Tag Archives: repentance

4 December, Sunday – Repentance

4 December 2016 – 2nd Sunday of Advent

Dear Oxygen readers,
We are now in the second week of Advent. As we are fast approaching the Christmas season, we would like to invite readers to consider a one-off contribution for Christmas Day.

Reflections for contribution
  1. Vigil Mass for Christmas
  2. Midnight Mass – Christmas
  3. Mass at Dawn – Christmas
  4. Mass in the Day – Christmas
If you have benefitted from our past reflections, this could be a small but meaningful gesture to give back to the community.
Please leave a comment at the end of this post indicating your interest and your email address for us to follow-up with you. We look forward to hearing from you!
God bless you
Oxygen Core Team

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Isaiah 11:1-10

A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse,
a scion thrusts from his roots:
on him the spirit of the Lord rests,
a spirit of wisdom and insight,
a spirit of counsel and power,
a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
(The fear of the Lord is his breath.)
He does not judge by appearances,
he gives no verdict on hearsay,
but judges the wretched with integrity,
and with equity gives a verdict for the poor of the land.
His word is a rod that strikes the ruthless,
his sentences bring death to the wicked.

Integrity is the loincloth round his waist,
faithfulness the belt about his hips.

The wolf lives with the lamb,
the panther lies down with the kid,
calf and lion feed together,
with a little boy to lead them.
The cow and the bear make friends,
their young lie down together.
The lion eats straw like the ox.
The infant plays over the cobra’s hole;
into the viper’s lair
the young child puts his hand.
They do no hurt, no harm,
on all my holy mountain,
for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters swell the sea.

That day, the root of Jesse
shall stand as a signal to the peoples.
It will be sought out by the nations
and its home will be glorious.

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Romans 15:4-9

Everything that was written long ago in the scriptures was meant to teach us something about hope from the examples scripture gives of how people who did not give up were helped by God. And may he who helps us when we refuse to give up, help you all to be tolerant with each other, following the example of Christ Jesus, so that united in mind and voice you may give glory to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It can only be to God’s glory, then, for you to treat each other in the same friendly way as Christ treated you. The reason Christ became the servant of circumcised Jews was not only so that God could faithfully carry out the promises made to the patriarchs, it was also to get the pagans to give glory to God for his mercy, as scripture says in one place: For this I shall praise you among the pagans and sing to your name.

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Matthew 3:1-12

In due course John the Baptist appeared; he preached in the wilderness of Judaea and this was his message: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’ This was the man the prophet Isaiah spoke of when he said:

A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight.

This man John wore a garment made of camel-hair with a leather belt round his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judaea and the whole Jordan district made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. But when he saw a number of Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers, who warned you to fly from the retribution that is coming? But if you are repentant, produce the appropriate fruit, and do not presume to tell yourselves, “We have Abraham for our father,” because, I tell you, God can raise children for Abraham from these stones. Even now the axe is laid to the roots of the trees, so that any tree which fails to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire. I baptise you in water for repentance, but the one who follows me is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to carry his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand; he will clear his threshing-floor and gather his wheat into the barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’

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“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.”

As we light the second candle of Advent, we light the candle of preparation. What is it that we actually need to prepare for the coming of our Lord? At this time of the year, we usually find ourselves preparing gifts, food, entertainment, outings and celebrations.

The Gospel today calls for us to do otherwise, “A voice cries in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.” We are called to prepare a way for the Lord. Given the example of John the Baptist, the preparation we need to make is that of a gift of ourselves, to prepare our hearts for Christ to enter once again. But more than that, it also speaks of a time of reaching out, a time of returning, a time where we share the excitement of the coming of our King, our Lord.

Why should we be excited? We read in the first reading of how life can actually spring from dead wood, we read of how “Integrity is the loincloth round his waist, faithfulness the belt about his hips.” Where God seeks for us to live together in unity, in peace. And in the second reading where “he who helps us when we refuse to give up, help you all to be tolerant with each other, following the example of Christ Jesus, so that united in mind and voice you may give glory to God”.

There is a sense of hope for humanity, especially in our world today, where there are so many things we don’t understand. Election candidates, ISIS, immigration, wars and many more. Where man seeks to protect, man also harms. Where man seeks to love, man also destroys. Where man seeks to unite, man also divides.

