Monthly Archives: December 2017

01 January, Monday – O Happy Day

01 Jan – Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God is celebrated on Jan 1, the Octave Day of Christmas (i.e. 8th day after Christmas). It is a celebration of Mary’s motherhood of Jesus. The title “Mother of God” is a western derivation from the Greek term ‘theotokos’, the God-bearer.

The term ‘theotokos’ was adopted at the Council of Ephesus as a way to assert the divinity of Christ, from which it follows that what is declared of Christ is declared of God. So, if Mary is the mother of Jesus, she is the Mother of God. Therefore, the title ‘Mother of God’ and the ‘Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God’, which celebrates her under this title, are at once Mariological and Christological.

– Wikipedia
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Numbers 6:22-27

The Lord spoke to Moses and said, ‘Say this to Aaron and his sons: “This is how you are to bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them:

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace.”

This is how they are to call down my name on the sons of Israel, and I will bless them.’
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Galatians 4:4-7

When the appointed time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law and to enable us to be adopted as sons. The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’, and it is this that makes you a son, you are not a slave any more; and if God has made you son, then he has made you heir.
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Luke 2:16-21

The shepherds hurried away to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in er heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was exactly as they had been told.

When the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before his conception.
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They are to call down my name on the sons of Israel, and I will bless them.

The Catholic Church marks the New Year by celebrating Mary as our Mother. It is indeed fitting that we consider how we start the year under the protection of Our Lady. The New Year is a blessing upon all of us as we are given an opportunity by God to start upon activities that will seek to glorify His name, amidst all the past failures and lost opportunities we may have encountered in the previous year.

The readings of today are one of great rejoicing and blessing because that is what the New Year should be. The Church has chosen this day for us to remember the importance of Mary in salvation history. Mary’s agreement to do the will of God enabled Man to be saved from sin. Mothers often suffer patiently and put in a tremendous amount of sacrifice for their children without the latter’s knowledge. Perhaps it will be good if there is an opportunity for us to recall what God has asked us to do.

We can follow the example of Our Lady, who surrendered her will and let the will of God flow through her entire being. As we go about today recovering from the enjoyment of New Year’s Eve, let us remember to dedicate the first day of 2018 to Our Lady and ask her to take us under her mantle and protect us from all harm and evil.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Mother Mary, let us always follow your example of obedience as we begin the New Year.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gift of life.

31 December, Sunday – In Good Times And Bad

31 December – The Holy Family 

Today the Church marks the feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. It is a liturgical celebration in honour of Jesus of Nazareth, his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his foster father, Saint Joseph, as a family. The Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on the Sunday following Christmas, unless that Sunday is January 1, in which case it is celebrated on December 30.

Scripture tells us practically nothing about the first years and the boyhood of the Child Jesus. All we know are the facts of the sojourn in Egypt, the return to Nazareth, and the incidents that occurred when the twelve-year-old boy accompanied his parents to Jerusalem. In her liturgy the Church hurries over this period of Christ’s life with equal brevity. The general breakdown of the family, however, at the end of the past century and at the beginning of our own, prompted the popes, especially the far-sighted Leo XIII, to promote the observance of this feast with the hope that it might instil into Christian families something of the faithful love and the devoted attachment that characterize the family of Nazareth. The primary purpose of the Church in instituting and promoting this feast is to present the Holy Family as the model and exemplar of all Christian families.

– CatholicCulture.org

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Ecclesiasticus 3:3-7,14-17

The Lord honours the father in his children,
and upholds the rights of a mother over her sons.
Whoever respects his father is atoning for his sins,
he who honours his mother is like someone amassing a fortune.
Whoever respects his father will be happy with children of his own,
he shall be heard on the day when he prays.
Long life comes to him who honours his father,
he who sets his mother at ease is showing obedience to the Lord.
My son, support your father in his old age,
do not grieve him during his life.
Even if his mind should fail, show him sympathy,
do not despise him in your health and strength;
f
or kindness to a father shall not be forgotten
but will serve as reparation for your sins.

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Colossians 3:12-21

You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful.

Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you. Teach each other, and advise each other, in all wisdom. With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God; and never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Wives, give way to your husbands, as you should in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and treat them with gentleness. Children, be obedient to your parents always, because that is what will please the Lord. Parents, never drive your children to resentment or you will make them feel frustrated.

