Tag Archives: Shaun Matthew

26 Jul, Thursday – Controlling Control

Jul 26 – Sts. Joachim and Anne, parents of the Virgin Mary

By tradition, Joachim and Anne are considered to be the names of the parents of Mary, the Mother of God. We have no historical evidence, however, of any elements of their lives, including their names. Any stories about Mary’s father and mother come to us through legend and tradition. It was the parents of Mary who nurtured Mary, taught her, brought her up to be a worthy Mother of God. It was their teaching that led her to respond to God’s request with faith, “Let it be done to me as you will.” It was their example of parenting that Mary must have followed as she brought up her own son, Jesus. It was their faith that laid the foundation of courage and strength that allowed her to stand by the cross as her son was crucified and still believe. Such parents can be examples and models for all parents.

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=22

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Jeremiah 2:1-3,7-8,12-13

The word of the Lord was addressed to me, saying, ‘Go and shout this in the hearing of Jerusalem:

‘“The Lord says this:
I remember the affection of your youth,
the love of your bridal days:
you followed me through the wilderness,
through a land unsown.
Israel was sacred to the Lord,
the first-fruits of his harvest;
anyone who ate of this had to pay for it,
misfortune came to them –
it is the Lord who speaks.”

‘I brought you to a fertile country
to enjoy its produce and good things;
but no sooner had you entered than you defiled my land,
and made my heritage detestable.
The priests have never asked, “Where is the Lord?”
Those who administer the Law have no knowledge of me.
The shepherds have rebelled against me;
the prophets have prophesied in the name of Baal,
following things with no power in them.

‘You heavens, stand aghast at this,
stand stupefied, stand utterly appalled
– it is the Lord who speaks.
Since my people have committed a double crime:
they have abandoned me,
the fountain of living water,
only to dig cisterns for themselves,
leaky cisterns
that hold no water.’

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Matthew 13:10-17

The disciples went up to Jesus and asked, ‘Why do you talk to them in parables?’ ‘Because’ he replied, ‘the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them. For anyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. So in their case this prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled:

You will listen and listen again, but not understand,
see and see again, but not perceive.
For the heart of this nation has grown coarse,
their ears are dull of hearing, and they have shut their eyes,
for fear they should see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their heart,
and be converted
and be healed by me.

‘But happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear! I tell you solemnly, many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’

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For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it

“I love going for fitness classes. For that one hour, I release all control and let someone else tell me what to do.” A friend exclaimed this recently, and it struck a chord deep within my heart. She’s an entrepreneur who takes charge of every aspect of her business; making decisions everyday wears her out and saps her mental strength. During the classes, she places her trust in the instructor and follows orders, believing that the exercises she goes through will put her in better condition than before.

Unlike her, it has been difficult for me to give up control. I enjoy the responsibility of charting my own direction, and the risk of getting things either gloriously right, or frighteningly wrong. However, I have come to realise that God is the only one truly in control of everything. He cedes some agency to us as we live our mortal lives, while still orchestrating life’s grand aria.

Desiring control is by no means a bad thing. So much of how we live our lives is deeply connected to our personalities and past experiences. The melange of individuality around us makes life so poignantly dynamic and unpredictable; a perfect opportunity for God to demonstrate his infinite wisom.

Brothers and sisters, what does control mean to you, and how does your attitude towards it influence how you live your life?

(Today’s Oxygen by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dearest God, bless us with the instincts to realise when we should be relinquishing control. Guide our thoughts, words, and actions every step of the way.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for sprinkling your creation with all types of people. May we work together harmoniously in your service.

8 June, Friday – Coincidence And Fate

June 6 – Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

The devotion to the Sacred Heart (also known as the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sacratissimum Cor Iesu in Latin) is one of the most widely practiced and well-known Roman Catholic devotions, taking Jesus Christ?s physical heart as the representation of his divine love for humanity.

