Tag Archives: winnie kung

20 July, Saturday – Humility at Heart

Jul 20 – Memorial for St. Apollinaris, Bishop & Martyr

According to tradition, Apollinaris was a native of Antioch in the Roman Province of Syria. He was made the first Bishop of Ravenna by St. Peter during the persecutions of Emperor Vespasian (or Nero, depending on the source).

On his way out of the city, he was identified, arrested as being the leader, tortured and martyred by being run through with a sword. Centuries after his death, he appeared in a vision to St. Romuald. He was a noted miracle worker, and is considered especially effective against gout and epilepsy.

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Exodus 12:37-42

The sons of Israel left Rameses for Succoth, about six hundred thousand on the march – all men – not counting their families. People of various sorts joined them in great numbers; there were flocks, too, and herds in immense droves. They baked cakes with the dough which they had brought from Egypt, unleavened because the dough was not leavened; they had been driven out of Egypt, with no time for dallying, and had not provided themselves with food for the journey. The time that the sons of Israel had spent in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And on the very day the four hundred and thirty years ended, all the array of the Lord left the land of Egypt. The night, when the Lord kept vigil to bring them out of the land of Egypt, must be kept as a vigil in honour of the Lord for all their generations.

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Matthew 12:14-21

The Pharisees went out and began to plot against Jesus, discussing how to destroy him.

Jesus knew this and withdrew from the district. Many followed him and he cured them all, but warned them not to make him known. This was to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah:

Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved, the favourite of my soul.
I will endow him with my spirit,
and he will proclaim the true faith to the nations.
He will not brawl or shout,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
He will not break the crushed reed,
nor put out the smouldering wick
till he has led the truth to victory:
in his name the nations will put their hope.

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“Here is my servant who I have chosen,…I will endow him with my spirit, and he will proclaim the true faith to the nations.”

As a ‘cradle Catholics’ (not ready for the grave yet), we know that our Lord gave us two commandments. One is to love God with all our heart, all our mind, all our soul and all our strength; and love others as we love ourselves. Within that love, we are to share the treasure that God offers, and we are called to introduce, if not to bring, our fellow travelers to Jesus, our Lord, in this journey called Life. Yes, we are all called to evangelize.

I struggle with wanting to serve but fearing that I do not have anything to offer. Not knowing if I possess any talents, whatever that might be, and how to use them to serve. Feeling frustrated and ineffective, I cannot believe that God would choose me to serve in ministry as there are so many more talented, more eloquent, more knowledgeable people; why would he choose a sinner like me?

Then I came upon a reading in the Divine Mercy reflections with Saint Faustina. We are all called to serve. Some have a ‘bigger’ or more public role, some have a less public role, but we all have a part to play in God’s grand scheme. The role He entrusts to us is not given to anyone else, individually, we are to fulfill the task assigned. But we are NEVER alone.

All that we have, all that we are, is the result of graces given by the Lord. The faith that we have, the achievements that we attain, the good that we do, are all gifts from our God — who is holy and all good.  Of course, it is a choice we make in collaborating with God to do good. But it would be dangerous for us to claim that we alone, achieved the good. Left to our own devices, our fallen human nature would lead us to the wrong path.  It is only with the guidance of the Holy Spirit that we are able to head in the right direction.

So do not be disheartened if you are like me, undecided as to what talents we possess to serve the Lord.  God has a job and a plan for us. All we need is to love and trust in the Lord. We need to pray and be attentive to His call. We must have a heart that desires His will over ours, and then we need to be patient. Because it is not when we want or how we want to serve. Rather, it is according to God’s will of when, where and how.

Brothers and sisters, we are all called to serve, but we don’t have to worry about the ways or methods. God has already figured that out for us and all we need is to let Him take the wheel.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, grant us the grace to desire Your will over our own, and the grace of patience in waiting. Help us to be attentive to Your call and recognize Your voice above all else.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for deeming us worthy of Your work and providing us with the tools to serve Your will.

25 May, Saturday – Persecution and Detachment

May 25 – 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.

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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.

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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.

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Acts 16:1-10

From Cilicia Paul went to Derbe, and then on to Lystra. Here there was a disciple called Timothy, whose mother was a Jewess who had become a believer; but his father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy, and Paul, who wanted to have him as a travelling companion, had him circumcised. This was on account of the Jews in the locality where everyone knew his father was a Greek.

As they visited one town after another, they passed on the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, with instructions to respect them.

So the churches grew strong in the faith, as well as growing daily in numbers.

They travelled through Phrygia and the Galatian country, having been told by the Holy Spirit not to preach the word in Asia. When they reached the frontier of Mysia they thought to cross it into Bithynia, but as the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them, they went through Mysia and came down to Troas.

One night Paul had a vision: a Macedonian appeared and appealed to him in these words, ‘Come across to Macedonia and help us.’ Once he had seen this vision we lost no time in arranging a passage to Macedonia, convinced that God had called us to bring them the Good News.

