Tag Archives: suffering

5 October, Saturday – Be his face and hands!

5 Oct 2019

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Baruch 4:5-12, 27-29

Take courage, my people, constant reminder of Israel. You were sold to the nations, but not for extermination. You provoked God; and so were delivered to your enemies, since you had angered your creator by offering sacrifices to demons, not to God.

You had forgotten the eternal God who reared you. You had also grieved Jerusalem who nursed you, for when she saw the anger fall on you from God, she said: Listen, you neighbours of Zion: God has sent me great sorrow. I have seen my sons and daughters taken into captivity, to which they have been sentenced by the Eternal. I had reared them joyfully; in tears, in sorrow, I watched them go away. Do not, any of you, exult over me, a widow, deserted by so many; I suffer loneliness because of the sins of my own children, who turned away from the Law of God. Take courage, my children, call on God: he who brought disaster on you will remember you. As by your will you first strayed away from God, so now turn back and search for him ten times as hard; for as he brought down those disasters on you, so will he rescue you and give you eternal joy.

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Luke 10:17-24

The seventy-two came back rejoicing. ‘Lord,’ they said ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.’

It was then that, filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, he said, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

Then turning to his disciples he spoke to them in private, ‘Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’

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As he brought down those disasters on you, so will he rescue you and give you eternal joy

Why do bad things happen to good people? And when bad things happen, why doesn’t God save us?

Many years ago, my uncle passed away from cancer. His passing brought a lot of grief to his wife and only daughter. I once wondered why God did not save my uncle from his illness, as he was relatively young then. Taking away his life meant that he would not be able to be present for many more milestones in his daughter’s life. He was a good person, despite not being a Catholic.

Sometimes, it may seem that God brings trouble in our lives, but we should not think that God does so because we are bad. We should remember that these problems may be merely natural and inevitable consequences of our actions and choices that we make in life. That should not define us forever as ‘bad’ in God’s eyes. Instead, we should have faith that God will rescue us from our problems one day, if and only if we have the faith in Him that He will do so. God loves us unconditionally as His children. Even if God does not rescue us, we should still trust Him that He will bring us to a better place and continue to stay close to Him.

When we see or hear news of other people’s suffering, we may be tempted to accuse God of being indifferent to their pain and not saving them. However, we should remember that when God sees His children suffer, He is also in pain. And likewise, we are blessed to have the capacity to feel the pain that God feels for them. Instead of just waiting for God to rescue them, we can unite and be the face of God by helping them out ourselves instead. In this way, we would not only be helping our brothers and sisters, but also, we would bring glory to God. He is therefore saving the suffering people through our hands, time and actions.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please help us in the difficulties that we are facing in life, whether they be caused by our own actions and choices that we have made. Please also help us to take initiative and respond to the cries and suffering of Your people through our actions and time. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for saving us from the troubles that we have faced in life. We are grateful to You for the grace that You have blessed us with. Thank you for allowing us to be Your face and hands in rescuing our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering today. Amen.

26 July, Friday – Don’t Give The Enemy A Seat At Your Table

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

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

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

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Exodus 20:1-17

God spoke all these words. He said, ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

‘You shall have no gods except me.

‘You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God and I punish the father’s fault in the sons, the grandsons, and the great-grandsons of those who hate me; but I show kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

‘You shall not utter the name of the Lord your God to misuse it, for the Lord will not leave unpunished the man who utters his name to misuse it.

‘Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath for the Lord your God. You shall do no work that day, neither you nor your son nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, nor your animals nor the stranger who lives with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that these hold, but on the seventh day he rested; that is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it sacred.

‘Honour your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God has given to you.

‘You shall not kill.

‘You shall not commit adultery.

‘You shall not steal.

‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his servant, man or woman, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is his.’

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Matthew 13:18-23

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You are to hear the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom without understanding, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart: this is the man who received the seed on the edge of the path. The one who received it on patches of rock is the man who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy. But he has no root in him, he does not last; let some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls away at once. The one who received the seed in thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the word and so he produces nothing. And the one who received the seed in rich soil is the man who hears the word and understands it; he is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.’

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You shall not… 

Today, we celebrate the feast of the parents of our blessed Mother. I have often wondered how obedient she would have been as a child, especially since she was destined to become the mother of our Lord. I’m pretty sure St Joachim and St Anne would have had an easy time raising the young Mary, who epitomises obedience. Not being a parent myself, I look around at my friends who have multiple children and marvel at their energy, stamina and, most of all, their self-sacrificing love for their offspring (no matter how disobedient they become).

I reckon many of my vintage were brought up with quite strict parents – disciplinarians who had low tolerance for anything ‘out of the norm’. I recall many occasions when I was forced to practice my violin late in the night (and miss ‘Six Million Dollar Man’, ‘CHiPS’ or ‘Spencer For Hire’) because I had lied to my parents or decided to ‘play truant’ from my violin practice. I remember even coming up with crazy excuses (being held back in school etc) to skip piano lessons so that I could cycle freely within our huge estate for an hour. Of course, the best-laid plans always get unravelled whenever a well-meaning teacher phones up our parents to ‘check on us’ (imagine if we had mobile phones back then!).

Brothers and sisters, our God loves us too much to be such a disciplinarian. In fact, He lets us do what we choose to do because He already knows how things are going to pan out, good or bad. So even when we sin (yes, WHEN!), He is ever ready to bring us back into the fold, as long as we are sincere in our contrition. The first reading and the parable of the sower paint two different paths to salvation that reflect the spirit of the times. Just as how parents these days have to be tolerant and more understanding of their children and the pressures they face, Jesus came to offer us salvation through Him, knowing that this new generation of believers would close their ears and hearts to words that were not pleasing (such as “you shalt not…”).

