Monthly Archives: March 2017

1 April, Saturday – Open Our Eyes to Jesus

1 April 2017

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Jeremiah 11:18-20

The Lord revealed it to me; I was warned.

O Lord, that was when you opened my eyes to their scheming. I for my part was like a trustful lamb being led to the slaughter-house, not knowing the schemes they were plotting against me, ‘Let us destroy the tree in its strength, let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name may be quickly forgotten!’

But you, the Lord of Hosts, who pronounce a just sentence,
who probe the loins and heart,
let me see the vengeance you will take on them,
for I have committed my cause to you.

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John 7:40-52

Several people who had been listening to Jesus said, ‘Surely he must be the prophet’, and some said, ‘He is the Christ’, but others said, ‘Would the Christ be from Galilee? Does not scripture say that the Christ must be descended from David and come from the town of Bethlehem?’ So the people could not agree about him. Some would have liked to arrest him, but no one actually laid hands on him.

The police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees who said to them, ‘Why haven’t you brought him?’ The police replied, ‘There has never been anybody who has spoken like him.’ ‘So’ the Pharisees answered ‘you have been led astray as well? Have any of the authorities believed in him? Any of the Pharisees? This rabble knows nothing about the Law – they are damned.’ One of them, Nicodemus – the same man who had come to Jesus earlier – said to them, ‘But surely the Law does not allow us to pass judgement on a man without giving him a hearing and discovering what he is about?’ To this they answered, ‘Are you a Galilean too? Go into the matter, and see for yourself: prophets do not come out of Galilee.’

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Pass judgement

I walk into the Church and find myself entering the centre pews, hoping to get a good view of the altar and try not to get distracted with anything else, not even a toddler walking across me from her mother on the left to her father on the right. Sometimes, it is also hard for me not to wonder what my fellow brother or sister who happens to sit beside me is like. Instead of focusing on praying and personal reflections on the past week, we probably wonder about our neighbour’s life and being competitive with our fellow brother and sister in Christ.

We have absolutely no knowledge of the other people kneeling and praying beside us as we have our quiet time with the Lord. Who are we to judge? Only our Almighty God can see where our faults lie. We must not think too highly of our own prayer life and end up thinking that we are superior to others. The Lord watches over us and our actions all the time. In today’s Gospel, the people of Jerusalem had nothing against Jesus, yet they judged Him strongly for speaking against the Law for their judgement had been blurred by their own perceptions, making them blind to the works of Jesus.

Therefore, let us not become someone who prays with distraction and be one who humbles himself with no arrogance within him. It requires focus and passion for the Lord to build a wholesome prayer life. As in the past readings of this week, we have emphasised what God’s law brought to us, He has been praised for the great works He promises. As we come to the end of the fourth week of Lent, allow us to bend our backs, lose the pride within us and assist all those around us who need us, rather than act like the Pharisees who prayed with much arrogance towards God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: O Lord, grant us the peace in our hearts, so that we are able to calm ourselves down at the end of each day and pray also for those whose lives we have influenced.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for being the Lord and Father who promises and delivers.

31 March, Friday – Tackling Time

31 March 2017

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Wisdom 2:1,12-22

The godless say to themselves, with their misguided reasoning:

‘Our life is short and dreary,
nor is there any relief when man’s end comes,
nor is anyone known who can give release from Hades.
Let us lie in wait for the virtuous man, since he annoys us
and opposes our way of life,
reproaches us for our breaches of the law
and accuses us of playing false to our upbringing.
He claims to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a son of the Lord.
Before us he stands, a reproof to our way of thinking,
the very sight of him weighs our spirits down;
his way of life is not like other men’s,
the paths he treads are unfamiliar.
In his opinion we are counterfeit;
he holds aloof from our doings as though from filth;
he proclaims the final end of the virtuous as happy
and boasts of having God for his father.
Let us see if what he says is true,
let us observe what kind of end he himself will have.
If the virtuous man is God’s son, God will take his part
and rescue him from the clutches of his enemies.
Let us test him with cruelty and with torture,
and thus explore this gentleness of his
and put his endurance to the proof.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death
since he will be looked after – we have his word for it.’

This is the way they reason, but they are misled,
their malice makes them blind.
They do not know the hidden things of God,
they have no hope that holiness will be rewarded,
they can see no reward for blameless souls.

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John 7:1-2,10,25-30

Jesus stayed in Galilee; he could not stay in Judaea, because the Jews were out to kill him.

