Jealously is sinful when one desires something exceedingly and irrationally.

Envy runs deeper and darker. There is often a sadness and anger at the goodness and excellence of another because it feels like we are reduced by their distinction. The main difference with envy, is that I not only want to possess the good or excellence of yours, but I want to destroy it.

There are different ways that envy can manifest itself. It can blatant or subtle. We can actively seek to destroy the good or excellence in others by ostracizing and ridiculing them. Or the more common and subtle form of envy is gossip and slander, which is just as sinful as the blatant form. I, shamefully, admit to the sin of jealousy and envy – not of other’s possessions of goods, but of their talents and opportunities. Although I do not actively seek to destroy, I harbor ill feelings and secretly revel in their failures. This kind of thinking does not bring me any joy. It brings more anger, sorrow, and discontent. The only way to combat the sin of envy is with the virtue of joy and zeal. What is that, you may ask. The virtue of joy and zeal is the ability to recognize the good in others and celebrate it genuinely, with wholeheartedness, and without hesitation. Easier said than done? Of course it is – for us humans. But not for God. When we suspect that the green-eyed monster is rearing its ugly head, it is then that we need to pray for wisdom, peace with others and within ourselves. Then we must make the conscious decision of listening to the voice and wisdom from above. We must practice rejoicing in the goodness and excellence of others and to see their blessings as blessings to all of us from on high.

This brings me to the other point of prayer and prayer intentions. Our prayers and prayer intentions can be divided into two broad categories. One of which aligns with God’s plan for us and our desire to become more Christ-like. There should be no hesitation in asking the Father for such gifts. The other is simply our wishes and desires, not necessarily bad, but more of this world. It is when we are praying for these intentions, we should pray in such a way that God’s will be done, not ours. When we truly understand and believe that our Heavenly Father has our best interests at heart and will not lead us astray, we learn to trust and then, only then, do we gain the wisdom and the peace that we all seek.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the wisdom that comes from above, to guide us in our thoughts, words, actions and prayers.  Grant us the virtues of joy and zeal so that we do not fall to the sin of envy.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, our Heavenly Father, for granting us wisdom and peace.

17 September, Monday – Faith Like No Other

17 September – Memorial for St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor

Robert (1542-1621) wrote the most complete work of his day to defend Catholicism against Protestant attack. He also wrote a children’s catechism and a catechism for teachers. As cardinal-priest, he gave most of his money to the poor. At one point he used the tapestries in his living quarters to clothe the poor, saying that “the walls won’t catch cold”.

He was involved in settling various disputes including that of King James I and the Vatican in 1607 and 1609 concerning control of the Church in England, action against Galileo Galilei with whom he established a friendly correspondence, but was forced to deliver the order for the scientist to submit to the Church, and issues concerning clerical discipline and Vatican authority. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 17 September 1931.

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 11:17-26.33

On the subject of instructions, I cannot say that you have done well in holding meetings that do you more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you all come together as a community, there are separate factions among you, and I half believe it – since there must no doubt be separate groups among you, to distinguish those who are to be trusted. The point is, when you hold these meetings, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you are eating, since when the time comes to eat, everyone is in such a hurry to start his own supper that one person goes hungry while another is getting drunk. Surely you have homes for eating and drinking in? Surely you have enough respect for the community of God not to make poor people embarrassed? What am I to say to you? Congratulate you? I cannot congratulate you on this.

For this is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.’ In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.’ Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death, So to sum up, my dear brothers, when you meet for the Meal, wait for one another.

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Luke 7:1-10

When Jesus had come to the end of all he wanted the people to hear, he went into Capernaum. A centurion there had a servant, a favourite of his, who was sick and near death. Having heard about Jesus he sent some Jewish elders to him to ask him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus they pleaded earnestly with him. ‘He deserves this of you’ they said ‘because he is friendly towards our people; in fact, he is the one who built the synagogue.’ So Jesus went with them, and was not very far from the house when the centurion sent word to him by some friends: ‘Sir,’ he said ‘do not put yourself to trouble; because I am not worthy to have you under my roof; and for this same reason I did not presume to come to you myself; but give the word and let my servant be cured. For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.’ When Jesus heard these words he was astonished at him and, turning round, said to the crowd following him, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found faith like this.’ And when the messengers got back to the house they found the servant in perfect health.

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I am not worthy to have you under my roof 

During the part of the mass that is the ‘Invitation to Communion’, we respond, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  Do we recite it because we have been so used to it? Or are we really saying it prayerfully? Do we really feel unworthy to partake of the Body of Christ?

The Gospel today tells us about a centurion, an important Roman army official. He had many servants who obeyed all his commands. It just so happened that this centurion had a favourite servant. This servant was very ill and on the verge of death. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some Jewish elders to ask Him to come and heal his servant. This demonstrated that the centurion believed that his servant could be healed through Jesus Christ.

When Jesus was near the house, the centurion sent his friends to tell Jesus, “‘Sir, do not put yourself to trouble; because I am not worthy to have you under my roof; and for this same reason I did not presume to come to you myself; but give the word and let my servant be cured…”  These statements showed the humility of the centurion as he entrusted the healing of his servant to Jesus. And indeed that servant became well.

We pray to God for a lot of things — wealth, health, relationships, and many more. How do we feel whenever we ask God for those things? Do we feel deserving to be granted by our Lord? What happens if we received what we have been praying for? I assume that we are indeed happy and very much grateful to our Lord. But what if we do not receive what we want? What happens to our faith? Some may falter.  But I think the ‘No’ answer should strengthen our faith. For me, it is like God saying to me, “Why would I give it to you when you do not even believe in me in the first place?”

If we are in need of something, pray for it, and believe that God will grant it.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please grant us the grace of humility and faith similar to the centurion. And may we always accept and fulfil Your will.

Thanksgiving: Father God, unworthy as we are, we thank You for Your love and mercy.