Tag Archives: sacrifice

6 November, Sunday – The Lord gives us strength!

6 November

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2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14

There were seven brothers who were arrested with their mother. The king tried to force them to taste pig’s flesh, which the Law forbids, by torturing them with whips and scourges. One of them, acting as spokesman for the others, said, ‘What are you trying to find out from us? We are prepared to die rather than break the laws of our ancestors.’

With his last breath the second brother exclaimed, ‘Inhuman fiend, you may discharge us from this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up, since it is for his laws that we die, to live again for ever.’

After him, they amused themselves with the third, who on being asked for his tongue promptly thrust it out and boldly held out his hands, with these honourable words, ‘It was heaven that gave me these limbs; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again.’ The king and his attendants were astounded at the young man’s courage and his utter indifference to suffering.

When this one was dead they subjected the fourth to the same savage torture. When he neared his end he cried, ‘Ours is the better choice, to meet death at men’s hands, yet relying on God’s promise that we shall be raised up by him; whereas for you there can be no resurrection, no new life.’

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2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father who has given us his love and, through his grace, such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope, comfort you and strengthen you in everything good that you do or say.

Finally, brothers, pray for us; pray that the Lord’s message may spread quickly, and be received with honour as it was among you; and pray that we may be preserved from the interference of bigoted and evil people, for faith is not given to everyone. But the Lord is faithful, and he will give you strength and guard you from the evil one, and we, in the Lord, have every confidence that you are doing and will go on doing all that we tell you. May the Lord turn your hearts towards the love of God and the fortitude of Christ.

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Luke 20:27-38

Some Sadducees – those who say that there is no resurrection – approached him and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, that if a man’s married brother dies childless, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Well then, there were seven brothers. The first, having married a wife, died childless. The second and then the third married the widow. And the same with all seven, they died leaving no children. Finally the woman herself died Now, at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she had been married to all seven?’

Jesus replied, ‘The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the dead do not marry because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God. And Moses himself implies that the dead rise again, in the passage about the bush where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.’

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“I shall be filled, when I awake, with the sight of your glory, O Lord”

I used to have a recurring nightmare for years.  In this particular dream, I was brought before a judge, who asked me to make a public statement that I did not believe Jesus was my Lord and Savior.  I remember the anxiety and stress of that moment.  Strangely, I also remember the immense intensity of the temptation to do that in order to save my life.  The words the judge spoke also stuck with me, so much so that I can even remember it today: “Just say that you don’t think that Jesus is your Lord…it’s so easy… you can go home after that!”.

Because of this dream, I have always wondered (actually… it is more like fear) what I would do if I were put in the situation one day.  Would I turn on my Lord?  Would I be able to stand up to torture and death like what happened to the brothers in the first reading of today?

I got my answer one day when I attended a talk by the Archbishop of Singapore, the most reverend William Goh.  He exalted us to not even worry about it or even think about such a thing… because if and when the time comes, God would give us the strength and wisdom to act accordingly! What wonderful faith!  I also realized that my fears came about because I had been looking at this from the angle of my personal strength.  I had forgotten about the strength that God alone could give me!

Another realization I had was that the brothers were also able to stand up for their faith because of their support for each other. I have also experienced this in my own life, as brothers and sisters of the community support each other through all the trials and challenges together.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

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Prayer: Lord, help us to always be able to stand up for our faith. Be with us when we face challenges, especially when we are called upon to stand up for You.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for the gift of community; through which You give us strength to walk our lives in faith. Thank you for not giving us more than what we can bear. Praise you Jesus!

1 November, Tuesday – A happy future

1 November – Solemnity of All Saints

All Saints’ Day is celebrated in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. In terms of Roman Catholic theology, the feast commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in heaven. The beatific vision is the eternal and direct perception of God enjoyed by those who are in Heaven, imparting supreme happiness and blessedness. St. Thomas Aquinas defined the beatific vision as the ultimate end of human existence after physical death.

The origin of this feast as celebrated in the West dates to 13 May 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs; the feast of the dedication Sanctae mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. The chosen day, May 13, was a pagan observation of great antiquity, the culmination of three days of the Feast of the Lemures, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated.

The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III (731-741) of an oratory in St. Peter’s for the relics “of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world”, with the day moved to Nov 1.

