17 January, Thursday – We shall remain co-heirs with Christ

17 Jan – Memorial for St. Anthony, abbot

Following the death of his parents when he was about 20, St. Anthony (251-356) insured that his sister completed her education, then sold his house, furniture, and the land he owned, gave the proceeds to the poor, joined the anchorites who lived nearby, and moved into an empty sepulchre. At 35, he moved alone to the desert, living 20 years in an abandoned fort.

Anthony barricaded the place for solitude, but admirers broke in. He miraculously healed people, and agreed to be the spiritual counsellor of others. His recommendation was to base life on the gospel. Word spread, and so many disciples arrived that Anthony founded two monasteries on the Bile — one at Pispir, one at Arsinoe. Many of those who lived near him supported themselves by making baskets and brushes, and from that came his patronage of those trades.

Anthony briefly left his seclusion in 311, going to Alexandria to fight Arianism, and to comfort the victims of Maximinus’ persecution. At some point in his life, he met with his sister again. She, too, had withdrawn from the world, and directed a community of nuns. Anthony retired to the desert, living in a cave on Mount Colzim.

Descriptions paint him as uniformly modest and courteous. His example led many to take up the monastic life, and to follow his way. Friend late in life of St. Paul the Hermit, and buried the aged anchorite, leading to his patronage of gravediggers. His biography was written by his friend, St. Athanasius.

His relationship with pigs and patronage of swineheards is a little complicated. Skin diseases were sometimes treated with applications of pork fat, which reduced inflammation and itching. As Anthony’s intervention aided in the same conditions, he was shown in art accompanied by a pig. People who saw the art work, but did not have it explained, thought there was a direct connection between Anthony and pigs – and people who worked with swine took him as their patron.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Hebrews 3:7-14

The Holy Spirit says: If only you would listen to him today; do not harden your hearts, as happened in the Rebellion, on the Day of Temptation in the wilderness, when your ancestors challenged me and tested me, though they had seen what I could do for forty years. That was why I was angry with that generation and said: How unreliable these people who refuse to grasp my ways! And so, in anger, I swore that not one would reach the place of rest I had for them. Take care, brothers, that there is not in any one of your community a wicked mind, so unbelieving as to turn away from the living God. Every day, as long as this ‘today’ lasts, keep encouraging one another so that none of you is hardened by the lure of sin, because we shall remain co-heirs with Christ only if we keep a grasp on our first confidence right to the end.

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Mark 1:40-45

A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: ‘If you want to’ he said ‘you can cure me.’ Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to!’ he said. ‘Be cured!’ And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured. Jesus immediately sent him away and sternly ordered him, ‘Mind you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering for your healing prescribed by Moses as evidence of your recovery.’ The man went away, but then started talking about it freely and telling the story everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived. Even so, people from all around would come to him.

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“Of course I want to!”

“Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to.’ ”

Regardless of our condition, our Lord wants to heal us! Jesus does not reject anyone. Our God’s love is available to all who seek him, just like the leper in today’s Gospel, with sincerity of heart and with ferventness. Despite his leprosy, Jesus laid his hands on the leper and he is made clean immediately. Nothing is too unpleasing nor too insurmountable for our Lord!

The first reading reminds us not to harden our hearts but to grasp with confidence the promises given to us by God. Take heed not to harden our hearts by the lure of sin, the last thing we should do is to think that we are unworthy! That’s the devil’s deceptive ways to have us turn away from God. But Jesus, in his ministry, shows us time and time again His power and compassion. He WILL heal us of all our transgressions! That is why, it is important for us to “keep encouraging one another … because we shall remain co-heirs with Christ.”

Let us claim His victory with confidence and claim our birthright as co-heirs with Christ and admonish all fears. With this confidence, we march forth in our ministry on this earth with heads held high, his love as our breastplate to soldier on for His purpose and His mission as a community!

The importance of community cannot be downplayed, as we celebrate the feast day of St. Anthony, who was known as a recluse during his ministry; even his work on earth impacts many and was supported by many! We, too, need our brothers and sisters, our clergy to inspire, hearten and remind us of our mission on earth. That has always been God’s plan, we do not have to journey alone. And our way of being as Christians touches others as well.

