Tag Archives: sharing the faith

26 January, Sunday – Unconditional Acceptance

26 January 2020

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Isaiah 8:23-9:3

In days past the Lord humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in days to come he will confer glory on the Way of the Sea on the far side of Jordan, province of the nations.

The people that walked in darkness
has seen a great light;
on those who live in a land of deep shadow
a light has shone.
You have made their gladness greater,
you have made their joy increase;
they rejoice in your presence
as men rejoice at harvest time,
as men are happy when they are dividing the spoils.

For the yoke that was weighing on him,
the bar across his shoulders,
the rod of his oppressor –
these you break as on the day of Midian.

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1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17

I appeal to you, brothers, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to make up the differences between you, and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, to be united again in your belief and practice. From what Chloe’s people have been telling me, my dear brothers, it is clear that there are serious differences among you. What I mean are all these slogans that you have, like: ‘I am for Paul’, ‘I am for Apollos’, ‘I am for Cephas’, ‘I am for Christ.’ Has Christ been parcelled out? Was it Paul that was crucified for you? Were you baptised in the name of Paul?
For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the Good News, and not to preach that in the terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed.

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Matthew 4:12-23

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

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

From that moment Jesus began his preaching with the message, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; they were making a cast in the lake with their net, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ And they left their nets at once and followed him. Going on from there he saw another pair of brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they were in their boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. At once, leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.

He went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness among the people.

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‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’

I once had a conversation with somebody regarding the role of laypeople in evangelisation and I discovered that the person came to know of the faith because of the encounter which she had with somebody who shared her faith in a gentle way over lunch. The readings of today remind me of this episode because it reminds me of the need for each one of us to evangelise and reach out to the people around us with patience.

Evangelisation is not going to public areas and shouting that Jesus loves you. That is one possible method but I do feel that there could be other ways in which the faith could reach out to the people. It is in the daily interaction we have with others – the kind word or sometimes the  unplanned meeting with somebody which allows us to discover that so much has happened in their lives. Evangelisation usually happens in our daily rhythm of life and we need to be ready for it. We can do so by preparing ourselves with scriptures and also by frequenting the Sacraments.

Sometimes we need to realise that the faith is a combination of us frequenting the Sacraments and interaction with others to share with them the joy we have discovered in our faith. Knowledge of Jesus does not stay in the church but goes outside of the Church. The joy of knowing the Gospel should be so overpowering that we want to go outside to the rest of the world and share with them this joy. As we begin another week, let us find an opportunity to share this faith with the next person we meet. I believe that God will guide the conversation and it may lead to a direction which we may never imagine.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to share with others the faith which you have given us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all catechists.

3 November, Sunday – Made Worthy

3 Nov 2019 – 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

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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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2 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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Our God will make you worthy of His call

It has always been a bit of a struggle for me to believe that God would want me to answer His call and be of service. Maybe a part of it is pride. Modern culture has taught us in many ways, to want to be served and not to serve. However, I think a large part of it is that I don’t think I am worthy. No, I don’t suffer from low self esteem, I have insecurities just like most people I know. If anything, I may suffer from too much pride at times. What I find hard to believe or to take in is that I can bring anything to the table. A banquet table set for a King, prepared by many talented, dedicated and faithful people.

In the faith study group I am participating in, we were talking about evangelization. This word always made me slightly uncomfortable. ‘Good manners’ has always taught us not to discuss politics or religion amongst other things, especially to strangers, acquaintances or friends, especially at the dinner table. I would have no qualms in discussing the Catholic faith with other Catholics, but would hesitate to engage in any meaningful conversation about my faith with non believers and other Christians. I have pondered about why I feel uncomfortable about sharing my faith when it is the best thing that has ever happened to me. There are two reasons that I can come up with. First, I feel that I haven’t learned enough about Catholicism, even though I have been a Catholic all my life. My faith is like the tides at a shoreline, it ebbs and flows throughout the years; and my focus has often been on more earthly matters. In other words, I feel that I am not knowledgeable enough to answer questions or defend any biased or unfair criticism of the Catholic faith. This leads directly and indirectly to the second reason. Fear. I am afraid. I am fearful of falling short of God’s expectations, and do more harm than good if I couldn’t answer others’ queries.  But deep down, I am fearful of being ridiculed, of not being cool or hip or whatever is the current term for awesomeness. In other words, fear of looking like a fool, stemming from pride.