As the Jewish feast of Tabernacles drew near, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went up as well, but quite privately, without drawing attention to himself. Meanwhile some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, ‘Isn’t this the man they want to kill? And here he is, speaking freely, and they have nothing to say to him! Can it be true the authorities have made up their minds that he is the Christ? Yet we all know where he comes from, but when the Christ appears no one will know where he comes from.’

Then, as Jesus taught in the Temple, he cried out:

‘Yes, you know me
and you know where I came from.
Yet I have not come of myself:
no, there is one who sent me
and I really come from him,
and you do not know him,
but I know him because I have come from him
and it was he who sent me.’

They would have arrested him then, but because his time had not yet come no one laid a hand on him.

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His time had not yet come

 There is a time and place for everything that is supposed to happen. We have heard this many times, yet we still often cannot control our emotions when it comes to waiting. How are we able to improve ourselves when it comes to waiting for situations to happen? On the other hand, sometimes we do hold back on doing something because it is just not the right time for it. As we plan around the things that we do and executing them at the right time, our Lord too has His own agenda.

How then do we control our emotions when our way and time of doing things is not granted to us the way we would have liked it? It builds discipline and patience in us, we tend to control our emotions and anxiety better. Over time, we will be given the wisdom to read situations and know better with time and in waiting. In today’s Gospel, the Jews were after Jesus and the situation surrounding Him were to happen according to the Father’s intentions.

What does our faith teach us today? We learn not to deny Jesus and his works when we see it with our hearts. His works happen at times that we could not comprehend, but with prayer and patience, we will be able to work around situations that we least expected and even feel surprised about. Let us be not afraid to confront situations when we are at uncomfortable because we know that Jesus is with us to get through it all, just like how the Father has been with his Son forever.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: O Lord, we may be stubborn ourselves, but let our hearts open our eyes and mind, so that we know how to recognize your works in your time.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for your Son Jesus, who so generously give His life on the cross, because of His love for us.

30 March, Thursday – Turn to Him

Dear OXYGEN readers,

As Lent draws to a close, we invite you to contribute a reflection for Holy Week and Easter. As per OXYGEN tradition, we have the following reflections open to volunteers. If you had experienced something this season that the Holy Spirit is prompting you to share, consider sharing your encounter with our faith community. God bless you!

1. Holy Thursday – Chrism Mass
2. Holy Thursday – Mass of the Lord’s Supper
3. Good Friday
4. Easter Vigil (9 reflections)
1st Reading + Responsorial Psalm
2nd Reading + Responsorial Psalm
3rd Reading + Responsorial Psalm
4th Reading + Responsorial Psalm
5th Reading + Responsorial Psalm
6th Reading + Responsorial Psalm
7th Reading + Responsorial Psalm
Epistle + Responsorial Psalm
Gospel

Do drop an email to descksoon@yahoo.com who will be in touch with you on how to proceed.

God bless
Oxygen Core Team

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30 March 2017

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Exodus 32:7-14

The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostatised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice. “Here is your God, Israel,” they have cried “who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘I can see how headstrong these people are! Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them; of you, however, I will make a great nation.’

But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched and mighty hand? Why let the Egyptians say, “Ah, it was in treachery that he brought them out, to do them to death in the mountains and wipe them off the face of the earth”? Leave your burning wrath; relent and do not bring this disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your servants to whom by your own self you swore and made this promise: I will make your offspring as many as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I promised I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their heritage for ever.’

So the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

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John 5:31-47

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘Were I to testify on my own behalf,
my testimony would not be valid;
but there is another witness who can speak on my behalf,
and I know that his testimony is valid.
You sent messengers to John,
and he gave his testimony to the truth:
not that I depend on human testimony;
no, it is for your salvation that I speak of this.
John was a lamp alight and shining
and for a time you were content to enjoy the light that he gave.
But my testimony is greater than John’s:
the works my Father has given me to carry out,
these same works of mine testify
that the Father has sent me.
Besides, the Father who sent me
bears witness to me himself.
You have never heard his voice,
you have never seen his shape,
and his word finds no home in you
because you do not believe in the one he has sent.

‘You study the scriptures,
believing that in them you have eternal life;
now these same scriptures testify to me,
and yet you refuse to come to me for life!
As for human approval, this means nothing to me.
Besides, I know you too well: you have no love of God in you.
I have come in the name of my Father
and you refuse to accept me;
if someone else comes in his own name
you will accept him.
How can you believe,
since you look to one another for approval
and are not concerned
with the approval that comes from the one God?
Do not imagine that I am going to accuse you before the Father:
you place your hopes on Moses,
and Moses will be your accuser.
If you really believed him
you would believe me too,
since it was I that he was writing about;
but if you refuse to believe what he wrote,
how can you believe what I say?’

