Tag Archives: relationships

10 October, Monday – Free from all distress

10 October

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Galatians 4:22-24,26-27,31-5:1

The Law says, if you remember, that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave-girl, and one by his free-born wife. The child of the slave-girl was born in the ordinary way; the child of the free woman was born as the result of a promise. This can be regarded as an allegory: the women stand for the two covenants. The first who comes from Mount Sinai, and whose children are slaves, is Hagar – The Jerusalem above, however, is free and is our mother, since scripture says: Shout for joy, you barren women who bore no children! Break into shouts of joy and gladness, you who were never in labour. For there are more sons of the forsaken one than sons of the wedded wife. So, my brothers, we are the children, not of the slave-girl, but of the free-born wife.

When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

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Luke 11:29-32

The crowds got even bigger and Jesus addressed them, ‘This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here. On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.’

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Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

 The yoke of slavery is a curious one. It comes under the guise of various distractions and addictions. The notion of what makes us slaves is often coloured by the impression of being chained and forced into hard labour. Yet in our daily lives, there are so many ways in which one can unwittingly become a slave without awareness.

One of these is the slavery to approval from others. An inordinate and constant seeking of approval can sometimes be an addictive drug that masks the deeper longing of a soul for real love. No one is completely free from the desire to be approved of, regarded well, and favoured. However, if this need overshadows a healthy understanding of our own worth and perception of our intrinsic loveliness, it is crucial to hang back and sit with Jesus on this thorn in our flesh.

I recall one recent evening, I attended Mass seeking solace for a stone weighing on my heart. A part of my heart was nursing a disappointment of some friends and wondering if I was cherished as much as I had hoped, and as much as I treasured them. I experienced that familiar feeling of being ‘not good enough.’ My head told me that I am according some incident too much significance and I sensed that I could be over-thinking it, yet my heart was still hung up on the feeling of hurt. I often say, “my heart hasn’t yet caught up with my head.” In the midst of this seemingly trivial turmoil, I knelt and gazed at our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, offering up my need for approval and struggles in placating my anxiety.

What happened next struck me deeply.

In the exposed Eucharistic Host, I saw Jesus’ steady gaze at me and a compassionate revelation.

“My child, I love you and I affirm you. I long for your return in love. Is this not enough for you?”

At that point, I had a glimpsed of Jesus’ downcast eyes and his feelings of unrequited love. I thought of the disciples who fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane while Jesus prayed alone and scared: “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” (Matthew 26:40). I thought of Peter’s fear and denial of knowing Jesus; who slipped away from association leaving Jesus to face condemnation alone. I thought of the wretched thief who mocked Jesus while beside him on the cross, and challenged him to save them all.

And I saw myself: very human and too caught up with being favoured by those around me, to realise the love that Jesus offers me is not conditional on my likeability or my congeniality. He sees me – whether in my imperfections and uncertainty or joy and confidence – and still he loves the woman he beholds. As I considered my unrequited feelings, I could feel the heartbeat of our Lord for me when I turn away from him.

It was a mysterious yoke of connection with Jesus. Not a yoke of slavery, but a yoke that completely freed me from the weight of worldly trappings. I am infinitely loved by the God who formed me. And Jesus on the cross is testament. His ever-present love is my reality. Is this enough for you too?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer:

When I look into Your holiness, when I gaze into Your loveliness.
When I’ve found the joy of reaching Your heart, when my will becomes enthralled in Your love.
When all things that surround become shadows in the light of You.
I worship You Jesus, the reason I live, is to worship You.

Thanksgiving: Let us spend an hour with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament to keep watch with him and allow His love to envelope our will.

23 September, Friday – In Memoriam

23 September – Memorial for St. Pius of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio), Priest

Pio (1887-1968) was ordained when he was 22. He founded the House for the Relief of Suffering in 1956, a hospital that serves 60,000 a year. In the 1920s he started a series of prayer groups that continue today with over 400,000 members worldwide.

His canonisation miracle involved the cure of Matteo Pio Colella, age 7, the son of a doctor who works in the House for Relief of Suffering, the hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo founded by Padre Pio. On the night of 20 June 2000, Matteo was admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital with meningitis. By morning doctors had lost hope for him as nine of the boy´s internal organs had ceased to give signs of life.