I don’t have an immediate answer to solve the sin of pride. But after pondering over the faith study and today’s reading, it dawned on me that I am being really silly. Of course, I am not equipped nor qualified to do God’s work. I would run into walls if I tried it on my own. The key is to let Jesus take the wheel.  No, this is not a ‘cop out’. Think about it.  Left to our own devices, we surely would stumble due to our fallen human nature. Everything we have, everything we are, are all mercy and grace from our loving God. If we rely on Him, with continuous prayers and a sincere heart, He will hear us and make us worthy of His call. Then He can grant us the courage, the grace, the will to serve Him, and serve Him well. What we can’t overcome, our shyness, our fears or our reluctance, He can overcome if we truly humble ourselves and ask for His help. After all, He can make the impossible possible. He can make us worthy of Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, we truly love you and wish to do your will.  Please grant us the grace and faith to desire goodness and to heed your call.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for deeming us worthy and loving us, even when we feel that we are not worthy.

25 December, Mass in the Day – Everything

25 December

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Isaiah 52:7-10

How beautiful on the mountains,
are the feet of one who brings good news,
who heralds peace, brings happiness,
proclaims salvation,
and tells Zion,
‘Your God is king!’

Listen! Your watchmen raise their voices,
they shout for joy together,
for they see the Lord face to face,
as he returns to Zion.

Break into shouts of joy together,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord is consoling his people,
redeeming Jerusalem.

The Lord bares his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.

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Hebrews 1:1-6

At various times in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our own time, the last days, he has spoken to us through his Son, the Son that he has appointed to inherit everything and through whom he made everything there is. He is the radiant light of God’s glory and the perfect copy of his nature, sustaining the universe by his powerful command; and now that he has destroyed the defilement of sin, he has gone to take his place in heaven at the right hand of divine Majesty. So he is now as far above the angels as the title which he has inherited is higher than their own name.

God has never said to any angel: You are my Son, today I have become your father; or: I will be a father to him and he a son to me. Again, when he brings the First-Born into the world, he says: Let all the angels of God worship him.

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John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word:
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things came to be,
not one thing had its being but through him.
All that came to be had life in him
and that life was the light of men,
a light that shines in the dark,
a light that darkness could not overpower.

A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.

The Word was the true light
that enlightens all men;
and he was coming into the world.
He was in the world
that had its being through him,
and the world did not know him.
He came to his own domain
and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to all who believe in the name of him
who was born not out of human stock
or urge of the flesh
or will of man
but of God himself.

The Word was made flesh,
he lived among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father,
full of grace and truth.

John appears as his witness. He proclaims:
‘This is the one of whom I said:
He who comes after me ranks before me
because he existed before me.’

Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received –
yes, grace in return for grace,
since, though the Law was given through Moses,
grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God;
it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart,
who has made him known.

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“Through Him all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through Him.”

 Everything comes from God. This is easy to accept from a cocoon of comfort, earthly fulfilment, and perceived happiness. What is harder to fathom, are the hurts, disappointments, and injustice in our world that we have all come to experience over the course of our lives. Even Jesus was not spared from such trials, which shaped His life and being in preparation for His role as the “radiant light of God’s glory and the perfect copy of His nature”.

Many times during my faith journey, I have asked our God who works wonders, to work miracles in my life. Many of my requests seemingly appeared unanswered, while God moulded and shaped me in His perfect ways, and perfect time; using me as His instrument. Just like how the prophets in the second reading, and John the Baptist did their part to prepare for Christ’s coming, we all serve God’s purposes for this earthly world in our unique way. This was not an easy realisation to arrive at, but rather was one forged in a crucible of prayer, meditation, reflection, and especially time with community.

For many, Christmas involves taking some well-deserved time off, and being with our communities of family and friends. During this holiday season however, many of us insulate ourselves from our trials, challenges, and difficult relationships only to have to face them head-on once the new year begins. We overindulge in food, drink, and superficial merriment, without truly acknowledging the healing we need and the brokenness within us. I’ve always asked myself if there is a better way to glorify God during this special season, while still celebrating the end of another year gone by. This year, I’ve decided to try something different and I invite you to join me.

Friends, let us take some time today to ponder on the events and people in our lives. The strokes of good luck, and the crosses that seem too heavy to bear, our hard-won successes, and catastrophic failures, the simple blessings, and the grating inconveniences. Our nearest and dearest, and the colleagues we barely tolerate, our childhood friends, and the new neighbours from abroad. Let us spend quality time building authentic relationships with the people God has called into our lives, and let us acknowledge God’s hand in every person and circumstance in our lives. Let us make this Christmas season a meaningful one that nourishes our hearts and minds, and not just our bodies.