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Yet you refuse to come to me for life

There are many moments in my life when I have come across difficulties and the first thing that came to mind was to solve it; to find a solution on my own, thinking that I could use my very own ability to get it sorted. It was only later on that I found out that it is really important to reach out for help, to ask for someone else’s opinion, so as to seek help get over the problem. Sometimes, it is pride that prevents us from opening ourselves up, hoping to take credit for getting the job done.

In today’s reading, the people of God were blinded and tired to know where the true Father was. They were lost in their spiritual desert, looking towards Moses for direction but only to find themselves tired and without direction. They turned to a molten metal calf and worshipped it, having no idea who the Father truly is. Do we turn to God when we lose our direction? Do we stop just for a short minute to lift up our issues to the Lord, and ask for the guidance that will aid us smoothly through our difficulty?

In the Gospel today, Jesus, Son of God, presents Himself and yet the people once again are so focused on the law, living a blind faith, and just couldn’t look up to Jesus the Messiah. Jesus even tried to explain the big picture of who He is, but He knew that they were still unable to see Him as God. Similarly, when we come across a huge difficulty, will we still be blind to know where God is for us?

Never turn away from the Lord for He is with us during our time of need. Jesus came to our world to live with us and even died for us. Let Him in during the happy moments and also include Him in the difficulties which we are about to face. Accept Him into our hearts, so that He may work the miracles in us because of our sincere belief.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Take us away from the distractions that hurt our relationship with Jesus, and know that as the Son of God? He has all the power to still our hearts in times of difficulties.

Thanksgiving: We continue to give love to non-believers, that we are always able to share Jesus with them.

29 March, Wednesday – Drawing Strength

29 March 2017

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Isaiah 49:8-15

Thus says the Lord:

At the favourable time I will answer you,
on the day of salvation I will help you.
(I have formed you and have appointed you
as covenant of the people.)
I will restore the land
and assign you the estates that lie waste.
I will say to the prisoners, ‘Come out’,
to those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’

On every roadway they will graze,
and each bare height shall be their pasture.
They will never hunger or thirst,
scorching wind and sun shall never plague them;
for he who pities them will lead them
and guide them to springs of water.
I will make a highway of all the mountains,
and the high roads shall be banked up.

Some are on their way from afar,
others from the north and the west,
others from the land of Sinim.
Shout for joy, you heavens; exult, you earth!
You mountains, break into happy cries!
For the Lord consoles his people
and takes pity on those who are afflicted.

For Zion was saying, ‘The Lord has abandoned me,
the Lord has forgotten me.’
Does a woman forget her baby at the breast,
or fail to cherish the son of her womb?
Yet even if these forget,
I will never forget you.

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John 5:17-30

Jesus said to the Jews, ‘My Father goes on working, and so do I.’ But that only made them even more intent on killing him, because, not content with breaking the sabbath, he spoke of God as his own Father, and so made himself God’s equal.
To this accusation Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
the Son can do nothing by himself;
he can do only what he sees the Father doing:
and whatever the Father does the Son does too.
For the Father loves the Son
and shows him everything he does himself,
and he will show him even greater things than these,
works that will astonish you.
Thus, as the Father raises the dead and gives them life,
so the Son gives life to anyone he chooses;
for the Father judges no one;
he has entrusted all judgement to the Son,
so that all may honour the Son
as they honour the Father.
Whoever refuses honour to the Son
refuses honour to the Father who sent him.
I tell you most solemnly,
whoever listens to my words,
and believes in the one who sent me,
has eternal life;
without being brought to judgement
he has passed from death to life.
I tell you most solemnly,
the hour will come – in fact it is here already –
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God,
and all who hear it will live.
For the Father, who is the source of life,
has made the Son the source of life;
and, because he is the Son of Man,
has appointed him supreme judge.
Do not be surprised at this,
for the hour is coming when the dead will leave their graves
at the sound of his voice:
those who did good will rise again to life;
and those who did evil, to condemnation.
I can do nothing by myself;
I can only judge as I am told to judge,
and my judging is just,
because my aim is to do not my own will,
but the will of him who sent me.’

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Even greater things than this

Have you ever been to the gym and just realised that most of the members exercising there seem much fitter than you? Well, I have. Do not get me wrong, we are not talking about self esteem here or judging one another in the gym. In fact, I go to a very well-equipped gym where members are reminded to focus and get fit but never to judge how another person exercises, because we know that everyone progresses and makes the effort at different levels, at their own pace, having the same motivation to get fit. It is crucial for us not to judge how heavy someone is lifting their weights, how fast the legs are going on the treadmill, how flexible they are on the yoga mat because we never know the story behind the individual.