Imperfect and broken as we are, we should learn not to rely on our own strength but that of the Saviour who is to come. In all our selfishness and pride, we are called to repentance for it is only in Christ that we can bring perfect love, perfect unity by offering our hearts and lives to him. This is given to us by Christ through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a Sacrament that is really about hope, about love and mercy and not so much to instil fear and punishment.

Let us make a conscious effort to seek the true gifts this Christmas — the gift of our lives, the gift of Christ. To prepare ourselves and our hearts. To spread the hope of the coming of our Lord for, as the psalmist says, “In his days justice shall flourish and peace till the moon fails.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for wisdom, that we may truly cherish the things that matter, that we will make a gift of ourselves this Christmas to you for it is by the gift of yourself that we have this life, our hope and salvation.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the gift of your unconditional love, for your mercy, for your Son.

14 November, Monday – Light from Light

14 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.

I heard the Lord saying to me: ‘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.”’

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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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Receive your sight. Your faith has saved you.

Having grown up and lived in a bustling city almost all my life, and having recently relocated to another major city, I often find myself immersed in the sights and sounds that surround me. It is not a bad thing, especially when you are living alone in a strange new city, to have the company of people around all the time, music streaming out of shops and cafes, and the bright lights of a city alive with all sorts of interactions and possibilities.

Yet, I’ve found that it is also easy to lose yourself in the city, to become distracted by all the activities and communities that present themselves to you. Indeed, as I look out of my apartment window onto the streets below, I see people hustling to the nearby bar or cafe for another night out with friends. Ironically, it is silence that is so hard to find in the city. But it is also in silence that God speaks loudest to us.

Perhaps we are like the blind man in Jericho: we have lost our sight amid the sights and sounds of our lives; we perceive but we do not see. And no matter how much entertainment we are able to absorb, how often have you felt a tugging in the depths of your heart — that there must be more to life than this? How often do we binge on Netflix because having watched one episode of our favourite TV show, we feel dissatisfied and thus have to watch another episode to fill the emptiness? And after that, yet another episode. And it goes on.

And being distracted by the playground of the city, and not forgetting our ‘hard work and perseverance’, we also find  that we have “less love now than formerly”. In my favourite cafe by Harvard Square, I often look out of the windows and see two sets of people. First, there are the students rushing to get to class, or just ambling along answering emails or text messages on their smartphones. But no more than 3 feet from these students, who are all absorbed in their glowing screens, sit the homeless.

Truly, we are often too captivated by the man-made lights of our cities and smartphones to stop and look around us. If we do, we will see a world filled with both desolation and hope. Desolation from the people who are suffering, often right next to us. But hope too, for the Light of Christ is there for us, given freely and given with much love. We must refocus our sight on this Light. We must continue to cling to the Lord, and to see Him in those in need.

When we do that, we can be sure that Jesus is saying to each of us: “Receive your sight. Your faith has saved you”. For He has always been ready to give us His light, a light that makes all the lights of the city pale in comparison, ‘light from Light’. The question is: are we ready to receive our sight from Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)

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Prayer: Lord, we pray for the poor, the vulnerable and the sick. May they, in their physical desolation, find spiritual consolation in Your light. May we also find the wisdom to see You in those around us.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for His continued guidance, for being the good shepherd that He is to us.  

30 October, Sunday – A forgiving God

30 October

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Wisdom 11:22-12:2

In your sight, Lord, the whole world is like a grain of dust that tips the scales,
like a drop of morning dew falling on the ground.
Yet you are merciful to all, because you can do all things
and overlook men’s sins so that they can repent.
Yes, you love all that exists, you hold nothing of what you have made in abhorrence,
for had you hated anything, you would not have formed it.
And how, had you not willed it, could a thing persist,
how be conserved if not called forth by you?
You spare all things because all things are yours, Lord, lover of life,
you whose imperishable spirit is in all.
Little by little, therefore, you correct those who offend,
you admonish and remind them of how they have sinned,
so that they may abstain from evil and trust in you, Lord.

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Thessalonians 1:11-2:2 

We pray continually that our God will make you worthy of his call, and by his power fulfil all your desires for goodness and complete all that you have been doing through faith; because in this way the name of our Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified in you and you in him, by the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

To turn now, brothers, to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we shall all be gathered round him: please do not get excited too soon or alarmed by any prediction or rumour or any letter claiming to come from us, implying that the Day of the Lord has already arrived.

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Luke 19:1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the town when a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance: he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. He was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him: ‘Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.’ And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house’ they said. But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, ‘Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.’