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John 15:18-21

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If the world hates you,
remember that it hated me before you.
If you belonged to the world,
the world would love you as its own;
but because you do not belong to the world,
because my choice withdrew you from the world,
therefore the world hates you.
Remember the words I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master.
If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too;
if they kept my word, they will keep yours as well.
But it will be on my account that they will do all this,
because they do not know the one who sent me.’

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If the world hates you, remember that it hated me before you.”

Recently, secularism and relativism have been constantly on my mind. In silent observation, I see their effects on Christians and non-Christians alike. Let’s be clear what secularism and relativism mean.  Secularism is the indifference and rejection of religion. It’s a desire to exclude religion from social activities and civic affairs. Relativism is the idea that there are no universal, objective truths, only points of view; and each opinion or judgment is valid only for the person or group holding them.

At first glance, these attitudes seem to be innocuous. Separating church from state and to be open to different opinions, they seem like good ideas. Tolerance of one and all, this is the making of a perfect world. However, you and I know that this is not the case. Current secularism deems religion, particularly Christianity as outdated, unnecessary and ‘mumbo jumbo’ for people who need emotional crutches. To the people who drank from the secular fountain, God is but an imaginary being and should be relegated to the realm of fairy tales and has no place in society and its discussions. Religion, particularly Christianity, has been shunned. You don’t need to look very far for signs of this. Companies like Starbucks, Google, Facebook and many others have succumbed to the demands of secularists and have done away with the words Christmas and Easter in all their promotion materials. Even to the point that the design of the disposable Christmas coffee cup has become a great debate (at least in North America). What are these people so afraid of? A God that loves them so much that He was willing to die for us? That, truly is a threat. Because admitting that would make us see ourselves in a different light and we may not like what we see.

The idea of relativism hides behind the guise of freedom. The freedom of choice, the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion. Yes, freedom is important, but within the freedom, there are safeguards that do not allow us to hurt others. Like in the case of freedom of the press, we cannot propagate hateful and discriminatory thoughts, speeches or actions against another. Likewise within freedom of will, there are boundaries to protect ourselves and others. Relativism has done away with the safeguards because it does not admit that there are truths that cannot be denied, such as God and His teachings, and that there are boundaries that cannot be crossed (such killing of the unborn child or terminally ill – abortion and euthanasia, which are legal in parts of North America).

Christians, let us persevere in our faith and not fall victims to the pressures of the world. Let’s fashion ourselves like the unbeatable ‘bobo dolls’ that bounce back again and again in the face of adversity and hostility. A daughter of a friend of mine wanted to bring a nativity set for show and tell to school, and was told by the teacher that it is not permitted to bring religious artifacts to school.  However, another child was able to bring a menorah, perhaps the teacher deemed it to be cultural and not religious.

Whatever the case, with the increasing sentiment of secularism and relativism, with the persecution of Christians on the rise, let us stand firm in our believes. May our faith be strengthened like the immovable rock against the tide. If we feel ostracized and criticized, let us remember that the people also rejected our Lord Jesus. But in the end, our Lord triumphed over death and sin. We can share in that glory if we remain faithful and unwavering in our love of God and His Word.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, grant us the grace to follow Your commandment to love others as we love ourselves, to will the good of the other.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us despite our many transgressions.

24 May, Friday – Expressions of Love

24 May 2019

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Acts 15:22-31

The apostles and elders decided to choose delegates to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; the whole church concurred with this. They chose Judas known as Barsabbas and Silas, both leading men in the brotherhood, and gave them this letter to take with them:

‘The apostles and elders, your brothers, send greetings to the brothers of pagan birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We hear that some of our members have disturbed you with their demands and have unsettled your minds. They acted without any authority from us; and so we have decided unanimously to elect delegates and to send them to you with Barnabas and Paul, men we highly respect who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accordingly we are sending you Judas and Silas, who will confirm by word of mouth what we have written in this letter. It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials: you are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols; from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from fornication. Avoid these, and you will do what is right. Farewell.’

The party left and went down to Antioch, where they summoned the whole community and delivered the letter. The community read it and were delighted with the encouragement it gave them.

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John 15:12-17

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘This is my commandment:
love one another,
as I have loved you.
A man can have no greater love
than to lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends,
if you do what I command you.
I shall not call you servants any more,
because a servant does not know
his master’s business;
I call you friends,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learnt from my Father.
You did not choose me:
no, I chose you;
and I commissioned you
to go out and to bear fruit,
fruit that will last;
and then the Father will give you
anything you ask him in my name.
What I command you is to love one another.’

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What I command you is to love one another

Some time ago, if someone were to ask me, “What is love?” I would simply say it is an emotion, a feeling, and a need. Whenever I heard the commandment from Jesus, “to love one another as we love ourselves”, I secretly thought that it was an impossible task. At the best of times, we are selfish creatures and at other times, we don’t even love ourselves to the best of our abilities. If so, where would bad habits come from?  (I have plenty of them).