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, the battle has been won by Jesus coming as our Lord and Savior, and by his death and resurrection. Nothing is too dire for you, let us never forget our inheritance and to journey on in life victoriously as winners already! Proud of your love, proud of our inheritance to do your will as you wish.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, words cannot express the profound gratefulness we have for you. Whatever we have to offer you seems so minute in the grand scheme of things, but we know you are our loving Father and will be pleased with our efforts. So we thank you Father, from the depths of our soul for all that you have done for us and for all that is to be unfold.

16 January, Wednesday – Fear Not

16 January 2019

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Hebrews 2:14-18

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

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Mark 1:29-39

On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went with James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew. Now Simon’s mother-in-law had gone to bed with fever, and they told him about her straightaway. He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up. And the fever left her and she began to wait on them.

That evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by devils. The whole town came crowding round the door, and he cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another; he also cast out many devils, but he would not allow them to speak, because they knew who he was.

In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, ‘Everybody is looking for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.’ And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devils.

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“Christ too shared equally in it”

There is a saying in Singapore — “Kia Si”, or “Afraid to die”. The joke is that Singaporeans are afraid of anything that will put them in jeopardy, be it their personal lives, or careers. It is for this reason, it is said, that many Singaporeans tend to be more reticent, preferring to keep their views to themselves in order to maintain their safety.

In today’s First Reading, it talks about how people have been kept in slavery through their fear of death. While there is a Jewish concept of the afterlife, there are differing views about how this would happen.

In the Christian faith however, physical death would only allow one to move on to the next stage of one’s life. Essentially, one’s soul never does die and physical death does only give rise to the death of the body and not anything else.

Jesus is our model, not because of the fact that He is our God. Instead, He is our model because He was man. He walked amongst us and truly understands what it means to be human. He does not lead and guide us from a position of power. Instead, He leads and guides us as a true brother. He knows.

Let us continue to seek Him. To live our lives fully and without fear. Let us not be “kia si” (“afraid to die”).

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray for strength to lead our lives fully, and without fear. We ask You Father, to always recognise that our lives is more than just our time on earth.

ThanksgivingThank you for being our model of faith, Lord Jesus. Help us to walk in Your steps every day!

15 January, Tuesday – Slow Faith

15 January 2019

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Hebrews 2:5-12

God did not appoint angels to be rulers of the world to come, and that world is what we are talking about. Somewhere there is a passage that shows us this. It runs: What is man that you should spare a thought for him, the son of man that you should care for him? For a short while you made him lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and splendour. You have put him in command of everything. Well then, if he has put him in command of everything, he has left nothing which is not under his command. At present, it is true, we are not able to see that everything has been put under his command, but we do see in Jesus one who was for a short while made lower than the angels and is now crowned with glory and splendour because he submitted to death; by God’s grace he had to experience death for all mankind.

As it was his purpose to bring a great many of his sons into glory, it was appropriate that God, for whom everything exists and through whom everything exists, should make perfect, through suffering, the leader who would take them to their salvation. For the one who sanctifies, and the ones who are sanctified, are of the same stock; that is why he openly calls them brothers in the text: I shall announce your name to my brothers, praise you in full assembly.

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Mark 1:21-28

Jesus and his disciples went as far as Capernaum, and as soon as the sabbath came he went to the synagogue and began to teach. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.

In their synagogue just then there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit and it shouted, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him. The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. ‘Here is a teaching that is new’ they said ‘and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’ And his reputation rapidly spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.

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“I know who You are: the Holy One of God!”

I have seen many videos and posts on social media, where the creators try hard to get as many people as possible to ‘like’ their posts. Once successful, these creators do get famous, often getting adulation from their fans and receiving substantial financial rewards.

Jesus could have chosen to build His ministry via a ‘social media’ route as well. Rather than silencing the unclean spirits, Jesus could have allowed them to publicise who He actually was. Imagine how easy it would have been for Him; even more people would have flocked to and followed Him.

We have two children, an eighteen-year-old girl and a thirteen-year-old boy. Because of his height, build and mature appearance, I often forget that he is, after all, only thirteen (his looks often fool people into thinking he is about eighteen). Despite his physical attributes, both my wife and I have learned that he needs to continue to be allowed to makes mistakes, and to grow emotionally and spiritually from these. When he does reach eighteen, I would be able to interact with him being an eighteen-year-old. This process simply cannot be hurried along.