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Luke 2:41-52

Every year the parents of Jesus used to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up for the feast as usual. When they were on their way home after the feast, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it. They assumed he was with the caravan, and it was only after a day’s journey that they went to look for him among their relations and acquaintances. When they failed to find him they went back to Jerusalem looking for him everywhere.

Three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions; and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies. They were overcome when they saw him, and his mother said to him, ‘My child, why have, you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.’ ‘Why were you looking for me?’ he replied ‘Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’ But they did not understand what he meant.

He then went down with them and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority. His mother stored up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and men.

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“And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.”

As the end of yet another year draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on how it would not have been possible for me to have made it through all of 2017’s challenges without my family’s unwavering love and support.

Having received so much from them, I’ve also been considering if I have, at the very least, reciprocated their actions. It is so easy to stick to routines and habits because our families have accomodated our quirks over the years. Yet, one simple gesture by my father got me thinking. He prepares cut fruit every morning for our family breakfast and usually, the fruit is piled generously but haphazardly in bowls. One day last week, I saw that the fruit had been sorted according to colour and was plated rather nicely. My father commented that he thought he would try something different just to make things more fun.

That simple gesture sparked a series of small yet meaningful changes in our home. Shoes were rearranged differently, we started sharing jokes in our family group chat, and even our socks have been folded more efficiently (thanks to the infinite resources available on YouTube). As I admire all the changes in our lives, I’ve realised that it is the small things that we do that chip away at lingering hardness or unforgiveness that has developed over the years.

In a world where options are valued, let us come to cherish the family that God has bestowed on us. For better or worse, may we always choose to commit to them fully.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dear Lord, may we always be nurturing and giving members of our families. May we never take them for granted.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for the family you have blessed us with. In appreciation, we pray for the grace to always stay close to them.

30 December, Saturday – New Year Resolution

30 December 2017

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1 John 2:12-17

I am writing to you, my own children,
whose sins have already been forgiven through his name;
I am writing to you, fathers,
who have come to know the one
who has existed since the beginning;
I am writing to you, young men,
who have already overcome the Evil One;
I have written to you, children,
because you already know the Father;
I have written to you, fathers,
because you have come to know the one
who has existed since the beginning;
I have written to you, young men,
because you are strong and God’s word has made its home in you,
and you have overcome the Evil One.
You must not love this passing world
or anything that is in the world.
The love of the Father cannot be
in any man who loves the world,
because nothing the world has to offer
– the sensual body,
the lustful eye,
pride in possessions –
could ever come from the Father
but only from the world;
and the world, with all it craves for,
is coming to an end;
but anyone who does the will of God
remains for ever.

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Luke 2:36-40

There was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well on in years. Her days of girlhood over, she had been married for seven years before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. She came by just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.

When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.

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Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever.

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, never have been. I think this is because I’ve been apathetic for the most part, and totally undisciplined for the other. I used to receive annual diaries and planners that would remain as they were given to me – pristinely clean. But something this year has shifted in me, a sense of urgency if you will. Last year, I bought a journal for myself for the first time in my life, telling myself this year would be different from the last, and endeavouring to make it happen. For the first quarter of the year, that journal remained blank. Then suddenly around the month of April, a few notes appeared here and there. Gradually the pages filled up with more concrete ideas, as I journalled more about my life’s purpose. As I reflected, I constantly questioned what it is that God has called me to do, and what I can do with the gifts that He has given me. In fact, I sought to answer what those gifts were in the first place. I feel that each of us must have a purpose, and while I am still finding mine, no doubt that it is clearer to me now that I have started to put my thoughts on paper, and this clarity has led to a more defined plan, with milestones and timelines.

Many times at the end of the year, we make resolutions that don’t really stick: losing weight, getting fit, going to the gym x no. of times a week, being a better spouse / son / daughter, climbing a mountain, visiting places. Then life gets in the way and we get distracted and side-tracked. Back in high school, my English teacher gave us a project at the start of the year to write down our resolutions, and at the end of the year, she gave them back to us. I couldn’t recognise those resolutions, though it was clearly my handwriting. I had written them down and locked them away in my mind, never to be unearthed. Now that I am older (and hopefully wiser), I realised that all my previous resolutions were no more than fluff because they had no sense of purpose. When there is no purpose, they become weak resolutions. There is no resolute behind the resolution! But as I started asking myself about my life’s purpose, I also found myself praying more about it, asking God to show me the way. Though I have not seen the whole plan yet, God has, throughout this year, shown me little things that have led from one thing to another, like a little trail of breadcrumbs. I am certain that as I pick up on this trail and start acting on it, God will reveal His plan for me.

