Tag Archives: prayer

11 January, Thursday – True vs Superficial Worship

11 January
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1 Samuel 4:1-11

It happened at that time that the Philistines mustered to fight Israel and Israel went out to meet them in battle, encamping near Ebenezer while the Philistines were encamped at Aphek. The Philistines drew up their battle line against Israel, the battle was hotly engaged, and Israel was defeated by the Philistines and about four thousand of their army were killed on the field. The troops returned to the camp and the elders of Israel said, ‘Why has the Lord allowed us to be defeated today by the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of our God from Shiloh so that it may come among us and rescue us from the power of our enemies.’’ So the troops sent to Shiloh and brought away the ark of the Lord of Hosts, he who is seated on the cherubs; the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, came with the ark. When the ark of the Lord arrived in the camp, all Israel gave a great shout so that the earth resounded. When the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, ‘What can this great shouting in the Hebrew camp mean?’ And they realised that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp. At this the Philistines were afraid; and they said, ‘God has come to the camp.’ ‘Alas!’ they cried ‘This has never happened before. Alas! Who will save us from the power of this mighty God? It was he who struck down Egypt with every kind of plague! But take courage and be men, Philistines, or you will become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been slaves to you. Be men and fight.’ So the Philistines joined battle and Israel was defeated, each man fleeing to his tent. The slaughter was great indeed, and there fell of the Israelites thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured too, and the two sons of Eli died, Hophni and Phinehas.

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Mark 1:40-45

A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: ‘If you want to’ he said ‘you can cure me.’ Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to!’ he said. ‘Be cured!’ And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured. Jesus immediately sent him away and sternly ordered him, ‘Mind you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering for your healing prescribed by Moses as evidence of your recovery.’ The man went away, but then started talking about it freely and telling the story everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived. Even so, people from all around would come to him.

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“Why has the Lord allowed us to be defeated today by the Philistines?”

My soon-to-be-13-year-old just entered Secondary 1, having completed the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).

It was an anxious time for his cohort. Parents were understandably nervous; and the WhatsApp chat groups were filled with requests for solutions to questions from all sorts of mock exam papers.

There were also the prayer services and vigils that accompanied the examinations.

To be candid, these services and prayers troubled me.

During the examination period, I heard parents telling me that I should say a certain prayer or attend a certain novena because they “work”.

In today’s first reading, we read about how the elders of Israel decided to bring out the Ark of the Covenant to rescue them from their enemies. When the Ark arrived among the ranks of the soldiers, the Israelites gave a great shout and drew the attention of the Philistines. Aware of the ‘power’ of the Ark, this ironically motivated them, resulting in the loss of some 30,000 men, and consequently the battle.

How was it possible that the Ark had ‘failed’ the Israelites when it had been so ‘successful’ in the Battle of Jericho?

When we look into scripture, we realise that there is a huge difference; in the Battle of Jericho, it was the Lord who had shown the Israelites what to do, while the elders themselves took the decision to use the Ark as a weapon because it was something that they thought would ‘work’.

Brothers and sisters, the ultimate target of any prayer should not be ourselves. Instead, our eyes should always be cast on God. We should never use these prayers to honour and praise our God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, we pray that we will always keep our eyes on You. Teach us Lord, to never use You for our own purposes.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for showing us what is right. We are grateful for Your protection and Your love.

19 December, Tuesday – Prayer, A Mirror Into Our Souls

19 Dec

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Judges 13:2-7,24-25

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

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

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Luke 1:5-25

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

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

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

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

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

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‘…it has pleased him to take away the humiliation I suffered among men.’

We read two stories of women who endured a long season of barrenness. In the Bible, as is the case of many agrarian civilisations, fertility is regarded as anointing from God. It is a blessing from the Heavens if a woman bears many children and her husband is also deemed a righteous man for fathering many. Likewise, if a woman remains barren, it is seen as a curse from God and she is frowned upon by her kinfolk. If her husband is a good man, he would still love and protect her. If he was a strong man of faith, he would still honour and cherish her as God did Israel, he would defend her from their tribespeople. A woman was therefore largely dependent on the spiritual, mental, and emotional strength and resilience of her husband – to withstand these humiliations himself, and therefore protect her and uphold her dignity.