That night, during a prayer vigil attended by Matteo´s mother and some Capuchin friars of Padre Pio´s monastery, the child’s condition improved suddenly. When he awoke from the coma, Matteo said that he had seen an elderly man with a white beard and a long, brown habit, who said to him: “Don´t worry, you will soon be cured.”

– Patron Saints Index

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven:

A time for giving birth,
a time for dying;
a time for planting,
a time for uprooting what has been planted.

A time for killing,
a time for healing;
a time for knocking down,
a time for building.

A time for tears,
a time for laughter;
a time for mourning,
a time for dancing.

A time for throwing stones away,
a time for gathering them up;
a time for embracing,
a time to refrain from embracing.

A time for searching,
a time for losing;
a time for keeping,
a time for throwing away.

A time for tearing,
a time for sewing;
a time for keeping silent,
a time for speaking.

A time for loving,
a time for hating;
a time for war,
a time for peace.

What does a man gain for the efforts that he makes? I contemplate the task that God gives mankind to labour at. All that he does is apt for its time; but though he has permitted man to consider time in its wholeness, man cannot comprehend the work of God from beginning to end.

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Luke 9:18-22

One day when Jesus was praying alone in the presence of his disciples he put this question to them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ And they answered, ‘John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ It was Peter who spoke up. ‘The Christ of God’ he said. But he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.

‘The Son of Man’ he said ‘is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’

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He has made everything appropriate to its time

A dear priest and family friend passed away recently. Reverend Father Phillips Muthu passed away, aged 56, from a heart attack on 10 September 2016. He was at the time, the sole Catholic priest in the state of Terengganu, Malaysia.

Prior to that, Fr. Phillips had been the parish priest of Assumption Church in Petaling Jaya, which is where my parents got acquainted with him. While I cannot claim a close acquaintance with Fr. Phillips, I am well acquainted with his works and gentle temperament. Everyone who knew him loved him, young and old alike. He had a special interest in migrants and the youth, and had just returned from Poland, where he had accompanied a contingent of youth for World Youth Day. Ironically the last thing that he did before going out for a brisk walk that fateful Saturday evening, was to hold a cathecism and youth programme for children at a chapel in the town of Chukai. Being the sole catholic priest in Terengganu meant that Fr. Phillips had to travel between towns to celebrate mass.

Being based in Singapore, I only ever got the chance to attend mass with my parents when I came home to visit. My late father had been critically ill at the time when they first got to know Fr. Phillips, and had talked to him about conversion and baptism. Fr. Phillips was very encouraging and had welcomed my parents to his church with open arms. Open arms would also describe Fr. Phillips’ way with the children of his parish. Children would flock to him after mass, where he would reach out and bless each one of them, give an encouraging pat on the back, or a comforting hug, but each one always had a smile from him. I have a picture burned in my memory of him surrounded by little ones, and it brought to mind Jesus being surrounded by the little children.

He had done so much and was in the pinkest of health, and so it was with great shock and disbelief when the news of his untimely death first broke. Many hearts were broken and tears were shed, for a priest who cared about his congregation, for a friend who cared about your well-being, for a father figure who loved each one like his own. His passing was all too soon, for his time with us felt like just a fleeting breath. In his passing though, we recognize and acknowledge all that he had done for his parishes, and for his people, and we thank God for the blessings bestowed upon us through Fr. Phillips’s presence. God giveth, and God taketh; in Fr. Phillips, God had given us a man after God’s own heart to do His will, and in so doing, perhaps Fr. Phillips’ work on earth here was deemed done by God. Everything happens in God’s time, and though we struggle in our despair to come to grips with his passing, at the end of the day we give thanks to God Almighty and look to celebrate Fr. Phillips through his life.

As with all our loved ones who have gone before us, he is now in a better place with God. May he rest in peace forevermore.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Thanksgiving: Lord, we pray for the family, parishes and friends of Fr Phillips, that they may find comfort in You, and in knowing that he is with you, watching over us. May he rest in peace.

Prayer: We give you thanks Lord, for the life of Fr. Phillips who devoted himself to Your service and Your people. We pray that he will always be a shining example of Christ’s servant, and that we will be able to continue his good works.