– Wikipedia

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Apocalypse 7:2-4,9-14

I, John, saw another angel rising where the sun rises, carrying the seal of the living God; he called in a powerful voice to the four angels whose duty was to devastate land and sea, ‘Wait before you do any damage on land or at sea or to the trees, until we have put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.’ Then I heard how many were sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel.

After that I saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. They shouted aloud, ‘Victory to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels who were standing in a circle round the throne, surrounding the elders and the four animals, prostrated themselves before the throne, and touched the ground with their foreheads, worshipping God with these words, ‘Amen. Praise and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength to our God for ever and ever. Amen.’

One of the elders then spoke, and asked me, ‘Do you know who these people are, dressed in white robes, and where they have come from?’ I answered him, ‘You can tell me, my lord.’ Then he said, ‘These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.’

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1 John 3:1-3

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us,
by letting us be called God’s children;
and that is what we are.

Because the world refused to acknowledge him,
therefore it does not acknowledge us.

My dear people, we are already the children of God
but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed;

all we know is, that when it is revealed
we shall be like him
because we shall see him as he really is.

Surely everyone who entertains this hope
must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.

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Matthew 5:1-12

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:

‘How happy are the poor in spirit;
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:
they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn:
they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right:
they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful:
they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart:
they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers:
they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’

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Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.

There are days when I wonder if all the stress I go through now in this world is all worth it. There are many deadlines to meet for various projects and having to manage the expectations of many people around us. The readings of today remind us that our time on this world is meant to be temporary. It does not mean that it is supposed to be meaningless because God has placed us on this world to spread the love He has shown us to all around us. In doing so, we will receive the eternal reward which will belong to us in the future.

The Beatitudes are a beautiful way of instructing us on what actions will receive a blessing from God. It is for us to emulate such behaviour as many before us have already done so. For example, the martyrs who would rather suffer torture and persecution, instead of renouncing the faith, are a good reference point for us. They lived out the Beatitudes with their lives and were willing to use their lives to bring people closer to God. The Gospel reading of today is a blueprint for us to live our lives. Indeed, if all of us could even strive towards this standard, we will definitely be on route to heaven.

St John reminds us that we are God’s children and as God’s children we will definitely become like him in the future. As such, we should look forward to the reward which God is granting us and to always anticipate the future. This world may be tough for some of us but we should not let it hinder us in our final aim, which is to be in union with God. Persecution is indeed something which all of us go through – be it physical, mental, emotional and intellectual, regardless of where we live. What distinguishes us from others is the hope we have in God and the certainty of our eternal reward.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace to live out the Beatitudes.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who bring peace to the world.

27 October, Thursday – Bye Felicia!

27 October

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Ephesians 6:10-20

Grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of his power. Put God’s armour on so as to be able to resist the devil’s tactics. For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the Sovereignties and the Powers who originate the darkness in this world, the spiritual army of evil in the heavens. That is why you must rely on God’s armour, or you will not be able to put up any resistance when the worst happens, or have enough resources to hold your ground.

So stand your ground, with truth buckled round your waist, and integrity for a breastplate, wearing for shoes on your feet the eagerness to spread the gospel of peace and always carrying the shield of faith so that you can use it to put out the burning arrows of the evil one. And then you must accept salvation from God to be your helmet and receive the word of God from the Spirit to use as a sword.
Pray all the time, asking for what you need, praying in the Spirit on every possible occasion. Never get tired of staying awake to pray for all the saints; and pray for me to be given an opportunity to open my mouth and speak without fear and give out the mystery of the gospel of which I am an ambassador in chains; pray that in proclaiming it I may speak as boldly as I ought to.

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Luke 13:31-35

Some Pharisees came up. ‘Go away’ they said. ‘Leave this place, because Herod means to kill you.’ He replied, ‘You may go and give that fox this message: Learn that today and tomorrow I cast out devils and on the third day attain my end. But for today and tomorrow and the next day I must go on, since it would not be right for a prophet to die outside Jerusalem.

‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you refused! So be it! Your house will be left to you. Yes, I promise you, you shall not see me till the time comes when you say:

‘Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!’

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Grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of his power.