May God fill us with the grace to accept His plans for us, just as He wove the haphazard events of His own son’s life into a tapestry of love that fills our hearts and homes from today until eternity.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer: Lord, we ask for the child-like faith to trust in you no matter what comes our way. Fill us with wonder and gratitude as we journey with you in this life.  

Thanksgiving: Dearest Father, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for everything and everyone that you bring into our lives as you patiently nurture us to be instruments of your will.

25 December, Midnight Mass – Love and Sacrifice

Dec 25 – Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord

The name “Christmas” was derived from Old English: “Cristes Maesse”, Christ’s Mass. It is a celebration of the anniversary of the birth of our Lord. In the earliest days of the Church there was no such feast; the Saviour’s birth was commemorated with the Epiphany by the Greek and other Eastern Churches.

The first mention of the feast, then kept on May 20, was made by Clement of Alexandria in the year 200. The Latin Church began in the year 300 to observe it on Dec 25, though there is no certainty that our Lord was born on that day.

Priests have, on this day, the privilege of saying three Masses, at midnight; daybreak, and morning. This was originally reserved for the pope alone; beginning about the fourth century, he celebrated a midnight Mass in the Lateran Basilica (in which according to tradition, the manger of Bethlehem is preserved), a second in the church of St. Anastasia, whose feast comes on Dec 25, and a third at the Vatican Basilica.

Many peculiar customs of the day are the outcome of the pagan celebrations of the January calends. The Christmas tree, of which the first known mention was made in 1605 at Strasbourg, was introduced into France and England in 1840. The feast is a holy day of obligation, preceded by the preparatory season of Advent and by a special vigil; should it fall on a Friday it abrogates the law of abstinence.

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Isaiah 9:1-7

The people that walked in darkness
has seen a great light;
on those who live in a land of deep shadow
a light has shone.
You have made their gladness greater,
you have made their joy increase;
they rejoice in your presence
as men rejoice at harvest time,
as men are happy when they are dividing the spoils.

For the yoke that was weighing on him,
the barb across his shoulders,
the rod of his oppressor,
these you break as on the day of Midian.

For all the footgear of battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
is burnt,
and consumed by fire.

For there is a child born for us,
a son given to us
and dominion is laid on his shoulders;
and this is the name they give him:
Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God,
Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace.
Wide is his dominion
in a peace that has no end,
for the throne of David
and for his royal power,
which he establishes and makes secure
in justice and integrity.
From this time onwards and for ever,
the jealous love of the Lord of Hosts will do this.

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Titus 2:11-14

God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions; we must be self-restrained and live good and religious lives here in this present world, while we are waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the Appearing of the glory of our great God and saviour Christ Jesus. He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.

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Luke 2:1-14

Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a census of the whole world to be taken. This census – the first – took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and everyone went to his own town to be registered. So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee and travelled up to Judaea, to the town of David called Bethlehem, since he was of David’s House and line, in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn.

In the countryside close by there were shepherds who lived in the fields and took it in turns to watch their flocks during the night. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly with the angel there was a great throng of the heavenly host, praising God and singing:

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace to men who enjoy his favour.’

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The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.

Each holiday season, the people at my parish organize something called ‘Adopt A Family’ for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The program matches us with lower-income families, to help them with financing family dinners and gifts for their children. While the intentions of the program are noble, I often get discouraged by some of the requests I see on wishlists. This year, I was matched with a single mother and her spoiled 11-yr old son. She asked for warm blankets and a new iron. He wanted the latest Beats 2 headphones and a pair of fancy Jordan basketball shoes. What must the conversation be like in their household? It made me reflect on the meaning of Christmas. When parents struggle to make ends meet, yet children have unreasonable demands, the meaning of Christmas is overshadowed by the weight of unmet expectations and resentment on both sides. As a parent, how do you cope with that?

I think of Mary and the demands that were made of her as she travelled with Joseph to Bethlehem. It can’t be much fun being pregnant and stressed out from traveling. Behind the candlelit romance of the nativity scene, we forget that Jesus’ birth was nothing short of traumatic for his mother. The manger would have smelled. It would have been cold. She would have been exhausted, but she just kept going.