11 September, Sunday – Mercy Unto Us

11 September

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Exodus 32:7-11,13-14

The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostatised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice. “Here is your God, Israel,” they have cried “who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘I can see how headstrong these people are! Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them; of you, however, I will make a great nation.’

But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched and mighty hand? Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your servants to whom by your own self you swore and made this promise: “I will make your offspring as many as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I promised I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their heritage for ever.”’
So the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

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1 Timothy 1:12-17

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, and who judged me faithful enough to call me into his service even though I used to be a blasphemer and did all I could to injure and discredit the faith. Mercy, however, was shown me, because until I became a believer I had been acting in ignorance; and the grace of our Lord filled me with faith and with the love that is in Christ Jesus. Here is a saying that you can rely on and nobody should doubt: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I myself am the greatest of them; and if mercy has been shown to me, it is because Jesus Christ meant to make me the greatest evidence of his inexhaustible patience for all the other people who would later have to trust in him to come to eternal life. To the eternal King, the undying, invisible and only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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Luke 15:1-10

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘What man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” he would say “I have found my sheep that was lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.

‘Or again, what woman with ten drachmas would not, if she lost one, light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly till she found it? And then, when she had found it, call together her friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” she would say “I have found the drachma I lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.’

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The Lord relented

Ever so often we see God in such a dictatorship kind of way. That we are being watched by Him, and there is this set of rules set out by God and the church talk about behaviours and the ‘Don’ts’ that are sinful in the eyes of God. We probably grew up thinking, we should not do this or that, otherwise, it is a great sin. Some of us might even think that we are condemned for life. In today’s readings and Gospel, the message is clear that God our Father is a merciful one and He listen to our plea.

The Church is currently celebrating the Jubilee Year of Mercy. In today’s readings, the Lord relented after Moses pleaded to God about saving His people from Egypt and despite their behaviour of worshipping a false god, that they be forgiven for their behaviour. In the Gospel, our loving God do not require great acts to gain back his trust and love, all He favour is a change of heart and us sinners be repentant for the wrong we did. It is essentially our behaviour towards others. We are called to be witnesses of Christ, because of what He has done for us. It is because we have lived in difficulty for Christ gave us the hope to live fully and be at peace. Therefore, we should be of a good example in character, to be merciful to those who have wronged us, to be able to forgive and be open to the many difficult situations in our world.

We will never know the reasons and stories behind others just by looking at them and judging their behaviours against ours. Be loving and kind to our neighbours, be patient and humble, and so we look unto others with an openness and Christ-like approach. It is actually very difficult to forgive and be merciful when I am in fit of anger, only over time, do I realise that if I am to behave just like how Jesus is, being the loving and merciful Father that He is, forgiving will make the surroundings better.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

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Thanksgiving: In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we pray for those who are in conflict, that a peaceful solution will come soon to resolve their issues.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for forgiving us the wrong that we have done, and continue to grace us with the behaviour that is like your son Jesus.

5 September, Monday – Stretch Out Your Hand

5 September

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1 Corinthians 5:1-8

I have been told as an undoubted fact that one of you is living with his father’s wife. This is a case of sexual immorality among you that must be unparalleled even among pagans. How can you be so proud of yourselves? You should be in mourning. A man who does a thing like that ought to have been expelled from the community. Though I am far away in body, I am with you in spirit, and have already condemned the man who did this thing as if I were actually present. When you are assembled together in the name of the Lord Jesus, and I am spiritually present with you, then with the power of our Lord Jesus he is to be handed over to Satan so that his sensual body may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

The pride that you take in yourselves is hardly to your credit. You must know how even a small amount of yeast is enough to leaven all the dough, so get rid of all the old yeast, and make yourselves into a completely new batch of bread, unleavened as you are meant to be. Christ, our passover, has been sacrificed; let us celebrate the feast, then, by getting rid of all the old yeast of evil and wickedness, having only the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

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Luke 6:6-11

On the sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching him to see if he would cure a man on the sabbath, hoping to find something to use against him. But he knew their thoughts; and he said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Stand up! Come out into the middle.’ And he came out and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, ‘I put it to you: is it against the law on the sabbath to do good, or to do evil; to save life, or to destroy it?’ Then he looked round at them all and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He did so, and his hand was better. But they were furious, and began to discuss the best way of dealing with Jesus.

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Stretch out your hand.