These two women – the mother of Samson; and Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist – were women of great faith. They were also blessed by good and righteous men of God who stayed with them and honoured them. However, were their husbands impervious or immune to the humiliations their wives faced because they were childless? I doubt it. Were the husbands themselves troubled, humiliated, discouraged? I am sure. As Elizabeth said, ‘The Lord has done this for me’ she said ‘now that it has pleased him to take away the humiliation I suffered among men.’ She suffered when her husband suffered, but she had to remain strong for the both of them.

Zechariah was a priest and, as Scripture tells us, he and Elizabeth scrupulously observed the commandments and were worthy in God’s sight. For this fact alone, I am sure many of their prayers in the dark of the night consisted of lamentations that their faithfulness had not resulted in fruitfulness – they were only human. Even I can feel their yearnings on my lips! Zechariah must have been worn down by years of unanswered prayers and the ridicule of his fellow priests that his first response to the angel of God (unlike Elizabeth’s) was ‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is getting on in years.’ Hence he was struck dumb – it was a lesson from God.

None of us are immune to seasons of doubt. And especially for husbands and wives who may pray specifically for answers to ‘why isn’t my husband a more loving and gentle man?’ to ‘why isn’t my wife more understanding to my needs?’ to ‘why are our children so rebellious?’ it can get very exhausting and despairing. Prayers for our loved ones are always riddled with seasons of barrenness as what we pray for about them, are actually things that God is teaching us about ourselves. That is, prayers for a more understanding and pliant wife, could be God’s invitation to the man to grow more noble and generous in himself.; while prayers for a more loving and tender husband, could be God’s invitation to the woman to soften in patience and gentleness. Many of these prayers we make are often mirrors for ourselves illuminating blind-spots that we need to grow more aware of in ourselves, to experience a conversion of our mentality and approach.

When the things we pray for do not get answered immediately, or things do not work out the way we envision or prescribe to God, we need to re-examine our prayer life and our own relationship with our Lord Jesus. Have we tried to conform God’s love and mercy into our own mould and image? Have we tried to specify to God how we want Him to help and bless us?

In the light of our Scriptures today too, it is an invitation for husbands to reflect if they have continued to protect their wives needs, to cherish and honour them, as the Bride whom they took at the altar. It is an invitation for wives to reflect if they have been loving, respectful, and tender to their husbands needs, to build them up and encourage them to grow in imitation of Christ.

It is so tough – and it is tougher when we are called to love as God first loved us, in moments when it seems the other party is wringing us dry… And so we look to our Lamb of God, and we draw on His strength and mercy.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord, for the love of our family members who, by their patience and endurance in loving us in our difficult moments – help to change us from within.

Prayer: We ask you Jesus, for the strength to keep on loving even when it hurts, when it gets tiring, when it becomes senseless to do so. Teach us Your ways O Lord.

16 August, Wednesday – Being Known by God

16 Aug

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Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Leaving the plains of Moab, Moses went up Mount Nebo, the peak of Pisgah opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land; Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the stretch of the Valley of Jericho, city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. The Lord said to him, ‘This is the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying: I will give it to your descendants. I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not cross into it.’ There in the land of Moab, Moses the servant of the Lord died as the Lord decreed; he buried him in the valley, in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but to this day no one has ever found his grave. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye undimmed, his vigour unimpaired. The sons of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab for thirty days. The days of weeping for the mourning rites of Moses came to an end. Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. It was he that the sons of Israel obeyed, carrying out the order that the Lord had given to Moses.
  Since then, never has there been such a prophet in Israel as Moses, the man the Lord knew face to face. What signs and wonders the Lord caused him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh and all his servants and his whole land! How mighty the hand and great the fear that Moses wielded in the sight of all Israel!
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Matthew 18:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain any charge. But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.

  ‘I tell you solemnly, whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.

  ‘I tell you solemnly once again, if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.’

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For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.

It is said in our first reading that Moses was known as ‘the man the Lord knew face to face’. Have you ever wondered how awesome yet terrifying it must have been to come so close to God? Yet, do you sometimes feel so far from Him even when you try your very best to draw closer?