I have found myself becoming very short of patience lately. I guess we all go through cycles like that, when we feel run over by people whose sole putpose in life seems to be to take as much as they can get, without ever giving back. Takers are tiring to be around. Their ‘Dementor-like’ demeanors suck the joy out of any occasion. They’re never happy and they refuse to allow anyone else to be happy when they’re around. Exhausting! Jerusalem in today’s gospel reminds me so much of people like that. The Bible is old as eternity, yet its echoes are as fresh as if they were yesterday. Why? Because people are inherently the same! The one certainty in life is that there will always be ingratitude in our lives. Jesus had to deal with it over and over, and in some sense, gave us the playbook for how to handle ingrates without losing our mind. He died for the ingrates in his life, asking for forgiveness on their behalf with his last breath. Most of us would have just cursed them on the cross. Not him. Yesterday, we touched on the ‘narrow gate’, how to love someone who doesn’t allow you to love them back. You know you’re at the ‘narrow gate’ when you can find in your heart the ability to love the takers and the users in your life.

I’ve been feeling run down lately, and I think part of the reason is that I’ve let the ingrates in my life suck the joy out of me. “Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power” it seems. I wish sometimes, that my Lord would rescue me, ‘Superman like’, from all the users, the takers, the no-good-backstabbers, the complainers, the Polly-Put-Downs who won’t be happy and refuse to let me be happy as a result. Yes, I am sensitive to barbed words and passive aggressive plays. Who wouldn’t be? I am not so strong that I can just let their arrows bounce off me. Yet I know that in tears and suffering, the cadences of the Holy Spirit are all the clearer. “Draw your strength from the Lord and his mighty power”. We hear his voice, not with our ears, but with our hearts, and when we are heartbroken, we are most attuned to his voice. I’ve found my Lord in my exhaustion and despair. He has opened his playbook for me to see, and made it clear that as tired as I am, what I feel now is not even a half measure of the suffering he endured on the cross for me. So I have to gird myself up and hold on to my joy, because my joy should come not from the affirmation of people in my life. My joy should come from him. To the rest of the ingrates – bye Felicia!

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for the fortitude to draw on the Lord’s mighty power in times of stress.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for His great love for us, that while we were unworthy, he died for us on the cross.

14 September, Wednesday – Do For Him

14 September – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

The feast was celebrated in Rome before the end of the 7th century. Its purpose is to commemorate the recovering of that portion of the Holy Cross which was preserved at Jerusalem, and which had fallen into the hands of the Persians. Emperor Heraclius recovered this precious relic and brought it back to Jerusalem on 3 May 629.

– Patron Saints Index

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Numbers 21:4-9

On the way through the wilderness the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’

At this God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. The people came and said to Moses, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede for us with the Lord to save us from these serpents.’ Moses interceded for the people, and the Lord answered him, ‘Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.’ So Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard, and if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived.

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Philippians 2:6-11

His state was divine,
yet Christ Jesus did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

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John 3:13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who came down from heaven,
the Son of Man who is in heaven;
and the Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.’

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God loved the world so much

We meet with many struggles at the different stages of our lives here on Earth. These struggles are depicted both in the old and new testaments. Up until today, people continue to struggle for their freedom. On a more peaceful and personal level, perhaps from where I come from, we struggle with meeting expectations to be seen as successful. At these tough moments, where we come across an obstacle in our life, we question why we are being led to this stage. We prayed to get out of a sticky situation, and then we blame God again for leading us to the next obstacle. We are hard to please isn’t it?

Today’s reading, we are reminded of God’s mercy towards us. The Lord has given us love, forgiveness, life eternal when we felt like we are too tired for anything else. He gave us Jesus, who died to be the saviour of the world. These are all heavenly things that is given to us because He love us so. He had made this world, created us to be the good people He likes to see us as. The cross and the passion are images and a message for us to be reminded of the world He has created it for. For us to embrace the positivity and yet reality of life with the purpose of being obedient and living fully in His name.

When there are others whom you have difficulty working with, when we reach a very sad and difficult issue to deal with in our everyday lives, when we are not able to meet the expectations of our loved ones, disappointing them, and always hoping not to lose them, we should try to turn to God asking for the heavenly gifts in getting us through. We remind ourselves that we are not doing it for our personal gain, we do it in the name of Jesus, that we are motivated to strive in work that pleases Him. In this way, we are able to know what is of more importance and continue to get motivated for a fulfilling life here on Earth.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

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Thanksgiving: We lift up our worries and struggles everyday, so that You may guide us to live a more fulfilling life with our loved ones.