It was not until I started to listen to the Catholic podcasts, Word on Fire, that it slowly dawned on me, what Jesus meant. The love that Jesus speaks of is not the emotion and feeling that I thought. For those are transient and often not something that we can choose or control. The love that Jesus speaks of is a choice. A choice of willing the good of others. Think about it for a minute. Don’t be so quick to dismiss this so quickly. Love is a choice that we make, willing the good of the other.

It is not a casual hug and kiss and “I love you”. It is not wanting to spend all your time and attention on the other person. Although these are forms of expressions of love, the love that our Lord talks about is deeper. If you love someone, wouldn’t you want the best for them? Wouldn’t you want to give them the best, for them to achieve the best? Wouldn’t you guide them if they were heading down a wrong path? Wouldn’t you sit with them and share their sorrows and their joys?

If we truly love someone, not only would we want the best for the other, we would pray fervently for them, for their salvation. What is the best thing in this world that is free yet priceless? That is the love of our Lord, the peace and joy that only He can provide. Willing this for others, and expressing this in our hearts, in our words and actions is the true meaning of love. An important note is that we choose to love. Love is not given because the other is deserving or because they are family or related. But because we choose to love as the Lord has loved us.

How do we love others, if not in an emotional way? Simply by not engaging in gossip, not being envious or jealous of the other, and only correcting them justly; these are some of the ways we can love the others. The correcting of another is a tricky one. Beware of the feeling self-righteousness. In correcting others, intentions must come from a place of love and truly wanting the good of the other. It should never come from a place of pride and thinking we are better, smarter and therefore can point out the errors of another. These are but a few suggestions, I am sure you are able to find more ways to love others as you love yourself.

Love, as I understand it now, is not an uncontrollable emotion, but a choice that I make. Even if the other has wronged us or the love is not reciprocated, we can still choose to will the good of the other by praying for them earnestly, by leading them to Christ in everything we do and say. In other words, if Christ truly lives in us, love for others comes naturally.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, grant us the grace to follow Your commandment to love others as we love ourselves, to will the good of the other. Let us remember this as we sing “Christians love one another, as we share the true living bread. Jesus is our God and our brother; with His flesh and blood we are fed. Everyone who loves is born of God. Jesus is our life, God is love.”

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us despite our many transgressions.

23 May, Thursday – Saved Through Grace

23 May 2019

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Acts 15:7-21

After the discussion had gone on a long time, Peter stood up and addressed the apostles and the elders.
‘My brothers,’ he said ‘you know perfectly well that in the early days God made his choice among you: the pagans were to learn the Good News from me and so become believers. In fact God, who can read everyone’s heart, showed his approval of them by giving the Holy Spirit to them just as he had to us. God made no distinction between them and us, since he purified their hearts by faith. It would only provoke God’s anger now, surely, if you imposed on the disciples the very burden that neither we nor our ancestors were strong enough to support? Remember, we believe that we are saved in the same way as they are: through the grace of the Lord Jesus.’

This silenced the entire assembly, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul describing the signs and wonders God had worked through them among the pagans.

When they had finished it was James who spoke. ‘My brothers,’ he said ‘listen to me. Simeon has described how God first arranged to enlist a people for his name out of the pagans. This is entirely in harmony with the words of the prophets, since the scriptures say:

After that I shall return
and rebuild the fallen House of David;
I shall rebuild it from its ruins
and restore it.
Then the rest of mankind,
all the pagans who are consecrated to my name,
will look for the Lord,
says the Lord who made this known so long ago.

‘I rule, then, that instead of making things more difficult for pagans who turn to God, we send them a letter telling them merely to abstain from anything polluted by idols, from fornication, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has always had his preachers in every town, and is read aloud in the synagogues every sabbath.’

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John 15:9-11

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this
so that my own joy may be in you
and your joy be complete.’

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I shall return and rebuild the fallen House of David; I shall rebuild it from its ruins and restore it

It is Easter Sunday that I am writing this. A day of extreme joy at the resurrection of our Lord, that was dampened by the suffering imposed on our Christian brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka by the evil that exists in this world. It was on Easter Sunday that terrorists attacked three churches (two of which are Catholic) and three hotels. In total, more than two hundred were killed and even more injured. Many of them were attending Sunday Mass, much like we were.

It has been an observation of mine that the current societal climate is growing in intolerance. We are indeed paying more attention to the marginalized people, which in a really good thing, but in our haste to appear just, we actually become more discriminatory. In advocating for the rights to abortion and homosexuality while disclaiming the rights of the unborn and a meaningful family unit, in advocating the personal choice and relativism (in truth, religion and all else), yet disclaiming the truth that our God has revealed and dismissing it as emotional and fantasy jargon; have we really reduced the amount of marginalized people or have we simply switch groups of people to marginalize?

