Tag Archives: suffering

11 April, Tuesday – Following our Lord

11 April 2017

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Isaiah 49:1-6

Islands, listen to me,
pay attention, remotest peoples.
The Lord called me before I was born,
from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.

He made my mouth a sharp sword,
and hid me in the shadow of his hand.
He made me into a sharpened arrow,
and concealed me in his quiver.

He said to me, ‘You are my servant (Israel)
in whom I shall be glorified’;
while I was thinking, ‘I have toiled in vain,
I have exhausted myself for nothing’;

and all the while my cause was with the Lord,
my reward with my God.
I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord,
my God was my strength.

And now the Lord has spoken,
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
to gather Israel to him:

‘It is not enough for you to be my servant,
to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel;
I will make you the light of the nations
so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’

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John 13:21-33,36-38

While at supper with his disciples, Jesus was troubled in spirit and declared, ‘I tell you most solemnly, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, wondering which he meant. The disciple Jesus loved was reclining next to Jesus; Simon Peter signed to him and said, ‘Ask who it is he means’, so leaning back on Jesus’ breast he said, ‘Who is it, Lord?’ ‘It is the one’ replied Jesus ‘to whom I give the piece of bread that I shall dip in the dish.’ He dipped the piece of bread and gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. At that instant, after Judas had taken the bread, Satan entered him. Jesus then said, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly.’ None of the others at table understood the reason he said this. Since Judas had charge of the common fund, some of them thought Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’, or telling him to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the piece of bread he went out. Night had fallen.
When he had gone Jesus said:

‘Now has the Son of Man been glorified,
and in him God has been glorified.
If God has been glorified in him,
God will in turn glorify him in himself,
and will glorify him very soon.

‘My little children,
I shall not be with you much longer.
You will look for me,
And, as I told the Jews,
where I am going, you cannot come.’

Simon Peter said, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now; you will follow me later.’ Peter said to him, ‘Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ ‘Lay down your life for me?’ answered Jesus. ‘I tell you most solemnly, before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.’

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Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later”

In today’s gospel, we are shown the beginning of Jesus’s Passion. Indeed, we are told of the very moment that Satan entered Judas, and the betrayal began. This image of Satan entering Judas is particularly salient to many of us who have struggled with sin. How often have we sensed the beginnings of a sinful act – whether it is an angry thought that has entered our mind or a little excuse we give ourselves for turning a blind eye to a personal transgression – but done nothing about it?

We are often told that it is far easier to nip sin in the bud before it can take root, to deny the words of the evil spirit before they make us do something we may regret. But in reality, we know how hard it is. Like in the movie ‘Inception’, the seeds of sin and doubt can take root so quickly and innocuously, and the consequences of these seeds are often painful not only to ourselves, but to our loved ones as well. Furthermore, we are told that Judas is not the only one who was susceptible to the evil spirit. Even Peter, the chosen ‘rock’ of the church, was plagued with doubt and fear. While he did not betray Jesus, Peter nonetheless denied Him when faced with the fear of persecution.

Such is our human nature, plagued by original sin and often filled with fear and anxiety, that it often does not take a lot for Satan to push us down the wrong path. But such is also the grace of God, that it is not difficult to fight our ways back to sanctity and holiness. All we need to do, as Jesus has told us time and again, is to repent and denounce sin. And should we, having repented, continue to fall into sin, all we need to do, again, is simply to repent once more. Being fully aware of our human nature, Jesus nonetheless chose to love and save us. Indeed, He continued to love Peter and Thomas, despite their denial and doubt, and grant them admittance to His Kingdom.

This is the promise that we find at the end of today’s gospel reading: “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later”. Jesus is telling us that where He has gone (heaven), we will also follow. Yet at the same time, He is also telling us that where He was going (to the Cross), we would also need to go. Yes, as Jesus has suffered, we are also called to suffer. But this suffering that we often face is not for naught. Rather, and as St Teresa of Calcutta has taught us, we must see our suffering as redemptive suffering, both for the salvation of our own souls and those of others.

As we face all our fears and doubts this Holy Week, let us remind ourselves that in following our Lord to the cross, we are also following Him to holiness and salvation.

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for your grace and guidance, as well face our daily struggles and doubts, and we ask for your patience and forgivness, for the times when we have not loved You enough. 

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for being the head to the body of our Church. For where the Head has gone, so will the body. May we follow You in faithful discipleship.

