Tag Archives: prayer

7 January, Monday – Devoted in Prayer

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

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

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

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

  • Patron Saint Index

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1 John 3:22-4:6

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

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

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Matthew 4:12-17,23-25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

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

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

19 November, Monday – Sight for Life

19 November

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

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

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

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

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Luke 18:35-43

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

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Your faith has saved you.

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

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

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

17 November, Saturday – Staying the Course

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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3 John 1:5-8

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

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Luke 18:1-8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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

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

7 November, Wednesday – On Carrying Our Crosses

7 November

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Philippians 2:12-18

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

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Luke 14:25-33

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

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

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

6 October, Saturday – Finding the anchor to God

6 October – Memorial for St. Bruno, Priest

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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

This was the answer Job gave to the Lord:

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

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

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

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Luke 10:17-24

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

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

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

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Happy the eyes that see what you see

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

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

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

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

23 September 2018

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Wisdom 2:12,17-20

The godless say to themselves:

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

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

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James 3:16-4:3

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

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

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Mark 9:30-37

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

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

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This wisdom that comes from above makes for peace 

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

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

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

17 September, Monday – Faith Like No Other

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

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

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

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 11:17-26.33

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

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

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Luke 7:1-10

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

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I am not worthy to have you under my roof 

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

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

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

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.