Lately, attending Mass has been quite an alienating routine for me. It recently became trying for me due to the extreme lethargy I experience in pregnancy. Some days my energy or concentration levels simply dip such that it is hard to focus for more than five minutes. This new ‘attitude’ of mine towards Mass caused me to feel privately guilty for not being present with God

One recent Saturday evening, after being completely sapped of energy from our house-moving, I suggested to my equally exhausted husband that maybe we could skip Mass on Sunday to recuperate. God would understand that my spirit is willing but my flesh is spent, I reasoned. Sunday morning brought along a migraine. But we decided to go anyway. As I made my way to church, I said a persistent prayer asking God to grant me enough energy to make it through Mass meaningfully. I had a long day ahead with household appliance deliveries, but I just needed enough ‘battery’ for the present moment.

We arrived to a full-house church with the possibility of only standing space. My heart sank. I ventured forward towards a section of pews anyway, hoping just a little for a seat. To our surprise, a lady happened to turn around in my direction and smiled warmly, signaling for us to sit beside her. At that moment, I felt like God had reserved those seats for us, as no one seemed to have spotted the empty space!

As I settled in to Mass, I felt my spirits lift and I pondered the way God had chosen to make Himself known to me, to pull me in closer despite how distracted my mind and body were. It was not a mountain-top, face-to-face encounter that Moses probably had abundant experience of. But in this small gesture of a kind stranger, I felt comforted that He knew my needs and my heart’s inmost desire more intimately than I could express.

Where in your life have you felt far from God? Are you waiting on Him for an answer over a problem that seems too huge to be resolved? Maybe, like me, you long to return to a season of spiritual relationship with Him that you once shared, but seem to have lost…

My experience that Sunday reminded me that God is truly present in my life, even when I am too tired to recall the many consolations and assurances He has given me before. God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, and he has entrusted to us the news that they are reconciled (2 Cor 5:19). Keep praying, even if you think your words sound like clanging cymbals with little heart or direction. The Holy Spirit, our Advocate, always intercedes for us.

You search out my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. (Psalm 139:3-5)

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: O Lord, grant me the graces and strength to keep on trying and going on in this life of Christian faith and discipleship.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the angels God sends our way through the kindness of the people we meet.

28 May, Sunday – We gather for Christ

28 May 2017 Seventh Sunday of Easter; World Communication Sunday

The Spirit Of Prayer And Praise
Christ prayed in the Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is the source of the prayer and praise of the whole Church. The Spirit of God is resting on us as we offer this sacrifice of praise today.
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Acts of the Apostles 1:12-14

After Jesus was taken up into heaven the apostles went back from the Mount of Olives, as it is called, to Jerusalem, a short distance away, no more than a sabbath walk; and when they reached the city they went to the upper room where they were staying; there were Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Jude son of James. All these joined in continuous prayer, together with several women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
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1 Peter 4:13-16

If you can have some share in the sufferings of Christ, be glad, because you will enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed. It is a blessing for you when they insult you for bearing the name of Christ, because it means that you have the Spirit of glory, the Spirit of God resting on you. None of you should ever deserve to suffer for being a murderer, a thief, a criminal or an informer; but if anyone of you should suffer for being a Christian, then he is not to be ashamed of it; he should thank God that he has been called one.
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John 17:1-11

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:

‘Father, the hour has come:
glorify your Son
so that your Son may glorify you;
and, through the power over all mankind that you have given him,
let him give eternal life to all those you have entrusted to him.
And eternal life is this:
to know you,
the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
I have glorified you on earth
and finished the work that you gave me to do.
Now, Father, it is time for you to glorify me
with that glory I had with you
before ever the world was.
I have made your name known
to the men you took from the world to give me.
They were yours and you gave them to me,
and they have kept your word.
Now at last they know
that all you have given me comes indeed from you;
for I have given them the teaching you gave to me,
and they have truly accepted this, that I came from you,
and have believed that it was you who sent me.
I pray for them;
I am not praying for the world
but for those you have given me,
because they belong to you:
all I have is yours
and all you have is mine,
and in them I am glorified.
I am not in the world any longer,
but they are in the world,
and I am coming to you.’

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Father, it is time for you to glorify me.

One thing that I miss for the past ten years is being part of a prayer group, whether it is a group from a parish, or young adults, or a group made up of Catholic families in the neighbourhood. When I was in primary school, my family was pretty active being part of the estates Renew prayer group. We gathered every few weeks to share, reflect and study the Gospel and/or readings. I recalled that some sharings led to aggressive points of view that just didnt leave a good impression of the neighbour. I also broke my neighbours ceramic stool at one of those nights.