As we get going strengthening our physical selves, we must also remember that our mental and spiritual strength is very much drawn from the value and faith in Jesus Christ. In today’s reading and Gospel, the Lord showers us with the assurance that He is always by our side, never forgetting us as His children. Adding to that, Jesus strengthens that assurance of the Father by living among us. Unfortunately, Jesus’ proclamation of the Father did not sit well with the people who already had persecution in mind. They were weak and blinded in the wrong direction of faith. We too are often weak and blinded by Jesus’ work in us. We feel lost in our daily journey because we have forgotten to draw strength from Jesus.

Every week, I look forward to the Eucharistic celebration on Sundays, waking up early to worship Christ, ready to lift up my week ahead to Him as well as giving thanks for the protection and provision for the week that has passed. But I also know that this enthusiasm gets weaker as the week passes when I am filled with the anxiety and worries of work, or plans that are upcoming. Therefore, it is comforting to use this period of Lent to strengthen our relationship with God, work on strengthening our faith, keeping it strong so as to be grateful for His work in us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer:. Almighty Father, deliver us from evil, let us not fall into temptation, filling us with the strength of your Son Jesus.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful and comforted to know that You, O Lord, are always near to us, not forgetting us, because as children, we will always be dependent on You.

Call for contributors for Holy Week

Dear followers and subscribers of Oxygen,

We give thanks to God for your steadfast following of Oxygen.

As we enter into the Paschal Mystery of the Church, we invite our readers who want to help contribute a reflection to come forward.

The following readings are available for reflection:

1. Holy Thursday – Chrism Mass

2. Holy Thursday – Mass of the Lord’s Supper

3. Good Friday

4. Easter Vigil

1st Reading + Responsorial Psalm

2nd Reading + Responsorial Psalm

3rd Reading + Responsorial Psalm

4th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

5th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

6th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

7th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

Epistle + Responsorial Psalm

Gospel

This is a good time for you to share with our readers the joys you have had in reading Oxygen. Do drop an email to descksoon@yahoo.com who will be in touch with you on how to proceed.

God bless

Oxygen Core Team

28 March, Tuesday – Well Provided for

28 March 2017

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Ezekiel 47:1-9,12

The angel brought me to the entrance of the Temple, where a stream came out from under the Temple threshold and flowed eastwards, since the Temple faced east. The water flowed from under the right side of the Temple, south of the altar. He took me out by the north gate and led me right round outside as far as the outer east gate where the water flowed out on the right-hand side. The man went to the east holding his measuring line and measured off a thousand cubits; he then made me wade across the stream; the water reached my ankles. He measured off another thousand and made me wade across the stream again; the water reached my knees. He measured off another thousand and made me wade across again; the water reached my waist. He measured off another thousand; it was now a river which I could not cross; the stream had swollen and was now deep water, a river impossible to cross.

He then said, ‘Do you see, son of man?’ He took me further, then brought me back to the bank of the river. When I got back, there were many trees on each bank of the river. He said, ‘This water flows east down to the Arabah and to the sea; and flowing into the sea it makes its waters wholesome. Wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live. Fish will be very plentiful, for wherever the water goes it brings health, and life teems wherever the river flows. Along the river, on either bank, will grow every kind of fruit tree with leaves that never wither and fruit that never fails; they will bear new fruit every month, because this water comes from the sanctuary. And their fruit will be good to eat and the leaves medicinal.’

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John 5:1-3,5-16

There was a Jewish festival, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now at the Sheep Pool in Jerusalem there is a building, called Bethzatha in Hebrew, consisting of five porticos; and under these were crowds of sick people – blind, lame, paralysed – waiting for the water to move; One man there had an illness which had lasted thirty-eight years, and when Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had been in this condition for a long time, he said, ‘Do you want to be well again?’ ‘Sir,’ replied the sick man ‘I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is disturbed; and while I am still on the way, someone else gets there before me.’ Jesus said, ‘Get up, pick up your sleeping-mat and walk.’ The man was cured at once, and he picked up his mat and walked away.

Now that day happened to be the sabbath, so the Jews said to the man who had been cured, ‘It is the sabbath; you are not allowed to carry your sleeping-mat.’ He replied, ‘But the man who cured me told me, “Pick up your mat and walk.”’ They asked, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Pick up your mat and walk”?’ The man had no idea who it was, since Jesus had disappeared into the crowd that filled the place. After a while Jesus met him in the Temple and said, ‘Now you are well again, be sure not to sin any more, or something worse may happen to you.’ The man went back and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had cured him. It was because he did things like this on the sabbath that the Jews began to persecute Jesus.

