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19 July, Friday – Master of the Sabbath

19 July 2019

Exodus 11:10-12:14

Moses and Aaron worked many wonders in the presence of Pharaoh. But the Lord made Pharaoh’s heart stubborn, and he did not let the sons of Israel leave his country.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:

‘This month is to be the first of all the others for you, the first month of your year. Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, “On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock, one for each family: one animal for each household. If the household is too small to eat the animal, a man must join with his neighbour, the nearest to his house, as the number of persons requires. You must take into account what each can eat in deciding the number for the animal. It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may take it from either sheep or goats. You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel shall slaughter it between the two evenings. Some of the blood must then be taken and put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten. That night, the flesh is to be eaten, roasted over the fire; it must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled, but roasted over the fire, head, feet and entrails. You must not leave any over till the morning: whatever is left till morning you are to burn. You shall eat it like this: with a girdle round your waist, sandals on your feet, a staff in your hand. You shall eat it hastily: it is a passover in honour of the Lord. That night, I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, man and beast alike, and I shall deal out punishment to all the gods of Egypt, I am the Lord! The blood shall serve to mark the houses that you live in. When I see the blood I will pass over you and you shall escape the destroying plague when I strike the land of Egypt. This day is to be a day of remembrance for you, and you must celebrate it as a feast in the Lord’s honour. For all generations you are to declare it a day of festival, for ever.”


Matthew 12:1-8

Jesus took a walk one sabbath day through the cornfields. His disciples were hungry and began to pick ears of corn and eat them. The Pharisees noticed it and said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing something that is forbidden on the sabbath.’ But he said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his followers were hungry – how he went into the house of God and how they ate the loaves of offering which neither he nor his followers were allowed to eat, but which were for the priests alone? Or again, have you not read in the Law that on the sabbath day the Temple priests break the sabbath without being blamed for it? Now here, I tell you, is something greater than the Temple. And if you had understood the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless. For the Son of Man is master of the sabbath.’


“What I want is mercy, not sacrifice.”

It has come to my realisation that I had a lot of misunderstanding about the Catholic faith and that I needed to learn and study more for better understanding. Take for instance, the matter of sacrifice. It has been ingrained in us that we fast during Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstain every Friday during Lent. Those are the ‘sacrifices’ that we make in order to prepare us for Easter. There are other instances of ‘sacrifices’ that Catholics do, as a ritual, as a preparation, as a practice. For example, abstaining from food at least one hour before receiving the Holy Eucharist.

I never truly understood why some of these rituals existed. In my mind, God is not so petty to care about whether I ate before receiving Him. Why should I let man’s rules override God’s rules? For surely, it is Jesus himself who gave us the Eucharist, His body for us to eat. He never said to only receive Him one hour after a meal. I struggled with these seemingly innocuous questions.

Upon further reading and speaking with fellow Christians, it dawned on me that it is not so much the ritual that our Lord is after. It is what is in our hearts and minds that truly matters. If I fasted all the while complaining about it, then the fasting is for naught because my heart is not in the right place. I would not be truly reverent about receiving our Lord. For if I did revere Him and worship Him, I would make sure that I was well-prepared to receive Him. I would make sure that I am clean and presentable to be in the presence of a King. Fasting before a meal is a token of that preparedness. But more importantly, is my willingness and intentions of doing so. My intentions should be pure and whatever needs to be done is to be done with joy instead of complaints.

Brothers and sisters, this seems so simple yet, when we are tired, stressed and demoralized, it is so easy to fall into the fray and become disgruntled at the most straightforward task. In my daily life, when I am tight on time and others place additional and unexpected demands on me, I become disgruntled and silently seethe inside, all the while performing the task unwillingly. This is not what our Lord wants. He wants us to be joyful, to be excited and eager to receive Him. When we prepare to receive Him in the Eucharist, we should prepare ourselves as if for a wedding banquet, a most solemn but joyous event. Surely we wouldn’t attend the wedding of a friend ill-prepared and inappropriately dressed; so why would we attend the banquet of a King without being prepared?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to prepare our hearts, our minds and our souls to receive You in the Eucharist. Grant us the grace to be humble, simple and pure in our thoughts, words, and intentions, so that we may be prepared to receive our King.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for giving us Jesus, the Bread of Life, at every Mass.