Before settling permanently for the past two years, I was working in various cities. I did go for Sunday masses, but was never able to commit to a prayer group, because I felt like a temporary resident wherever I was. Jesus is the reason there is Christianity, Christ Jesus is the one who brought the glory of the Father to us. We are to remind ourselves that Christianity is never about oneself, never about being alone. Gods love involves our hearts and of others. Gods love is so generous that it is to be shared for everybody.

In todays reading of the gathering of the disciples in the upper room, we see a community there. It may have been a lost and questioning community, but Mother Mary was there. They gathered to talk about Jesus, and of God. They asked questions, they doubted, they had the virgin Mary among them. As with the Gospel, Jesus is glorified to be with His Father, but He never leaves us feeling empty. Until today, there are many communities for us to share the love of Jesus, the stories of living as a Christian.

Moving forward, I now look forward to finding or forming a prayer group where we are able to share and reflect on the Christian values, where we not only have God as the centre of our family, but also the centre of our work life and community. To share within Gods words and promises to share to our partners and children.

(Todays OXYGEN by Austin Leong)
Prayer: Dear Lord, may the Holy Spirit guide each and every one of us to search for a community where we can grow in faith and make our lives more meaningful, to be proud Christians.

Thanksgiving: We thank all those volunteers and support givers to Churches that are managing the low numbers of parishioners, that the community be strong and active in their neighbourhood.

27 May, Saturday – Praying for Joy

27 May 2017

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Acts 18:23-28

Paul came down to Antioch, where he spent a short time before continuing his journey through the Galatian country and then through Phrygia, encouraging all the followers.

An Alexandrian Jew named Apollos now arrived in Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, with a sound knowledge of the scriptures, and yet, though he had been given instruction in the Way of the Lord and preached with great spiritual earnestness and was accurate in all the details he taught about Jesus, he had only experienced the baptism of John. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him speak boldly in the synagogue, they took an interest in him and gave him further instruction about the Way.

When Apollos thought of crossing over to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote asking the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived there he was able by God’s grace to help the believers considerably by the energetic way he refuted the Jews in public and demonstrated from the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

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John 16:23-28

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
anything you ask for from the Father he will grant in my name.
Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.
Ask and you will receive, and so your joy will be complete.
I have been telling you all this in metaphors,
the hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in metaphors;
but tell you about the Father in plain words.
When that day comes you will ask in my name;
and I do not say that I shall pray to the Father for you,
because the Father himself loves you for loving me
and believing that I came from God.
I came from the Father and have come into the world
and now I leave the world to go to the Father.’

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Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and so your joy will be complete.

How do we reconcile the line of scripture above that Jesus tells his disciples, with the knowledge of all our unanswered prayers?

When I was much younger, I prayed for many things. I prayed to God about big things like granting us world peace (seriously), taking away world hunger, saving children who suffered without family, home, and love.

I prayed also about personal things like having peace in the family and for my parents to argue less, for friendships to stand the test of time and change. As you can guess, not everything has been answered – not even fully, and certainly not in the way I had hoped they would be resolved.

As I grew older, I learnt that God does not answer prayers like one answers a phone call. When I read scripture like this, I cannot help but imagine the helpless confusion of a new believer (as many in those biblical times would have been when Jesus first spoke this), and what this promise might mean: “Ask and you will receive, and so your joy will be complete.”

What does this mean for a gentile convert who had never so much as learnt to pray to God through the name of Jesus Christ? Ask and you will receive?? What is that? To answer this confusion with the persuasion that “You need to have faith in God” would be shallow and incomplete. We must not assume that once someone professes belief in God, that they would automatically know how to pray, and how to feel about or experience prayer.

For me, the greatest comfort I have found in prayer, in the innocence of my actual and spiritual childhood, is to ponder and marvel at the very fact that I have a Heavenly Father and a friend in Jesus Christ, to whom I can speak to, confide in and petition for all my big and little cares and concerns. This is a special privilege of having a God who loves me so personally, that I can confidently ask and talk with Him, and receive His attention.

Truly, whether or not our prayers are answered in the way we imagined (or at all), let us learn from the simplicity of a child who is confident that when she calls out to Daddy, he is always and already there. The joy of a child is always complete; because she knows that her outstretched hand will always be met with her father’s confident and protective hand.