Catholics and Christians have been taught to promote peace. That is our Lord’s commandment. Therefore, while we weep with our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka and pray for their recovery and mend their sorrowful hearts, we will pray for forgiveness for the perpetrators. It is NOT saying what they have done is ok, but to say to them that we acknowledge the evil that they have committed. We are not letting the effect of their sins affect us, their penance will be given by God, who alone has the right to judge. In the meantime, we will stand stronger and firmer in our resolve, in our faith, in our love, by the grace of God. We will not be shaken by the evil in this world, by the marginalization and persecution of our faith, we stand firm and in unity, waiting for our Lord to come and rebuild the fallen house of David. After all, Jesus has conquered death and sin, nothing is impossible for Him.

“We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord; and we pray that all unity will one day be restored.

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand, and together we’ll spread the news that God in our land.

We will work with each other, we will work side by side, and we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride.

All praise to the Father, from who all things come;

And all praise to Christ Jesus, His only Son.

And all praise to the Spirit who makes us one.

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, grant us the grace to stand firm in our faith in all the adversity. May we grow stronger and ever more faithful. Our prayers are with the people of Sri Lanka and those affected by the terrorist attacks, may You watch over your children and help rebuild Your holy church.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for Your abundant Grace, and Your undying love, in our joy and our sorrow.

10 April, Wednesday – Free at Last!

10 April 2019

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Daniel 3:14-20,24-25,28

King Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, is it true that you do not serve my gods, and that you refuse to worship the golden statue I have erected? When you hear the sound of horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, or any other instrument, are you prepared to prostrate yourselves and worship the statue I have made? If you refuse to worship it, you must be thrown straight away into the burning fiery furnace; and where is the god who could save you from my power?’ Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘Your question hardly requires an answer: if our God, the one we serve, is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace and from your power, O king, he will save us; and even if he does not, then you must know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue you have erected.’ These words infuriated King Nebuchadnezzar; his expression was very different now as he looked at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He gave orders for the furnace to be made seven times hotter than usual, and commanded certain stalwarts from his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the burning fiery furnace.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar sprang to his feet in amazement. He said to his advisers, ‘Did we not have these three men thrown bound into the fire?’ They replied, ‘Certainly, O king.’ ‘But,’ he went on ‘I can see four men walking about freely in the heart of the fire without coming to any harm. And the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’

Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: he has sent his angel to rescue the servants who, putting their trust in him, defied the order of the king, and preferred to forfeit their bodies rather than serve or worship any god but their own.’

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John 8:31-42

To the Jews who believed in him Jesus said:

‘If you make my word your home
you will indeed be my disciples,
you will learn the truth
and the truth will make you free.’

They answered, ‘We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone; what do you mean, “You will be made free”?’ Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
everyone who commits sin is a slave.
Now the slave’s place in the house is not assured,
but the son’s place is assured.
So if the Son makes you free,
you will be free indeed.
I know that you are descended from Abraham;
but in spite of that you want to kill me
because nothing I say has penetrated into you.
What I, for my part, speak of
is what I have seen with my Father;
but you, you put into action
the lessons learnt from your father.’

They repeated, ‘Our father is Abraham.’ Jesus said to them:

‘If you were Abraham’s children,
you would do as Abraham did.
As it is, you want to kill me
when I tell you the truth
as I have learnt it from God;
that is not what Abraham did.
What you are doing is what your father does.’

‘We were not born of prostitution,’ they went on ‘we have one father: God.’ Jesus answered:

‘If God were your father, you would love me,
since I have come here from God;
yes, I have come from him;
not that I came because I chose,
no, I was sent, and by him.’

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If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed

I admit that I am a slave to my preconceptions, biases, habits, preferences and yes, you guessed it, sins.

In the Gospel today, it says: “If you make my word your home, you will indeed be my disciples, you will learn the truth and the truth will make you free.”

As a cradle Catholic, I took so much for granted. Sometimes during homilies, my mind often wandered and started planning what to have for lunch after and so on and so forth. I heard the words, but I wasn’t really listening. I didn’t internalize what Jesus was saying. His words fell on deaf ears.

Sometimes if the homily caught my attention, I affirmed myself in my mind. Saying to myself, “See, I’m not that bad, I don’t do that and that…” By doing the minimum, I thought I was good enough. I may have learned the truth, but I did not internalize it into my being and practice what Jesus taught. I was a cafeteria Catholic, picking and choosing what teachings I wanted to accept. It wasn’t any wonder that I still felt trapped at times. Shackled to the same old habits, unable to break free.

Then an occasion arose where someone has gravely wronged me, and I couldn’t bring myself to forgive. I felt justified in my anger and desired justice and retribution. Even though Jesus tells us that we must forgive if we want to be forgiven, and to love others; I found that really hard to do and insisted on staying angry and hurt. That only brought more misery. I knew it was not humanly possible for me to change my stance and prayed for the grace of forgiveness. When I actually relinquished control and listened to Jesus, internalizing His word, I felt the chains were broken. I was no longer under the effects of the wrong done to me. I could move on. That is the power of Jesus’ word, it has the power to set us free.