It is for this reason that perhaps Jesus did not take the instant route in His mission. He had to allow us to exercise our spiritual muscles and for us to grow to a point when we are ready for Him, and for God’s message.

Let us pray that we will continue to maintain a close relationship with our Lord, and to develop even more intimacy with Him!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we may always have a desire to seek You Father; to continue to grow in our faith and love for You.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful, Jesus, for Your wisdom. For allowing us to grow and be ready for Your teachings.

14 January, Monday – Nothing Better than the Real Thing

14 January 2019

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Hebrews 1:1-6

At various times in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our own time, the last days, he has spoken to us through his Son, the Son that he has appointed to inherit everything and through whom he made everything there is. He is the radiant light of God’s glory and the perfect copy of his nature, sustaining the universe by his powerful command; and now that he has destroyed the defilement of sin, he has gone to take his place in heaven at the right hand of divine Majesty. So he is now as far above the angels as the title which he has inherited is higher than their own name.
God has never said to any angel: You are my Son, today I have become your father; or: I will be a father to him and he a son to me. Again, when he brings the First-Born into the world, he says: Let all the angels of God worship him.

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Mark 1:14-20

After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.’

As he was walking along by the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net in the lake – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men.’ And at once they left their nets and followed him.

Going on a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they too were in their boat, mending their nets. He called them at once and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him.

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“He has spoken to us through His Son…”

Anyone who knows me will know that I have been a foodie for the longest time. For those who don’t, you would just have to take one look at me and realise that.

One of the foods which I love is the Vietnamese pho. I first tried it on our honeymoon in Australia when we got married some 22 years ago. I remember my then fiancee telling me, from the time we first met, about the flavourful broth, the freshness of the beef and the freshly cooked bean sprouts and mint leaves.

I began to look forward to the first time we got to eat this phenomenal food. I imagined how it would be like, but nothing really compares to the first time the noodles were put in front of me. No amount of words nor the most descriptive language could ever do it justice.

The Jews had only experienced God through the prophets, all of whom cajoled, warned, taught and spoke of the goodness of God. Yet, they were totally unprepared for the experience of Jesus. It was only by interacting with Him, in the daily encounters and conversations that people built a relationship with Jesus. In spite of all the collective knowledge, the learning (of our faith, and what it means to be Christian, of who God is) is actually through having a relationship with Him.

Ever since I was baptised about 30 odd years ago, I have tried hard to connect with God, through my readings and in my intellectualisation, all of which left me with the feeling that there was something still lacking.

And just like the actual act of eating the Vietnamese pho, I only began to experience what knowing Jesus was like when I set aside all my previous learnings and head knowledge and actually started to have a relationship with Him.

Nothing helps us know God like having a real encounter and relationship with Jesus. Brothers and sisters, let us continue to seek Him; to REALLY encounter Jesus.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray that we will reach out and accept Your love for us; to truly experience the richness and depth of this love.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for sending us Your Son, Jesus Christ, to show us how to live and how to truly love those around us.

13 January, Sunday – I am the Beloved

13 Jan – Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord

The Baptism Of The Lord

The Father anointed his beloved son, Jesus, with the Holy Spirit and with power, to bring healing and peace to all the nations.

– The Sunday Missal

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Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11

‘Console my people, console them’
says your God.
‘Speak to the heart of Jerusalem
and call to her
that her time of service is ended,
that her sin is atoned for,
that she has received from the hand of the Lord
double punishment for all her crimes.’

A voice cries, ‘Prepare in the wilderness
a way for the Lord.
Make a straight highway for our God
across the desert.
Let every valley be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low.
Let every cliff become a plain,
and the ridges a valley;
then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed
and all mankind shall see it;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

Go up on a high mountain,
joyful messenger to Zion.
Shout with a loud voice,
joyful messenger to Jerusalem.
Shout without fear,
say to the towns of Judah,
‘Here is your God.’

Here is the Lord coming with power,
his arm subduing all things to him.
The prize of his victory is with him,
his trophies all go before him.
He is like a shepherd feeding his flock,
gathering lambs in his arms,
holding them against his breast
and leading to their rest the mother ewes.