Prayer: Let me look beyond the difficulties that I often encounter, but to give thanks and count the blessings of what You have given me.

14 August, Sunday – Keeping The Peace Or Copping Out?

14 August – 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (& Vigil Mass for Solemnity of the Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary)

Dear Readers,

Today we post two sets of Sunday readings and reflections. The second set is for the Vigil Mass on the evening before the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (on Monday), where in some regions of the world, it is celebrated on the Sunday.

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20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 38:4-6,8-10

The king’s leading men spoke to the king. ‘Let Jeremiah be put to death: he is unquestionably disheartening the remaining soldiers in the city, and all the people too, by talking like this. The fellow does not have the welfare of this people at heart so much as its ruin.’ ‘He is in your hands as you know,’ King Zedekiah answered ‘for the king is powerless against you.’ So they took Jeremiah and threw him into the well of Prince Malchiah in the Court of the Guard, letting him down with ropes. There was no water in the well, only mud, and into the mud Jeremiah sank.

Ebed-melech came out from the palace and spoke to the king. ‘My lord king,’ he said ‘these men have done a wicked thing by treating the prophet Jeremiah like this: they have thrown him into the well, where he will die.’ At this the king gave Ebed-melech the Cushite the following order: ‘Take three men with you from here and pull the prophet Jeremiah out of the well before he dies.’

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Hebrews 12:1-4

With so many witnesses in a great cloud on every side of us, we too, then, should throw off everything that hinders us, especially the sin that clings so easily, and keep running steadily in the race we have started. Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which was still in the future, he endured the cross, disregarding the shamefulness of it, and from now on has taken his place at the right of God’s throne. Think of the way he stood such opposition from sinners and then you will not give up for want of courage. In the fight against sin, you have not yet had to keep fighting to the point of death.

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Luke 12:49-53

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!

‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’

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Do you think I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.

In every family, there will come a time when one has to decide whether to hold one’s tongue or speak up to correct an injustice, and risk being ostracized. It’s all well and good to be supportive and try to keep the peace. After all, we’re encouraged to band together to protect one another and preserve our way of life. But what if that way of life is flawed? Do we still hold our silence, because family comes before fairness? There’s an old saying, that it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to abuse one. That’s the case with any form of abuse though, isn’t it? Child, spousal, parental, even animal. Darkness prevails because good people are silent. What happens when we see something but do nothing about it? Doesn’t that make us complicit then, an accessory to wrong-doing?

Jeremiah didn’t shy away from conflict, not even when it landed him, quite literally, in a pile of sh*t. He embraced being ostracized. Wanting to be well-liked welds us to the collective and is its own form of captivity. We are silenced by our need to belong. Jesus was even more controversial, going so far as to say, “I have come to set the earth on fire…”. He wasn’t worried about fitting in. He didn’t care who he upset. What about us? Do we take our ‘peace keeping’ so seriously that we are ready to compromise our values and morals?

“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood” (Heb 12:4). Our Christ showed us the way, enduring the cross for our sakes. When he died, he died alone, true to his message and his mission. He shed blood, sweat and tears for us. So what then, are we willing to shed for him? What are we willing to sacrifice to fulfil his mission for us?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the strength to take the high road, even when that road is a hard and lonely one.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, that inspires us and informs our conscience, that informs our moral compass and grants us the ability to discern right from wrong.

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Solemnity of Assumption of BVM: Vigil Mass

1 Chronicles 15:3-4,15-16,16:1-2

David gathered all Israel together to bring the ark of God up to the place he had prepared for it. David called together the sons of Aaron and the sons of Levi. And the Levites carried the ark of God with the shafts on their shoulders, as Moses had ordered in accordance with the word of the Lord.

David then told the heads of the Levites to assign duties for their kinsmen as cantors, with their various instruments of music, harps and lyres and cymbals, to play joyful tunes.

They brought the ark of God in and put it inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and they offered holocausts before God, and communion sacrifices. And when David had finished offering holocausts and communion sacrifices, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord.