This devotion is predominantly used in the Roman Catholic Church and in a modified way among some high-churchAnglicans, Lutherans and Eastern Catholics. The devotion is especially concerned with what the Church deems to be the longsuffering love and compassion of the heart of Christ towards humanity. The popularization of this devotion in its modern form is derived from a Roman Catholic nun from France, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, who said she learned the devotion from Jesus during a series of apparitions to her between 1673 and 1675,[1] and later, in the 19th century, from the mystical revelations of another Roman Catholic nun in Portugal, Blessed Mary of the Divine Heart, a religious of the Good Shepherd, who requested in the name of Christ that Pope Leo XIII consecrate the entire world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Predecessors to the modern devotion arose unmistakably in the Middle Ages in various facets of Catholic mysticism, particularly with Saint Gertrude the Great.[2]

– Wikipedia

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Hosea 11:1,3-4,8-9

Listen to the word of the Lord:
When Israel was a child I loved him,
and I called my son out of Egypt.
I myself taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them in my arms;
yet they have not understood that I was the one looking after them.
I led them with reins of kindness,
with leading-strings of love.
I was like someone who lifts an infant close against his cheek;
stooping down to him I gave him his food.
Ephraim, how could I part with you?
Israel, how could I give you up?
How could I treat you like Admah,
or deal with you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils from it,
my whole being trembles at the thought.
I will not give rein to my fierce anger,
I will not destroy Ephraim again,
for I am God, not man:
I am the Holy One in your midst
and have no wish to destroy.

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Ephesians 3:8-12,14-19

I, Paul, who am less than the least of all the saints have been entrusted with this special grace, not only of proclaiming to the pagans the infinite treasure of Christ but also of explaining how the mystery is to be dispensed. Through all the ages, this has been kept hidden in God, the creator of everything. Why? So that the Sovereignties and Powers should learn only now, through the Church, how comprehensive God’s wisdom really is, exactly according to the plan which he had had from all eternity in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is why we are bold enough to approach God in complete confidence, through our faith in him; This, then, is what I pray, kneeling before the Father, from whom every family, whether spiritual or natural, takes its name:

Out of his infinite glory, may he give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God.

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John 19:31-37

It was Preparation Day, and to prevent the bodies remaining on the cross during the sabbath – since that sabbath was a day of special solemnity – the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken away. Consequently the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with him and then of the other. When they came to Jesus, they found he was already dead, and so instead of breaking his legs one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water. This is the evidence of one who saw it – trustworthy evidence, and he knows he speaks the truth – and he gives it so that you may believe as well. Because all this happened to fulfil the words of scripture:

Not one bone of his will be broken;

and again, in another place scripture says:

They will look on the one whom they have pierced.

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In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

I thought I’d share about a miracle that I experienced during a recent snowboarding holiday. God’s providence, even in trivial matters, has shown me that He is always present, and that sometimes all we need to do when in trouble is to ask for his help.

I had placed my handphone in a zipless jacket pocket, believing that because of how snug the jacket was, the handphone would be safe and secure. Much to my dismay, however, I discovered that the phone was missing at the end of my last run for the day. Panic overwhelmed me and I kept berating myself for my mistake.

I decided to retrace my (very long) path down the mountain to find my phone. I had already written it off as a loss as the snow was ankle deep and it was a crowded resort; what were the odds? I clearly recall speaking to God on the chairlift up, “God, if you’re there, help me find my phone. Even if it goes unfound, I will still have faith and treat this as a lesson in conscientiousness”.

When I was halfway down the run, I got a call from some friends who told me that they had found my phone. Someone in our group had caught a glimpse of it on her way down, and they were able to find the phone after retracing their steps. I could not believe what I had heard.

The phone was undamaged and in perfect working condition. Against all odds, I once again held my phone in my hands and spent the next few hours soaking in the lesson that God was trying to teach me.

We may never always get what we want, and things may sometimes never go as planned. Yet, through the ‘coincidences’ in our lives, it is clear to me that God has a hand in everything. Whenever I feel discouraged or anxious about the future, or filled with regret about the past, I cradle my phone and am filled with the warm assurance that it was, is, and will all be ok.

What miracles in your life give you the fortitude to face each new day with joy and confidence?

(Today’s Oxygen by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dearest God, increase our faith in you so that we come to you at all times, good and bad, big and small.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for the gift of your Sacred Heart. May we grow to emulate your love and nurturing spirit.

3 May, Thursday – Heaven Defined

May 3 – Feast of Sts. Philip and James, Apostles

Philip was a disciple of St. John the Baptist, and a convert. He was one of the Twelve Apostles, and brought St. Nathanael to Christ. He was a confidant of Jesus’. Little is known about him, but scriptural episodes give the impression of a shy, naïve, but practical individual. He preached in Greece and Asia Minor, and died a martyr for the faith.