16 February, Saturday – Real ‘soul’ food

16 February 2019


Genesis 3:9-24

The Lord God called to the man. ‘Where are you?’ he asked. ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden;’ he replied ‘I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.’ ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ he asked ‘Have you been eating of the tree I forbade you to eat?’ The man replied, ‘It was the woman you put with me; she gave me the fruit, and I ate it.’ Then the Lord God asked the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman replied, ‘The serpent tempted me and I ate.’
Then the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this,

‘Be accursed beyond all cattle,
all wild beasts.
You shall crawl on your belly and eat dust
every day of your life.
I will make you enemies of each other:
you and the woman,
your offspring and her offspring.
It will crush your head
and you will strike its heel.’

To the woman he said:

‘I will multiply your pains in childbearing,
you shall give birth to your children in pain.
Your yearning shall be for your husband,
yet he will lord it over you.’

To the man he said, ‘Because you listened to the voice of your wife and ate from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat,

‘Accursed be the soil because of you.
With suffering shall you get your food from it
every day of your life.
It shall yield you brambles and thistles,
and you shall eat wild plants.
With sweat on your brow
shall you eat your bread,
until you return to the soil,
as you were taken from it.
For dust you are
and to dust you shall return.’

The man named his wife ‘Eve’ because she was the mother of all those who live. The Lord God made clothes out of skins for the man and his wife, and they put them on. Then the Lord God said, ‘See, the man has become like one of us, with his knowledge of good and evil. He must not be allowed to stretch his hand out next and pick from the tree of life also, and eat some and live for ever.’ So the Lord God expelled him from the garden of Eden, to till the soil from which he had been taken. He banished the man, and in front of the garden of Eden he posted the cherubs, and the flame of a flashing sword, to guard the way to the tree of life.


Mark 8:1-10

A great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat. So Jesus called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘I feel sorry for all these people; they have been with me for three days now and have nothing to eat. If I send them off home hungry they will collapse on the way; some have come a great distance.’ His disciples replied, ‘Where could anyone get bread to feed these people in a deserted place like this?’ He asked them, ‘How many loaves have you?’ ‘Seven’ they said. Then he instructed the crowd to sit down on the ground, and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them among the crowd. They had a few small fish as well, and over these he said a blessing and ordered them to be distributed also. They ate as much as they wanted, and they collected seven basketfuls of the scraps left over. Now there had been about four thousand people. He sent them away and immediately, getting into the boat with his disciples, went to the region of Dalmanutha.


“I feel sorry for all these people; they have been with me for three days now and have nothing to eat”

When I was young (I won’t tell you how many years ago that was) and read the Gospel about the multiplication of loaves of bread and the few small fishes that fed thousands, I simply marveled at the miracle itself and nothing more.

Years later, when I read this passage again, I discovered how much I actually missed. The nuances within this Gospel reading deserve deeper reflection.

Our Lord Jesus is supremely intelligent, compassionate and merciful. He never says anything meaningless; and often, His words have deeper meaning than first thought. The bible itself is like a treasure trove, just when you think that you have discovered all, you find that there are more to it than meets the eye.

Jesus is loving and merciful. He was concerned that the people who were with Him for three days, had nothing to eat. He was not merely concerned about their physical being, but their spiritual well being as well. After all, at that time, they did not partake in the bread of life yet – the Holy Eucharist.

Coincidentally, the three days the crowd had been with Jesus is a foreshadowing of the three days before the resurrection; and the seven loaves and seven baskets of scraps are significant as well. Do they not remind you of the seven sacraments that nourish our souls?

Most, if not all of us, are hungrily searching for something — some meaning, some purpose to our lives.  We often get distracted by the glitter, the lights and sounds of the secular world. Often, we indulge ourselves and gorge on the ‘junk food’ that is out there. Sure, they may taste wonderful at first, but if we only knew what they contain, how they are made, and the health risks involved, we would probably stay away from them. What more when it comes to our spiritual health? Would we willingly partake in things that could harm us or jeopardize our soul? Would we willingly risk losing eternal life in heaven for a few brief moments of pleasure on earth? Would we willingly follow the false prophets or the wolves in sheep’s clothing that would lead us into the harm’s way; rather than follow the one true shepherd that can guide us out of danger and into safety? Jesus is offering us real food that truly satisfies the hunger and for the good of our souls.  It is up to us to decide if we want to partake.