My point is this: if we make resolutions without a plan or purpose, we don’t attach a sense of urgency to it. Why are we doing it in the first place? And how are we going to do it? If it is unclear to us, we can’t expect that we will stick to it for long. And if we have no discipline or patience, chances are they won’t be permanent. So, what kind of resolutions are we making for 2018? Are we making resolutions of the world, or of God? Whatever our resolutions may be, let us attach a higher purpose to it, praying and asking God for guidance and wisdom, acting in faith that He will reveal His plan for our life in time.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we pray for wisdom to set goals to fulfill a life that You have planned for us, perseverance to hold steadfast to it, and faith to see it through till the end.

Thanksgiving – A brand new year approaches us oh Lord. Thank you for the blessing and opportunity to do something right and purposeful in our lives. May what we do not be “me-centric”, but focus instead on those around us, and on your purpose for each and every one of us.

29 December, Friday – The Spirit Of Giving

Dec 29 – Memorial for St. Thomas Becket, bishop, martyr

Thomas (1118-1170) was of Norman ancestry. He was educated at Merton Priory, Paris, Bologna, and Auxerre. He was a civil and canon lawyer, a soldier and officer. He was archdeacon of Canterbury, and was a Friend of King Henry II, as well as Chancellor of England. He was ordained in 1162 and was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury the next day. He opposed the King’s interference in ecclesiastical matters. He was exiled several times, and was eventually murdered (and martyred) in 1170 in the Cathedral at Canterbury, England.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 John 2:3-11

We can be sure that we know God
only by keeping his commandments.
Anyone who says, ‘I know him’,
and does not keep his commandments,
is a liar,
refusing to admit the truth.
But when anyone does obey what he has said,
God’s love comes to perfection in him.
We can be sure that we are in God
only when the one who claims to be living in him
is living the same kind of life as Christ lived.
My dear people,
this is not a new commandment that I am writing to tell you,
but an old commandment
that you were given from the beginning,
the original commandment which was the message brought to you.
Yet in another way, what I am writing to you,
and what is being carried out in your lives as it was in his,
is a new commandment;
because the night is over
and the real light is already shining.
Anyone who claims to be in the light
but hates his brother
is still in the dark.
But anyone who loves his brother is living in the light
and need not be afraid of stumbling;
unlike the man who hates his brother and is in the darkness,
not knowing where he is going,
because it is too dark to see.

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Luke 2:22-35

When the day came for them to be purified as laid down by the Law of Moses, the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord – observing what stands written in the Law of the Lord: Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord – and also to offer in sacrifice, in accordance with what is said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. Now in Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to Israel’s comforting and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord. Prompted by the Spirit he came to the Temple and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the Law required, he took him into his arms and blessed God; and he said:

‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace,
just as you promised;
because my eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared for all the nations to see,
a light to enlighten the pagans
and the glory of your people Israel.’

As the child’s father and mother stood there wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’

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Whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked

Christmas season brings out the best, and also the worst in us. I was at Orchard Road (a prime shopping area in Singapore) over the weekend, and was caught in a massive jam coming out of Orchard, squeezed from left and right by the throng of Christmas shoppers and tourists. Cars were honking at each other, shoppers were colliding into each other with shopping bags and strollers, families were at loggerheads trying to determine what presents to buy… and we haven’t even covered what happens at home with the decorations and preparations for Christmas dinner! What a stressful period!

Shopping malls blare at you that this is the “season of giving” to tempt us into buying presents for everyone and their aunt. This is ‘guilt giving’, not the ‘spirit of giving’. If we want to look into what really is the spirit of giving, perhaps we should examine John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” God’s giving is borne out of LOVE – a deep, deep love for us that is so unconditional that even when we have failed Him, He takes us back in His arms. A love that knows no bounds and asks no questions. His love for us is epitomized in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 – “Love is patient, love is kind. It is slow to anger, keeps no record of wrongs. It is not self-seeking, nor will it fail.” God is putting into words what love for one another should feel like. It is not that He is never angry, but that He loves us enough to set His anger aside (remember when Abraham begged for Sodom?). God is Love, and that is how God wants us to love one another. If we are in the right spirit of love, then we are in union with God, for it is the most important commandment of all: Love one another. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” said Jesus in John 13:34-35.