– Patron Saint Index

James the Lesser was the cousin of Jesus, and brother of St. Jude Thaddeus. He was raised in a Jewish home of the time with all the training in Scripture and Law that was part of that life. He was a convert, and one of the Twelve Apostles. He was one of the first to have visions of the risen Christ.

He was the first bishop of Jerusalem. He met with St. Paul the Apostle to work out Paul’s plans for evangelization. He supported the position that Gentile converts did not have to obey all Jewish religious law, though he continued to observe it himself as part of his heritage. He may have been a vegetarian. He was a just and apostolic man known for his prayer life and devotion to the poor.

He was martyred for his faith in c.62 when he was thrown from a pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem, and then stoned and beaten with clubs while praying for his attackers. Having been beaten to death, a club almost immediately became his symbol, leading to his patronage of fullers and pharmacists, both of whom use clubs in their professions.

He is reported to have spent so much time in prayer that his knees thickened, and looked like a camel’s. Soon after the Crucifixion, James said he would fast until Christ returned; the resurrected Jesus appeared to him, and fixed a meal for James Himself.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Corinthians 15:1-8

Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you – believing anything else will not lead to anything.

Well then, in the first place, I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared first to Cephas and secondly to the Twelve. Next he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died; then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles; and last of all he appeared to me too; it was as though I was born when no one expected it.

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John 14:6-14

Jesus said to Thomas:

‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.

No one can come to the Father except through me.

If you know me, you know my Father too.

From this moment you know him and have seen him.’

Philip said, ‘Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.’

  ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip,’ said Jesus to him ‘and you still do not know me?

‘To have seen me is to have seen the Father,

so how can you say, “Let us see the Father”?

Do you not believe

that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?

The words I say to you I do not speak as from myself:

it is the Father, living in me, who is doing this work.

You must believe me when I say

that I am in the Father and the Father is in me;

believe it on the evidence of this work, if for no other reason.

I tell you most solemnly,

whoever believes in me

will perform the same works as I do myself,

he will perform even greater works,

because I am going to the Father.

Whatever you ask for in my name I will do,

so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

If you ask for anything in my name,

I will do it.’

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Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

During a recent chat with a friend, the topic of our expectations of what Heaven would be like came up. Unsurprisingly, we both had very different hopes for what it would be. I started to reflect on my vision of Heaven and I came to realise that it was focused on the self, and was limited by my beliefs of what I thought God was capable of. Instead of being open to whatever God has planned for us up there (or wherever Heaven may be), I sought to craft a very specific vision of what I wanted my version of Heaven to be like.

My expectations of Heaven centered on revisiting events and realising dreams that had not been achieved in my life. Many past hurts and regrets came to the fore and I discovered that I had not yet gotten the deep healing that I needed to move on with my life. My friend, however, saw Heaven as a place of gathering with departed family and friends; a place of fellowship in God’s communion. Our differences served to highlight what we deem as important in our lives and led to us resolving to delve deeper into what holds meaning for us and how we would live our lives moving forward.

Brothers and sisters, I invite you to take some time, in the stillness of your hearts, to ask yourself what your idea of a perfect Heaven is. How would you feel if it was different, and are you willing to accept that it very well could be? Perhaps if we start to live our life solely for the glory of God, then Heaven may very well even be a place on earth.

(Today’s Oxygen by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dearest God, help us to act in service of you so that others may experience a little bit of Heaven through our words and deeds.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for preparing a place for your people with you. Thank you for never leaving our side.

9 April, Monday – Tuning In

9 April – Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

The annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary by Gabriel the archangel that she was to be the Mother of God (Luke 1), the Word being made flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The feast probably originated about the time of the Council of Ephesus (c. 431), and is first mentioned in the Sacramentary of Pope Gelasius (d. 496).

The Annunciation has been a key topic in Christian art in general, as well as in Roman Catholic Marian art, particularly during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It is represented in art by many masters, among them Fra Angelico, Hubert Van Eyck, Ghirlandajo, Holbein the Elder, Lippi, Pinturicchio, and Del Sarto.

The Annunciation is also mentioned twice in the Quran, the holy book for the Muslims.