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Today salvation has come to this house, because the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.

My friend once asked me why God permitted people who were evil to continue to live on in this world. He was praying for God to strike the evil person with cancer but I reminded him that God never intended for people to die in this manner. I don’t think I succeeded in convincing him but I believe the readings of today point to us what God desires of all of us who are his children. There is a common theme throughout the readings, which is the need to forgive others because this world we live in is temporary.

In the First Reading, we learn that the world is considered like dust to the Lord. This verse really struck me because it made me realise that all the work which we do and the actions we take are temporary. The resource of time which we own is sometimes not used wisely to glorify the name of God, but instead, we use it for our own profit. Indeed, this is something which will distract us from the purpose of our lives, which is to stay close to God and to remain faithful to him.

The story of Zacchaeus is a lesson for all of us. There is a prompting within our heart to go closer to God but how we choose to respond is the determining factor on whether Salvation will enter into our lives. Zacchaeus was open to the idea of Jesus coming into his life because he had experienced an inner conversion in his heart – a metanoia — which is Greek for a spiritual conversion of our hearts to be re-oriented towards God. All of us are called today to return to Jesus, to be open to the message he offers us.

The way of life which Jesus invites us to is radical and it will transform our lives. As we continue to serve in the vineyard of the Lord, let us remember the words of St Paul in the second reading — to ask God to complete within us the need what we have been doing in faith. Let our lives glorify Jesus who so loved us that He gave His life for us!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace to forgive our enemies.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who preach repentance.

22 October, Saturday – Repent in order to know Him

22 October – Memorial for St. John Paul II

Karol Józef Wojty?a was born in 1920 in Wadowice, Poland. After his ordination to the priesthood and theological studies in Rome, he returned to his homeland and resumed various pastoral and academic tasks. He became first auxiliary bishop and, in 1964, Archbishop of Kraków and took part in the Second Vatican Council. On 16 October 1978 he was elected pope and took the name John Paul II. His exceptional apostolic zeal, particularly for families, young people and the sick, led him to numerous pastoral visits throughout the world. Among the many fruits which he has left as a heritage to the Church are above all his rich Magisterium and the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church and for the Eastern Churches. In Rome on 2 April 2005, the eve of the Second Sunday of Easter (or of Divine Mercy), he departed peacefully in the Lord. He was canonized by Pope Francis on 27 April, the Second Sunday of Easter 2014.

– Universalis

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Ephesians 4:7-16

Each one of us has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it. It was said that he would:

When he ascended to the height, he captured prisoners,
he gave gifts to men.

When it says, ‘he ascended’, what can it mean if not that he descended right down to the lower regions of the earth? The one who rose higher than all the heavens to fill all things is none other than the one who descended. And to some, his gift was that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; so that the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ. In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.

Then we shall not be children any longer, or tossed one way and another and carried along by every wind of doctrine, at the mercy of all the tricks men play and their cleverness in practising deceit. If we live by the truth and in love, we shall grow in all ways into Christ, who is the head by whom the whole body is fitted and joined together, every joint adding its own strength, for each separate part to work according to its function. So the body grows until it has built itself up, in love.

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Luke 13:1-9

Some people arrived and told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices. At this he said to them, ‘Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell and killed them? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’

He told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to the man who looked after the vineyard, “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?” “Sir,” the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”’

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‘…but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’

It seems to me as though today’s first reading is a combination of the readings from the previous few days. Knowing God, growing in faith, and becoming the image and likeness of God. Indeed, when we have fulfilled the above and grow to become the Perfect Man, who is Jesus, then surely we can be gifted to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.

But it is never that easy. Sin continues to knock at our door and causes us to fall often.

Fortunately for us, Jesus tells us today in the gospel, that unless we repent we will perish like the Galileans and the eighteen who were crushed under the weight of the tower of Siloam.

If we are willing to repent, God gives us the space and time to do it as in the parable of the fig tree. Even after being a barren fruit tree, the man who looked after it pleaded with the owner to leave it one year and allow him to tend to it.

Yes, God gives us the chance to grow and change our lives; yet we shouldn’t be taking our own sweet time to do it, because we do not know the hour the Son of Man is coming.

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. John Paul II. A great saint of our time. A great man who epitomises what it means to have faith in God. I recall his inaugural speech at the beginning of his pontificate where he exhorted the faithful three times to not be afraid to welcome Christ in our hearts and open the door wide for Him to enter.