As I write this, we are about 2 weeks to Christmas. Even as I wander the corridors of the heavily decorated shopping malls with Christmas carols ringing in my ears, it does not evoke anything ‘Christmas-y’ in me. As I write this, the reason is clear to me. For all of us out there who are still feeling like “it doesn’t feel like Christmas”, this I say to you — Christmas is about giving out of love. Not the kind of commercial giving as we know it, but an outpouring of love for someone from our hearts. We feed the hungry and give to the poor not for tax-deduction purposes or the ‘obligatory’ annual charitable act (or worse, guilt-manipulation!), but because we feel for the hungry, the forgotten, the unloved. We shelter the cold because we want them to feel the warmth of love, we visit the downtrodden because we know they too need the human touch. At home, we want to cook for those we love because we love them and want to provide for them. We want the joyous feel and the close bonds of a family gathered together, the laughter in the house, the smiles and the hugs. It doesn’t come to us, we evoke these feelings for them, and we evoke them out of love. If we claim to be disciples of Jesus, then let us love as he loves us. Let us give as God gives, with purpose in our giving, and put some love into it. For according to Victor Hugo, it is in loving another person that we see the face of God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we approach the start of a new year, we pray to continually fill our hearts with the Holy Spirit, that we may give of ourselves a love to others as You have given to us.        

 Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for loving us first and loving us always, even when we have failed You. Thank you for not keeping score, for being patient with us, for being gentle and kind. Thank you for loving us even when everyone else has left us.

28 December, Thursday – Incarnation

Dec 28 – Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs

During this octave of Christmas, the Church celebrates the memory of the small children of the neighborhood of Bethlehem put to death by Herod. Sacrificed by a wicked monarch, these innocent lives bear witness to Christ who was persecuted from the time of His birth by a world which would not receive Him. It is Christ Himself who is at stake in this mass-murder of the children; already the choice, for or against Him, is put clearly before men. But the persecutors are powerless, for Christ came to perform a work of salvation that nothing can prevent; when He fell into the hands of His enemies at the time chosen by God, it was to redeem the world by His own Blood.

Our Christmas joy is tempered today by a feeling of sadness. But the Church looks principally to the glory of the children, of these innocent victims, whom she shows us in heaven following the Lamb wherever He goes.

– CatholicCulture.org

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1 John 1:5-2:2

This is what we have heard from Jesus Christ,
and the message that we are announcing to you:
God is light; there is no darkness in him at all.
If we say that we are in union with God
while we are living in darkness,
we are lying because we are not living the truth.
But if we live our lives in the light,
as he is in the light,
we are in union with one another,
and the blood of Jesus, his Son,
purifies us from all sin.

If we say we have no sin in us,
we are deceiving ourselves
and refusing to admit the truth;
but if we acknowledge our sins,
then God who is faithful and just
will forgive our sins and purify us
from everything that is wrong.
To say that we have never sinned
is to call God a liar
and to show that his word is not in us.

I am writing this, my children,
to stop you sinning;
but if anyone should sin,
we have our advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ, who is just;
he is the sacrifice that takes our sins away,
and not only ours,
but the whole world’s.

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Matthew 2:13-18

After the wise men had left, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him.’ So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod was dead. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet:

I called my son out of Egypt.

Herod was furious when he realised that he had been outwitted by the wise men, and in Bethlehem and its surrounding district he had all the male children killed who were two years old or under, reckoning by the date he had been careful to ask the wise men. It was then that the words spoken through the prophet Jeremiah were fulfilled:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loudly lamenting:
it was Rachel weeping for her children,
refusing to be comforted because they were no more.

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He is the sacrifice that takes our sins away

The Jewish people had been hoping for a messiah for a long time. And a Messiah God did send, just not one who quite fulfilled their expectations of overthrowing their present rulers and becoming a worldly king. The Messiah came to be born into a poor family and the events surrounding his birth were difficult for his parents and disastrous for many innocent families who lost their sons to Herod’s decree. So much for a messianic grand entrance.