Like any given Monday, many of us find ourselves returning to work, coming back to the hustle and bustle of a new week ahead. At the same time, many of us will find ourselves bogged down with the work that we need to do in the coming week. But so often, we forget that the week does not really start on Monday. Many of us would have encountered calendars that begin the week with a Sunday.

We also know that Sunday is the sabbath day. It is the day of rest, the seventh day on which even God himself took a break. But in the readings today, we see Jesus healing the man with the withered hand on the day of Sabbath. This was what enraged the Pharisees — that Jesus worked on the Sabbath day. But Jesus did all this knowing that this would be the response He would elicit.

Indeed, Jesus is telling us that as Christians, there is no demarcation of when and where we are to do God’s work. Similarly, there should be no demarcation between our rest times, daily work, and time with God. Furthermore, Jesus’s act of healing re-emphasizes his two ‘new’ laws: (1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind; (2) Love your neighbour as yourself.

Like healing the man with the withered hand, love has no rest days. No matter the circumstance, we are called to reflect God’s love to others. And we need to receive God’s love from others. So often, we think about giving but forget about receiving. When we receive love (whether a kind act, a compliment, or simply a prayer), we allow others to exercise the holiness that God has implanted in them.

Whether giving or receiving, we are called to stretch out our hands. To reach out to fellow men and women, especially those who are in need. So as we go through our day, let us remember to continue doing God’s work by loving and caring for each other, even if we are bogged down with our daily work. Let us remember that our Saviour loved despite the circumstances; and so, we must do the same.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for those who are lonely, scared or intimidated by the circumstance and situations that they have been born into, placed in, or simply find themselves in. Lead them back to your love.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for his unceasing love and unfailing help. May we never lose the eyes of faith that allow us to see Him in everything we do.

21 August, Sunday – A deep relationship with God

21 August

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Isaiah 66:18-21

The Lord says this: I am coming to gather the nations of every language. They shall come to witness my glory. I will give them a sign and send some of their survivors to the nations: to Tarshish, Put, Lud, Moshech, Rosh, Tubal, and Javan, to the distant islands that have never heard of me or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory to the nations. As an offering to the Lord they will bring all your brothers, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules, on dromedaries, from all the nations to my holy mountain in Jerusalem, says the Lord, like Israelites bringing oblations in clean vessels to the Temple of the Lord. And of some of them I will make priests and Levites, says the Lord.

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Hebrews 12:5-7,11-13

Have you forgotten that encouraging text in which you are addressed as sons? My son, when the Lord corrects you, do not treat it lightly; but do not get discouraged when he reprimands you. For the Lord trains the ones that he loves and he punishes all those that he acknowledges as his sons. Suffering is part of your training; God is treating you as his sons. Has there ever been any son whose father did not train him? Of course, any punishment is most painful at the time, and far from pleasant; but later, in those on whom it has been used, it bears fruit in peace and goodness. So hold up your limp arms and steady your trembling knees and smooth out the path you tread; then the injured limb will not be wrenched, it will grow strong again.

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Luke 13:22-30

Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.

‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!”

‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’

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And those now first who will be last

There was once a comment made to me that the converts to the Catholic Faith have a lot to teach those who are cradle Catholics. This arose because the examples of the cradle Catholics left much to be desired both in terms of practice, e.g. coming late for Mass or knowledge, e.g. not knowing the rationale of the Church’s position on moral teachings such as the sanctity of life.

This is indeed something which we can reflect upon as there is perhaps an element of truth in this. I have always wondered what could keep the flame of the faith going on in our Christian lives. In prayer, I have always asked God what could keep the flame of faith alive in myself. The discovery was that it is through encountering God in a deeply personal way and to stengthen that relationship through conversations with others and in encountering God in the Blessed Sacrament.

God wants us to discover Him in a way where we are not judged and which we will allow ourselves to be open to our faith without being judged. The point we need to remember is that Heaven is not about being in a competition but about our own personal progress with God and getting to know Him. As we begin our week, let us discover what God so desires of us and to answer it.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us approach you with Faith and Love as we continue to experience you in the people whom we meet.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who teach the Catholic Faith.