A parent’s love transcends all suffering. That’s a universal truth. We see that even in this dubious age of conspicuous consumption. A mother will work two jobs just to provide her child the luxuries she can’t afford. Why? Because the ultimate expression of love is sacrifice as Mary, and Christ, showed us. This season, as parents, there will be times when we will grit our teeth with frustration from the unreasonable demands that are made of us. Giving, like love requires sacrifice, but sometimes we give with doubt and resentment in our hearts. Let’s not let our anger stop us from experiencing the true meaning of Christmas. Like Mary, or the mother of that spoiled 11-yr old, God will find us where we are and give us the resources – financial, spiritual, emotional and physical – to see us through. Have faith that there will be deliverance into the light, even for those of us who are beleaguered parents.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all families who struggle with providing for their children this season.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the individuals who sacrificed to give us better lives, even when we were too spoiled and self-absorbed to fully appreciate their efforts.

25 October, Tuesday – Yeast

25 October

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Ephesians 5:21-33

Give way to one another in obedience to Christ. Wives should regard their husbands as they regard the Lord, since as Christ is head of the Church and saves the whole body, so is a husband the head of his wife; and as the Church submits to Christ, so should wives to their husbands, in everything. Husbands should love their wives just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her to make her holy. He made her clean by washing her in water with a form of words, so that when he took her to himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless. In the same way, husbands must love their wives as they love their own bodies; for a man to love his wife is for him to love himself. A man never hates his own body, but he feeds it and looks after it; and that is the way Christ treats the Church, because it is his body – and we are its living parts. For this reason, a man must leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one body. This mystery has many implications; but I am saying it applies to Christ and the Church. To sum up; you too, each one of you, must love his wife as he loves himself; and let every wife respect her husband.

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Luke 13:18-21

Jesus said, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it with? It is like a mustard seed which a man took and threw into his garden: it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air sheltered in its branches.’

Another thing he said, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God with? It is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’

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It is like yeast… mixed in with three measures of wheat flour, until the whole batch of dough was leavened.

When I was a teenager, someone in my bible study group proclaimed with much certainty that as Christians, we were not supposed to date someone ‘outside the faith’, so as not to be ‘unequally yoked’. At the time, it struck me as a strange thing to say. Jesus Christ himself ate in the house of tax collectors and counted prostitutes as friends. So what was wrong with me fraternizing with someone who was not Christian? But this person was adamant in her view, and so, being new to the faith then, I simply went along.

Absolutes are dangerous pronounciations, especially when made carelessly in front of new believers. It is misleading to think of people as absolutely good or absolutely bad. Good and bad are always and everywhere intertwined – in our churches, in our homes, and often even in our hearts. The parable of the yeast in today’s gospel reminds us of this truth about our faith. We need only a little bit of yeast to leaven an entire loaf of bread. The yeast is not of the dough, and yet it has the power to change it. We exist in this world of good and evil; we are not a part of it, but we have the power to affect its conversion. Throughout Scripture, God’s people have existed amongst the non-believing masses. Think of Moses, who spent most of his young adult life as an Egyptian prince. And Joseph, who rose from slave to the highest ranks of Pharoah’s court. And Jesus, who was rejected by the Jewish elders in the synagogues. It is as if God deliberately puts us in the midst of cross-fire. But why?

In John 17:15, Christ prayed for us, “I do not ask you to remove them from the world, but to keep them from the evil one”. God intended for us to live amongst the secular forces of this world, not to be corrupted by it, but to bring about its conversion. We are His change agents, in our workplace, in our schools, in our churches, even in our own homes. We are here, placed by Him in often hostile surroundings, to shine His light on those who have yet to see Him or who have forgotten His goodness. For if there was no darkness, how would we be able to appreciate the Light?

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for the perseverance to bear patiently with those around us who are non-believers or who have fallen away from God. We pray for their conversion, that they find their way back to Him.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the means and the resources to be His agents of change in the societies we live in.

17 October, Monday – You are handmade with love

17 October – Memorial for St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr

Ignatius (c. 50–107) was a convert from paganism to Christianity. He succeeded Peter as bishop of Antioch, Syria. He served during persecution of Domitian. During the persecution of Trajan, he was ordered to be taken to Rome to be killed by wild animals. On the way, a journey which took months, he wrote a series of encouraging letters to the churches under his care. He was the first writer to use the term The Catholic Church. He was an apostolic father and a martyr. His name occurs in the Canon of the Mass. Legend says he was the infant that Jesus took into his arms in Mark 9.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 2:1-10

You were dead through the crimes and the sins in which you used to live when you were following the way of this world, obeying the ruler who governs the air, the spirit who is at work in the rebellious. We all were among them too in the past, living sensual lives, ruled entirely by our own physical desires and our own ideas; so that by nature we were as much under God’s anger as the rest of the world. But God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ – it is through grace that you have been saved – and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.