Jesus did not come to rid the world of suffering, He joined us in it. The point of this is something that is quite beyond human understanding. Whenever we find ourselves in mental or physical suffering, our natural bodily desire is to remove that suffering so that we feel better and can move on with our lives. But Jesus did not promise to simply end suffering. What He did promise is to give us rest amidst our labour and burdens.

I think that the incarnation, ultimately, is about trusting in the Lord. It is not a passive kind of trusting or a vague kind of hope, but a conscious decision to live a life in Christ. It is about forming new habits and getting rid of old ones that lead one away from God. It is about trusting that all that we do as believers will lead us to the eternal life that Christ promised.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we will be able to have a child-like trust in the Lord.

Thanksgiving: We look back on the year and give thanks for the many opportunities that we had to grow closer to God.

27 December, Wednesday – Jesus, Human and Divine

Dec 27 – Feast of St. John, apostle, evangelist

St. John, also known as the ‘beloved disciple’ of Jesus, was the son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of St. James the Great, and was called one of the Sons of Thunder. Before becoming Jesus’ disciple, he was already a disciple of St. John the Baptist, and a friend of St. Peter the Apostle. He was called by Jesus during the first year of Christ’s ministry and travelled everywhere with him. He took part in the Last Supper, and was the only one of the Twelve not to forsake the Saviour in the hour of his Passion, standing at the foot of the cross.

He was made guardian of Our Lady by Jesus, and he took her into his home. Upon hearing of the Resurrection, he was the first to reach the tomb; when he met the risen Lord at the Lake of Tiberius, he was the first to recognise him.

During the era of the new Church, he worked in Jerusalem and at Ephesus. During Jesus’ ministry, he tried to block a Samaritan from their group, but Jesus explained the open nature of the new Way, and he worked on that principle to found churches in Asia Minor and baptising converts in Samaria. He was imprisoned with Peter for preaching after Pentecost. He wrote the fourth Gospel, three Epistles, and possibly the Book of Revelation.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 John 1:1-4

Something which has existed since the beginning,
that we have heard,
and we have seen with our own eyes;
that we have watched
and touched with our hands:
the Word, who is life –
this is our subject.
That life was made visible:
we saw it and we are giving our testimony,
telling you of the eternal life
which was with the Father and has been made visible to us.
What we have seen and heard
we are telling you
so that you too may be in union with us,
as we are in union
with the Father
and with his Son Jesus Christ.
We are writing this to you to make our own joy complete.

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John 20:2-8

On the first day of the week Mary of Magdala came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed.

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That life was made visible

Ever heard of Arianism, Apollinarism and Monotheletism? In the early years of Christianity, the church struggled to understand and make clear to all believers the teachings of the faith. Those long names are the names of heresies that came about in the few hundred years after Christianity was established. The concept of Jesus’ humanity and divinity was one of the most highly contentious and divisive.

For most of us, it might seem a little too heavy on a theoretical level to delve all the way into whether Jesus had both a human soul and a human will, or whether he had a human intellect that was separate from a divine intellect. But, if questioned, would you be able to articulate your understanding of who it is that you are worshipping? For your reference, this is how the fifth century Athanasian Creed puts it – “He is perfect God; and He is perfect man, with a rational soul and human flesh. He is equal to the Father in His divinity but he is inferior to the Father in His humanity. Although He is God and man, He is not two but one Christ. And He is one, not because His divinity was changed into flesh, but because His humanity was assumed into God. He is one, not at all because of a mingling of substances, but because He is one person.”

For me, the Christmas season is a good time to reflect on God’s love for us. We are somewhat trapped within our limited understanding of time, seeing the birth of Christ as an event happening in a very distant past, and a very foreign land where there was a crazed leader wanting to murder all first-born sons. But the appreciation cannot start and end there, at the scene of the Nativity. Jesus, being fully human, knows exactly how it is like to think and feel as a human. He also knows how suffering is like, enduring a most painful death two thousand plus years ago. Here and now, since Jesus is also fully divine, He is here with us, in our minds, our hearts and everyday lives.

During Christmas vigil mass, I had this reflection — that I am merely a speck of dust or less in God’s eyes, completely subject to his might and power and yet, I am loved; and not only that, am given the choice to accept that love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that the Spirit can move more hearts and minds among Catholics to seek God in scripture and deeper study.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for entering into our human suffering, and although we may not fully understand His purpose of doing so, we will always remain faithful to Him.