Truly, if we take faith in following the Lord, we will get to know Him, love Him and serve Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Lee)

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Prayer: Father, show me the way to live a life that is worthy of Your calling. Help me never to turn away from You and reject Your love for me.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank You for always showing me Your love and mercy, even if I fall over and over again.

30 September, Friday – Repentance

30 September – Memorial for St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor

Jerome (347-419) led a misspent youth. He later converted in theory, being baptised in 365, and then had a true conversion when he studied theology. Monk. He revised the Latin text of the Bible. The result of his 30 years of work was the Vulgate translation, which is still in use. He is a Doctor of the Church and Father of the Church. Since his own time, he has been associated in the popular mind with scrolls, writing, cataloguing, translating, etc. This led to those who work in such fields taking him as their patron – a man who knew their lives and problems.

– Patron Saints Index

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Job 38:1,12-21,40:3-5

From the heart of the tempest the Lord gave Job his answer. He said:

Have you ever in your life given orders to the morning
or sent the dawn to its post,
telling it to grasp the earth by its edges
and shake the wicked out of it,
when it changes the earth to sealing clay
and dyes it as a man dyes clothes;
stealing the light from wicked men
and breaking the arm raised to strike?
Have you journeyed all the way to the sources of the sea,
or walked where the Abyss is deepest?
Have you been shown the gates of Death
or met the janitors of Shadowland?
Have you an inkling of the extent of the earth?
Tell me all about it if you have!
Which is the way to the home of the light,
and where does darkness live?
You could then show them the way to their proper places,
or put them on the path to where they live!
If you know all this, you must have been born with them,
you must be very old by now!

Job replied to the Lord:

My words have been frivolous: what can I reply?
I had better lay my finger on my lips.
I have spoken once… I will not speak again;
more than once… I will add nothing.

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Luke 10:13-16

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. And still, it will not go as hard with Tyre and Sidon at the Judgement as with you. And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted high as heaven? You shall be thrown down to hell.

‘Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me.’

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“Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me.”

Many times in our lives, we unknowingly play God, even in times of prayer. We pray as and when we need Him and we expect Him to answer our prayers if not He doesn’t love us.

As in the first reading, do we really know how much God loves us? Are we aware of the things He has done in our lives? Are we aware of the things He is doing?

Sometimes we ask God for a sign or to show us the right path, but it is in our stubbornness that after it all, we still want to do it OUR way. We reject the path that He is showing us because it seems to inconvenient or uncomfortable even before we walk it. The Lord shares with Job in the first reading and Job realises his imperfections and weaknesses. There’s no way we will be able to fully understand the magnitude of God’s love for us or who He truly is. But we are called to believe and trust for there definitely has been signs, people, events in our lives that He has been present. The many small miracles that happen every day, are we grateful or we simply take for granted?

We see in the Gospel where indeed there will be judgment when the time comes. Do we want to wait till it’s too late before we repent?

For the times when we have used God, for the times where we weren’t aware and failed to recognise His presence. For the times where we took Him for granted and for the times we rejected Him. Let us repent. Like Job, let us offer our lives to the Lord and believe that He didn’t create us in order that we may suffer and that it’s not the things of the world that we should be living for, to clear our distractions and focus on the one destination which is to be with God in all eternity.

As the psalmist says, “Lead me, O Lord, in the path of life eternal” Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

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Prayer: Dear Lord, we ask for your forgiveness and patience as we continuously reject you and get caught up with our society and worldly matters that we lose the sense of why we are living. Help us before it’s too late, give us the wisdom and awareness to see beyond the things we do, to see the love, joy, to seek forgiveness as well as to forgive others. Lead us Lord to you. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your never failing love. Thank you Lord for continuing to bless us with your love even when we may not see it or understand. Thank you for this reminder. Amen.

21 September, Wednesday – Follow Me

21 September – Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Matthew was the son of Alphaeus, and he lived at Capernaum on Lake Genesareth. He was a Roman tax collector, a position equated with collaboration with the enemy by those from whom he collected taxes. Jesus’ contemporaries were surprised to see the Christ with a traitor, but Jesus explained that he had come “not to call the just, but sinners”.

Matthew’s Gospel is given pride of place in the canon of the New Testament, and was written to convince Jewish readers that their anticipated Messiah had come in the person of Jesus. He preached among the Jews for 15 years; his audiences may have included the Jewish enclave in Ethiopia, and places in the East.