This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how infinitely rich he is in grace. Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.

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Luke 12:13-21

A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.’ ‘My friend,’ he replied, ‘who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, “What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” But God said to him, “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?.” So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.’

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For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you, it is a gift, so no one may boast.

I like to make greetings cards, and behind it I sign off as ‘handmade with love by Josephine Dionisappu, especially for you’ . My boss, who likes to make soaps, has the same label ‘handmade with love’ stuck on her handmade soaps. Both she and I have an unspoken understanding that when something is handmade, it is indeed made out of love, especially since it takes much of our time. In Genesis, we learn that men (we), were created on the 6th day by God and “He breathed His breath on us and that we are made in His image”. We were surely made by love by God and we should never doubt that our being and existence is founded by love. You and I are handmade with love and so are the people who love us and the ones who hate us too.

In today’s readings we are reminded of grace that we have received, grace that has saved us and yet does not come from us, something we cannot take credit for. Why does God give us grace? Grace, just like the gift of our lives, is unmerited. God gives us grace for our sanctification so that we can share a home with Him forever. And while earth is our home, we are able to live our lives in a manner that is worthy of Him.

A gift of grace can be seen in the person of our priests and religious. They have taken vows of obedience, poverty and chastity so that they can serve God’s people as a priority. I have been in conversation where people challenge these vows and the need for it. An agnostic colleague once told me why should we pay the priests, we did not ask for them to serve us. Our tithes are not our gifts; it’s our offering, not a repayment of sorts. It is hard for us to fully comprehend why we receive something when we have not expressed an interest in it and valuing it is a bigger challenge.

On a simpler note, let’s look at home-cooked meals. Many people I know will not expect to have meals cooked for them daily, but many of them have hot meals waiting for them each evening. We are aware that we can buy take-away for our dinner instead, or just skip our meal as an option. The home-cooked meal we receive is something like grace — we cannot expect it and it does not come from us, but it is prepared out of love by our mothers and/or spouses.

Are we thankful for the gift of grace? How can we show are gratitude? How can we live out this grace daily? How have we cherished those who have shown us grace?

Are we sharing our inheritance and blessings or are we hoarding and storing?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

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Prayer: Lord give us a heart of generosity so to that we share what we have for we cannot take credit for anything that we own for all good things come from you.

Thanksgiving: Lord you handmade us with love, we belong to you.

7 October, Friday – Only Two Options

7 October – Memorial for Our Lady of the Rosary

This day was originally observed as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory. Its date was chosen to commemorate the European victory at the third naval Battle of Lepanto in 1571. This battle marked the high point of Turkish (Muslim) advance on European soil with the Balkans and the regions west and north of the Black Sea returning to Western (Christian) hands in the succeeding centuries. This victory, after two earlier defeats at the same location, was attributed to Our Lady of the Rosary as special processions were made on that same day in Rome for the sake of this crucial victory.

Pope Pius V ordered that a commemoration of the rosary should be made upon that day, and at the request of the Dominican Pope Gregory XIII in 1573 allowed this feast to be kept in all churches which possessed an altar dedicated to the rosary. In 1671, the observance of this festival was extended by Pope Clement X to the whole of Spain, and somewhat later Pope Clement XI, after the important victory over the Turks gained by Prince Eugene on 6 August 1716 at Peterwardein in Hungary, commanded the feast of the rosary to be celebrated by the universal Church.

– Wikipedia

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Galatians 3:7-14

Don’t you see that it is those who rely on faith who are the sons of Abraham? Scripture foresaw that God was going to use faith to justify the pagans, and proclaimed the Good News long ago when Abraham was told: In you all the pagans will be blessed. Those therefore who rely on faith receive the same blessing as Abraham, the man of faith.

On the other hand, those who rely on the keeping of the Law are under a curse, since scripture says: Cursed be everyone who does not persevere in observing everything prescribed in the book of the Law. The Law will not justify anyone in the sight of God, because we are told: the righteous man finds life through faith. The Law is not even based on faith, since we are told: The man who practises these precepts finds life through practising them. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by being cursed for our sake, since scripture says: Cursed be everyone who is hanged on a tree. This was done so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might include the pagans, and so that through faith we might receive the promised Spirit.