At times, it may seem that what Jesus teaches is really hard to do or achieve, and may often seem counter-intuitive. But if you would only follow and trust in Him, you will see that He is the true liberator, the one that can free us from our sins, from ourselves. Jesus is God, who can achieve what is humanly impossible. For Him, everything is possible. Jesus, I trust in you.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, help us to break out of the bondage of our  own making, by relying on Your grace and Your word.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us enough to send Your Son to rescue us and to free us.

9 April, Tuesday – Meditating on the Cross

9 April 2019

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Numbers 21:4-9

The Israelites left Mount Hor by the road to the Sea of Suph, to skirt the land of Edom. On the way the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’

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

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John 8:21-30

Jesus said to the Pharisees:

‘I am going away;
you will look for me
and you will die in your sin.
Where I am going, you cannot come.’

The Jews said to one another, ‘Will he kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, “Where I am going, you cannot come”?’ Jesus went on:

‘You are from below; I am from above.
You are of this world; I am not of this world.
I have told you already:
You will die in your sins.
Yes, if you do not believe that I am He,
you will die in your sins.’

So they said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus answered:

‘What I have told you from the outset.
About you I have much to say
and much to condemn;
but the one who sent me is truthful,
and what I have learnt from him
I declare to the world.’

They failed to understand that he was talking to them about the Father. So Jesus said:

‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man,
then you will know that I am He
and that I do nothing of myself:
what the Father has taught me is what I preach;
he who sent me is with me,
and has not left me to myself,
for I always do what pleases him.’

As he was saying this, many came to believe in him.

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If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins

Have you ever looked at a cross closely and intently?

I have developed a habit of sitting in a quiet church and just meditating upon the cross. Even during Mass, I focus on Jesus hanging on the cross. Then I am overcome with strong emotions. I use the word emotion because I lack the proper word to fully express the change in heart and mind.

When I gaze upon the cross and think about how our Lord suffered for our salvation, how He loved us so much that He laid down His life for us, I am moved to tears. Not only did He die for us, but the humiliation, the torture and the suffering that He went through, thoroughly makes me ashamed of my sins.

Just when I reach the depth of despair and shame, it dawns on me that the ransom has been paid. Jesus has paid a hefty price for my spiritual wellbeing. He loves us and wants what is best for us. He doesn’t want us to wallow in our misery, sin and suffering. He wants to share His life with us, life eternal. All we have to do is simply accept His invitation.

Once we accept His gift, it is then our responsibility to make sure that we stay ‘healthy’ spiritually, and to stay on course. We should not let Jesus die in vain by being unrepentant of our ways.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, there are so many pitfalls in this secular world where relativism blinds us at times. It is our duty to be steadfast and not waver in our love and obedience to God, just as Jesus did not waver in His sacrifice to bring us peace.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to be steadfast in our love and obedience to You, our God.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us and sending Your Son to atone for our sins.

8 April, Monday – Truth is not Relative

8 April 2019

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Daniel 13:1-9,15-17,19-30,33-62

In Babylon there lived a man named Joakim. He had married Susanna daughter of Hilkiah, a woman of great beauty; and she was God-fearing, because her parents were worthy people and had instructed their daughter in the Law of Moses. Joakim was a very rich man, and had a garden attached to his house; the Jews would often visit him since he was held in greater respect than any other man. Two elderly men had been selected from the people that year to act as judges. Of such the Lord said, ‘Wickedness has come to Babylon through the elders and judges posing as guides to the people.’ These men were often at Joakim’s house, and all who were engaged in litigation used to come to them. At midday, when everyone had gone, Susanna used to take a walk in her husband’s garden. The two elders, who used to watch her every day as she came in to take her walk, gradually began to desire her. They threw reason aside, making no effort to turn their eyes to heaven, and forgetting its demands of virtue. So they waited for a favourable moment; and one day Susanna came as usual, accompanied only by two young maidservants. The day was hot and she wanted to bathe in the garden. There was no one about except the two elders, spying on her from their hiding place. She said to the servants, ‘Bring me some oil and balsam and shut the garden door while I bathe.’

Hardly were the servants gone than the two elders were there after her. ‘Look,’ they said ‘the garden door is shut, no one can see us. We want to have you, so give in and let us! Refuse, and we will both give evidence that a young man was with you and that was why you sent your maids away.’ Susanna sighed. ‘I am trapped,’ she said ‘whatever I do. If I agree, that means my death; if I resist, I cannot get away from you. But I prefer to fall innocent into your power than to sin in the eyes of the Lord.’ Then she cried out as loud as she could. The two elders began shouting too, putting the blame on her, and one of them ran to open the garden door. The household, hearing the shouting in the garden, rushed out by the side entrance to see what was happening; once the elders had told their story the servants were thoroughly taken aback, since nothing of this sort had ever been said of Susanna.