May we ponder this sacred truth — what we receive by our prayers is not always an answer, but it is certainly the love and presence of God with us, through Christ our Lord, by the power of the Holy Spirit our Advocate.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Teach me Lord, to pray with simplicity and innocence, such that simply being present with you will bring me the fullness of joy.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for leaving us a channel of reaching out to you and receiving your love and attention.

26 January, Thursday – More than Just You and Me

26 Jan – Memorial for Sts. Timothy and Titus, bishops

Timothy (d. 97) was the son of a Greek gentile, his mother Eunice was Jewish. He was converted to Christianity by St. Paul around the year 47. He was a partner, assistant and close friend of Paul. He was a missionary as well, and became head of the Church in Ephesus. He was the recipient of two canonical letters from St. Paul, and was stoned to death for opposing the worship of Dionysius.

Titus (d. 96) was also a disciple of St. Paul and was the recipient of a canonical letter from him. He was the first bishop of the Church in Crete.

  • Patron Saint Index

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2 Timothy 1:1-8

From Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus in his design to promise life in Christ Jesus; to Timothy, dear child of mine, wishing you grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.

Night and day I thank God, keeping my conscience clear and remembering my duty to him as my ancestors did, and always I remember you in my prayers; I remember your tears and long to see you again to complete my happiness. Then I am reminded of the sincere faith which you have; it came first to live in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I have no doubt that it is the same faith in you as well.

That is why I am reminding you now to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy.

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Mark 4:21-25

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Would you bring in a lamp to put it under a tub or under the bed? Surely you will put it on the lamp-stand? For there is nothing hidden but it must be disclosed, nothing kept secret except to be brought to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to this.’
He also said to them, ‘Take notice of what you are hearing.

The amount you measure out is the amount you will be given – and more besides; for the man who has will be given more; from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.’

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…fan into a flame the gift

Of those who do not understand Christians, some have the misconception that being a good follower of Christ is having that individual relationship with God. It is just yourself and Him. That it is just all about getting into that little comfortable quiet corner of reflection and leading a pious life, showing Him every day what you have done to make Him happy. That you have carried out actions that perhaps you feel would please God and thus He gives credit when it is due.

In actual fact, it is building that relationship with our neighbours that qualifies us in spreading the love of our Lord Jesus. We are all inter-connected through prayers. The faith of someone who prays for us and influences us in our spiritual guidance and journey gives us the immense grace which we are so privileged to receive. Likewise, we pray for others who are suffering and for those who are in need, it could be for the health of a loved one, or the comfort to those who are emotionally hurt for various reasons. To be called a follower of Christ, we are responsible for being that testament of how God has touched our life, and to build on our own little faith which He has ‘implanted’ in us. We, like Timothy, and Paul have been called to be holy in our actions and in the way we treat others.

It takes a lot of prayer and hard work, including the deep faith of our fellow Christians and the grace of our Lord to fill our lives. For we are the blessed ones who have, and will be given more.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We pray for the many faithful who are around us. Watch over them and may you shower them with the blessings of peace in their hearts, especially in times of heartache.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for the faith which you have planted in us. That it will grow and spread the Good News.

23 October, Sunday – On Prayer

23 October

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Ecclesiasticus 35:12-14, 16-19

The Lord is a judge
who is no respecter of personages.

He shows no respect of personages to the detriment of a poor man,
he listens to the plea of the injured party.

He does not ignore the orphan’s supplication,
nor the widow’s as she pours out her story.

The man who with his whole heart serves God will be accepted,
his petitions will carry to the clouds.

The humble man’s prayer pierces the clouds,
until it arrives he is inconsolable,

And the Lord will not be slow,
nor will he be dilatory on their behalf.

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2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18

My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.

The first time I had to present my defence, there was not a single witness to support me. Every one of them deserted me – may they not be held accountable for it. But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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Luke 18:9-14

Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else: ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

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The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds

Nagging is quite possibly one of the ugliest traits a person can have. The basic premise of nagging is trust, or more accurately, the lack of it. We nag because we don’t trust that things will get done unless we are actively micro-managing it. But when we repeat petitions and prayers to God, isn’t that a little like nagging? And nagging God, no less? I was reflecting on this while at church last Sunday, as I rattled off a litany of petitions to Him. As request number 25 rolled off my tongue, I wondered — how must it feel to be God? To be talked to like some bearded, blue-tinged genie? If I were to weigh out how often I asked of Him, ‘Can you please do this/that…’, versus how often I said ‘Thank you’, or ‘Forgive me’, what would that ratio look like? 2:1? 10:1? 50:1? When it comes down to it, what is the quality of our prayer?