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All living creatures teeming in it will live

Have you ever come across a social experiment where an individual deliberately dropped a hundred dollar bill and recorded the action of the person behind, after picking up the bill? A large majority of them, knowing that they had picked up a hundred dollar bill quickly walked or ran towards the direction away from the one who dropped it. They must have thought that they had gotten lucky and hid it quickly in their pockets. However, when the same experiment was done in front of a homeless person, they captured the honesty of the homeless individual returning the bill to the actor.

How much is considered enough for us? Has our Lord not provided us what we deserved, with all the good provisions around us to make us more charitable than being dishonest? In today’s reading, the Lord sets up our environment so that we, being the blessed ones of different talents, are able to better ourselves and make the world around us a better place. Where do you draw the line of being lucky to have picked up a note, or have you been dishonest because it is just ‘finders’ keepers’? Anyone who is honest would agree that if you have found something and are able to return it to the rightful owner, then make the effort to do so. Our behaviours and values have certainly gone askew despite the prestigious education received, despite already having a healthy bank balance. Yet, we can’t return the money found to its rightful owner due to greed and temptation. As for a homeless person who has no proper shelter, he perhaps has nothing material to hold on to, but continues to live a life filled with good values and honesty.

Most of us have been provided with a good education, blessed with a family whom we can rely on, have a job to make a decent living for ourselves. These are the little miracles in life that carry us through such that we in turn be generous to others. Do not be guided by greed, for the Lord has given us the grace to stand up and walk, in the way of the Lord, not the way of the evil and its temptations.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, let us recognise the miracles that continue to happen to us, not to take our provisions for granted, always looking out to take and not give.

Thanksgiving: We wake up this morning to give thanks for a life worth living, so that someone else’s life be made better because of me.

25 March, Saturday – “God is with us”

25 Mar – Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

The annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary by Gabriel, the archangel, that she was to be the Mother of God (Luke 1), the Word being made flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The feast probably originated about the time of the Council of Ephesus (c. 431), and is first mentioned in the Sacramentary of Pope Gelasius (d. 496).

The Annunciation has been a key topic in Christian art in general, as well as in Roman Catholic Marian art, particularly during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It is represented in art by many masters, among them Fra Angelico, Hubert Van Eyck, Ghirlandajo, Holbein the Elder, Lippi, Pinturicchio, and Del Sarto.

This feast is celebrated on Mar 25, nine months before the feast of the Nativity of Jesus (Christmas) on Dec 25.

The Annunciation is also mentioned twice in the Quran, the holy book for the Muslims.

  • Patron Saint Index, Wikipedia

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Isaiah 7:10-14,8:10

The Lord spoke to Ahaz and said, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign for yourself coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above.’ ‘No,’ Ahaz answered ‘I will not put the Lord to the test.’
Then he said:
Listen now, House of David:
are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men
without trying the patience of my God, too?
The Lord himself, therefore,
will give you a sign.
It is this: the maiden is with child
and will soon give birth to a son
whom she will call Immanuel,
a name which means ‘God is with us.’
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Hebrews 10:4-10
Bulls’ blood and goats’ blood are useless for taking away sins, and this is what Christ said, on coming into the world:
You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation,
prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin;
then I said,
just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book,
‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’
Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.
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Luke 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’
Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.
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Every day at 12 noon, my alarm goes off. And as long as I am not urgently occupied I say the Angelus (or my wife reminds me to). Traditionally, it was prayed three times a day, accompanied by church bells. Even the Holy Father makes an event of praying the Angelus when he does it on Sundays at noon and gives a short address. The Church has also attached a partial indulgence to praying the Angelus.

Why does this prayer get so much air time? I think, precisely because it represents the single most significant event in the history of the world. The Annunciation. Mary said ‘Yes’ and the 2nd person of the Holy Trinity was immediately present in her womb and, until now, is present in the world. Literally, God is with us. So every day, millions of people take a bit of time to ponder this great mystery. The one sovereign God loves us so much that he became exactly like one of us, holding on to none of His splendour and grandeur.

What does this mean to us? Do we live like God is among us? Or is He only present in the tabernacle or worse, only 2000 years ago? I have come to realise that once we make ourselves aware of God’s true presence within and around us all the time, then we truly live as His children; like recently, when I visited an old workplace of mine and met with old colleagues, (post reversion to the faith) I could see people for the people they are and not what they can do, how they work or what position they hold. Being more aware of God’s presence makes us less judgmental and more compassionate. It makes us model Mary, just a little bit.