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Titus 2:11-14,3:4-7

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.
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 3:15-16,21-22

A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to think that John might be the Christ, so John declared before them all, ‘I baptise you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Now when all the people had been baptised and while Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily shape, like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’

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You are my son the Beloved; my favour rests on you

With the turn of each year, many of us may have adopted the annual tradition of setting new year resolutions. 2019 will (finally) be the year we eat clean, exercise regularly and sleep early. We will spend quality time with family and friends who matter, or decisively end a toxic relationship or a friendship which has run its course. Professionally, we will work smart and finally clinch the promotion we deserve. At least, this is what everyone seems to be saying on social media.

The world bombards us with expectations such as “You are what you have. You are what people say about you.” We are told we need to hustle – to get out there and work it until we find the opportunities we want in life. We need to fight for whatever is worth having. In stark contrast, the Word tells us that we are loved unconditionally, loved as we are, flaws, warts and all.

Having spent all our lives tuned into what the world is telling us to be, the greatest challenge for many of us is to fully accept the truth that we are God’s children, His Beloveds. At today’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we are reminded of our identity as God’s children, just as Jesus is the Beloved Son. As I reflected on today’s readings, a dear friend sent a poem which presciently encapsulates how I aspire to live the life of the Beloved in 2019, as well as the years ahead:

For Presence (John O’Donohue)

Awaken to the mystery of being here

and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.

Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.

Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.

Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to follow its path.

Let the flame of anger free you of all falsity.

May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.

May anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror on inner dignity of soul.

Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Dear Father, we pray that we may always remember and live out our identity as your beloved Children.  Help us to reach out to those around us as people loved unconditionally. 

Thanksgiving: Thank you God for the gift of Your perfect and unconditional love.

12 January, Saturday – Size is relative

12 January 2019

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1 John 5:14-21

We are quite confident that if we ask the Son of God for anything,
and it is in accordance with his will,
he will hear us;
and, knowing that whatever we may ask, he hears us,
we know that we have already been granted what we asked of him.
If anybody sees his brother commit a sin
that is not a deadly sin,
he has only to pray, and God will give life to the sinner
– not those who commit a deadly sin;
for there is a sin that is death,
and I will not say that you must pray about that.
Every kind of wrong-doing is sin,
but not all sin is deadly.

We know that anyone who has been begotten by God
does not sin,
because the begotten Son of God protects him,
and the Evil One does not touch him.
We know that we belong to God,
but the whole world lies in the power of the Evil One.
We know, too, that the Son of God has come,
and has given us the power
to know the true God.
We are in the true God,
as we are in his Son, Jesus Christ.
This is the true God,
this is eternal life.
Children, be on your guard against false gods

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John 3:22-30

Jesus went with his disciples into the Judaean countryside and stayed with them there and baptised. At the same time John was baptising at Aenon near Salim, where there was plenty of water, and people were going there to be baptised. This was before John had been put in prison.
Now some of John’s disciples had opened a discussion with a Jew about purification, so they went to John and said, ‘Rabbi, the man who was with you on the far side of the Jordan, the man to whom you bore witness, is baptising now; and everyone is going to him.’
John replied:

‘A man can lay claim
only to what is given him from heaven.

‘You yourselves can bear me out: I said: I myself am not the Christ; I am the one who has been sent in front of him.

‘The bride is only for the bridegroom;
and yet the bridegroom’s friend,
who stands there and listens,
is glad when he hears the bridegroom’s voice.
This same joy I feel, and now it is complete.
He must grow greater, I must grow smaller.’

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“He must grow greater, I must grow smaller.”

How do you get through to someone who always limits his potential by not thinking big, by not having the courage to look at the big picture but somehow always withdrawing into the ‘comfort zone’ of ‘I know this will get your approval’ or ‘I know this doing this will not create any ripples’? Coming from an industry where every day was about pushing boundaries, I have been trying hard to get one or two around me to stop limiting themselves by what they think they can achieve.

It can get frustrating, especially when you have been working with these people over the past few years. You’d think that some of my values would have rubbed off on them and they were a bit more daring or would attempt to think out of the box more often. More boss always shrugs his shoulders and tells me, “You are the one who hired them.”