On reading the gospel from Luke today, the image of the Pharisee in ‘self-congratulatory prayer’ struck me. Most of us would probably go, “That’s so not me! Of course I give thanks! Of course I’m grateful for His blessings!” But words are empty unless they’re spoken from the heart. The Pharisee also ‘gave thanks’ but what is thankfulness without humility and self-awareness – “Oh God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity…” Is it really thanksgiving?

The quality of my prayer has been something I’ve started to think about a lot lately. I tend to ‘list’ things. I list my thanks for all His blessings. I list my requests. I list my sins or what I can think of at least, and ask for His forgiveness. But always, I am checking off lists, making new lists, updating lists, deleting lists. Somehow, I don’t think that’s how we’re supposed to be praying. I’d like to have a conversation with God sometimes, a heart-to-heart without the tyranny of all these lists and boxes I need to complete. I know He knows my heart – all the things I want to say, the things I can’t say, the things I’m too afraid to speak. And He has already given me all that I need, all the gifts for this journey called Life. Wouldn’t it be great for once, to be able to just sit with God, and be?

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(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for the honesty to engage God in thoughtful, prayerful, mindful conversation.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for The Word, our guide to how to live a prayerful, purposeful life.

6 October, Thursday – Ask

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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Galatians 3:1-5

Are you people in Galatia mad? Has someone put a spell on you, in spite of the plain explanation you have had of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? Let me ask you one question: was it because you practised the Law that you received the Spirit, or because you believed what was preached to you? Are you foolish enough to end in outward observances what you began in the Spirit? Have all the favours you received been wasted? And if this were so, they would most certainly have been wasted. Does God give you the Spirit so freely and work miracles among you because you practise Law, or because you believed what was preached to you?

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Luke 11:5-13

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night to say, “My friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend of mine on his travels has just arrived at my house and I have nothing to offer him”; and the man answers from inside the house, “Do not bother me. The door is bolted now, and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up to give it you.” I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it him for friendship’s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants.

‘So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or hand him a snake instead of a fish? Or hand him a scorpion if he asked for an egg? If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

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For the one who asks always receives.

‘Just ask.’ This two-word sentence from one of my managers previously had a great impact in my life. In the corporate setting, he encouraged us to ask for favors, to ask for what we need, to ask for what we do not know and to ask for anything. There was no guarantee that we would receive what we asked for, but he guaranteed that by simply asking, we were creating an opportunity to get what we wanted.

Not everyone finds it easy to ask. Before I got comfortable asking, I was always afraid of rejection. What if the person I asked says, ‘No’? This fear of being refused has closed many doors in my life. Sometimes, I also wouldn’t bother asking if I thought I knew what the answer to my request would be. If my boss had said ‘yes’ to a similar proposal three months back, what would make me think he would say ‘yes’ now? I went on to assume what his response would be.

I think in our lives, we sometimes take the same approach to asking God. We do not ask God because we are afraid to be rejected. We don’t ask God because we assume what His answer would be. Let us keep in mind that God never rejects us. He rejects our wishes that could be harmful to us. Sometimes, we also do not know the will of God. That’s why we need to ask. We need to ask whether it’s a ‘yes’, a ‘no’ or a ‘wait awhile.’

And yes, whenever we ask God something, we always receive something. And that’s guaranteed.

We always receive His love. We receive His love when He answers ‘yes’ to our request because it is good for us. We receive His love when He says ‘no’ to our request because that is good for us. We receive His love when He says ‘wait awhile’ to our request because that is good for us.

There is no reason to be afraid or to hesitate to ask God. We can’t assume what God’s answer will be, but we can be certain that we’ll never be rejected. For whatever we ask for, we will always receive God’s love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

 

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Prayer: Dear Lord, let me not be afraid to come and ask you for all the things in my life – for the big things happening in my life, and even for the ‘trivial’ things happening in my life.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord, for always giving the best answer to all my questions. And for always loving me, and welcoming me, and never getting tired of hearing what I ask.