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1 Corinthians 15:54-57

When this perishable nature has put on imperishability, and when this mortal nature has put on immortality, then the words of scripture will come true: Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting? Now the sting of death is sin, and sin gets its power from the Law. So let us thank God for giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Luke 11:27-28

As Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, ‘Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!’ But he replied, ‘Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!’

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Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it

Ever since Dad passed away in January, I’ve become obsessed with death, grief and the passing of things. What actually happens when we die? No one has ever come back to inform the living, not directly at least, and not in our lifetimes. Is my father in heaven? Is he in purgatory? Is he at peace or in pain? Does purgatory hurt? My mother, a huge champion of the faith, tells me that I ought to be more diligent with offering up masses for him because it will speed up his purification. She is convinced that it works. And I, knowing no better, can’t rebut her on it. Does it work? Is he really at peace? People tell me Dad’s in a better place. How would they know, if they’ve never been there themselves?

“Blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it” (Lk 11:28). Our Blessed Virgin Mary did that – “she treasured all these messages and continually pondered over them.” (Lk 2:19). She didn’t know better, but she didn’t feel the need to either. She just believed. Her faith informed her and it was enough. She took in faith that what was proclaimed by the angel would come true. It was enough to accept the path her son would have to walk, she didn’t need all the details upfront. True observance of The Word requires that we believe and accept because that’s the definition of faith – “…faith is the assurance of what we hope for, the certainty of what we cannot see” (Heb 11:1). Our risen Christ said to Thomas, “You believe because you see me, don’t you? Happy are those who have not seen and believe” (Jn 20:29). And so we are told to take in faith that with death, the faithful are ushered into a new arising.

I’m trying to make peace with it. In searching for answers, I’ve turned to Scripture and the analogies that Christ left for us about the transforming power of death – “…unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn 12: 24). I don’t completely understand the full weight of the verse, but in my heart, there is some comfort that perhaps death is but a new beginning, a new arising? Maybe Dad really is happier and in a better place. I just have to take it in faith.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for those who have left the land of the living, that they have found peace with God and are free from pain and suffering.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the mercy, healing and redeeming power of Christ, who saves us from our self doubts.

19 June, Sunday – Trusting in the Lord

19 June

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Zechariah 12:10-11,13:1

It is the Lord who speaks: ‘Over the House of David and the citizens of Jerusalem I will pour out a spirit of kindness and prayer. They will look on the one whom they have pierced; they will mourn for him as for an only son, and weep for him as people weep for a first-born child. When that day comes, there will be great mourning in Judah, like the mourning of Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. When that day comes, a fountain will be opened for the House of David and the citizens of Jerusalem, for sin and impurity.’

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Galatians 3:26-29

You are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.

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Luke 9:18-24

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.’

Then to all he said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it.’

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“My soul clings to You”

My family and I have just gone to watch Les Misérables. This was a fantastic experience and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Despite having watched this in earlier productions on stage and the theatre, the story continues to enthrall us.

When watching the story, one cannot help but wonder how Jean Valjean, the main character, is able to always choose to do the right thing despite the challenges he faced. He chose to forgive, and in fact, help, Javert, the policeman who oversaw his nineteen year stay in a French prison. He chose to make the tough decisions in helping those around him, putting himself at risk when doing so. I have imagined what I would have done had I found myself in the same position.

It is one of the main reasons why this musical continues to resonate with me.

Just a warning for those who do not know the storyline of Les Misérables; spoilers are coming up ahead.

The theme of “renouncing oneself” can be seen in what Jesus taught in today’s gospel, and He asks us to do this exact thing. When I first heard this passage, I found it difficult to accept; it felt very much like a motherhood statement; which sounds great on paper and seriously difficult to carry out. Yet when we look at the life of our Lord Jesus, we see Him doing as he preached; praying for those who had hurt Him and put Him on the cross, while dying on that same cross.

A daily choice has to be made when “renouncing oneself”. Jean Valjean demonstrated this in his decision to confess to the court that they had, in fact, arrested the wrong man. He could have kept quiet and allowed the man to be sentenced in his stead. He would then have been able to wipe his slate clean and to enjoy his status as a politician and a businessman! Yet, he chose to do the right thing! Such a choice certainly did not come easy. However, we see that at the end, the decision Jean Valjean made to renounce himself had set him free instead.