Next day a meeting was held at the house of her husband Joakim. The two elders arrived, in their vindictiveness determined to have her put to death. They addressed the company: ‘Summon Susanna daughter of Hilkiah and wife of Joakim.’ She was sent for, and came accompanied by her parents, her children and all her relations. All her own people were weeping, and so were all the others who saw her. The two elders stood up, with all the people round them, and laid their hands on the woman’s head. Tearfully she turned her eyes to heaven, her heart confident in God. The elders then spoke. ‘While we were walking by ourselves in the garden, this woman arrived with two servants. She shut the garden door and then dismissed the servants. A young man who had been hiding went over to her and they lay down together. From the end of the garden where we were, we saw this crime taking place and hurried towards them. Though we saw them together we were unable to catch the man: he was too strong for us; he opened the door and took to his heels. We did, however, catch this woman and ask her who the young man was. She refused to tell us. That is our evidence.’

Since they were elders of the people, and judges, the assembly took their word: Susanna was condemned to death. She cried out as loud as she could, ‘Eternal God, you know all secrets and everything before it happens; you know that they have given false evidence against me. And now have I to die, innocent as I am of everything their malice has invented against me?’

The Lord heard her cry and, as she was being led away to die, he roused the holy spirit residing in a young boy named Daniel who began to shout, ‘I am innocent of this woman’s death!’ At which all the people turned to him and asked, ‘What do you mean by these words?’ Standing in the middle of the crowd he replied, ‘Are you so stupid, sons of Israel, as to condemn a daughter of Israel unheard, and without troubling to find out the truth? Go back to the scene of the trial: these men have given false evidence against her.’

All the people hurried back, and the elders said to Daniel, ‘Come and sit with us and tell us what you mean, since God has given you the gifts that elders have.’ Daniel said, ‘Keep the men well apart from each other for I want to question them.’ When the men had been separated, Daniel had one of them brought to him. ‘You have grown old in wickedness,’ he said ‘and now the sins of your earlier days have overtaken you, you with your unjust judgements, your condemnation of the innocent, your acquittal of guilty men, when the Lord has said, “You must not put the innocent and the just to death.” Now then, since you saw her so clearly, tell me what tree you saw them lying under?’ He replied, ‘Under a mastic tree.’ Daniel said, ‘True enough! Your lie recoils on your own head: the angel of God has already received your sentence from him and will slash you in half.’ He dismissed the man, ordered the other to be brought and said to him, ‘Spawn of Canaan, not of Judah, beauty has seduced you, lust has led your heart astray! This is how you have been behaving with the daughters of Israel and they were too frightened to resist; but here is a daughter of Judah who could not stomach your wickedness! Now then, tell me what tree you surprised them under?’ He replied, ‘Under a holm oak.’ Daniel said, ‘True enough! Your lie recoils on your own head: the angel of God is waiting, with a sword to drive home and split you, and destroy the pair of you.’

Then the whole assembly shouted, blessing God, the saviour of those who trust in him. And they turned on the two elders whom Daniel had convicted of false evidence out of their own mouths. As prescribed in the Law of Moses, they sentenced them to the same punishment as they had intended to inflict on their neighbour. They put them to death; the life of an innocent woman was spared that day.

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John 8:12-20

Jesus said to the Pharisees:

‘I am the light of the world;
anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark;
he will have the light of life.’

At this the Pharisees said to him, ‘You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.’
Jesus replied:

‘It is true that I am testifying on my own behalf,
but my testimony is still valid,
because I know
where I came from and where I am going;
but you do not know
where I come from or where I am going.
You judge by human standards;
I judge no one,
but if I judge, my judgement will be sound,
because I am not alone:
the one who sent me is with me;
and in your Law it is written
that the testimony of two witnesses is valid.
I may be testifying on my own behalf,
but the Father who sent me is my witness too.’

They asked him, ‘Where is your Father?’ Jesus answered:

‘You do not know me,
nor do you know my Father;
if you did know me,
you would know my Father as well.’

He spoke these words in the Treasury, while teaching in the Temple. No one arrested him, because his time had not yet come.

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“I am the light of the world”; anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark, he will have the light of life

These words spoken by our Lord are so comforting, especially in the current climate, no matter where you are.

Although technology has advanced tremendously, I can’t help but feel that spiritually, we have regressed to the dark ages. With the blurring of the lines between right and wrong, there seems to be a lack of definitive moral compass. Everything is relative. Even truth. Don’t believe me? Look at the shift in the general sentiment about abortion and euthanasia. Even Ireland, traditionally a Catholic stronghold, has legalized abortions.

The current common creed among Catholics and non-Catholics, religious and non-religious alike, what is good for me may not be good for you, but that’s ok. My truth is not your truth, but that’s ok. Right?  WRONG!