19 August, Friday – True Neighbourly Love

19 August – Memorial for St. John Eudes, Priest, Religious founder

John Eudes (1601-1680) established seminaries, and founded the Congregation of Jesus and Mary Eudists to promote virtuous secular parochial clergy not bound by vows, but dedicated to improving the clergy through seminaries and missions. He also founded the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity who worked for the welfare of penitent women. He was the author of the liturgical devotion of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ezekiel 37:1-14

The hand of the Lord was laid on me, and he carried me away by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley, a valley full of bones. He made me walk up and down among them. There were vast quantities of these bones on the ground the whole length of the valley; and they were quite dried up. He said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I said, ‘You know, Lord.’ He said, ‘Prophesy over these bones. Say, “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. The Lord says this to these bones: I am now going to make the breath enter you, and you will live. I shall put sinews on you, I shall make flesh grow on you, I shall cover you with skin and give you breath, and you will live; and you will learn that I am the Lord.”’ I prophesied as I had been ordered. While I was prophesying, there was a noise, a sound of clattering; and the bones joined together. I looked, and saw that they were covered with sinews; flesh was growing on them and skin was covering them, but there was no breath in them. He said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man. Say to the breath, “The Lord says this: Come from the four winds, breath; breathe on these dead; let them live!”’ I prophesied as he had ordered me, and the breath entered them; they came to life again and stood up on their feet, a great, an immense army.

Then he said, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole House of Israel. They keep saying, “Our bones are dried up, our hope has gone; we are as good as dead.” So prophesy. Say to them, “The Lord says this: I am now going to open your graves; I mean to raise you from your graves, my people, and lead you back to the soil of Israel. And you will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, my people. And I shall put my spirit in you, and you will live, and I shall resettle you on your own soil; and you will know that I, the Lord, have said and done this – it is the Lord who speaks.”’

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Matthew 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’

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“You must love your neighbor as yourself”

I remember that as a 12-year-old, I had an opportunity to make some extra pocket money by taking on a project to paint my aunt’s private apartment, located in the Grange Road area. One day, after completing work for the day, I was waiting for my aunt to return home. It was late, and I was hungry. In the end, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer and went to the neighbour, rang the doorbell and left the keys to the apartment with them and went home.

My aunt was not impressed when I subsequently called her to tell her how retrieve her keys (and that’s putting it mildly!)

Growing up in a 3-room flat in Tanglin Halt, a relatively poor area, the door to our home was always open, except for when we went to bed. I remember the hustle and bustle, neighbours walking in freely to “hang out” and have chats. I lost count of the numerous times the aunty next door came in with extra food they had cooked just so they could check, or the times I actually ate at the neighbours. In fact, I spent so much time there as a child I even learnt how to speak Hainanese (a dialect), an ability which I sadly lost. I remember the love that I experienced. I remember how Mr Foo, the photographer, took so many photos of me, taking the time and effort to give us copies of the prints, or how another aunty took on the effort to iron ALL of our clothes just so my grandaunt would not have to work so hard. I saw how the neighbours went out of their way to help each other, even if it meant making sacrifices and inconveniencing themselves. It was such an amazing environment for me to grow up in.

Coming back to the story of my aunt. On a subsequent visit, she sat me down and explained why it was dangerous for me to have done what I did. What would happen if the neighbour was dishonest and had chosen to duplicate the keys? What if she got robbed? Suffice to say that all described scenarios were dire.

I realised, when I was older, how ironic the situation was. When one ‘progressed’ up the socio-economic ladder, one became more closed, effectively becoming more self-centred, while being materially poorer meant that there was a bigger community to depend on. Truly, while I wasn’t a Christian in the early days, I experienced God through this community.

By loving our neighbours, we become ‘other’-focused. We learn to see the good in others, learn to help others. The more we help and love, we more we learn to help and love. We learn that we are not the centre of the universe.

Fast forward some 40 years and most of us live in relative seclusion. Engagements with our neighbours are perhaps limited to polite smiles while waiting for the elevator, if we are lucky. In all likelihood, many of us would be staring into our mobile devices, or engaged in the latest games. This has resulted in many of us living our lives in isolation, or acrimonious situations when neighbours disagree. Living in isolation leads us to be self centred.

The Lord, in today’s gospel, teaches us to see God in others, which is why loving others as much as we love ourselves as a commandment is second only to loving God with all our hearts, soul and mind.