Rather, He now tells us not to give the devil a chance to enter into our lives through sin. Someone I know has had to deal with an illness to her young son and has spent the better part of more than a year just refusing to believe and allow that cancer to take hold of her son. Today, he is in remission and is finally able to go out and interact with other children. She can also finally go out and spend time with her friends without having to worry too much. In refusing to allow the negativity and all its consequent feelings to take root, she conquered the illness through faith and prayer.

I recently attended the Hillsong Conference in Sydney and one of the enduring phrases was preached by Pastor Louie Giglio at his amazing session. He said, ‘Don’t give the enemy a seat at your table’ — 9 words he says changed his life during a period of turbulence and desolation. And he demonstrated it so vividly by managing to squeeze in between a married couple in the audience just by asking, “Can you just give me a bit of room here”; and then he got to work.

Brothers and sisters, let us NOT allow the enemy in through the cracks and fissures of our lives that are present in the workplace, in family, in ministry, in our emotions, in our dealings with others. Rather, let us allow God to smooth over these areas by praying constantly and going for the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly so that we can become watertight in our faith. This will enable God to work His miracles in our lives and empower us to conquer anything that life throws at us, even serious illnesses such as leukaemia.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep us faithful and focussed on the road ahead through our daily prayers and help us to see your guiding hand in all that we do.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always being there for us in our times of desolation.

25 January, Thursday – Growing Pains

25 Jan – Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

St. Paul (3-65) was a Jewish Talmudic student and a Pharisee. He was a tent-maker by trade. Saul the Jew hated and persecuted Christians as heretical, even assisting at the stoning of St. Stephen the Martyr. On his way to Damascus to arrest another group of them, he was knocked to the ground, struck blind by a heavenly light, and given the message that in persecuting Christians, he was persecuting Christ. The experience had a profound spiritual effect on him, causing his conversion to Christianity. He was baptised, changed his name to Paul to reflect his new persona, and began travelling and preaching. He died a martyr for his faith.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 22:3-16

Paul said to the people, ‘I am a Jew and was born at Tarsus in Cilicia. I was brought up here in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was taught the exact observance of the Law of our ancestors. In fact, I was as full of duty towards God as you are today. I even persecuted this Way to the death, and sent women as well as men to prison in chains as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify, since they even sent me with letters to their brothers in Damascus. When I set off it was with the intention of bringing prisoners back from there to Jerusalem for punishment.

‘I was on that journey and nearly at Damascus when about midday a bright light from heaven suddenly shone round me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” I answered: Who are you, Lord? and he said to me, “I am Jesus the Nazarene, and you are persecuting me.” The people with me saw the light but did not hear his voice as he spoke to me. I said: What am I to do, Lord? The Lord answered, “Stand up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told what you have been appointed to do.” The light had been so dazzling that I was blind and my companions had to take me by the hand; and so I came to Damascus.

‘Someone called Ananias, a devout follower of the Law and highly thought of by all the Jews living there, came to see me; he stood beside me and said, “Brother Saul, receive your sight.” Instantly my sight came back and I was able to see him. Then he said, “The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Just One and hear his own voice speaking, because you are to be his witness before all mankind, testifying to what you have seen and heard. And now why delay? It is time you were baptised and had your sins washed away while invoking his name.”’

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Mark 16:15-18

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.’

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“I am Jesus the Nazarene, and you are persecuting me.”

St Paul should be the most relatable of the Apostles to most of us, if time of his encounter with Jesus is our yardstick. The Apostle to the Gentiles, he is called, for he reached far and wide and challenged St Peter regarding who the message of Jesus was for, and because of that, the non-circumcised (non Jews), were welcomed to the table.

Therefore, like you and me, St Paul didn’t meet the living Jesus Christ, but was confronted by the Lord after His death and resurrection (of course we meet Him everyday in The Eucharist). From that encounter his life was changed, radically. From the most fervent persecutor of the church, to one of the most zealous evangelists. Today’s readings bring to mind two points I would like to share.

Firstly, that God allows suffering to bring about a greater good. God allowed the church to be persecuted, allowed many evils to happen to His very own body (like growing pains), His people, so that a greater good could come out of it. The distinction to make very clear here is that, God allowed it to happen; He didn’t cause it to happen. This is a common objection that atheists raise when talking about God, why would this all-powerful, all-loving God allow so much evil to take place. It can be said that the martyrs got a pretty good deal if you ask me — they are with God now, the wonder and majesty that we read about in the Book of Revelations is their current experience — not a bad reward for their suffering.

In our own lives too, let us trust that Christ will always bring about a greater glory out of all our sufferings. To people who have lost a loved one, the breadwinner who has lost a job, the outcasts who are constantly shunned and ridiculed, God has a plan and as St John Paul the Great used to say, take courage! God is with us all the way and he will never fail us if we trust in Him.

Secondly, it is significant that Jesus said “why are you persecuting me”. Saul never met Jesus in person. This reinforces for me the point made in St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians saying that we are the body of Christ and individual members of that same body. The analogy is very clear — if the body is hurt, Jesus feels it because we are his body. In our context, have we fallen short in our interactions with fellow members of Christ’s body? I am sure it is difficult to think of that when we are in the situation but let us pray for that grace, to see every person we meet as part of this body, in the way Christ would see them.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer: Jesus I trust in you. Help me to see that you are walking with me, every single step of the way and my sufferings are part of your plan for your glory and ultimately, my reward will be great when I meet you. Grant us courage and strength in the face of trials so that the scales may fall off our eyes too.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the conversion of St Paul, The Apostle to the Gentiles. Thank you for the faith being brought to us and for calling us your children and joining us to your body now and forever.

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.