26 December, Tuesday – Fortitude

Dec 26 – Feast of St. Stephen, protomartyr

St. Stephen was the first Christian martyr. A deacon and a preacher, all we know of him is related in the Acts of the Apostles. While preaching the gospel in the streets, angry Jews who believed his message to be blasphemy dragged him outside the city, and stoned him to death. In the crowd, on the side of the mob, was a man who would later be known as St. Paul.

– Patron Saint Index

Stephen is the first martyr. He was one of the deacons appointed by the Apostles to organize the distribution of food to the poor. He performed many miracles and confounded the Jews in disputation. They fabricated false charges against him. At his trial he preached the risen Christ to them, so they stoned him to death. He prayed for his persecutors as he was dying. One of them, Saul of Tarsus, who was looking after the cloaks of the stone-throwers, was later converted and became the great missionary St Paul.

– Universalis

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Acts 6:8-10,7:54-59

Stephen was filled with grace and power and began to work miracles and great signs among the people. But then certain people came forward to debate with Stephen, some from Cyrene and Alexandria who were members of the synagogue called the Synagogue of Freedmen, and others from Cilicia and Asia. They found they could not get the better of him because of his wisdom, and because it was the Spirit that prompted what he said. They were infuriated when they heard this, and ground their teeth at him.

But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. ‘I can see heaven thrown open’ he said ‘and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this all the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they all rushed at him, sent him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man called Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’

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Matthew 10:17-22

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you.

‘Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved.’

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“but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

In the face of all that is going on in the world today, is it any wonder that people continue to question the existence of God? Death, murder, unspeakable sins being committed against women and children, the innocent slaughter of refugees…and so much more. Perhaps St Stephen, being firm in faith and with the Spirit in him, was doing precisely that – speaking out against the injustices of the day.

How many of us can say in this day and age that we are really ready to stand up against the tide and to speak up, without fear of shame, ridicule or even death? With same sex marriage being legalised in more countries and abortion (a form of murder) being condoned in even more, how are we ever going to bring up the next generation of Catholics to be truly firm and rooted in faith? What is it going to take for this generation to understand that the time to make a stand is now, before we all get swept away by the trappings of the material world?

I recently spent time with a few friends who were open enough to share their past (and current) struggles. It made me realise how fortitude is always absent as we are facing challenges head-on; but, in hindsight, it is precisely that which enables us to endure what life throws at us. Our God is truly an awesome God He will never let us down…as long as we choose the right path and do not grumble about our daily struggles.

Brothers and sisters, at the end of the day, what we crave most is time to ourselves. To just ‘chill out’ and alow God to heal or nourish us. But to arrive at that juncture in life, He asks that we have the fortitude to go through whatever we are going through now and to realise that, on our own strength, we are powerless.

So by knowing this, how are we, as children of God, going to realise that at many times in our life, He has been there – gently placing the crosses on our shoulders so that we learn about fortitude.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we ask you to always bless us with patience, understanding and wisdom so that we can live our lives according to your call.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gifts which He so generously bestows upon us.

25 December, Mass in the Day – The Revelation Of A Child

25 December

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Isaiah 52:7-10

How beautiful on the mountains,
are the feet of one who brings good news,
who heralds peace, brings happiness,
proclaims salvation,
and tells Zion,
‘Your God is king!’

Listen! Your watchmen raise their voices,
they shout for joy together,
for they see the Lord face to face,
as he returns to Zion.

Break into shouts of joy together,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord is consoling his people,
redeeming Jerusalem.

The Lord bares his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.

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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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John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word:
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things came to be,
not one thing had its being but through him.
All that came to be had life in him
and that life was the light of men,
a light that shines in the dark,
a light that darkness could not overpower.

A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.

The Word was the true light
that enlightens all men;
and he was coming into the world.
He was in the world
that had its being through him,
and the world did not know him.
He came to his own domain
and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to all who believe in the name of him
who was born not out of human stock
or urge of the flesh
or will of man
but of God himself.

The Word was made flesh,
he lived among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father,
full of grace and truth.

John appears as his witness. He proclaims:
‘This is the one of whom I said:
He who comes after me ranks before me
because he existed before me.’

Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received –
yes, grace in return for grace,
since, though the Law was given through Moses,
grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God;
it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart,
who has made him known.

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But to all who did accept him he gave power to become children of God

This Advent has been a memorable one. My husband and I recently welcomed the birth of our first born child – a precious little boy. Awaiting the birth of our son has naturally placed us in a state of waiting. True enough, our world has completely changed in a mere month!

There are countless things I have learnt about my child, my husband, and myself during this time – and it has been a challenging and humbling journey so far.

Ever since I have become a mother to my son, I have had an ongoing ‘conversation’ with Mother Mary. These happen throughout our endless days and nights, when feeding sessions merge with naps, that merge with feeding sessions yet again, in one infinite two or three hour loop! There have been tough nights when we are kept up trying to soothe a crying colicky baby to no avail, with no way to communicate our desire to help take away his pain. Watching your tiny baby’s suffering cries, as he fights the discomfort and tries to sleep, is one of the most heart-wrenching experiences.

In these and many other trying moments, I wonder how Mother Mary experienced taking care of an inconsolable colicky Jesus. How frustrated and exhausted she must have felt trying to understand and decode what each cry meant, worrying over every little whimper or breath or silence from the baby. She must have felt discouraged when baby Jesus could not be soothed. How did she get through those nights of an endlessly needy and suckling infant? How did St Joseph help Mother Mary with the home and caring of Jesus? Did they let the sleep deprivation take over patience and tenderness with each other? I often pray for sufficient grace just to make it through to the next feed or nap!

At the same time, I marvel at the great sacrifice and heartbreak of our Heavenly Father who sent His only begotten son into our world, to walk in our midst, and to endure the suffering of being human though he is faultless. How often have we taken for granted the necessary stages of life that Jesus had to pass through from infancy to childhood into adulthood.

God has given us the greatest gift of a very vulnerable Jesus who humbly had to rely and trust completely in His mother’s ability to care for him.

As we celebrate Christmas, let us contemplate the humbling of our Lord and Saviour in order that we might more readily receive Him into our hearts and home. Christ came to mankind as a needy and humble infant to rescue us from our self-absorbed gazes of self-reliance and self-preservation.

May we extend our gazes beyond our needs this season, and reach out to friends, family, or strangers who need to know that they are a beloved child of God. May we bring the infant Jesus with us everywhere we go — to empathise with, to touch, and to comfort them. Blessed Christmas!

(Today’s Oxygen by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for ‘redeemed’ eyes to experience the world anew with the innocence of a child’s gaze, the reliance and surrender of a baby to his parents. May this image humble us to love more tenderly.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father for giving us the parents we have, who have tirelessly loved and cared for us, even in their moments of exasperation, self-doubt, ignorance and discouragement.

25 December, Mass At Dawn – The Gift Of Grace

25 December

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Isaiah 62:11-12

This the Lord proclaims
to the ends of the earth:

Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Look,
your saviour comes,
the prize of his victory with him,
his trophies before him.’
They shall be called ‘The Holy People’,
‘the Lord’s Redeemed.’
And you shall be called ‘The-sought-after’,
‘City-not-forsaken.’

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Titus 3:4-7

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 2:15-20

When the angels had gone from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was exactly as they had been told.

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So that we should be justified by his grace

 “As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart”. The shepherds had been paid a visit by an angel proclaiming the birth of a saviour. They were told that the sign is an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. As they repeated these to Mary, I wonder if she had felt an overwhelming sense of reassurance, to have received confirmation of the message that she was given nine months earlier. After a long period of what is presumably silence from divine messengers, it must have been a great relief and comfort to hear that other people had received the same divine revelation.

As the year draws to a close, besides starting to plan for what’s ahead, I think it will be helpful to look back at events of the past year, especially at the times when God’s grace was clearly at work. I had kept a written log of the examens I did over the past year, and it served as a useful reference. There were things I had prayed for but had forgotten about, but which were fulfilled later in the year. There were instances of unexpected blessing, some of which went in the opposite direction of what I had initially dreaded. Even when I had consciously hardened my heart against feeling for a lot of things, God’s grace continued to flow, reminding me of His loving presence.