Let us all go and open our doors to our neighbours! Let us reach out to those around us; at home, at work and in the community at large. Doing so will help us to achieve the greatest commandment, and will empower us to love our God even more.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray that we will learn to keep our eyes open to be kind and to be able to reach out to our neighbours; at our homes, our workplaces, in our community-at-large. Teach us, Father, to be sensitive to Your promptings and also help us to grow in Your love by loving those around us not superficially, but sincerely, and deeply.

Thanksgiving: We thank you, Father, for showing us Your love for us through those around us. Thank you Jesus, for teaching us that the importance of not just loving our Father personally, but to love Him through loving our neighbours.

2 August, Tuesday – Getting out of the boat

2 August – Memorial for St. Eusebius of Vercelli, Bishop; St Peter Julian Eymard, Bishop

Eusebius (283-371) was a priest and lector in Rome, Italy. He was consecrated bishop of Vercelli, Italy in 340, but was exiled to Palestine and Cappadocia due to his struggle against Arianism. He was a friend of St. Athanasius of Alexandria. He was a prolific writer according to his contemporaries, but none of his works have survived. He was the first bishop to live with and follow the same rule as his priests. He may be been martyred by Arians, but reports vary. Many consider him a martyr as he may have died as a result of his sufferings in exile.

– Patron Saint Index

Peter Julian Eymard (1811-1868) had a strong Marian devotion, and travelled to the assorted Marian shrines and apparition sites in France. He organised lay societies under the direction of the Marists, preached and taught, and worked for Eucharistic devotion. He felt a call to found a new religious society, and founded the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament and the lay Servants of the Blessed Sacrament. His work encountered a series of setbacks, including have to close his nascent houses and move twice, and the houses not being able to support themselves financially. However, his vision of priests, deacons, sisters, and lay people dedicated to the spiritual values celebrated in the Mass and prayer before the Blessed Sacrament anticipated many of the renewals brought about by Vatican Councils I and II.

– Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 30:1-2,12-15,18-22

The word addressed to Jeremiah by the Lord: the Lord, the God of Israel says this: Write all the words I have spoken to you in a book.

Yes, the Lord says this:
Your wound is incurable,
your injury past healing.
There is no one to care for your sore,
no medicine to make you well again.
All your lovers have forgotten you,
they look for you no more.
Yes, I have struck you as an enemy strikes,
with harsh punishment
so great is your guilt, so many your sins.
Why bother to complain about your wound?
Your pain is incurable.
So great is your guilt, so many your sins,
that I have done all this to you.

The Lord says this:
Now I will restore the tents of Jacob,
and take pity on his dwellings:
the city shall be rebuilt on its ruins,
the citadel restored on its site.
From them will come thanksgiving
and shouts of joy.
I will make them increase, and not diminish them,
make them honoured, and not disdained.
Their sons shall be as once they were,
their community fixed firm in my presence,
and I will punish all their oppressors.
Their prince will be one of their own,
their ruler come from their own people.
I will let him come freely into my presence and he can come close to me;
who else, indeed, would risk his life
by coming close to me? – it is the Lord who speaks.
And you shall be my people and I will be your God.

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Matthew 14:22-36

When Jesus received the news of John the Baptist’s death, he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, while the boat, by now far out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ It was Peter who answered. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.’ ‘Come’ said Jesus. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink. ‘Lord! Save me!’ he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’ And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’

Having made the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret. When the local people recognised him they spread the news through the whole neighbourhood and took all that were sick to him, begging him just to let them touch the fringe of his cloak. And all those who touched it were completely cured.

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Come, why did you doubt?

In June, a group of us went to Majodi for a retreat. When I signed up, I had no idea what it was about. The title intrigued me. I was at a point in my spiritual journey when I just about gave up trying to understand Jesus. This faith journey was just too hard. I felt complete and utter emptiness. I just coasted along and hoped for the best.

I had no expectations of the retreat. Only that God, in His infinite love and mercy, might steer me towards a direction. The retreat was short, not intense. Days leading up to the retreat, Jesus was already preparing me. He blessed me with several small incidents and events that showed me that He was right there with me. Just that I didn’t see Him.