28 September, Wednesday – Trust

28 September – Memorial for St. Wenceslaus, Martyr; Memorial for St. Laurence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs

Wenceslaus (907-929) was the son of Vratislav I, Duke of Bohemia, whose family had been converted by St. Cyril and St. Methodius, and Drahomira, daughter of a pagan chief, who was baptised on her wedding day but apparently never seriously took to the faith. He was the grandson and student of St. Ludmilla.

When his father was killed during a pagan backlash against Christianity, Wenceslaus ascended to power as the Duke of Bohemia and fought the pagans with prayer and patience. He was murdered by his brother Boleslaus at the door of a church. Though he was killed for political reasons, he is normally listed as a martyr since the politics arose from his faith. Miracles have been reported at his tomb, and he is the subject of the Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas.

Laurence Ruiz (1600–1637) had a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both of whom were Christians. He learned Chinese and Tagalog from them, Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He was a professional calligrapher and documents transcriptionist. He was a member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. He was a married layman, and the father of two sons and a daughter.

For unknown reasons, Laurence was accused of murder. He sought asylum on board ship with three Dominican priests, St. Antonio Gonzalez, St. Guillermo Courtet, and St. Mguel de Aozaraza, a Japanese priest, St. Vincente Showozuka de la Cruz, and a layman St. Lazaro of Kyoto, a leper. Only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan during a time of intense Christian persecution.

Laurence could have gone to Formosa (modern Taiwan), but fearer the Spaniards there would hang him, and so stayed with the missionaries as they landed at Okinawa. The group was soon exposed as Christian, arrested, and taken to Nagasaki. They were tortured in several ways for days. Laurence and the Japanese priest broke at one point, and were ready to renounce their faith in exchange for release, but after their moment of crisis, they reclaimed their faith and defied their tormentors. He was the first canonised Filipino martyr.

– Patron Saints Index

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Job 9:1-13,14-16

Job spoke to his friends:

Indeed, I know it is as you say:
how can man be in the right against God?
If any were so rash as to challenge him for reasons,
one in a thousand would be more than they could answer.
His heart is wise, and his strength is great:
who then can successfully defy him?
He moves the mountains, though they do not know it;
he throws them down when he is angry.
He shakes the earth, and moves it from its place,
making all its pillars tremble.
The sun, at his command, forbears to rise,
and on the stars he sets a seal.
He and no other stretched out the skies,
and trampled the Sea’s tall waves.
The Bear, Orion too, are of his making,
the Pleiades and the Mansions of the South.
His works are great, beyond all reckoning,
his marvels, past all counting.
Were he to pass me, I should not see him,
nor detect his stealthy movement.
Were he to snatch a prize, who could prevent him,
or dare to say, ‘What are you doing?’
God never goes back on his anger,
Rahab’s minions still lie at his feet.

How dare I plead my cause, then,
or choose arguments against him?
Suppose I am in the right, what use is my defence?
For he whom I must sue is judge as well.
If he deigned to answer my citation,
could I be sure that he would listen to my voice?

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Luke 9:57-62

As Jesus and his disciples travelled along they met a man on the road who said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’

Another to whom he said, ‘Follow me’, replied, ‘Let me go and bury my father first.’ But he answered, ‘Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.’

Another said, ‘I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say goodbye to my people at home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

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“Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

In yesterday’s reflection, we saw how God is our hope. But we can acknowledge Him as our hope but do we trust Him? In the Gospel today, we see how the different people replied Jesus, “Let me go and bury my father first” and “I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say good-bye to my people at home.”

We all know that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We know that only He can give us eternal life. But for many times on earth, it seems so hard to choose God over the world, mainly because we are unable to see Him in our lives, how He is loving us day to day. Because of the lack of conviction and trust in Him, we tend to still be unable rely on God. We say we follow Him but technically, only when our life is in order. There is always the pre requisite of ensuring that our careers are stable, that we are sufficient financially, our relationships are well, excel in our studies, a loving family, before we start our donating, before we start serving, before we start praying, before we start making God the centre of our lives.

If this is so, then who is this God we are following? And why are we following Him?