– Patron Saint Index, Wikipedia

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Isaiah 7:10-14,8:10

The Lord spoke to Ahaz and said, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign for yourself coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above.’ ‘No,’ Ahaz answered ‘I will not put the Lord to the test.’

Then he said:

Listen now, House of David: are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men without trying the patience of my God, too? The Lord himself, therefore, will give you a sign. It is this: the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel, a name which means ‘God is with us.’

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Hebrews 10:4-10

Bulls’ blood and goats’ blood are useless for taking away sins, and this is what Christ said, on coming into the world:

You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation, prepared a body for me.

You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin; then I said, just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book, ‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’

Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.

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Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

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“But now, Lord, what do I look for?”

The call that Mary received from the Angel Gabriel was loud and clear. There was no doubt as to what God was asking of her, allowing her to construct a very real picture of how her life would turn out should she say yes. Thankfully, she responded dutifully and faithfully — a preamble to the greatest life ever lived and the most beautiful story ever told.

Some people discover their talents and passions early on in life. Others never find them. Some are stubborn and turn away from the direction God leads them in life, while others are oblivious to his promptings. Do we take the time to quieten our hearts and minds as we attune our senses to the Gabriels around us? Much as I would desire for God to speak to me in such a direct way, that is unlikely to happen. Instead, God has and will continue to nudge me in His ways through people, thoughts, and fervent prayer. The beauty of this process is the eventual ownership that we all take of our decisions in life. Decisions that can lead to flourishing or floundering.

As we all go through life discerning and deciding, one truth remains. Lives centered on God’s firm foundation and His word are lives that, while not necessarily easy, are fulfilling and joyful. Such people experience kairos, the phenomenon of having the right things happening for them at the right moments in life. Brothers and sisters in Christ, if that is what we desire so deeply, then are listening and acting actively?

(Today’s Oxygen by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dearest God, our hearts are sometimes closed and we refuse to listen. Help us to hear and obey your ever present calls to us.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father for speaking to us in ways that only you know how. May we never forget how you’ve nurtured us over the years.

2 February, Friday – The Art of Precious Scars

2 Feb – Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

This feast celebrates an early episode in the life of Jesus. In the Roman Catholic Church, the Presentation is the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is one of the twelve Great Feasts. In many Western liturgical churches, Vespers (or Compline) on the Feast of the Presentation marks the end of the Epiphany season.

This feast is also known by other traditional names including Candelmas, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, and the Meeting of the Lord. Prior to the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, Candlemas marked the end of the Christmas and Epiphany season.

The Western term ‘Candlemas’ (or Candle Mass) referred to the practice whereby a priest on Feb 2 (forty days after Christmas) blessed beeswax candles with an aspergilium (liturgical implement used to sprinkle holy water) for use throughout the year, some of which were distributed to the faithful for use in the home.

Since the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, this feast has been referred to as the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, with references to candles and the purification of Mary de-emphasized in favour of the Prophecy of Simeon the Righteous. Pope John Paul II connected the feast day with the renewal of religious vows.

  • Wikipedia

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Malachi 3:1-4

The Lord God says this: Look, I am going to send my messenger to prepare a way before me. And the Lord you are seeking will suddenly enter his Temple; and the angel of the covenant whom you are longing for, yes, he is coming, says the Lord of Hosts. Who will be able to resist the day of his coming? Who will remain standing when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire and the fullers’ alkali. He will take his seat as refiner and purifier; he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and then they will make the offering to the Lord as it should be made. The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will then be welcomed by the Lord as in former days, as in the years of old.

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Hebrews 2:14-18

Since all the children share the same blood and flesh, Christ too shared equally in it, so that by his death he could take away all the power of the devil, who had power over death, and set free all those who had been held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. For it was not the angels that he took to himself; he took to himself descent from Abraham. It was essential that he should in this way become completely like his brothers so that he could be a compassionate and trustworthy high priest of God’s religion, able to atone for human sins. That is, because he has himself been through temptation he is able to help others who are tempted.

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Luke 2:22-40

When the day came for them to be purified as laid down by the Law of Moses, the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, – observing what stands written in the Law of the Lord: Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord – and also to offer in sacrifice, in accordance with what is said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

Now in Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to Israel’s comforting and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord. Prompted by the Spirit he came to the Temple and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the Law required, he took him into his arms and blessed God; and he said:

‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised; because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see, a light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of your people Israel.’