Something had been festering in my heart for months and I just didn’t know how to deal with it. A thorn in my side which I hoped would just go away. It didn’t. But 3 days before the retreat, Jesus gave me the opportunity to ‘make good’ with the person I was upset with. I resisted and made all sorts of excuses not to come face to face with this person. But Jesus, in all his wisdom, kind of just shoved me along. And so things were restored. I could now go freely to this retreat with no baggage.

The theme of the retreat was ‘Get Out Of The Boat’. The scripture Father used for reflection is today’s gospel reading. On Day One, we were asked to take stock of our lives. Where were we in relation to: family, church, ministry, neighbourhood, health, recreation, work, vocation and relationships? And in these areas of our lives, we were to picture what type of boat it was – sampan, speed boat, luxury liner?

All this while I have been so afraid to get out of my comfort zone. I remained in the boat despite how bumpy the ride was. Didn’t matter what sort of boat it was. However, as I journaled and started to share with my friend, I came to realisation that I was no longer in the boat.

“Come! Why did you doubt?”

Jesus had all along been slowly cajoling me, like a little child, to step out of the boat with a little lolly in his hand.  I am so unteachable He had to ‘trick’ me like how a parent would coax a child. ‘Come!’

Looking at my life, and all the events leading up to where I am today. I am indeed out of the boat and did not even realise it. It was a revelation of sorts for me. And Jesus also revealed that I am now actually living out my vocation. Not in the way I had pictured it would be. But I am living it!

A few of us were laughing about our own states. Someone told me that she too was out of the boat, only she was desperately clinging to the sides of her boat trying to climb back in! Funny how we humans are.

Peter got out of the boat. His eyes were fixed on Jesus and he actually walked across the water! But the moment he doubted, he started to sink. Our spiritual walk is a leap of faith. Yup, we don’t know what’s ahead. But if we keep our eye on Jesus, we will not sink.

Oh yes. Jesus had another revelation for me. Actually, I am now back in the boat. Like what?? Yup. I am now back in the boat. And Jesus is the Seamaster.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, despite how deaf and blind we can be, continue to lead us to live the live you had intended for us. Help us to have the courage and faith to step out into the unknown, knowing that you have your eyes on us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for our lives. For what you have done for us, so much more than we imagined or prayed for. You are the source of our strength. You comfort us, fill us and provide for us. For this we are every so grateful.

6 July, Wednesday – The Summons

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

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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Hosea 10:1-3,7-8,12

Israel was a luxuriant vine
yielding plenty of fruit.
The more his fruit increased,
the more altars he built;
the richer his land became,
the richer he made the sacred stones.
Their heart is a divided heart;
very well, they must pay for it:
the Lord is going to break their altars down
and destroy their sacred stones.
Then they will say,
‘We have no king
because we have not feared the Lord.’

But what can a king do for us?
Samaria has had her day.
Her king is like a straw drifting on the water.
The idolatrous high places shall be destroyed –
that sin of Israel;
thorn and thistle will grow on their altars.
Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Cover us!’
and to the hills, ‘Fall on us!’

Sow integrity for yourselves,
reap a harvest of kindness,
break up your fallow ground:
it is time to go seeking the Lord
until he comes to rain salvation on you.

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Matthew 10:1-7

Jesus summoned his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and sickness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, the one who was to betray him. These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them as follows:

‘Do not turn your steps to pagan territory, and do not enter any Samaritan town; go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’

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Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

I can place the church participation level of Catholics in roughly 4 categories – 1) regular mass attendance and active in church ministries; 2) only attend mass but are not active in church ministries; 3) attend only Christmas/Easter masses; 4) do not really identify themselves as Catholics anymore.

I am struck by what Jesus told His disciples in today’s gospel reading, to go first to the people God first chose as His own, before preaching to the Gentiles. In the present day, I feel that I can relate this concept of outreach to the large number of lapsed Catholics in the church. They had received the sacraments and had been instructed in the faith but, for various reasons, did not continue to practise it. There are supposedly around a billion Catholics in the world, but I believe that a large number are only Catholics in name. That is why when it comes to evangelisation, I would prefer to focus my efforts on reaching out to other Catholics first.