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Luke 11:15-26

When Jesus had cast out a devil, some of the people said, ‘It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.’ Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven; but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses. So too with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? – Since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils. Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out? Let them be your judges then. But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you. So long as a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he is attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.

‘He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.

‘When an unclean spirit goes out of a man it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and not finding one it says, “I will go back to the home I came from.” But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied, it then goes off and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and set up house there, so that the man ends up by being worse than he was before.’

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He who is not with me is against me.

A myriad of options is what we are so used to seeing every day. And in this capitalistic world, businesses are encouraged to identify their niche areas, to cater to the need of the select few, so that they can enjoy options.

With God, we really only have two options. We are either for him, or against him. We cannot abstain from this decision, because if we do, we end up being against him. Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Whenever we are passive, we unintentionally become a counterwitness to our faith. If someone bullies another person in front of you, and you do nothing, you are helping the wrong act succeed. Worse, our silence gives our concurrence to what has been happening. In this case, ‘Silence means yes.’

It is very difficult for me to write this reflection because I didn’t want to turn people off. But the Gospel reading itself is also very strong. He who is not with me is against me. If we don’t do evil, but we don’t do good, we are already committing the sin of omission. Sometimes, I myself feel that it is unfair. How can I be held liable for something I didn’t do anything about?

Well, God’s command was for us to love, to be charitable, to do loving acts. It was not a command to be passive. So I guess I really just have to be mindful to do things for God, and not be passive.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

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Prayer: Dear Lord, whenever I pray with everyone during the penitential rite in Mass, help me to internalize that I am equally liable for the wrong things I have done as well as for the right things that I have failed to do. Help me have the wisdom to know when I am failing to do something you want me to do, so that I can put an effort to it.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for the people you have placed in my life who keep on reminding me to do something good.

19 September, Monday – Silver Linings

19 September – Memorial for St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr

Januarius (d. 305) was arrested on account of his profession of the Christian religion during persecution of Christians. He was cast into the fiery furnace, through which he passed wholly unharmed. On the following day, along with a number of fellow martyrs, he was exposed to the fury of wild beasts, which laid themselves down in tame submission at his feet.

Timotheus, the governor who pronounced the sentence of death upon Januarius, was struck with blindness but was immediately healed by the powerful intercession of the saint, a miracle which converted nearly five thousand men on the spot. The ungrateful judge, only roused to further fury by these occurrences, caused the execution of Januarius by the sword to be forthwith carried out. The body was ultimately removed by the inhabitants of Naples to that city, where the relic became very famous for its miracles.

– Patron Saints Index

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Proverbs 3:27-34

My son, do not refuse a kindness to anyone who begs it,
if it is in your power to perform it.
Do not say to your neighbour, ‘Go away! Come another time!
I will give it you tomorrow’, if you can do it now.
Do not plot harm against your neighbour
as he lives unsuspecting next door.
Do not pick a groundless quarrel with a man
who has done you no harm.
Do not emulate the man of violence,
never model your conduct on his;
for the wilful wrong-doer is abhorrent to the Lord,
who confides only in honest men.
The Lord’s curse lies on the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the home of the virtuous.
He mocks those who mock,
but accords his favour to the humble.

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Luke 8:16-18

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘No one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or to put it under a bed. No, he puts it on a lamp-stand so that people may see the light when they come in. For nothing is hidden but it will be made clear, nothing secret but it will be known and brought to light. So take care how you hear; for anyone who has will be given more; from anyone who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.’

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To anyone who has, more will be given

There is a saying that happiness shared is doubled, but sorrow shared is halved.

When God touches our lives, a light is switched on inside each and every one of us. That light serves as God’s way of spreading the Word – through our daily thoughts, actions, and words – intimating those that we meet with God’s love and mercy. We are like little lamps to light the way for others.

Of course not all of us are called to be like Moses, guiding thousands of people to the Promised Land. We may even question what kind of abilities we have that can serve God’s purpose. We see ourselves only as “small fry” – not fit for a higher purpose. And so we hide, and we shy away, little lit lamps set under a bed, concealing ourselves with a vessel.

God gives each of us a gift to use for His higher purpose. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” Our gifts are all different, “according to the grace given to each of us” according to Romans 12:6. In fact, our gift could be as simple as giving, or showing mercy, or even just simple encouragement (Romans 12: 7:8).