27 September, Tuesday – Hope

27 September – Memorial for St. Vincent de Paul, Priest

Vincent (1581-1660) spent four years with the Franciscan friars getting an education. He was taken captive by Turkish pirates and sold into slavery, then freed when he converted one of his owners to Christianity. He started organisations to help the poor, nursed the sick, found jobs for the unemployed, etc. With Louise de Marillac, he founded the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity. He also instituted the Congregation of Priests of the Mission (Lazarists).

– Patron Saints Index

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Job 3:1-3,11-17,20-23

Job broke the silence and cursed the day of his birth. This is what he said:

May the day perish when I was born,
and the night that told of a boy conceived.
Why did I not die new-born,
not perish as I left the womb?
Why were there two knees to receive me,
two breasts for me to suck?
Had there not been, I should now be lying in peace,
wrapped in a restful slumber,
with the kings and high viziers of earth
who build themselves vast vaults,
or with princes who have gold and to spare
and houses crammed with silver.
Or put away like a still-born child that never came to be,
like unborn babes that never see the light.
Down there, bad men bustle no more,
there the weary rest.

Why give light to a man of grief?
Why give life to those bitter of heart,
who long for a death that never comes,
and hunt for it more than for a buried treasure?
They would be glad to see the grave-mound
and shout with joy if they reached the tomb.
Why make this gift of light to a man who does not see his way,
whom God baulks on every side?

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Luke 9:51-56

As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem and sent messengers ahead of him. These set out, and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem. Seeing this, the disciples James and John said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?’ But he turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village.

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“Why give light to a man of grief? Why give life to those bitter of heart, who long for a death that never comes, and hunt for it more than for a buried treasure?”

The readings today challenge us as brings us to the question of what is morally right in the eyes of the church. If ultimately our goal is to be united with Christ in heaven, then why can’t we put someone who is suffering to death in order that he may be united with Christ, where there will not be any more suffering?

There are times where after having invested all our time, effort and money into projects/relationships/careers/exams only to see us fail, we want to give up, everything we have worked for, down the drain. We begin to ask ourselves, what’s the meaning of life? Where’s God? And we say that there is no God and life is no more worth living. However, our questioning and our answer has never been based on God but ourselves, OUR hard work, OUR effort, OUR money and MY life. Because the reality is that even after we’ve failed, we realise that we are still alive, even though we may not be as before, we still have a shot at life. We have HOPE.

The readings direct us to the message that indeed God is our HOPE. It is only He who gives life and takes away. And because of this, we ought to be pro-life, to be givers of hope to all, especially those who are suffering.

The problem with us as seen in the Gospel, is that, like the disciples, we tend to judge, “but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem…. ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?’”. Often, we find ourselves saying “he/she deserves it.” But our God is one who despite the many times that we have chosen sin over Him, patiently waits for us and continues to be a provider of this hope that we will truly be united with Him because we treasure this life that He has given us.

There will always be sufferings but we are called to also be hope for others in those times of suffering. In that way, we can see the glory of God, to recognise that we are blessed even in our sufferings for it is in the HOPE that God is present, it is in Him that we live. Let us strive to be hope for the hopeless and light for all those in darkness.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

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Prayer: Dear Lord, our struggles are real, our load is heavy, our flesh is weak. Be our strength and our courage Lord. Help us to see with your eyes, to see the hope in this world, to be the hope in the world. To know that you are present, have always been and will always be. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for reaching out to us today. Many times we really feel like giving up. The workload isn’t lessening and it seems that we are trapped in a never ending cycle. Thank you for your questions and help us to reflect on, what is the meaning of life? And, where’s God? Amen.

15 August, Monday – Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

15 August – Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Mass during the day)

Dear Readers,

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These are the readings for the day of the feast itself – Monday.

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Mary is taken up body and soul into the glory of Heaven, and with God and in God she is Queen of Heaven and earth. And is she really so remote from us? The contrary is true. Precisely because she is with God and in God, she is very close to each one of us. While she lived on this earth she could only be close to a few people. Being in God, who is close to us, actually, “within” all of us, Mary shares in this closeness of God. Being in God and with God, she is close to each one of us, knows our hearts, can hear our prayers, can help us with her motherly kindness and has been given to us, as the Lord said, precisely as a “mother” to whom we can turn at every moment. – Pope Benedict XVI

– http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2005/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20050815_assunzione-maria_en.html

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Apocalypse 11:19,12:1-6,10

The sanctuary of God in heaven opened and the ark of the covenant could be seen inside it. Then came flashes of lightning, peals of thunder and an earthquake, and violent hail.

Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown. She was pregnant, and in labour, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth. Then a second sign appeared in the sky, a huge red dragon which had seven heads and ten horns, and each of the seven heads crowned with a coronet. Its tail dragged a third of the stars from the sky and dropped them to the earth, and the dragon stopped in front of the woman as she was having the child, so that he could eat it as soon as it was born from its mother. The woman brought a male child into the world, the son who was to rule all the nations with an iron sceptre, and the child was taken straight up to God and to his throne, while the woman escaped into the desert, where God had made a place of safety ready, for her to be looked after in the twelve hundred and sixty days.

Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, ‘Victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now that the persecutor, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down.’

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1 Corinthians 15:20-26

Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him. After that will come the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, having done away with every sovereignty, authority and power. For he must be king until he has put all his enemies under his feet and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death, for everything is to be put under his feet.

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Luke 1:39-56

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’

And Mary said:

‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.

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“Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste”

The first verse in today’s gospel comes immediately after the angel’s annunciation to Mary. So why would Mary, a young and newly pregnant mother, make that arduous trip from Nazareth to the hill country of Judah, a journey that from all accounts, was about 100 miles long? Why do we ever do anything that is impulsive or illogical? Because in our hearts, we feel moved by faith – we just ‘know’ it’s the right thing to do.

Ecclesiastes says, “There is a given time for everything and a time for every happening under heaven” (Ecc 3:1). Mary knew instinctively that it was time and that she was going to be the agent of change through which salvation would be manifest into the world. She knew, and trusted that it would be alright, even if she did not have all the facts just yet. These moments of grace are truly special. Touched by God, we are blessed with a sense of ‘knowing’, a certainty to act outside of ourselves without seeing the whole picture – a job turned down, a proposal not consummated, a road untravelled. In that moment, we have an inkling that we have received grace, even if full realization comes with the passage of time.

I experienced being touched by His grace last Sunday. I have been angry for a long time, frustrated by politics in the ministry, dejected and disillusioned by the glacial pace at which things are achieved within the bureaucracy of the church. And I confess to allowing these dark thoughts to take a hold of my heart. But when I least expected it, certainly when I least deserved it, God granted me a grace whose significance I can only guess at. I’m humbled by the experience. When it happened, it was like a bolt of lightning. I was overcome with an awareness that He does see, that He is in control and that He hears my deepest thoughts. It was as if He wanted to remind me that I am not as alone as I thought myself to be. And that I should know, things will happen but in His time, not mine. Being ‘caught out’ in my thoughts like that is both terrifying and uplifting. He knows! He hears! And He’s gently reminded me that I should take Mary’s lead; I ought to know too.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We ask for His forgiveness, when we give up too easily, and lose faith in His ability to effect change.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for His unending love and mercy, that even when we least deserve it, He offers us a measure of grace to save us from ourselves.

25 May, Wednesday – Our Transcendent Nature

25 May 

Dear Oxygen Readers, we welcome Jacob Woo, a new guest writer with us today. Jacob has just joined our Catholic family with his Baptism this Easter. We pray he will grow in strength and wisdom in his newfound faith and life with Christ. God bless to all!

Jacob is a relatively recent convert to the Catholic faith. He is by day a Professor of Political Science and by night an ardent student of Philosophy. Deeply inspired by Ignatian spirituality, he hopes to find God in all things and to serve God in all ways.

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Memorial for St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Worker; Memorial for St. Gregory VII, Pope; Memorial for St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, Virgin

Bede (672-735) was born around the time England was finally completely Christianized. He was raised from age seven in the abbey of Sts. Peter and Paul at Wearmouth-Jarrow, and lived there the rest of his life. He was a Benedictine monk, and the spiritual student of the founder, St. Benedict Biscop. He was ordained in 702 by St. John of Beverley. He was a teacher and author; he wrote about history, rhetoric, mathematics, music, astronomy, poetry, grammar, philosophy, hagiography, homiletics, and Bible commentary.

He was known as the most learned man of his day, and his writings started the idea of dating this era from the incarnation of Christ. The central theme of Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica is of the Church using the power of its spiritual, doctrinal, and cultural unity to stamp out violence and barbarism. Our knowledge of England before the 8th century is mainly the result of Bede’s writing. He was declared a Doctor of the Church on 13 November 1899 by Pope Leo XIII.

Gregory (1020-1085) was educated in Rome, Italy. He was a Benedictine monk, and chaplain to Pope Gregory VI. He was in charge of the Patrimony of St. Peter. He was a reformer and an excellent administrator. He was chosen the 152nd pope, but he declined the crown. He was chief counsellor to Pope Victor II, Pope Stephen IX, Pope Benedict X, and Pope Nicholas II. He eventually became the 157th pope.