“I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me,” said Mary. And from that moment, the Lord was with her. Let us, in recitation of the Angelus daily, become handmaids too, and do all the Lord asks of us and always be aware that he is truly with us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer: Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross, be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank you for your Mother; Our Mother, for her yes, for her intercession and for her leading us to you.

24 March, Friday – To listen is to love

24 March 2017

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Hosea 14:2-10
The Lord says this:
Israel, come back to the Lord your God;
your iniquity was the cause of your downfall.
Provide yourself with words
and come back to the Lord.
Say to him, ‘Take all iniquity away
so that we may have happiness again
and offer you our words of praise.
Assyria cannot save us,
we will not ride horses any more,
or say, “Our God!” to what our own hands have made,
for you are the one in whom orphans find compassion.’
– I will heal their disloyalty,
I will love them with all my heart,
for my anger has turned from them.
I will fall like dew on Israel.
He shall bloom like the lily,
and thrust out roots like the poplar,
his shoots will spread far;
he will have the beauty of the olive
and the fragrance of Lebanon.
They will come back to live in my shade;
they will grow corn that flourishes,
they will cultivate vines
as renowned as the wine of Helbon.
What has Ephraim to do with idols any more
when it is I who hear his prayer and care for him?
I am like a cypress ever green,
all your fruitfulness comes from me.
Let the wise man understand these words.
Let the intelligent man grasp their meaning.
For the ways of the Lord are straight,
and virtuous men walk in them,
but sinners stumble.
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Mark 12:28-34
One of the scribes came up to Jesus and put a question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to him, ‘Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true: that he is one and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.’ Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken, said, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that no one dared to question him any more.
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I will heal their disloyalty, I will love them with all my heart… it is I who hear his prayer and care for him.

There seems to be a common thread in the readings all week – that of listening to God. It got me wondering why we are constantly being reminded to listen, and why this call is so relevant even today.

What are we listening out for?

When we are told to listen or pay attention, does our reflex guide us into a defensive stance, anticipating a scolding or rebuke? This can happen in many relationships (between couples, parent-child, work) where familiarity has sadly bred contempt. Some may even experience this reaction towards the commands of God. Perhaps this is set up by previous experiences of hurt and disappointment, maybe we have grown up hearing more often the wrathful stories of a punishing God, that it is hard to imagine hearing anything sweet and soothing when told to pay attention and listen.

In the first reading of Hosea today, God is speaking tenderly to his people who have turned from him in disloyalty. We get a glimpse of our image of God when we read these words and recognize our interior reactions. Does it feel hard to visualize a loving God? Do you read with some distance and a little disbelief? Are you moved and comforted deeply by the assurances of God who says: I will love you with all my heart? To truly listen without judgment and defense, is to genuinely allow our hearts to connect with the one who speaks.

What are you listening out for when God is trying to speak His love to you? Will you let Him have the space and time to tell you how much He cares for you?

To listen is to heal

Sometimes we don’t really listen. We just hear what we think is being spoken. So if a wife tells her husband, “I wish you wouldn’t spend so much time watching TV/on your mobile phone/out with friends,” he may hear “she’s nitpicking on me and telling me how to spend my precious leisure time,” instead of “I wish you would spend more time connecting with me.”

When we read God’s words in scripture: Repent and turn away from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations (Eze 14:6, 1 Jn 5:12, etc), we may think we hear His booming and fearsome voice commanding us to give up everything and turn to Him. The responsibility to listen intentionally and openly lies with the listener. Sometimes it is easier to hear the literal words when it coincides with our presumptions about someone or the nature of the relationship. But to listen humbly is to heal relationships, and to heal the false impressions we might have of the other.

Do I listen carefully to God’s merciful and deep love for me that is layered beneath all of His commandments and laws? Do I give God the space to be Himself in our relationship, instead of imposing my own ideas and defenses upon His words?

Only when we listen, can we speak wisely.

In yesterday’s gospel reading (Lk 11:14-23), we witnessed the crowds testing and challenging Jesus’ authority and words. They asked questions to cast doubt, with no intention of listening to the Living Word. However, the scribe today listened intently to Jesus’ answer that the greatest commandment to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength… and to love your neighbour as yourself.’ He was therefore able to respond wisely that to follow this commandment, was ‘far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.’ The scribe understood the deeper meaning of the law of love, which underpinned all the Laws. It is only when we listen, that we can speak wisely and with love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, grant me the patience to listen with humility and love. Grant me the restraint to withhold judgment and self-defenses.

Thanksgiving: I give thanks for the gift of those who have spent time truly listening to me and getting to know me for who I am.