Similarly, we need to be able to surrender ourselves. It is only in doing so that we demonstrate our trust in our God. We truly give up “control” over our own situations and leave it to our God to provide and to protect us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Help us Father to always have the courage and strength to do the right thing and surrender ourselves. That we may be filled with the wisdom to recognize areas in our lives where we can continue to grow.

Thanksgiving – Thank You Father for guiding and loving us. Thank You for always taking care of us as we continue to grow in faith in You.

19 May, Thursday – Cutting Off Hands and Feet

19 May

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James 5:1-6

An answer for the rich. Start crying, weep for the miseries that are coming to you. Your wealth is all rotting, your clothes are all eaten up by moths. All your gold and your silver are corroding away, and the same corrosion will be your own sentence, and eat into your body. It was a burning fire that you stored up as your treasure for the last days. Labourers mowed your fields, and you cheated them – listen to the wages that you kept back, calling out; realise that the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. On earth you have had a life of comfort and luxury; in the time of slaughter you went on eating to your heart’s content. It was you who condemned the innocent and killed them; they offered you no resistance.

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Mark 9:41-50

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.

‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go out. For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is a good thing, but if salt has become insipid, how can you season it again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.’

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And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off.

How serious are you about going to heaven? What would you sacrifice to ensure your sanctity? Cutting off one’s hands and feet seem like an extreme case in this day. Of course, we are against mutilating our bodies but when we think about it, there are many things in our lives that we could cut off so we can ensure we can meet our Lord.

There are many versions of the Act of Contrition and one line struck me from one of the versions. The penitent, in expressing contrition, also resolves, with the help of God’s grace, ‘to avoid the near occasions of sin.’ We have to acknowledge that we are vulnerable beings with a tendency to sin and that we are not strong enough to resist temptation without God’s grace. So we need to have a battle plan to increase our chances of success: that is to cut off the parts in our lives that lead us to sin, to avoid these ‘near occasions of sin’. Is it your career? Is it a relationship? Is it an addiction?

I have been contemplating for several years if I should go back to the Philippines for good. But one of my considerations is whether I can enjoy the same spiritual support as I enjoy here in Singapore. It is true that Philippines is a Catholic country but because many are cradle Catholics, many of us take our faith for granted. As embarrassing as it can be, I end up neglecting my prayer life whenever I am on vacation in the Philippines. I know that when that happens, it will be easy to forget God and my relationship with Him. So as much as I want to go home, I need to cut off this dream for now and keep on praying for the strength to hold on to God should the time come when I am called back to the Philippines.

What one needs to cut off from one’s life may not be so ‘great’. Perhaps, it’s even just cutting down on TV time, or maybe, cutting down on the time you watch videos on your way home and instead, using that extra time to pray or to read up on our faith. We always have access to God’s graces in order to avoid temptation but I imagine ourselves to be like a cup — we are limited in the amount that we can hold. So if we need more graces, let’s empty our cups and ‘cut off’ those that prevent us from receiving God’s love.

I invite you, my friends, to pray to God to reveal to you what is it that you need to cut off from your life in order that you can be closer to God. And if you feel that he is asking you to cut off something big, practice by ‘cutting off’ something small. Perhaps, a small fast will help in increasing your generosity and spirit of surrender, until you are ready to totally ‘cut off’ that which is keeping you from God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord, please shower me with the graces I need to overcome temptation. And if there is something you want me to ‘cut off’ from my life, give the the humility and the generosity to do so.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for always making your graces available to me. You have already conquered sin, help us conquer our personal sins. Amen.

Sunday, 27 Jul – Lost and Found Treasure

27 Jul – Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 

The Treasure We Have Found

Solomon prayed for the wisdom to discern the true value of things. We scarcely need the wisdom of Solomon to realise that in finding the love of God and the kingdom of God we have found a treasure beyond price. It is in the joy of this realisation that we hold our celebration today.