The readings are timely for me personally where my job is unstable, I’ve decided to drop out of my course in University. I know that God will provide, that He will show me the way, that He will open the best door for me. It is always in such uncertainty that God is the only one that’s certain. But do I trust in Him fully? How do I know where He is leading me?

The response for the responsorial psalm for both days “Let my prayer come into your presence, O Lord” shows us the importance of prayer. And I’ve realised that I haven’t been making time for prayer to see where He’s leading me.

Many times, we see ourselves as unworthy, maybe because we haven’t met those pre requisites or we know we will still fall into sin, hence we choose not to acknowledge God till we are ready to give our lives fully. But the truth is, unless we trust in God and make Him the centre of our lives, we will find it hard to live our lives to the full, for there are many things that we will fail to understand.

Let us turn to Christ, to His Word, to prayer and in searching for Him, help us to trust, to live out our faith every single day of our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

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Prayer: Dear Lord, we ask for courage, courage to face the many temptations that tries to separate us from you and the love you have always showered upon us. Help us not to take for granted. Help us to be grateful. Help us to trust you. Help us to love all. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your patience with us. It must be frustrating to see your loved ones rejecting you or only turning to you as a last resort. We thank you for putting us first even when we haven’t done the same for you. Thank you Lord for your love.

15 September, Thursday – You Are Not Unworthy

15 September – Memorial for Our Lady of Sorrows

Different sorrows of Mary have been honoured in the Church’s history, but since the 14th century these seven have come to be regarded as the seven ‘dolors’ (sorrows) of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

1. The Prophecy of Simeon
2. The Flight into Egypt
3. The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days
4. Meeting Jesus on the Way to Calvary
5. The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus
6. Jesus Taken Down from the Cross
7. Jesus Laid in the Tomb

By commemorating Our Lady of Sorrows, we call to mind the sufferings that Mary endured as part of her vocation as the Mother of the Redeemer. No one is closer to Christ than Mary, consequently no one has participated more intimately in the redemptive suffering of Christ than His Mother Mary.

– http://www.catholic.net/RCC/Periodicals/Faith/1998-03-04/sorrows.html

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1 Corinthians 15:1-11

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.

I am the least of the apostles; in fact, since I persecuted the Church of God, I hardly deserve the name apostle; but by God’s grace that is what I am, and the grace that he gave me has not been fruitless. On the contrary, I, or rather the grace of God that is with me, have worked harder than any of the others; but what matters is that I preach what they preach, and this is what you all believed.

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John 19:25-27

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son.’ Then to the disciple he said, ‘This is your mother.’ And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home.

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I am the least of the apostles

Every Sunday, after the recessional hymn, I would walk to our Mother Mary, say a short prayer and touch her feet before leaving the church. Someone once asked me, why do you touch her feet? Well, I could have touch her hands, and show love, respect and reverence in another manner. The feet is closest to the ground and and perhaps the body part that has the most contact to uncleaned places when we walk about getting to our destination. By giving reverence at the feet, it shows humility and respect for the other, where the dirt and places that the other has been to does not matter to you because you accept and clean them up as they are.

In today’s first reading, Saint Paul finds himself unworthy of being an apostle as he compared himself to be of least importance, yet Jesus appeared to him. This led to me reflecting again on how important prayers can be. When we face a crossroad in life decisions, or met up with a challenge, we are always told to go with the gut feeling, pray about it, do what God tells you to do. It is just not so straight forward after all, is it? We are always given the freedom to choose, we pray not for an answer in the dreams, but we pray for the peace in our heart that the challenge is right for me, or I will do the alternative that cold be walking away from it. Regardless, Jesus is always there for us. Saint Paul felt the graces of God upon him to achieve his mission for the Lord. Likewise, we are to pray for the courage when taking up a challenge in life, at work, for the family or for the better of society. It is never going to be easy but the constant encouragement and graces we receive from heaven will see us through it.

The most ordinary and lowest of people with great faith will be given more. Therefore, when we do realise the blessings and peace that we have in our lives, we must maintain and continue to deepen our faith and the works of the Lord, so that He sees that and grant us with eternal life. Show great love and your debts will be forgiven.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We pray that Jesus’ love be felt and experienced in this world and conflicts across all borders be at peace soon so that all will live a faithful and happy life.

Thanksgiving: Thank You O Lord for seeing me through countless of challenges no matter how little they may be.