As the child’s father and mother stood there wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’

There was a prophetess also, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well on in years. Her days of girlhood over, she had been married for seven years before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. She came by just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.

When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.

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For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap”

Kintsugi is the Japanese method for repairing broken pottery with coloured laquer. This “golden joinery” creates beautiful artwork melding old with new. If human hands can work such wonders, what more our loving and powerful God?

Most of the time, I struggle to deal with seemingly shattering events. Plans are derailed, new paths are forged, and relationships wane. These arresting moments are sprung upon us all. Yet, God holds us gently; moulding us in incomprehensible ways. Take a moment to thread your life’s journey, and see how all things have worked for His good. We may not have gotten what we once wanted, but here we are, ready and formed to do His work.

Just as Jesus was presented at the temple, we too should open our hearts and minds to fully experience the possibilities of this life. May we always be eager to experience the touch of his guiding hands.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dear Lord, in your wisdom, blend the craggy pieces of my life into a gift to the world.

 Thanksgiving: We give thanks for God’s artisanal vision and grace.

31 December, Sunday – In Good Times And Bad

31 December – The Holy Family 

Today the Church marks the feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. It is a liturgical celebration in honour of Jesus of Nazareth, his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his foster father, Saint Joseph, as a family. The Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on the Sunday following Christmas, unless that Sunday is January 1, in which case it is celebrated on December 30.

Scripture tells us practically nothing about the first years and the boyhood of the Child Jesus. All we know are the facts of the sojourn in Egypt, the return to Nazareth, and the incidents that occurred when the twelve-year-old boy accompanied his parents to Jerusalem. In her liturgy the Church hurries over this period of Christ’s life with equal brevity. The general breakdown of the family, however, at the end of the past century and at the beginning of our own, prompted the popes, especially the far-sighted Leo XIII, to promote the observance of this feast with the hope that it might instil into Christian families something of the faithful love and the devoted attachment that characterize the family of Nazareth. The primary purpose of the Church in instituting and promoting this feast is to present the Holy Family as the model and exemplar of all Christian families.

– CatholicCulture.org

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Ecclesiasticus 3:3-7,14-17

The Lord honours the father in his children,
and upholds the rights of a mother over her sons.
Whoever respects his father is atoning for his sins,
he who honours his mother is like someone amassing a fortune.
Whoever respects his father will be happy with children of his own,
he shall be heard on the day when he prays.
Long life comes to him who honours his father,
he who sets his mother at ease is showing obedience to the Lord.
My son, support your father in his old age,
do not grieve him during his life.
Even if his mind should fail, show him sympathy,
do not despise him in your health and strength;
f
or kindness to a father shall not be forgotten
but will serve as reparation for your sins.

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Colossians 3:12-21

You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful.

Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you. Teach each other, and advise each other, in all wisdom. With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God; and never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Wives, give way to your husbands, as you should in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and treat them with gentleness. Children, be obedient to your parents always, because that is what will please the Lord. Parents, never drive your children to resentment or you will make them feel frustrated.

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Luke 2:41-52

Every year the parents of Jesus used to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up for the feast as usual. When they were on their way home after the feast, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it. They assumed he was with the caravan, and it was only after a day’s journey that they went to look for him among their relations and acquaintances. When they failed to find him they went back to Jerusalem looking for him everywhere.

Three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions; and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies. They were overcome when they saw him, and his mother said to him, ‘My child, why have, you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.’ ‘Why were you looking for me?’ he replied ‘Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’ But they did not understand what he meant.

He then went down with them and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority. His mother stored up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and men.

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“And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.”

As the end of yet another year draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on how it would not have been possible for me to have made it through all of 2017’s challenges without my family’s unwavering love and support.

Having received so much from them, I’ve also been considering if I have, at the very least, reciprocated their actions. It is so easy to stick to routines and habits because our families have accomodated our quirks over the years. Yet, one simple gesture by my father got me thinking. He prepares cut fruit every morning for our family breakfast and usually, the fruit is piled generously but haphazardly in bowls. One day last week, I saw that the fruit had been sorted according to colour and was plated rather nicely. My father commented that he thought he would try something different just to make things more fun.