– Patron Saints Index

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Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13

I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.

Each one of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it. To some, his gift was that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; so that the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ. In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.

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Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus was walking on he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

While he was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’

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He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.

Before he became one of the Twelve Apostles, St. Matthew worked as a tax collector in Capernaum. At the time, tax collectors were viewed negatively by the people, as evidenced in the Bible, particularly in today’s Gospel reading. When people saw Jesus sitting at the table with tax collectors, the Pharisees questioned this, lumping tax collectors with sinners. Because of his prior incarnation as a tax collector, St. Matthew is the patron saint of tax collectors, accountants and bankers.

Today’s world hasn’t changed much. Bankers are still viewed negatively: the “fat cats” of Wall Street and other major financial capitals in the world. Not long ago, people were up in arms over bankers who collected huge bonuses while the world experienced a global financial crisis. The Occupy Wall Street movement raised issues of inequality, both socially and economically, greed and corruption, in particular within the financial sector. The bankers’ lives of excess as portrayed in the media also added more fuel to the fire.

So it is with interest that one would question why Jesus called Matthew to follow him. Can a person perceived as greedy and in cahoots with the Romans be deemed worthy enough to follow the Messiah? Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and says, “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Jesus probably saw the flaws in Matthew, and perhaps Matthew might not have been perfect in character. But he was the perfect canvas for Jesus to paint on, to convert someone so mired in materialism, and that would not be any different from us today. We don’t even have to be a banker, or tax collector or accountant. Perhaps there is a certain sort of life that we are living, that we can’t let go of. Would we be in a position to put it down, leave everything and go when Jesus calls us?

Recall the story of the rich man who did everything that Jesus exhorted, and asked what more he could do. He went away depressed when Jesus told him to sell all his possessions and donate the proceeds to the needy (Mark 10:17-31), for this man was rich indeed. But Jesus has promised us eternal life for those who leave everything to follow him.

If we fear or second guess our ability to come whenever Jesus calls, let us doubt no further but say to ourselves, if St. Matthew could do it, and walk away from it all to a higher calling, then so can we.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Thanksgiving: St. Matthew, we pray to you not to let our lives be attached to the material things on earth that will pass in time. Help us train our eyes instead to a greater treasure in heaven, which Jesus has promised us.

Prayer: St. Matthew, thank you for being our shining example of will power and knowing what is worth following. As Jesus comes to call the sinners, pray for us that we will hear when he calls us too.

5 August, Friday – This Cruel Marketplace

5 August – Memorial for Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome

First raised at the order of Pope Liberius in the mid-fourth century, the Liberian Basilica was rebuilt by Pope Sixtus III shortly after the Council of Ephesus affirmed Mary’s title as Mother of God in 431. Rededicated at that time to the Mother of God, St. Mary Major is the largest church in the world honouring God through Mary.

St. Mary Major is one of the four Roman basilicas known as patriarchal cathedrals in memory of the first centres of the Church. This basilica represents the See of Antioch, where Mary is supposed to have spent most of her life.

http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/SaintOfDay/default.asp?id=1098

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Nahum 2:1,3,3:1-3,6-7

See, over the mountains the messenger hurries!
‘Peace!’ he proclaims.
Judah, celebrate your feasts,
carry out your vows,
for Belial will never pass through you again;
he is utterly annihilated.
Yes, the Lord is restoring the vineyard of Jacob
and the vineyard of Israel.
For the plunderers had plundered them,
they had broken off their branches.

Woe to the city soaked in blood,
full of lies,
stuffed with booty,
whose plunderings know no end!
The crack of the whip!
The rumble of wheels!
Galloping horse,
jolting chariot,
charging cavalry,
flash of swords,
gleam of spears…
a mass of wounded,
hosts of dead,
countless corpses;
they stumble over the dead.
I am going to pelt you with filth,
shame you, make you a public show.
And all who look on you will turn their backs on you and say,
‘Nineveh is a ruin.’
Could anyone pity her?
Where can I find anyone to comfort her?

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Matthew 16:24-28

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?

‘For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and, when he does, he will reward each one according to his behaviour. I tell you solemnly, there are some of these standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming with his kingdom.’

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What has a man to offer in exchange for his life?