I just wonder if Jesus ever felt the same frustrations about His chosen apostles. Nowhere in the gospels does it ever say that Jesus went away and banged his head against a wall or shredded his garments in frustration. He always went away to a quiet place to pray. Perhaps to allow God the Father to increase in Him, and for Jesus to decrease. So that the next time he faced Peter and his crew, they would be able to receive God’s love; provided, of course, they themselves decreased to allow Jesus to increase in them.

I am no mathematician but it seems as if this is a zero sum game. That the only way for us to increase in holiness is to slowly decrease. Do we eventually decrease to the point where God takes over? Is that when we cross over from being mere mortals to becoming the saints that we are destined to be? In the same manner, when a ministry is faced with a crisis of renewal, is it time for those in charge to decrease and fade so that newer, fresher blood can be injected into the core leadership to effect real change? A real leader knows when he or she should step away and let go. But here’s the rub, what if there is no one to let go to?

Brothers and sisters, to let go and let God, we must acknowledge that we have to deflate our egos and realise that only then, can God increase within us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the grace to humble ourselves in order that you can work within us and grow in us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for loving us as your children and for your constant love and protection.

11 January, Friday – Seeking Solitude

11 January 2019

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1 John 5:5-13

Who can overcome the world?
Only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God:
Jesus Christ who came by water and blood,
not with water only,
but with water and blood;
with the Spirit as another witness –
since the Spirit is the truth –
so that there are three witnesses,
the Spirit, the water and the blood,
and all three of them agree.
We accept the testimony of human witnesses,
but God’s testimony is much greater,
and this is God’s testimony,
given as evidence for his Son.
Everybody who believes in the Son of God
has this testimony inside him;
and anyone who will not believe God
is making God out to be a liar,
because he has not trusted
the testimony God has given about his Son.
This is the testimony:
God has given us eternal life
and this life is in his Son;
anyone who has the Son has life,
anyone who does not have the Son does not have life.

I have written all this to you
so that you who believe in the name of the Son of God
may be sure that you have eternal life.

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Luke 5:12-16

Jesus was in one of the towns when a man appeared, covered with leprosy. Seeing Jesus he fell on his face and implored him. ‘Sir,’ he said ‘if you want to, you can cure me.’ Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him and said, ‘Of course I want to! Be cured!’ And the leprosy left him at once. He ordered him to tell no one, ‘But go and show yourself to the priest and make the offering for your healing as Moses prescribed it, as evidence for them.’

His reputation continued to grow, and large crowds would gather to hear him and to have their sickness cured, but he would always go off to some place where he could be alone and pray.

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“‘…but he would always go off to some place where he could be alone and pray.”

A friend once told me that I am still searching for my own space, my sanctuary, even though I do have a roof over my head which I share with my mum, my uncle and my nephew. He said that I feel unsettled because the house I am living in is not truly mine in the sense of its layout and décor. And while I spent 28 years living in the house (not counting the 5 years I spent abroad), it provided a refuge for me when I was younger. But lately, the need to have my own space has been gnawing at me.

I think it explains my wanderlust and nomadic nature. I have to get out of the country once in a while just to ‘live like a local’ in another city/town. This year, I have already planned three short journeys for three very different reasons. And while the first two may not be religious in nature, there is some sense of a ‘pilgrimage’ involved. Needless to say, I cannot wait (I have even applied for leave).

It is this sense of anticipation that Jesus probably felt when he always went off some place to pray. After all, he wanted to be close to the one true love – God, our Father. So I can understand how whenever the opportunity arose for him to get close to God, He would seize it. What more could anyone ask for than to bask in the warmth of His divine love and to simply be still in His presence.

Over the years, I have found a certain comfort in solitude. I know that I am more than comfortable watching a movie on my own, in an empty cinema hall (it happened recently on a Monday evening); walking a trail for 2 to 3 hours without speaking to anyone else; or just eating a simple meal in a hawker centre at lunch (I can’t understand why some colleagues find it strange that I sometimes lunch alone).

Brothers and sisters, ‘me’ time is extremely important if we are to fulfil our mission here on earth. It is time to reflect on God’s love for each and every one of us; to appreciate how He has painstakingly created us, one by one, cell by cell, in His image. It is necessary in order to renew our passion and zest for life each day so that we can get through it relatively unscathed, in order to celebrate another new day when we arise from our sleep.