Allow me to share a little about my own involvement in ministry work. It has been slightly more than ten years since I graduated from university, during which I was very active in the Catholic Students’ Society there. That laid the groundwork for my subsequent participation in ministry work and I can say with certainty that it will be a constant in my life. In the past ten years, there was never a period of time when I was not involved in ministry work in some way or another. It is something I find great meaning in, as avenues to exercise my gifts and talents, and more importantly, to build a relationship with God. I think that for any individual, it is not one’s career, nor achievements, or even family, which matters. What will see us through till the end of life is our relationship with God. And serving the Church is what helps us build this relationship, not only for ourselves, but for everyone else in the community.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that the grace of the Spirit will guide more hearts to be converted to follow Christ.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the labourers of the harvest who have given of themselves in order to bring in the harvest.

29 April, Friday – Picked

29 April – Memorial for Saint Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor

Catherine (1347-1380) She was born in Siena and was the youngest child in a large family. At the age of six, she had a vision in which Jesus appeared and blessed her. Her parents wanted her to marry, but she became a Dominican tertiary. Seeking perfection, she entered the Third Order of the Dominicans when she was still in her teens. She was a mystic and stigmatist. She received a vision in which she was in mystical marriage with Christ, and the Infant Christ presented her with a wedding ring.

In 1370 she was commanded by a vision to leave her secluded life and enter the public life of the world. She wrote letters to many major public figures and carried on a long correspondence with Pope Gregory XI, urging him to reform the clergy and the administration of the Papal States. She burned with the love of God and her neighbour. As an ambassador she brought peace and harmony between cities. She fought hard to defend the liberty and rights of the Popes and did much for the renewal of religious life. She also dictated books full of sound doctrine and spiritual inspiration. She died on 29 April 1380.

She was counsellor to Pope Gregory XI and Pope Urban VI. She was proclaimed Doctor of the Church on 4 October 1970.

-Universalis and Patron Saint Index

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Acts 15:22-31

The apostles and elders decided to choose delegates to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; the whole church concurred with this. They chose Judas known as Barsabbas and Silas, both leading men in the brotherhood, and gave them this letter to take with them:

  ‘The apostles and elders, your brothers, send greetings to the brothers of pagan birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We hear that some of our members have disturbed you with their demands and have unsettled your minds. They acted without any authority from us; and so we have decided unanimously to elect delegates and to send them to you with Barnabas and Paul, men we highly respect who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accordingly we are sending you Judas and Silas, who will confirm by word of mouth what we have written in this letter. It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials: you are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols; from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from fornication. Avoid these, and you will do what is right. Farewell.’

  The party left and went down to Antioch, where they summoned the whole community and delivered the letter. The community read it and were delighted with the encouragement it gave them.

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John 15:12-17

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘This is my commandment:
love one another,
as I have loved you.
A man can have no greater love
than to lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends,
if you do what I command you.
I shall not call you servants any more,
because a servant does not know
his master’s business;
I call you friends,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learnt from my Father.
You did not choose me:
no, I chose you;
and I commissioned you
to go out and to bear fruit,
fruit that will last;
and then the Father will give you
anything you ask him in my name.
What I command you is to love one another.’

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It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.

T was quite a troublemaker in high school. He had a tendency to get hauled into the principal’s office for a variety of infractions. It got to the point where he was eventually expelled from the school which we both attended and sent off to boarding school. Although we were casual acquaintances at that time, it wasn’t until when we entered college (after he got things back in order) that we became close friends. In fact, we didn’t even go to the same university. It just happened that one day he called me during a term break and we decided to get together to catch up. I didn’t choose T to be my friend. In actual fact, I was initially hesitant to meet up with him, but I’m glad I did. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have reconnected and I wouldn’t have developed such a strong friendship that endures even till this day.

In many ways, my Christian walk has been a similar experience in that I never proactively initiated a relationship with God before becoming a believer. Yet there were numerous times that I had been introduced to Him in my youth, but was just too proud and self-centered to accept Him. I had this view in my mind that being a Christian meant something completely different than what I realize it to be now. Yet He never stopped seeking me out. For that, I am eternally grateful.

As C.S Lewis writes – “In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another… the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting – any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you”, can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another”. The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)

Prayer – Lord, we pray for our friends who are non-believers. We pray that you use us as your instruments to reveal to them Your truth – that Your one and only son, Jesus, died on the cross for their sins. And so there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Thanksgiving – Father, we give thanks to you for the friends in our lives that have stood by us through times of joy, happiness, pain, sorrow and growth. May these relationships endure this world and into eternity.