The world is a marketplace. This description is too cruelly realistic for us to be content with it. What do I mean? The ‘marketplace’ is an arena of commercial dealings, trades, transactions. So what? Some may say it is a fact and this is just what is necessary. We need to trade and cut deals. We need to maximise profit, minimise loss. I’ve got to keep my job. Money talks. Business is not charity. “Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness. I am kind to everyone, but when someone is unkind to me, weak is not what you are going to remember about me.” This quote, attributed to big-time 19th century New York gangster Al Capone, pretty much paints today’s reality in the world of trade and industry.

The grave problem here is, the terms and objects of transactions are more than inanimate commodities. For some parts of the world, and in some societies, people are the goods and services. Yes, we cannot turn a blind eye to this. Prostitution, slavery, child labour, sweatshop industries, exploitation of wages/lives/trust/hope of refugees and the common man… these today are the ills of our world. In the words of Pope Francis, “This is terrorism too.”

The first reading from the Book of Nahum gives us a clue about the extent of man’s igornance, sin, and indifference to sin.

Woe to the city soaked in blood,
full of lies,
stuffed with booty,
whose plunderings know no end!
…a mass of wounded,
hosts of dead,
countless corpses;
they stumble over the dead.

Isn’t this image so real even today? Stories of garment factories in India who have utter disregard for fire regulations cause hundreds of their workers to perish by fire. Captains of the South Korean MV Sewol Ferry who told their passengers, numbering hundreds and with school children onboard, to stay in their cabins as the ferry capsizes – just so they themselves could escape in the limited numbers of lifeboats. Thousands of migrant construction workers (from India, Nepal, and elsewhere) who die from extreme working conditions in Qatar in the frantic infrastructure construction surrounding the 2022 World Cup stadium. These are but some examples of how our cities are indeed soaked in blood.

I do not have the answer for such clearly complex and wicked problems – so many actors and layers of decision-making are at play here. However, Jesus poses the ultimate question: “What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?” At the end of the day, it boils down to each individual and our personal encounter with Christ who hangs before us on the Cross, asking: “Do you choose me? If you want to be a follower of mine, will you renounce yourself and take up your cross and follow me?”

Are there any big and small decisions you face today that Jesus is asking you to surrender and obey Him? Are there any seemingly banal choices that we make each day which may seem insignificant, but are actually grounded in ethical and moral dimensions? Let us pause and confront this heartless and maddening marketplace for what it is. The Lord is calling us out of our distractions/obsessions/compulsions – to ponder and cherish the dignity of each human life formed in His divine image. How shall we honour our Heavenly Father? What is God revealing to you at this moment? Truly, when it comes down to our last breath, nothing we own in this world can be used for barter with God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: May our hearts be open today to receive the correction that Jesus lovingly points out. There is nothing beyond His forgiveness. He has the message of true and eternal life.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, for loving me while I was still a sinner mired in my own chaos and ignorance. Lift me up with Your mercy and help me bring glory to You with my life and my choices.

29 May, Sunday – One, Holy, Catholic

29 May – The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi Sunday)

Corpus Christi (Body and Blood of Christ) is a Eucharistic solemnity, or better, the solemn commemoration of the institution of that sacrament. It is, moreover, the Church’s official act of homage and gratitude to Christ, who by instituting the Holy Eucharist gave to the Church her greatest treasure. Holy Thursday, assuredly, marks the anniversary of the institution, but the commemoration of the Lord’s passion that very night suppresses the rejoicing proper to the occasion. Today’s observance, therefore, accents the joyous aspect of Holy Thursday.

The Mass and the Office for the feast was edited or composed by St. Thomas Aquinas upon the request of Pope Urban IV in the year 1264. It is unquestionably a classic piece of liturgical work, wholly in accord with the best liturgical traditions. . . It is a perfect work of art.

— Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.

In the words of St. Thomas of Aquinas:

“How inestimable a dignity, beloved brethren, divine bounty has bestowed upon us Christians from the treasury of its infinite goodness! For there neither is nor ever has been a people to whom the gods were so nigh as our Lord and God is nigh unto us.
“Desirous that we be made partakers of His divinity, the only-begotten Son of God has taken to Himself our nature so that having become man, He would be enabled to make men gods. Whatever He assumed of our nature He wrought unto our salvation. For on the altar of the Cross He immolated to the Father His own Body as victim for our reconciliation and shed His blood both for our ransom and for our regeneration. Moreover, in order that a remembrance of so great benefits may always be with us, He has left us His Body as food and His Blood as drink under appearances of bread and wine.

