Tag Archives: prayer

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.

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.