That simple gesture sparked a series of small yet meaningful changes in our home. Shoes were rearranged differently, we started sharing jokes in our family group chat, and even our socks have been folded more efficiently (thanks to the infinite resources available on YouTube). As I admire all the changes in our lives, I’ve realised that it is the small things that we do that chip away at lingering hardness or unforgiveness that has developed over the years.

In a world where options are valued, let us come to cherish the family that God has bestowed on us. For better or worse, may we always choose to commit to them fully.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dear Lord, may we always be nurturing and giving members of our families. May we never take them for granted.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for the family you have blessed us with. In appreciation, we pray for the grace to always stay close to them.

24 December, Midnight Mass – A Fresh Start

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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“And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

The coming of Christ revolutionized life for generations. Isn’t it inspiring how the work of just one person was able to effect so much positive change in the world? Conversely, there have been individuals who wreak havoc on everything that they lay their eyes upon. The polarity of effects one can have on others demonstrates the power in our hands to shape the lives of our communities.

Communities extend beyond church groups. A friend was lamenting to me about the schizophrenic nature of some of his colleagues — active and passionate about their church ministries, but far from Christ-like in a work setting. How can there be such a disconnect between our faith and our lives, given the interconnected world we live in?

While it may be easier to ‘be Catholic’ when among the flock, Christ instructs us to instead go forth and be beacons of light to those who have yet not seen His wonders. Just as how soldiers are only really tested on the battlefield when the stakes are high, Catholics are called to be Christ’s agents out in ‘the real world’. I have found that the most trying, yet satisfying, milestones in my faith have been when I endeavored to grow wherever I was planted, and where I proactively sought to be Catholic even though my instincts screamed otherwise.

Brothers and sisters, as trite as it sounds, every moment is an opportunity to live our lives differently. May we work together and pray for each other as we evolve into the best versions of ourselves for Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dear Lord, make every moment new, every breath purposeful, and every life a gift to the world.

Thanksgiving: Thank you God, for the hope that you bring. We are always grateful for your immense power to make everything beautiful in your time.

24 December (Sunday), Vigil Mass – Tick Tock

24 December

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Isaiah 62:1-5

About Zion I will not be silent,
about Jerusalem I will not grow weary,
until her integrity shines out like the dawn
and her salvation flames like a torch.

The nations then will see your integrity,
all the kings your glory,
and you will be called by a new name,
one which the mouth of the Lord will confer.
You are to be a crown of splendour in the hand of the Lord,
a princely diadem in the hand of your God;

no longer are you to be named ‘Forsaken’,
nor your land ‘Abandoned’,
but you shall be called ‘My Delight’
and your land ‘The Wedded’;
for the Lord takes delight in you
and your land will have its wedding.

Like a young man marrying a virgin,
so will the one who built you wed you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride,
so will your God rejoice in you.

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Acts 13:16-17,22-25

When Paul reached Antioch in Pisidia, he stood up in the synagogue, held up a hand for silence and began to speak:

‘Men of Israel, and fearers of God, listen! The God of our nation Israel chose our ancestors, and made our people great when they were living as foreigners in Egypt; then by divine power he led them out.

‘Then he made David their king, of whom he approved in these words, “I have selected David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will carry out my whole purpose.” To keep his promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour, whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel. Before John ended his career he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandal.”’

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Matthew 1:1-25

A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, Tamar being their mother,
Perez was the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram was the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon was the father of Boaz, Rahab being his mother,
Boaz was the father of Obed, Ruth being his mother,
Obed was the father of Jesse;
and Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Azariah,
Azariah was the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah;
and Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers.
Then the deportation to Babylon took place.
After the deportation to Babylon:
Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor was the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud was the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob;
and Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary;
of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.

The sum of generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.
This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son
and they will call him Emmanuel,

a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home and, though he had not had intercourse with her, she gave birth to a son; and he named him Jesus.

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“I will not keep silent.”

As we wait for the coming of Jesus into the world, I sometimes imagine a life without a relationship with Christ. A world where the law of man is absolute, a finite world that only matters during our lifetimes, a world where we stand alone in the blizzard. A world without purpose. Even with Jesus in our midst, I struggle to overcome the challenges of each day. So why then do we anticipate the coming of Christ with such fervant longing?