Do you have a ‘go to’ spot at home, or at work when it gets too overwhelming? Wherever it is, know that you are not alone. Our Father is there too, listening to your prayer.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Lord, in the silence of our own space, we pray that you be there to whisper to us and to answer our deepest, innermost questions.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your infinite and gentle love.

10 January, Thursday – Recognising

10 January 2019

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1 John 4:19-5:4

We are to love,
because God loved us first.
Anyone who says, ‘I love God’,
and hates his brother,
is a liar,
since a man who does not love the brother that he can see
cannot love God, whom he has never seen.
So this is the commandment that he has given us,
that anyone who loves God must also love his brother.

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ
has been begotten by God;
and whoever loves the Father that begot him
loves the child whom he begets.
We can be sure that we love God’s children
if we love God himself and do what he has commanded us;
this is what loving God is –
keeping his commandments;
and his commandments are not difficult,
because anyone who has been begotten by God
has already overcome the world;
this is the victory over the world –
our faith.

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Luke 4:14-22

Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside. He taught in their synagogues and everyone praised him.
He came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips.

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“…this is the victory over the world – our faith.”

There is a song we sometimes sing at retreats, which describes some articles that a typical knight would use – a sword, breastplate, etc; and each article is linked to a fruit of the spirit – joy, peace, etc. In the end, what we claim is that as Christians, we have put on an armour of faith, which protects us from all things terrible that go on in the world.

We celebrated New Year’s Eve with a countdown Mass at CSC and what a celebration it was. By 9.30 pm, when praise and worship began, the hall was full and you could sense the anticipation in the air as we prepared to welcome Jesus for an hour of adoration, followed by mass. And by divine providence, we were all truly blessed to mark the passing into the new year with Jesus at the altar. I stood in awe as we all counted down the seconds and celebrated joyously with one another before receiving communion.

As Catholics, we truly have the best of both worlds. Who else can claim to have a God who humbled himself to become man and to live among us? Anyone else would be hard put to find another example of divine Love. And while some of us have been blessed to have been given a vision or glimpse of paradise and perhaps even to engage with Christ, many among us simply believe.

And when things start to go downhill, that is when our faith is put to the test. For me, He has never let me down time after time. In fact, I have been fortunate enough to discern His hand in many of the trials and tribulations that I endured in 2018. So much so that I felt he gave me a much-desired present before the Christmas holidays. Looking back, I believe that in ‘winning’ that battle, it was God sat back and waited for me to do the same before he acted. It certainly made my Christmas break all the more satisfying.

So brothers and sisters, when the going gets tough, just let go and let God. Let Him take over and surrender fully to His will by praying and focussing on keeping your behaviour and actions as Christ-like as possible. Most importantly — have a little bit of faith. It is the title of a book I received as a Christmas present from mum and after reading it (it took me just two sittings), I could not help but shed a few tears and say, “I don’t know what to do anymore. Please take over.” At the end of the day, when we are at wits end, it is the only thing we can cling on to. Our faith in our loving, generous, merciful God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Thanksgiving: We thank you O heavenly Father, for your faith in us and for always being there for us in our darkest moments.

9 January, Wednesday – Animated by Love

9 January – Wednesday after Epiphany Sunday

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1 John 4:11-18

My dear people,
since God has loved us so much,
we too should love one another.
No one has ever seen God;
but as long as we love one another
God will live in us
and his love will be complete in us.
We can know that we are living in him
and he is living in us
because he lets us share his Spirit.
We ourselves saw and we testify
that the Father sent his Son
as saviour of the world.
If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,
God lives in him, and he in God.
We ourselves have known and put our faith in
God’s love towards ourselves.
God is love
and anyone who lives in love lives in God,
and God lives in him.
Love will come to its perfection in us
when we can face the day of Judgement without fear;
because even in this world
we have become as he is.
In love there can be no fear,
but fear is driven out by perfect love:
because to fear is to expect punishment,
and anyone who is afraid is still imperfect in love.