“O banquet most precious! O banquet most admirable! O banquet overflowing with every spiritual delicacy! Can anything be more excellent than this repast, in which not the flesh of goats and heifers, as of old, but Christ the true God is given us for nourishment? What more wondrous than this holy sacrament! In it bread and wine are changed substantially, and under the appearance of a little bread and wine is had Christ Jesus, God and perfect Man. In this sacrament sins are purged away, virtues are increased, the soul is satiated with an abundance of every spiritual gift. No other sacrament is so beneficial. Since it was instituted unto the salvation of all, it is offered by Holy Church for the living and for the dead, that all may share in its treasures.

“My dearly beloved, is it not beyond human power to express the ineffable delicacy of this sacrament in which spiritual sweetness is tasted in its very source, in which is brought to mind the remembrance of that all-excelling charity which Christ showed in His sacred passion? Surely it was to impress more profoundly upon the hearts of the faithful the immensity of this charity that our loving Savior instituted this sacrament at the last supper when, having celebrated the Pasch with His disciples. He was about to leave the world and return to the Father. It was to serve as an unending remembrance of His passion, as the fulfillment of ancient types — this the greatest of His miracles. To those who sorrow over His departure He has given a unique solace.”

(Source: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2016-05-29)

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Genesis 14:18-20

Melchizedek king of Salem brought bread and wine; he was a priest of God Most High. He pronounced this blessing:

‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, creator of heaven and earth,
and blessed be God Most High for handing over your enemies to you.’
And Abram gave him a tithe of everything.

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1 Corinthians 11:23-26

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 ©
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.

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Luke 9:11-17

Jesus made the crowds welcome and talked to them about the kingdom of God; and he cured those who were in need of healing.

It was late afternoon when the Twelve came to him and said, ‘Send the people away, and they can go to the villages and farms round about to find lodging and food; for we are in a lonely place here.’ He replied, ‘Give them something to eat yourselves.’ But they said, ‘We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we are to go ourselves and buy food for all these people’ For there were about five thousand men. But he said to his disciples, ‘Get them to sit down in parties of about fifty.’ They did so and made them all sit down. Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven, and said the blessing over them; then he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute among the crowd. They all ate as much as they wanted, and when the scraps remaining were collected they filled twelve baskets.

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Give them food yourself

Sometimes it’s easier to think that God is too mighty for the small things. Why would He want to feed the people who were listening to Him that day?Because the Lord, by His nature cares, loves and is Our Father.

For many years, once my siblings and I started working, we would celebrate Father’s Day at a nice restaurant. On some years, we brought along a card, and scribbled in it “our should have beens”. I did not give much thought about how this made my father feel, but somewhere down the line, I realised that he was not enjoying these celebrations very much. So I pressed on to find out how he would like to mark that day. And his response was his desire to feed us. He wanted to go to the market early in the morning and cook a fine meal for us, adorned with his labour of love. I could not understand how giving us a meal was celebrating him at all. Weren’t we supposed to give and not receive on his special day?

This is the beauty of a good parent. They want to nurture, to feed, to sacrifice, to give and give all along. Just like Father God, my earthly father wanted to give to us. And the more I try to understand my own father, I see the unconditional love as crafted by the Maker of Love.

The gift of the Lord, in His body and blood, is unmerited and undeserved. We cannot earn it but it’s an invitation to each baptised Catholic. He knew on the day He was betrayed, that we (His children) would need Him to be with us always and to be One with Him. He was fully aware of its costs, yet it did not stop Him nor make Him compromise. Like any good father, He did not want to compromise what we needed… which is Him. He created our hearts and He knew that we needed Him always. And He asks us to do it in memory of Him.

If today, like me, you feel unworthy, remember that Judas ate and drank at the Lord’s table. And so did Peter. Both of whom betrayed the Lord, in their own ways. Our God is not expecting us to bring anything to this table of love. He sees the heart of a repentant sinner and He runs out to clasp us in a tight embrace… offered as the Eucharistic host we receive at mass.

Today, as we received His body and His blood, let us be fully aware of the beauty of being One with God and with His church brings. Let us remember all those who ate at this table. Let us reach out to all those who are no longer One with us. Be reminded that our disputes are not greater than His Eucharistic Sacrament.

You precious child of God, you are not the sum of your talents, wealth, personality or popularity but the Love of a Father who was broken just for you.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Father in Heaven, help us to live and love as One Body.

Thanksgiving: You have made us One with you, we thank you Lord.