At the time of his ascension, simony and a corrupt clergy threatened to destroy faith in the Church. Gregory took the throne as a reformer, and Emperor Henry IV promised to support him. Gregory suspended all clerics who had purchased their position, and ordered the return of all purchased church property.

The corrupt clergy rebelled; Henry IV broke his promise, and promoted the rebels. Gregory responded by excommunicating anyone involved in lay investiture. He summoned Henry to Rome, but the emperor’s supporters drove Gregory into exile. Henry installed the anti-pope Guibert of Ravenna, who was driven from Rome by Normans who supported Gregory; the Normans were, themselves, so out of control that the people of Rome drove them out. Gregory then retreated to Salerno, Italy, where he spent the remainder of his papacy.

Catherine (1566-1607) had a religious upbringing. She was initially sent to a convent at the age of 14, but was taken back home by her family who opposed her religious vocation and wanted her to marry well. They eventually gave in, and Catherine became a Carmelite of the Ancient Observance at 16, taking the name Sister Mary Magdalene. She as a mystic, and led a hidden life of prayer and self-denial, praying particularly for the renewal of the Church and encouraging the sisters in holiness. Her life was marked by many extraordinary graces.

–  Patron Saint Index

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1 Peter 1:18-25

Remember, the ransom that was paid to free you from the useless way of life your ancestors handed down was not paid in anything corruptible, neither in silver nor gold, but in the precious blood of a lamb without spot or stain, namely Christ; who, though known since before the world was made, has been revealed only in our time, the end of the ages, for your sake. Through him you now have faith in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory for that very reason – so that you would have faith and hope in God.

You have been obedient to the truth and purified your souls until you can love like brothers, in sincerity; let your love for each other be real and from the heart – your new birth was not from any mortal seed but from the everlasting word of the living and eternal God. All flesh is grass and its glory like the wild flower’s. The grass withers, the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains for ever. What is this word? It is the Good News that has been brought to you.

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Mark 10:32-45

The disciples were on the road, going up to Jerusalem; Jesus was walking on ahead of them; they were in a daze, and those who followed were apprehensive. Once more taking the Twelve aside he began to tell them what was going to happen to him: ‘Now we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the pagans, who will mock him and spit at him and scourge him and put him to death; and after three days he will rise again.’
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him. ‘Master,’ they said to him ‘we want you to do us a favour.’ He said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ They said to him, ‘Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I must drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I must be baptised you shall be baptised, but as for seats at my right hand or my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted.’

When the other ten heard this they began to feel indignant with James and John, so Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all. For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

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Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised?

As Catholics, we are constantly reminded by both our priests and the Saints who have graced this world of the (necessary) presence and purpose of suffering. Indeed, Blessed Mother Teresa has often taught that suffering can be redemptive, both for ourselves and for others.

These are thoughts that have occupied me of late, as I struggle with a series of health ailments that have forced me to slow down my pace of life. With each visit to the doctors and with every ache that I experience, I am forced to face the reality of human existence – the bodily and emotional struggles that accompany our physical frailty.

Yet as Catholics, we know that beyond this physical reality lies a far deeper and more comforting spiritual reality. This is the reality that Jesus is trying to exhibit to His disciples in today’s Gospel reading. When James and John asked if they could sit by the Lord’s side in His Glory, they are rebuked with the question, “Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised?”

Our Lord was not merely referring to a physical ‘cup’ or ‘baptism’, but something deeper and more spiritual. And yes, it involves a great deal of suffering. In today’s readings, Jesus is asking His disciples (and us) to focus on a deeper reality, one of obedience to God and service to others, over their daily material concerns and egos. As children of God, we are already imbued with a spiritual and transcendent nature. It is this God-given nature that Jesus is reminding us of today.

As we face our daily struggles and suffering, may we also remember to focus our attention on that deeper spiritual reality that our Lord offers us. May we, like Mother Teresa, raise up our suffering to our Lord, so that even our suffering should be of service to God. May we remember that we are more than our bodies and our possessions. We are children of Spirit and Light. All the joys and sufferings that we face in our earthy existence should be no more than reminders of the true joy that a life with God can bring us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we dedicate all our days to you. We lift up our joys and sufferings to You, trusting that in the sweetness of Your love, may we find the peace and joy that the world could never give us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for the loved ones whom You have placed in our lives, and for the chance to reflect Your love in our families and friendships.