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Mark 6:45-52

After the five thousand had eaten and were filled, Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to Bethsaida, while he himself sent the crowd away. After saying goodbye to them he went off into the hills to pray. When evening came, the boat was far out on the lake, and he was alone on the land. He could see they were worn out with rowing, for the wind was against them; and about the fourth watch of the night he came towards them, walking on the lake. He was going to pass them by, but when they saw him walking on the lake they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they had all seen him and were terrified. But he at once spoke to them, and said, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ Then he got into the boat with them, and the wind dropped. They were utterly and completely dumbfounded, because they had not seen what the miracle of the loaves meant; their minds were closed.

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In love there can be no fear, but fear is driven out by perfect love

Emotions are truly powerful feelings and they have an incredible ability to spur a person on to greater heights to achieve what he may not have been able to achieve or paralyse him and make him unable to achieve what he could have done very easily in the past. The readings of today remind us that we are driven not by emotions but by a deeper sense of purpose; which is the desire to accept each person for who they are and just as they are.

St John in the First Reading reminds us of how the love which Jesus Christ has for us animates all actions and is the basis on which Christianity is built upon. The importance of the love of God in our midst cannot be under-estimated. Instead what we need to do is to re-kindle this love of God in ourselves through prayer and action. As mentioned in an earlier reflection this week, prayer is communication with God. We need to ask God for what His plans are for us and then accept the message which comes along even if it goes against what we want. We then need to put Christian love in action by sharing with others the faith we have inherited by being kind to others and putting in a good word. What distinguishes us from any other kind-hearted person is the consistency and manner in which we carry out these actions. We should be deliberate with our actions and allow the other party to know that what we do is borne out of a desire to share the Love of God which we have experienced with the other person.

Christianity is a religion of action and as we continue with our daily lives, we need to appreciate that sometimes this call to action runs contrary to what the world expects from us. As such, let us never falter from this call but instead continue to soldier on and persevere with God’s grace and help.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Father, we pray for the grace to continue to share your love to all around us despite difficulties which we may face

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the missionaries who spread God’s love to all around us.

8 January, Tuesday – Generosity of Love

8 January – Tuesday after Epiphany Sunday

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1 John 4:7-10

My dear people,
let us love one another
since love comes from God
and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Anyone who fails to love can never have known God,
because God is love.
God’s love for us was revealed
when God sent into the world his only Son
so that we could have life through him;
this is the love I mean:
not our love for God,
but God’s love for us when he sent his Son
to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.

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Mark 6:34-44

As Jesus stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length. By now it was getting very late, and his disciples came up to him and said, ‘This is a lonely place and it is getting very late, So send them away, and they can go to the farms and villages round about, to buy themselves something to eat.’ He replied, ‘Give them something to eat yourselves.’ They answered, ‘Are we to go and spend two hundred denarii on bread for them to eat?’ How many loaves have you?’ he asked ‘Go and see.’ And when they had found out they said, ‘Five, and two fish.’ Then he ordered them to get all the people together in groups on the green grass, and they sat down on the ground in squares of hundreds and fifties. Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessing; then he broke the loaves and handed them to his disciples to distribute among the people. He also shared out the two fish among them all. They all ate as much as they wanted. They collected twelve basketfuls of scraps of bread and pieces of fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.

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Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love.

Movie plots and TV series tend to dramatise the emotion of love by illustrating the heights and depths of what a person would do for the people whom he or she loves. Sometimes this entails the embarking of a path of revenge in order to seek redress against grievance which the family has suffered. This approach I believe is a misguided type of love. The readings of today show us that to identify true love, we only need to look at the fruits and the outcomes of one’s actions.

One of the fruits of love is a spirit of generosity and this is seen in the Gospel of today where Jesus multiplied the loaves. For some, this parable could have been heard so many times that we may have become immune to its message. Jesus showed to the people his compassion for those around him. He cared for their well-being and made sure their material needs were met. I believe that sometimes we also need to be more aware of the need to be more observant of the lives of the people in our peripheral vision. The lady who cleans the pantry, the worker who clears our rubbish and the man who distributes the newspapers all have a background and story from which we can encounter and share the love of God with.

Love therefore is not a vengeful type of love but one which shows great generosity of spirit and forgiveness to all whom we meet. As we go about our daily lives, let us find an opportunity to show love to these people and in the process allow others to discover the great mercy of God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Father, we pray for us to love all others with empathy.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who make a point to forgive their enemies despite the difficulty.