23 March, Thursday – You become what you pay attention to

23 Mar – Memorial for St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, bishop

St. Turibius (1538-1606) was born a noble and became a lawyer, and then a professor of law at Salamanca. He was ordained in 1578, and was a judge of the Court of the Inquisition at Granada. He was later appointed Archbishop of Lima, Peru on May 15, 1579. He founded the first seminary in the Western hemisphere, and fought for the rights of the natives against the Spanish masters. He also organized councils and synods in the New World.

Prayer to St. Turibius

Lord, through the apostolic work of St. Turibius and his unwavering love of truth, you helped your Church to grow. May your chosen people continue to grow in faith and holiness. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 7:23-28

These were my orders: Listen to my voice, then I will be your God and you shall be my people. Follow right to the end the way that I mark out for you, and you will prosper. But they did not listen, they did not pay attention; they followed the dictates of their own evil hearts, refused to face me, and turned their backs on me. From the day your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until today, day after day I have persistently sent you all my servants the prophets.
But they have not listened to me, have not paid attention; they have grown stubborn and behaved worse than their ancestors. You may say all these words to them: they will not listen to you; you may call them: they will not answer. So tell them this, “Here is the nation that will not listen to the voice of the Lord its God nor take correction. Sincerity is no more, it has vanished from their mouths.”
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Luke 11:14-23
Jesus was casting out a devil and it was dumb; but when the devil had gone out the dumb man spoke, and the people were amazed. But some of them said, ‘It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.’ Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven; but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses. So too with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? – since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils. Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out? Let them be your judges then. But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you.
So long as a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he is attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.
‘He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.’
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He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.

Some of us have played a childhood game called ‘Broken Telephone’ whereby a chain of players are supposed to listen carefully, to pass on a message to the next player, and the winning team is the one who has managed to preserve the integrity of the original message from the start to the end of the chain. This game is hilarious when we realize the amplification of distortion that words can undergo. Often, the intermediate messages no longer make sense, yet, by the rules of the game, we cannot verify the original message with the first player and are compelled to pass whatever message we heard, on.

‘Follow right to the end the way that I mark out for you, and you will prosper’ (Jer 7:23). This is the command given by God to us, his people, through Jeremiah. Yet this is not an easy instruction to follow. In the world today, there are so many distractions and distortions to reality that can insidiously veer us off-track. Social media and the sheer variety of apps and platforms available to us, afford an illusion of a virtual community that is very real and, perhaps, even meaningful. Maybe they are. Maybe these virtual connections do enhance our personal lives and interactions with people when we do meet face-to-face. But out of the many hours we spend frittering away on these communication platforms, how often do we come away feeling genuinely and sincerely enriched, invigorated, and enlightened? Or do we register an irksome feeling that we’ve scrolled on just a bit too much on Instagram, Facebook, etc, when we glance up at the clock to suddenly realize an unknowing hour has passed?

I recently attended a talk by Tristan Harris (who was a Design Ethicist at Google) and came away with a greater awareness of how the entire set-up of social media platforms (Facebook, Google, Instagram, SnapChat, etc) are designed to influence consumers’ behaviours and induce addiction to these ‘windows’ onto the virtual world. These apps are cleverly designed to milk users’ ‘attention economy’ for profit. While he called for an ‘ethics of technology’ to guide the design of social media tools, he admitted that the forces that be in engineering boardrooms of the top Tech companies measured success by the numbers of users who get hooked on, and keep using these mediums. In his words, “Never before in history have the decisions of a handful of designers (mostly men, white, living in SF, aged 25–35) working at 3 companies”—Google, Apple, and Facebook—“had so much impact on how millions of people around the world spend their attention…”

However, the majority of the audiences at the talk were surprisingly unable to think outside the box of their fundamental reliance on their personal mobile devices and numerous virtual handles. Instead, their pressing questions went along the lines of: What new Apps can we design to help us manage our over-reliance on social media? How can we create innovative products that encourage a healthy use of our phones and personal devices?

Many of us are strikingly unable to hear the truth even if the truth were plain to see. Is the solution to addiction to replace it with another addiction? We may even shudder to consider our benign technological reliance as an addiction – we’d easily point to extremes of gambling, alcoholism, drugs and pornography as real addictions. We’d rather ours be mere incidental inconveniences, an inevitable symptom of our technological times, something we need not challenge at fundamental levels, but seek to address with minor palatable tweaks in our behaviours.

But they did not listen, they did not pay attention; they followed the dictates of their own evil hearts, refused to face me, and turned their backs on me… they have grown stubborn and behaved worse than their ancestors. You may say all these words to them: they will not listen to you; you may call them: they will not answer. (Jer 7:23-28)

I don’t have easy solutions for this ‘new normal’ we live in. Indeed, many of us will still use social media and be logged onto these virtual communities for a large portion of our jobs and our social lives. However, as Christians who desire to lead a balanced and ordered life, we will need to cultivate a keener sense of self-examination of our deeper intentions, motivations, and preoccupations.