Waiting on Christ builds faith. Faith gives us a vision for eternity. An eternity spent in the loving arms of our Father where we will experience unfathomable peace and love. A gift which he bestows willingly on the undeserving from the font of his abundance. When frustration about my faith journey sets in, I realise that my behaviour smacks of entitlement. How can a sinner like me get upset for not receiving what was never mine to begin with?

Brothers and sisters, ‘waiting on the Lord’ doesn’t fully capture our commitment to Christ. The faith journey requires patience, pro-activeness, and perseverance. As we stand ready to welcome Jesus into the world, let us not stand on the sidelines in passive aquiesance, but let us actively wait for Christ by preparing this world for his coming.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dear Lord, give us the courage to proclaim your bountiful works.

Thanksgiving: We are so grateful for your providence Lord. Thank you for giving us the fortitude to journey with you.

2 October, Monday – On Work

Oct 2 – Memorial for The Guardian Angels

The term “guardian angels” refers to the belief that each soul has an angel who is available to shepherd the soul through life, and help bring them to God.

Belief in the reality of angels, their mission as messengers of God, and Man’s interaction with them, goes back to the earliest times. Cherubim kept Adam and Eve from slipping back into Eden; angels saved Lot and helped destroy the cities of the plains; in Exodus Moses follows an angel, and at one point an angel is appointed leader of Israel. Michael is mentioned at several points, Raphael figures large in the story of Tobit, and Gabriel delivered the Annunciation of the coming of Christ.

The concept of each soul having a personal guardian angel, is also an ancient one, and long accepted by the Church:

“See that you despise not one of these little ones [children]: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” – Jesus, Matthew 18:10

“How great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it.” – St. Jerome in his commentary on Matthew

“Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them, who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?” – Hebrews 1:14

The feast, celebrating the angels who helped bring us to God, began in many local calendars centuries ago, and was widely known by the 16th century. Pope Paul V placed a feast venerating the angels on the general calendar on 27 September 1608. Ferdinand of Austria requested that it be extended to all areas in the Holy Roman Empire.

Initially placed after the feast of Michael the Archangel, it was seen as a kind of supplement to that date. Pope Clement X elevated the feast, celebrated on 2 October, to an obligatory double for the whole Church. On 5 April 1883, Pope Leo XIII raised the feast to the rank of a double major.

– Patron Saint Index

“O angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom whose love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to rule and guard, to light and guide. Amen.” – Prayer to our guardian angel

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Zechariah 8:1-8

The word of the Lord of Hosts was addressed to me as follows:

‘The Lord of Hosts says this. I am burning with jealousy for Zion, with great anger for her sake.

‘The Lord of Hosts says this. I am coming back to Zion and shall dwell in the middle of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem will be called Faithful City and the mountain of the Lord of Hosts, the Holy Mountain.

‘The Lord of Hosts says this. Old men and old women will again sit down in the squares of Jerusalem; every one of them staff in hand because of their great age.

And the squares of the city will be full of boys and girls playing in the squares.

‘The Lord of Hosts says this. If this seems a miracle to the remnant of this people (in those days), will it seem one to me?

It is the Lord of Hosts who speaks.

‘The Lord of Hosts says this.

Now I am going to save my people from the countries of the East and from the countries of the West. I will bring them back to live inside Jerusalem.

They shall be my people and I will be their God in faithfulness and integrity.’

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Matthew 18:1-5, 10

The disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ So he called a little child to him and set the child in front of them. Then he said, ‘I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

‘Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven.’

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“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”

 At the end of a particularly dull day at the office last week, I walked past a group of foreign workers who were pruning the shrubs in my neighbourhood park. They were chuckling and smiling, and moved with the lightness of a viola prodigy’s hands. As I made my way out of the park, I thanked God for blessing us with such committed gardeners who keep our little part of Singapore beautiful, and I found myself reflecting on the value we ascribe to the work we do, and on the expectations that we have of a job or career.

It has been said that a high-profile CEO once noted that if work was to be enjoyable, the workers should be paying their employer. Is work really only a means to a pay cheque at the end of each month? Does the onus for deriving a sense of purpose and fulfilment fall on working individuals, or employers? A lot of our dissatisfaction at work stems from a disconnect of our expectations from reality. I’ve been seeking for work that edifies society and my personal aspirations, while still allowing me to save for my family and future. Success at this endeavour has, thus far, proved elusive.