“…it was for no reason except his own compassion that he saved us…”. It is hard to shake off the thinking that in our constant state of sin, we do not ‘deserve’ the grace of God, so we sometimes do not see the grace for what it is, or we reject it. I think that if we can only pause and recognise God’s grace in our lives, it would be taking a step towards God, and away from sin.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we can be conduits of divine grace in our daily living.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the times we were open to His grace.

24 December, Midnight Mass – A Fresh Start

Dec 25 – Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord

The name “Christmas” was derived from Old English: “Cristes Maesse”, Christ’s Mass. It is a celebration of the anniversary of the birth of our Lord. In the earliest days of the Church there was no such feast; the Saviour’s birth was commemorated with the Epiphany by the Greek and other Eastern Churches.

The first mention of the feast, then kept on May 20, was made by Clement of Alexandria in the year 200. The Latin Church began in the year 300 to observe it on Dec 25, though there is no certainty that our Lord was born on that day.

Priests have, on this day, the privilege of saying three Masses, at midnight; daybreak, and morning. This was originally reserved for the pope alone; beginning about the fourth century, he celebrated a midnight Mass in the Lateran Basilica (in which according to tradition, the manger of Bethlehem is preserved), a second in the church of St. Anastasia, whose feast comes on Dec 25, and a third at the Vatican Basilica.

Many peculiar customs of the day are the outcome of the pagan celebrations of the January calends. The Christmas tree, of which the first known mention was made in 1605 at Strasbourg, was introduced into France and England in 1840. The feast is a holy day of obligation, preceded by the preparatory season of Advent and by a special vigil; should it fall on a Friday it abrogates the law of abstinence.

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Isaiah 9:1-7

The people that walked in darkness
has seen a great light;
on those who live in a land of deep shadow
a light has shone.
You have made their gladness greater,
you have made their joy increase;
they rejoice in your presence
as men rejoice at harvest time,
as men are happy when they are dividing the spoils.

For the yoke that was weighing on him,
the barb across his shoulders,
the rod of his oppressor,
these you break as on the day of Midian.

For all the footgear of battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
is burnt,
and consumed by fire.

For there is a child born for us,
a son given to us
and dominion is laid on his shoulders;
and this is the name they give him:
Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God,
Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace.
Wide is his dominion
in a peace that has no end,
for the throne of David
and for his royal power,
which he establishes and makes secure
in justice and integrity.
From this time onwards and for ever,
the jealous love of the Lord of Hosts will do this.

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Titus 2:11-14

God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions; we must be self-restrained and live good and religious lives here in this present world, while we are waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the Appearing of the glory of our great God and saviour Christ Jesus. He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.

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Luke 2:1-14

Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a census of the whole world to be taken. This census – the first – took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and everyone went to his own town to be registered. So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee and travelled up to Judaea, to the town of David called Bethlehem, since he was of David’s House and line, in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn.

In the countryside close by there were shepherds who lived in the fields and took it in turns to watch their flocks during the night. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly with the angel there was a great throng of the heavenly host, praising God and singing:

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace to men who enjoy his favour.’

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“And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

The coming of Christ revolutionized life for generations. Isn’t it inspiring how the work of just one person was able to effect so much positive change in the world? Conversely, there have been individuals who wreak havoc on everything that they lay their eyes upon. The polarity of effects one can have on others demonstrates the power in our hands to shape the lives of our communities.

Communities extend beyond church groups. A friend was lamenting to me about the schizophrenic nature of some of his colleagues — active and passionate about their church ministries, but far from Christ-like in a work setting. How can there be such a disconnect between our faith and our lives, given the interconnected world we live in?

While it may be easier to ‘be Catholic’ when among the flock, Christ instructs us to instead go forth and be beacons of light to those who have yet not seen His wonders. Just as how soldiers are only really tested on the battlefield when the stakes are high, Catholics are called to be Christ’s agents out in ‘the real world’. I have found that the most trying, yet satisfying, milestones in my faith have been when I endeavored to grow wherever I was planted, and where I proactively sought to be Catholic even though my instincts screamed otherwise.

Brothers and sisters, as trite as it sounds, every moment is an opportunity to live our lives differently. May we work together and pray for each other as we evolve into the best versions of ourselves for Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dear Lord, make every moment new, every breath purposeful, and every life a gift to the world.

Thanksgiving: Thank you God, for the hope that you bring. We are always grateful for your immense power to make everything beautiful in your time.