I know what I would like to choose. True, I may stumble and make some bad choices now and then, but the Lord is always calling me, waiting for me so He can heal me. Like the sheep that listens for the shepherd’s voice, I want to listen for Jesus’ voice, to make the right choices and not fall into the traps and distractions that are devoid of sustenance for our souls.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, help us to heed Your voice and Yours only. You are the true Shepherd that has our best interests and helps us to make the right choices.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for giving us Jesus, the bread of Life, true food for our soul.

15 February, Friday – Looking beyond the surface

15 February 2019


Genesis 3:1-8

The serpent was the most subtle of all the wild beasts that the Lord God had made. It asked the woman, ‘Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?’ The woman answered the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden. But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, “You must not eat it, nor touch it, under pain of death.”’ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘No! You will not die! God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.’ The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye, and that it was desirable for the knowledge that it could give. So she took some of its fruit and ate it. She gave some also to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realised that they were naked. So they sewed fig-leaves together to make themselves loin-cloths.

The man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.


Mark 7:31-37

Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’


“He has done all things well…he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”

Admittedly, I am a germaphobe. I carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with me wherever I go. I don’t even like holding onto the hand rails of escalators or public staircases. Imagine my reaction when reading the passage where Jesus healed the deaf man with speech impediments by putting His fingers in the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle!

If I simply focus on the chosen method of healing, I would have missed the whole picture. The important point is the Jesus healed the man. He “makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak”. Our Lord is capable of the impossible, if only we believe and trust in Him.

The method chosen may not be what we expect or want, but it doesn’t diminish the act of healing in the slightest bit. In fact, we should glorify God that He is able to turn something that seems unpleasant into a beautiful thing! How wonderful is our God and how wondrous are His ways!

For the foodies out there, there is a Chinese delicacy called ‘stinky tofu’. For those who are unfamiliar with this delicacy, as the name suggests, it is very pungent. In the fermenting and cooking process, the smell is very strong and repugnant (to some). However, the end product is flavourful beyond imagination and simply delicious!

Similarly, we need to focus on the outcome, even when the process may not be what we desire or expect.  Whether we are in need of healing in our lives or in need of spiritual growth, our Lord will often surprise us with His chosen method. His way may include some discomfort and growing pains, but we need to trust in the Lord and have faith that our Heavenly Father has a plan and He knows best our needs. In the end, our Lord will provide!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Please grant us the grace to believe and trust even when we don’t understand Your plans for us. Jesus, we trust in You.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, You know us best, even more than we do ourselves. We thank you for giving us what we need and not what we want.

14 February, Thursday – Humility at Heart

14 Feb – Memorial for Sts. Cyril, monk, and Methodius, bishop

Cyril (827-869) was the brother of St. Methodius. Born of Greek nobility, his family was connected to the senate of Thessalonica, and his mother Maria may have been Slavic. He studied at the University of Constantinople and taught philosophy there. He was ordained a priest, and when he became a monk, he took the name Cyril. He was sent with Methodius by the emperor in 961 to convert the Jewish Khazars of Russia, a mission that was successful, and which allowed him to learn the Khazar’s language.

In 863, he was sent with Methodius to convert Moravians in their native tongue. Though some western clergy opposed their efforts and refused to ordain their candidates for the priesthood, they did good work. They developed an alphabet for the Slavonic language that eventually became what is known as the Cyrillic today. After initial criticism for their use of it, they achieved approval of the Liturgy in the Slavonic language. Cyril may have been bishop, but he may have died before the consecration ceremony.

Methodius (826-885) was the brother of St. Cyril. He studied at the University of Constantinople, and taught philosophy there. He was ordained a priest, and sent with Cyril by the emperor in 861 to convert the Jewish Khazars of Russia. Though some western clergy opposed their efforts and refused to ordain their candidates for the priesthood, they did good work. They helped develop an alphabet for the Slavonic language that eventually became what is known as the Cyrillic today.

After initial criticism for their use of it, they achieved approval of the Liturgy in the Slavonic language. Methodius was ordained a bishop. He evangelized in Moravia, Bohemia, Pannonia, and Poland. He baptized St. Ludmilla and Duke Boriwoi.