I don’t profess to have many talents, but of late, if I feel that I could make someone’s day by giving a smile, then why not. Our lives here on earth are too short to be lived in such a harried manner. We have no time for each other, even eschewing manners and general consideration for others and what their lives must be. In the scramble of our daily lives, empathy has taken a backseat. Violence and fear face us in the headlines of daily news that we become enveloped by it, gripping us in paranoia and suspicion. These things are the work of the Devil around us, creating vessels to block out the light that God has switched on in us.

Today’s Gospel says “to anyone who has, more will be given”. If we use our abilities for the glory of God, no matter how small our action is, God will not forget us. God will use this as a conduit to start a chain reaction, multiplying our seed of an effort to cause a wave of change. God only asks that we start that reaction, by coming out from under the bed and lighting the way.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Thanksgiving: Lord God, I am small and sometimes weak, allowing fear and paranoia to engulf me at times. Rescue me from my abyss that I may break the clouds of doubt, even with just my tiniest effort. I pray that all that I do will be positive, and in turn create positivity for all whom I meet.

Prayer: I thank you God, for blessing me with the ability to make a difference. Let me not doubt anymore what I can do, but embrace the fact that I can indeed make a difference.

10 September, Saturday – Live out your beliefs

10 September 

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1 Corinthians 10:14-22

My dear brothers, you must keep clear of idolatry. I say to you as sensible people: judge for yourselves what I am saying. The blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ. The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in this one loaf. Look at the other Israel, the race, where those who eat the sacrifices are in communion with the altar. Does this mean that the food sacrificed to idols has a real value, or that the idol itself is real? Not at all. It simply means that the sacrifices that they offer they sacrifice to demons who are not God. I have no desire to see you in communion with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot take your share at the table of the Lord and at the table of demons. Do we want to make the Lord angry; are we stronger than he is?

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Luke 6:43-49

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit, nor again a rotten tree that produces sound fruit. For every tree can be told by its own fruit: people do not pick figs from thorns, nor gather grapes from brambles. A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness. For a man’s words flow out of what fills his heart.

‘Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord” and not do what I say?

‘Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them – I will show you what he is like. He is like the man who when he built his house dug, and dug deep, and laid the foundations on rock; when the river was in flood it bore down on that house but could not shake it, it was so well built. But the one who listens and does nothing is like the man who built his house on soil, with no foundations: as soon as the river bore down on it, it collapsed; and what a ruin that house became!’

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Why do you call me “Lord, Lord,” and not do what I tell you?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that there is no point constantly calling him “Lord”, the person we obey, if we do not actually do what he asks. And one of the things he asks of us is to scrape away the shaky, sinful layers in our lives. The very layers that built up over time when we became complacent of our salvation. When we unintentionally decided that having faith is enough. Actual action would not be required and all sin would be immediately deemed ‘null and void’ just because we believe in God. No repentance necessary.

It won’t be easy to shovel away the dirt and loose sand before we hit the hard rock to build our house on but when the storms of life come, all that cleaning would have been worth it because our faith is strong enough to weather it out.

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘Actions speak louder than words’, and nothing can be closer to the truth. The gospel also tells us that our actions are the fruits we produce. Not our knowledge of the Word. We can easily memorise the whole Bible (okay, maybe not THAT easily but you get the picture) but Jesus calls us to live out what we learn and believe in.

What we do is a reflection of what we believe in. It is these actions which actually demonstrate our Christian faith and belief. Do we forgive when we are wronged? Do we offer food to the beggar on the street? Do we hold the door open for the person behind us? Do we do everything the Lord has asked us to do?

Sure, people may form a first impression of us based on what we say but it is our actions that leave the lasting impression. It’s not just enough to do but we need to do with a willing heart. That is the mark of genuine belief – that everything we do is based on our belief that is so deeply anchored in our hearts, it’s second nature. Even our attitude is a testament to our faith in God.

My brothers and sisters, a good heart will produce good thoughts, that brings about good deeds, and good deeds are meant to be shared with everyone. This is how we show the world the Word of God. Like the song goes, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Rebecca Grace)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the strength and willpower to scrub away our sinful nature, no matter how abrasive it is. Keep us strong dear Lord as we focus on filling our lives with good deeds while removing our harmful actions in our everyday lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the times You have picked us back up and took back our repentant selves each and every time we fell into sin.