This kind of relativism is the downfall of civility. One man’s truth is not only applicable to him. There are certain truths that cannot be changed, even if it pertains to another. This holds true especially when the Truth is of God, from God.

You can call black ‘ashen’ or ‘noir’ or whatever fancy name you want to give it, but it is still black at the end of the day. Our Lord Jesus is part of the most Holy Trinity, and our God. His teachings and that of His church remain unchanged and true, for me, for you and for all.

With all the misinformation and misdirection in this world to confuse and confound us, it is only right (and the only sensible thing to do) to set our eyes and attention on the Lord Jesus. He is the one who can shed some light on the madness and the darkness of this world. He is the only light that can lead us home.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to focus on You and Your teachings. Help us to follow you, to walk in Your light and to avoid the darkness.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for being our guiding light that leads us out of danger.

7 April, Sunday – Don’t Look Back

7 April 2019

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Isaiah 43:16-21

Thus says the Lord,
who made a way through the sea,
a path in the great waters;
who put chariots and horse in the field
and a powerful army
which lay there never to rise again,
snuffed out, put out like a wick:

No need to recall the past,
no need to think about what was done before.
See, I am doing a new deed,
even now it comes to light; can you not see it?
Yes, I am making a road in the wilderness,
paths in the wilds.

The wild beasts will honour me,
jackals and ostriches,
because I am putting water in the wilderness
(rivers in the wild)
to give my chosen people drink.
The people I have formed for myself
will sing my praises.

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Philippians 3:8-14

I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For him I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish if only I can have Christ and be given a place in him. I am no longer trying for perfection by my own efforts, the perfection that comes from the Law, but I want only the perfection that comes through faith in Christ, and is from God and based on faith. All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share his sufferings by reproducing the pattern of his death. That is the way I can hope to take my place in the resurrection of the dead. Not that I have become perfect yet: I have not yet won, but I am still running, trying to capture the prize for which Christ Jesus captured me. I can assure you my brothers, I am far from thinking that I have already won. All I can say is that I forget the past and I strain ahead for what is still to come; I am racing for the finish, for the prize to which God calls us upwards to receive in Christ Jesus.

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John 8:1-11

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he appeared in the Temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them.
The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in full view of everybody, they said to Jesus, ‘Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?’ They asked him this as a test, looking for something to use against him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. As they persisted with their question, he looked up and said, ‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Then he bent down and wrote on the ground again. When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there. He looked up and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir’ she replied. ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus ‘go away, and do not sin any more.’

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No need to recall the past.  No need to think about what was done before

I was oddly touched by today’s readings. The parable of the adulteress is well known and often told. But it is the first and second readings that have struck a chord deep within my heart.

Upon reflecting on my life thus far, there are moments that I felt I was strong, have done the right thing and patted myself on the back. But more often than not, there were moments which I am none too proud of. There were things that I have done or said that are truly hurtful and I fully regret them. They have become a wound, not only to the people I have hurt or offended, but also to myself.

Not recognizing the wound for what it is, it festered until it infected all aspects of life. Like pneumonia, it takes over the whole body, and it will only clear with a heavy dose of antibiotics. The condition of my spiritual health was in a similar state. It wasn’t until I acknowledged the hurt, the wounds, the guilt, the sins, and asked for forgiveness from our loving God, did I begin to heal.

Still, it wasn’t enough for me. I couldn’t move on, believing that I was unworthy of the love of God, and couldn’t understand that I can be forgiven so easily. Sometimes, our human psyche hinders us, deters us from believing what is good.

But the readings today are so encouraging. God is actually telling us that when we confess our sins, He has forgiven. We need to move on, we don’t need to look back. Because that is not where we are. We need to look forward and focus on what is ahead, keep our gaze in the direction of our Lord because that’s where we are heading and that’s where we want to be. This isn’t to say we are free to do more wrong or commit more sins. Although, we probably will do wrong despite our best efforts (due to the failings of our human nature), but the key is to try with our best effort to avoid sinning for the love of our God, who is ever loving and merciful. The intention of doing the right thing and striving for good, that is the key.

The journey isn’t over. We may take detours now and then, but the race isn’t finished yet and we mustn’t give up.  With God by our side, what do we have to fear?  Jesus is my strength and my all. When I stumble and fall, He is there by my side, encouraging me and helping me to continue on.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us not to look back but look ahead in Your direction. Help us to focus our hearts, our minds and our soul on You as we journey. 

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for loving us even though we are unworthy and for never giving up on us.

14 November, Wednesday – Christian Behaviour

14 November

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Titus 3:1-7

Remind your people that it is their duty to be obedient to the officials and representatives of the government; to be ready to do good at every opportunity; not to go slandering other people or picking quarrels, but to be courteous and always polite to all kinds of people. Remember, there was a time when we too were ignorant, disobedient and misled and enslaved by different passions and luxuries; we lived then in wickedness and ill-will, hating each other and hateful ourselves.