We need to pray for wisdom and prudence, to listen closely to the Holy Spirit, seeking God’s grace to shed light on areas of our lives, which are in tenuous imbalance. Rather than unconsciously and unquestioningly surrendering our attention economy over to the new ‘opiate of the masses’ that is social media, let’s ask ourselves — how much more valuable to turn the attention of our hearts, mind, spirit over to prayer and communion with the Lord? Let us not dull our entire being to God’s gift of life by filling up on the fleeting euphoria of being ‘Liked’ on Facebook. More than this season of Lent, will you consciously turn your back to the world, to pay heed to Christ’s voice and follow Him? Harden not your hearts!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord help us open our eyes and wake up to this dullness of our hearts and minds. Help me not to surrender the gift of life and unique purposefulness of my existence over to mindless addictions. Help me to use my will wisely.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for Christ who calls out everlastingly against the grain of the world. We give thanks for those who labour to challenge unjust structures and systems. We give thanks for the opportunity to make conscious and meaningful decisions to better our lives and help others fulfill their purpose.

22 March, Wednesday – So our children will believe

22 March 2017

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Deuteronomy 4:1,5-9

Moses said to the people:
‘Now, Israel, take notice of the laws and customs that I teach you today, and observe them, that you may have life and may enter and take possession of the land that the Lord the God of your fathers is giving you.

‘See, as the Lord my God has commanded me, I teach you the laws and customs that you are to observe in the land you are to enter and make your own. Keep them, observe them, and they will demonstrate to the peoples your wisdom and understanding. When they come to know of all these laws they will exclaim, “No other people is as wise and prudent as this great nation.” And indeed, what great nation is there that has its gods so near as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call to him? And what great nation is there that has laws and customs to match this whole Law that I put before you today?

‘But take care what you do and be on your guard. Do not forget the things your eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your heart all the days of your life; rather, tell them to your children and to your children’s children.’

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Matthew 5:17-19

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.’

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Tell them to your children and to your children’s children

Faith is relational. Although it is very much a personal journey undertaken by each person, we are all uplifted by the collective faith of our family, friends, and communities – just as Aaron and Hur supported Moses’ hands while he prayed for Israel’s triumph over the Amalekites (Exodus 17:12). In times of despair, we are strengthened by the stories, testimonies and journeys of faith that those around us share. We are invited to ponder deeper on this relational aspect of faith and fidelity in the readings today.

Moses reminds the Israelites that God desires them never to forget their history, their exile and journey, sufferings and triumphs:

“I teach you the laws and customs that you are to observe in the land you are to enter and make your own. Keep them, observe them, and they will demonstrate to the peoples your wisdom and understanding… take care what you do and be on your guard. Do not forget the things your eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your heart all the days of your life; rather, tell them to your children and to your children’s children’.” (Deut 4:5-9)

Likewise, we are reminded today that parents are integral to the formation of a child’s faith. Faithful parents are important to the ongoing formation of their children’s faith. But many of us have sometimes simplistically equated being faithful to being perfect. We may strive for perfection, but in our human finiteness we can hardly boast of perfection. So how can we be faithful even as we are often imperfect?

The thread in scripture points to three important actions here: ‘Remember,’ ‘Teach,’ and ‘Do.’ Each of these is vital to the transmission of our faith within our communities, and yet all three pillars in unity are needed to truly help us be witnesses to God’s love and mercy. I have been encouraged and strengthened by the testimonies of others who not only help me remember God’s faithfulness, their reflections teach me about steadfast hope in trials, and their actions and fidelity to God point me to the Truth of God as Love.

Jesus tells his disciples that he did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to complete them. Indeed, Christ fulfills the Law by the law of love. God sent Christ to walk among us, to remind us of the Law and the testimonies of the Prophets; to teach us the way of the Beatitudes; and, to complete for us the promise of salvation by dying on the Cross.

Do you have a faith story? Is God calling you to share the struggles and the beauty of being Christian with your community and your children? Let us remember that without the cross, there can be no resurrection. Let us faithfully teach the laws, customs, and reasons of our faith. Let us complete this by striving humbly to put our faith to practice by our good works – so that our children and children’s children may remember and believe.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, help us by your grace to keep this flame of faith burning within, and to fan the fires of your love for other longing hearts.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for giving me the gift of my memory. Anoint my memory to recall your goodness and mercy all the days of my life.