9 September, Friday – Forgive before judging

9 September – Memorial for St. Peter Claver, Priest

He was born in Catalonia and studied at the University of Barcelona. He became a Jesuit; and while he was studying philosophy in Mallorca, the door-keeper of the college, Alfonso Rodríguez, saw that his true vocation was to evangelize the New World, and encouraged him to fulfil that vocation. (Rodríguez was later canonized on the same day as Peter Claver himself).

He arrived in Cartagena, in what is now Colombia, in 1610, and after his ordination six years later he became ‘the slave of the Negroes forever’, labouring on their behalf for 33 years, attending to both their spiritual and material needs. The slave trade was repeatedly condemned by the Popes; but it was too profitable to be stopped and on the whole the local church hierarchy kept quiet about it, much as they did in North America in the 19th century.

He brought fresh food to the slave-ships as they arrived, instructed the slaves and baptized them in the faith, followed their progress and kept track of them even when they were sent to the mines and plantations, defending them as well as he could from oppressive slave-owners. He organized teams of catechists who spoke the many languages spoken by the slaves. He worked in hospitals also, looking after lepers among others, and in prisons.

Naturally he made himself unpopular by his work: as his superior said, ‘unfortunately for himself he is a Catalan, pig-headed and difficult’. Opposition came from both within the Church and outside it, but there were always exceptions. For instance, while many fashionable ladies refused to enter his city churches because they had been profaned by the presence of the blacks, a few, such as Doña Isabel de Urbina, became his strong and lifelong supporters.

At the end of his life he fell ill with a degenerative disease and for four years he was treated neglectfully and brutally by the servant whose task it was to look after him. He did not complain but accepted his sufferings as a penance for his sins.

– Universalis

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1 Corinthians 9:16-19,22-27

I do not boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty which has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it! If I had chosen this work myself, I might have been paid for it, but as I have not, it is a responsibility which has been put into my hands. Do you know what my reward is? It is this in my preaching, to be able to offer the Good News free, and not insist on the rights which the gospel gives me.

So though I am not a slave of any man I have made myself the slave of everyone so as to win as many as I could. For the weak I made myself weak. I made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost; and I still do this, for the sake of the gospel, to have a share in its blessings.

All the runners at the stadium are trying to win, but only one of them gets the prize. You must run in the same way, meaning to win. All the fighters at the games go into strict training; they do this just to win a wreath that will wither away, but we do it for a wreath that will never wither. That is how I run, intent on winning; that is how I fight, not beating the air. I treat my body hard and make it obey me, for, having been an announcer myself, I should not want to be disqualified.

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Luke 6:39-42

Jesus told a parable to the disciples, ‘Can one blind man guide another? Surely both will fall into a pit? The disciple is not superior to his teacher; the fully trained disciple will always be like his teacher. Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,” when you cannot see the plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brother’s eye.’

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You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

Raise your hand if you have ever been quick to pass judgement on someone without knowing the full extent of the situation. How about if you’ve delayed (or denied) forgiving someone because you firmly believe they’re in the wrong? Even if you know deep in your heart that you’re not a saint either.

It’s easy isn’t it? To criticize someone when they slip-up. Yet, how many of us are willing to look at our own shortcomings and criticise those instead? Theoretically, I would gladly say, “Of course, I am willing to take a look at myself and fix what’s wrong.” In practice however, I would never do it, or would do it extremely grudgingly and maybe once in 20 blue moons. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking along these lines.

I couldn’t make it to World Youth Day this year but someone I know posted on Facebook the words of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle in the days leading up to it. “If we deny our wounds, we will inflict wounds on other people,” he told the crowd gathered in front of him.

If you think about it, this holds true for everyone. How can we even attempt to ‘fix’ someone else if we are broken ourselves? Yes, we as Christians are called to evangelise and shine the light towards God. But that in no way means hand them a book of instructions that we have yet to read and apply ourselves.

Jesus calls us to walk the talk in today’s Gospel and walk the talk, we must. So, let us try to practice forgiving each other, no matter how big or small the mistake. We may sometimes forget the wrong years down the road but the other person may never forget that they were never forgiven.

Remember, our journey towards God is not meant to be easy because changing is never easy. Lots of scraping and chiselling is needed to form a statue out of a block.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Rebecca Grace)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the strength to forgive and forget the same way You do for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people you’ve placed in our lives and the ways they have unintentionally hurt us. We know that this is Your way of teaching us to be more understanding and forgiving. Just as You are.