He was Archbishop of Velehred, Czechoslovakia, but was deposed and imprisoned in 870 due to the opposition of German clergy with his work. He was often in trouble over his use of Slavonic in liturgy, with some claiming he preached heresy. However, Methodius was repeatedly cleared of charges. He translated the Bible into the Slavonic languages, and pioneered the use of local and vernacular languages in liturgical settings.

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Gen 2: 18-25

The Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helpmate.’ So from the soil the Lord God fashioned all the wild beasts and all the birds of heaven. These he brought to the man to see what he would call them; each one was to bear the name the man would give it. The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of heaven and all the wild beasts. But no helpmate suitable for man was found for him. So the Lord God made the man fall into a deep sleep. And while he slept, he took one of his ribs and enclosed it in flesh. The Lord God built the rib he had taken from the man into a woman, and brought her to the man. The man exclaimed:

‘This at last is bone from my bones,
and flesh from my flesh!
This is to be called woman,
for this was taken from man.’
This is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body.
Now both of them were naked, the man and his wife, but they felt no shame in front of each other.
Mk 7: 24-30
Jesus left Gennesaret and set out for the territory of Tyre. There he went into a house and did not want anyone to know he was there, but he could not pass unrecognised. A woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him straightaway and came and fell at his feet. Now the woman was a pagan, by birth a Syrophoenician, and she begged him to cast the devil out of her daughter. And he said to her, ‘The children should be fed first, because it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.’ But she spoke up: ‘Ah yes, sir,’ she replied ‘but the house-dogs under the table can eat the children’s scraps.’ And he said to her, ‘For saying this, you may go home happy: the devil has gone out of your daughter.’ So she went off to her home and found the child lying on the bed and the devil gone.

“The children should be fed first, because it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.”

Ouch! Such harsh words! Could they really have been spoken by our loving and merciful Lord?

I must admit that today’s Gospel confused me for the longest time. I simply couldn’t comprehend how Jesus, who is holy and all good, could possibly say such things that sound so rude.

Until one day, when I came upon a Catholic Devotional resource that shed some light and meaning on today’s Gospel reading, I began to see it in another light. There are three things that are of great importance and it helps to be reminded of them.

First of all, Jesus is incapable of being mean or cruel. Our Lord never does things without a purpose nor does He say things frivolously. Therefore, He must have had a good reason for saying what he said. Let us never forget that Jesus is part of the Trinity, true God and true man; and as such, we cannot fully comprehend the full design of God’s plans with our limited human intellect. That is, compared to the infinite wisdom of God, the human intellect can be found lacking. As God is the master painter, and we as onlookers, may not see the whole painting, but only the one stroke that seems like a mistake. Little do we know, the one stroke that seems out of place, could be the start of a beautiful masterpiece.

Secondly, the Syrophoenician woman represents a wonderful reminder. We are unworthy of God’s grace and mercy. There is nothing that we can do or say to earn His grace and mercy. They are a gift. We may think that we deserve His grace, and take His love and mercy for granted, much like we take our loved ones for granted. But we must remember and remind ourselves that we do not deserve, and cannot lay claim to, God’s love except thru the divine mercy of Jesus. Picture a friend who contacts you only when they need your help, but fully expects to be invited to all your family celebrations. Let us not fashion ourselves with such insolence and ungracious attitude.

Lastly, the response of the Syrophoenician woman should shake us out of complacency. We should have unwavering trust in our Lord and His mercy. This is not the same as believing that we deserve His grace but acknowledging our unworthiness and praying for mercy while maintaining confidence in deliverance.  When God seems silent or distant, it is often that He wants us to be stronger and grow spiritually. During these times, we should cling to our Lord, and practice unwavering faith. Instead of a faith based on emotions, we should move to a faith of pure trust in Divine Mercy.

A very important note is that we should not be saddened by our unworthiness, but rejoice in the love and mercy of God, who loves us despite all our faults and iniquities; we should rejoice in His most holy and unconditional love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we will not take Your love and mercy for granted, and that we have unwavering faith in Your Divine Mercy.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for Your love and mercy and for calling us your children though we be unworthy.