Yet scripture informs us of how we should apply ourselves and our talents. Humble, honest work will provide us with far more riches than we can imagine. St Ignatius of Loyola once said, “You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.” God values anything that we do for His greater glory, including work that seems humdrum at best. There will always be the temptation to compare our circumstances with others, but this folly overlooks our imperfect understanding of their journey. Rather than seeing others as competition, we should be working in concert with them in God’s fields.

As a new work day beckons, I find myself facing the challenges that will undoubtedly come with the trust that God will never give me more than I can handle, and that all things come from Him for His purpose. May the Lord fill you with that peace and confidence as well.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer – Dear Lord, grant us the temerity to pray and work in faithful service of you.

Thanksgiving – We thank you Father, for the hands that you have made and for the joy that they bring as they build your kingdom.

24 August, Thursday – Passionate About Passion

Aug 24 – Feast of St. Bartholomew, apostle

Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Apostles. He was probably a close friend of St. Philip, as his name is always mentioned in the gospels in connection with Philip, and it was Philip who brought Bartholomew to Jesus. He may have written a gospel, now lost, as it is mentioned in other writings of the time.

Someone preached in Asia Minor, Ethiopia, India, and Armenia and left behind assorted writings. Local tradition says it was Bartholomew.

– Patron Saint Index

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Apocalypse 21:9-14

The angel came to speak to me, and said, ‘Come here and I will show you the bride that the Lamb has married.’ In the spirit, he took me to the top of an enormous high mountain and showed me Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down from God out of heaven. It had all the radiant glory of God and glittered like some precious jewel of crystal-clear diamond. The walls of it were of a great height, and had twelve gates; at each of the twelve gates there was an angel, and over the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel; on the east there were three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. The city walls stood on twelve foundation stones, each one of which bore the name of one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

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John 1:45-51

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, the one about whom the prophets wrote: he is Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.’ ‘From Nazareth?’ said Nathanael ‘Can anything good come from that place?’ ‘Come and see’ replied Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said of him, ‘There is an Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit.’ ‘How do you know me?’ said Nathanael ‘Before Philip came to call you,’ said Jesus ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ Nathanael answered, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.’ Jesus replied, ‘You believe that just because I said: I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.’ And then he added ‘I tell you most solemnly, you will see heaven laid open and, above the Son of Man, the angels of God ascending and descending.’

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You will see greater things than that

Passion. A powerful word that aptly describes the fervour all the Saints had for serving Christ. With passion comes dedication, motivation and purpose; what most would consider as a recipe for success in any chosen endeavor. I suspect that most of us have never truly experienced passion. We may claim to enjoy certain pursuits, but never let them consume all of our being to the point of defining our existence.

About four months ago, I decided to give tennis a try and am utterly smitten. Physical limitations notwithstanding, I have been training and playing as often as I can. As tiring, challenging and frustrating as the game can be, I never find myself wanting to give up. I enjoy the relentless competition, the pain that leaves every sinew in my body sore, and the humiliation of regular defeats. I revel in the satisfaction of a hard won point, the days when every stroke just flows effortlessly, and the friendships forged under the scorching sun. If this is what passion is, then I want more of it in my life and wonder why I have never felt it before.

Is passion a fortunate (or occasionally misguided) coincidence? Can passion for God be developed? Or is it something that only a select few ever get to experience? I surmise that there is a formula for passion and would love to hear your thoughts on this (please leave your comments on our Facebook page or email us at oxygen@thecatholicwriter.com).

I believe that we become passionate about things when 1) we are open to, and actively work at discovering things that are inherently good and worthwhile; 2) the object of passion is aligned with our personality and wholeness as persons; 3) we find it more meaningful to devote our time and energy toward our passion as compared to our previous routines; and 4) the object of passion helps us to grow.

It seems like the Saints were onto something good when they were filled with passion for Jesus. Their efforts seem so phenomenal and barely understandable to those who are unable to understand their motivations. Brothers and sisters, is it time for us to be active in our search for passion? Our relationship with Christ should not and cannot be left to chance.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, your passion on the cross saved us all. Bless us with the gift of passion for you, and the service of mankind.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for our capacity to feel and love so deeply. May we never forget how you’ve always cherished your children.