But when the kindness and love of God our saviour for mankind were revealed, it was not because he was concerned with any righteous actions we might have done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own compassion that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and by renewing us with the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our saviour. He did this so that we should be justified by his grace, to become heirs looking forward to inheriting eternal life.

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Luke 17:11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered one of the villages, ten lepers came to meet him. They stood some way off and called to him, ‘Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.’ When he saw them he said, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ Now as they were going away they were cleansed. Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. This made Jesus say, ‘Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner.’ And he said to the man, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’

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It was purely by his own compassion that God saved us.

From ancient times through to modern day, there has always been a vestige of ‘an eye for an eye’ at the back of our minds. Although we do not take this literally, we often practice this principle in our daily lives.

How often are we more pleasant to someone who smiles at us? How many times have we become defensive when we encounter someone who is rude to us and we answer in kind? I can’t recall the last time I did not react or retort angrily if I felt that I have been unjustly treated.

Reflecting on this, it is an extremely wonderful thing that our Heavenly Father is not miserly like us. He is merciful and loving despite all our inequities and our lack of compassion towards others. Can you imagine if Jesus only saved the people who were nice to Him? The whole world would fall, and none would be saved.

Our God is full of compassion and mercy; otherwise, He would not have sent His only son to die a horrible death to atone for our sins. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we can not hope to merit, earn or buy our way to Heaven. We cannot bargain or bribe our way. It is thru the mercy, compassion and love of our Lord that we may gain such reward.

Let us not squander the opportunity given to us so very graciously. Let us repay the Lord in kind by being compassionate, forgiving, loving, and caring to our neighbors. From something simple as smiling at a stranger, to refraining from gossiping about others. We can all do our part in little ways to be more Christ-like, to show our Heavenly Father that we love Him by our actions. Let’s make Him proud to call us His children and show the world that we are followers of Christ by our words and actions.

“In this life, we cannot do great things.  We can do little things with great love.”  – Mother Teresa

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we can be more compassionate and loving in our day to day interactions with family, friends and strangers alike.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for granting us your grace to help us battle the temptations of this world.

13 November, Tuesday – Fleeting Worldly Possessions

13 November

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Titus 2:1-8,11-14

It is for you to preach the behaviour which goes with healthy doctrine. The older men should be reserved, dignified, moderate, sound in faith and love and constancy. Similarly, the older women should behave as though they were religious, with no scandal-mongering and no habitual wine-drinking – they are to be the teachers of the right behaviour and show the younger women how they should love their husbands and love their children, how they are to be sensible and chaste, and how to work in their homes, and be gentle, and do as their husbands tell them, so that the message of God is never disgraced. In the same way, you have got to persuade the younger men to be moderate and in everything you do make yourself an example to them of working for good: when you are teaching, be an example to them in your sincerity and earnestness and in keeping all that you say so wholesome that nobody can make objections to it; and then any opponent will be at a loss, with no accusation to make against us. You see, 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 17:7-10

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal immediately”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper laid; make yourself tidy and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink yourself afterwards”? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”’

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For the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly and devoutly in this age…

All my friends and family have been raving about the movie “Crazy Rich Asians”.  I guess I am one of the few people that hasn’t seen the movie yet.  Honestly, living in North America, there is growing resentment towards the ‘nouveau riche’, and well-to-do Asians and immigrants. General public opinion blames them for a lot of the country’s real estate market woes. The thought of sitting through a movie based on wealthy Asians and all its stereotypes and clichés made me cringe.

Then just this week, I came upon the book (which the movie is based on) and decided to give it a read. It was entertaining as I read more, I realized that it was not just a romance novel nor a Cinderella tale. It is an ‘in your face’, satirical look at the lives of people who appear to have it all, yet who are truly unhappy.  They don’t have many, if any, meaningful friendships or relationships and are constantly trying to outdo each other. They have placed great importance on things of a transient nature above the one eternal truth. This may be a depiction of reality for some people or a pure work of fiction; whatever the case, I am reminded of one of the sermons of Bishop Barron.

In his sermon, the Bishop talked about the preoccupation and pursuit of wealth, power, honour, passion and other worldly things. These are not necessarily bad things on their own — we all seek them in one way or another. The danger comes when we forget that these are all temporary and fleeting. In fact, our time on earth is temporary and fleeting. Our goal is eternal union with our God and we should set our sights upon heavenly things. We need to see the good, the truth and the beautiful things of this world in proper prospective. We need to understand that all comes from God and to see everything in the light of God. We need to learn the value of these transient things in the light of Christ, without clinging to them, without putting too much importance or expecting too much from them. For if we place more importance on the things of the world instead of heaven, if we follow our worldly desires instead of our saviour; then for sure, we will lose sight of the eternal goal and ourselves along the way.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we set our hearts and minds on what is truly important and eternal; let us not fall into the trap of the material world and lose sight of our goal of being in communion with you.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for granting us your grace to help us battle the temptations of this world.