– The Sunday Missal

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1 Kings 3:5,7-12

The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, ‘Ask what you would like me to give you.’ Solomon replied, ‘O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in succession to David my father. But I am a very young man, unskilled in leadership. Your servant finds himself in the midst of this people of yours that you have chosen, a people so many its number cannot be counted or reckoned. Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil, for who could govern this people of yours that is so great?’ It pleased the Lord that Solomon should have asked for this. ‘Since you have asked for this’ the Lord said ‘and not asked for long life for yourself or riches or the lives of your enemies, but have asked for a discerning judgement for yourself, here and now I do what you ask. I give you a heart wise and shrewd as none before you has had and none will have after you.’

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Romans 8:28-30

We know that by turning everything to their good, God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those he has called according to his purpose. They are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son, so that his Son might be the eldest of many brothers. He called those he intended for this; those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory.

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Matthew 13:44-52

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea that brings in a haul of all kinds. When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in a basket and throw away those that are no use. This is how it will be at the end of time: the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the just to throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.

‘Have you understood all this?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ And he said to them, ‘Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old.’

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God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those he has called according to his purpose.

Where is your treasure? Rather, what amongst all you presently own in this life, do you count as your prized possession, your paramount treasure? The readings today posed a very difficult question to me. I was confronted and put in an awkward corner. My treasure is my intellectual achievements and reputation. By naming these two things, I don’t mean that I am incredibly intelligent or that I am of stellar social status. What I am actually saying is, these things are the treasured pearls I hope to find, much like the merchant.

Because I pride these as the most valuable things to own in my life, a good repute and intellectual accolades, that I am willing to barter or surrender almost all that I have in exchange for these material tokens. I probably have more in my checklist of “to-have’s” that I’ve yet to unpack, but I’m afraid to peer into this sack of hang-ups any longer.

King Solomon in our first reading today asked for only one thing ‘Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil’ (1 Kings 3:9). I found this prayer request a little uncannily like the desire that Adam and Eve had in the Garden – grasping at the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen 2:17). If their desire was bad, why did God praise and honour Solomon’s prayer for the ability to discern between good and evil – and so blessed him with ‘a heart wise and shrewd as none before you has had and none will have after you’ (1 Kings 3:12)? The clue is the intention and motivation behind the desire – which clearly, God knew. Solomon wanted this wisdom to discern how to rule and govern ‘this people of Yours that is so great’. Whereas Adam and Eve desired this wisdom to serve their own power and need for control – they saw it as a way they could be like God.

We are challenged today to consider what we count as our true treasure. If we only see this life as all we have, and Eternal life as a kind of ‘bonus level’ which we can get to, but not necessarily of paramount importance, then our approach to life on earth would quite easily be, “I just want to get the highest score in this level” – which might translate to the intellectual accolades, the wildest material possessions, and top-notch experiences one can get out of one’s time here.

However, as true Christians we will find that as we cleave closer to our Heavenly Father who knows us through and through, the way of purification will have us gradually finding less satisfaction and less ‘kick’ out of accruing whatever this world has to offer. We will begin to evaluate our choices and life decisions differently. Old ways of measures seem to no longer hold up, or previous acquisitions seem to now leave a smarting taste where once we’d be savouring power and status. The latest car model, the shiny jewel, the job promotion so that I can take that Alaska cruise next year, etc… These things in and of themselves are not bad – but if we think that this is all for us to ring in purely to level up in our own circles, then we would have cast our eyes and hearts only in the soil of the world. Not in the Kingdom of Heaven. Solomon’s one true desire was to harness his power and authority to better serve God’s people, for God’s glory and honour.

I have been consistently challenged to exchange my old ways of measuring for God’s Kingdom values. Yes, it is truly hard to strive for unseen eternal goals when clearly, we are people of the flesh. We need tangible comforts to feel that we are on the right track. A priest shared a profound anecdote with me today, “You can only buy the heart of God with your last coin.” The irony is we could still falsely think we can buy our way into heaven. This proverb reminds me of the widow who offered her last coin in the temple, and the parables Jesus shared with the disciples in today’s Gospel reading – the happy man is the one who sells everything because of the true treasure he has found.

What am I hoarding right now that I am reluctant to offer up to God, still bargaining with Him to let me have both my possessions and His treasure? Lord, I must admit that I haven’t found you fully enough.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord Heavenly Father, help me to spend more time in silent adoration with you, to listen to your heartbeat – lest I grow dull and lose sight that you are my one true treasure.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the generosity and selflessness of those everywhere who are united with Christ in poverty and meekness. May they be our teachers.