Monthly Archives: December 2018

1 January, Tuesday – 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 2019 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, Monday – New Year Resolutions

Dec 31 – Memorial for St. Sylvester I, pope

Sylvester (d. 335) was pope in the reign of Emperor Constantine I, who built the Lateran and other churches. He sent legates to the First Council of Nicaea, and was involved in the controversy over Arianism. The spurious Donation of Constantine was supposedly given to St. Sylvester.

  • Patron Saint Index

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1 John 2:18-21

Children, these are the last days;
you were told that an Antichrist must come,
and now several antichrists have already appeared;
we know from this that these are the last days.
Those rivals of Christ came out of our own number, but they had never really belonged;
if they had belonged, they would have stayed with us;
but they left us, to prove that not one of them
ever belonged to us.
But you have been anointed by the Holy One,
and have all received the knowledge.
It is not because you do not know the truth that I am writing to you
but rather because you know it already
and know that no lie can come from the truth.

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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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And we saw his glory

We have reached the last day of 2018. As I type this, I am watching a television programme that is reviewing the key events of the year that is about to pass. There were moments of great joy, and also great sorrow. There were also fun moments.

The Gospel passage today are the famous words that refer to the Incarnation. Without Jesus, I suppose God would have remained somewhat abstract and probably distant. But in this one great act of love, our world is changed forever, for Jesus showed us the way to His Father and to our salvation. The way is a narrow one, however, and it takes work to change ourselves so that we become more like Christ.

Since we are at the brink of welcoming the new year, making New Year resolutions can be one way to help us become better followers of Christ. Rather than the usual ‘cut down on drinking’/ ‘do more exercise’ kind of resolutions, I suggest resolutions of a slightly different kind. In his book ‘Catholicism’, Bishop Barron mentions four main areas that people are addicted to – wealth, power, pleasure and honour. Indeed, I believe that each one of us can name an addiction under one of more of these categories. For example, I am not really into accumulating a lot of wealth, nor do I enjoy having power, but I am definitely addicted to honour. I often fantasise about myself getting accolades for something great that I did. With that awareness, I know I have to consciously curb those thoughts and desire to be honoured for the things I do.

So what is it that you are addicted to – wealth, power, pleasure or honour? What kind of resolution can you make to steer yourself away from that addiction and towards Christ?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the grace to discern our addictions in life, so that we can resolve to not let ourselves be enslaved by them.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for 2018, for the good, the bad and the ugly, as they have contributed, in one way or another, to our relationship with our Lord.

30 December, Sunday – A Family is God’s Gift to Us

30 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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1 Samuel 1:20-22,24-28

Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son, and called him Samuel ‘since’ she said ‘I asked the Lord for him.’

When a year had gone by, the husband Elkanah went up again with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfil his vow. Hannah, however, did not go up, having said to her husband, ‘Not before the child is weaned. Then I will bring him and present him before the Lord and he shall stay there for ever.’

When she had weaned him, she took him up with her together with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the temple of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was with them. They slaughtered the bull and the child’s mother came to Eli. She said, ‘If you please, my lord. As you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you, praying to the Lord. This is the child I prayed for, and the Lord granted me what I asked him. Now I make him over to the Lord for the whole of his life. He is made over to the Lord.’

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1 John 3:1-2,21-24

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us,
by letting us be called God’s children;
and that is what we are.
Because the world refused to acknowledge him,
therefore it does not acknowledge us.
My dear people, we are already the children of God
but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed;
all we know is, that when it is revealed
we shall be like him
because we shall see him as he really is.

My dear people,
if we cannot be condemned by our own conscience,
we need not be afraid in God’s presence,
and whatever we ask him,
we shall receive,
because we keep his commandments
and live the kind of life that he wants.
His commandments are these:
that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ
and that we love one another
as he told us to.
Whoever keeps his commandments
lives in God and God lives in him.
We know that he lives in us
by the Spirit that he has given us.

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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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Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year……the old Christmas song goes. Yes, it’s that time of year when we gather with our families to celebrate the birth of our Saviour and to welcome in a brand new year. Parties and gatherings abound. Indeed a time where we come home, no matter where we are, to spend time with our loved ones. The family that we have is God’s gift to us. They are there to support us, to share our joys and sorrows, to celebrate our achievements and victories, to comfort us when we are down. Many of us take this gift for granted. But for some of us who live away from home, or for some reason cannot be with our families, this can be the loneliest time of year.

Today, spare a thought for those who do not have love ones around them. People who have broken away from their loved ones because of a long family feud. People whose families have just abandoned them…. Or it’s them who chose to leave. As humans, we are prone to making mistakes in our lives. And the most painful thing that can happen is when a family breaks up. Innocent members get hurt in the process. Being in a family has its fair share of love and heartaches, but being in a family is also where we begin to learn how to love and be loved.

Today, our Church celebrates the feast of Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The church gives us this Family to emulate. Let’s not romanticize the idea of this family being ‘perfect’. They are no different from us. Holy yes, but they were human too. Like us, they too had their crosses to carry. They too went through all sorts of trials and difficulties.

Yes, their son may be The Son of God, but the journey of the Holy Family was far from perfect. It is a story of life not always turning out the way you expect. It is a story of a young woman being pregnant before she was married. A young man who faced possible gossip and scandal and contemplated calling off the wedding. How when the time came for the birth of their son, there was no state of the art hospital, let alone a comfortable bed. How a mother watched with helplessness and almost unimaginable sorrow, as her son was being tortured, and ultimately died a horrific death.

And what kept this Family together when living out their virtues seemed impossible?  Their faith and trust in God; they knew profound hope. They gave themselves fully to God. They had an unwavering love and support for one another.

There is hope for us today. We live in a time where the concept of families are far from traditional. The Holy Family stands beside us, to comfort, to console, to support and pray for and with us. Those of us who are lonely, worried, afraid, broken. Those of us struggling in non-traditional relationships. The Holy Family shares our burdens. But they also uplift us by their example. Jesus, Mary and Joseph were never alone. They endured through the grace of God. They prayed. They hoped. They trusted in God’s will.

And as the Universal Church; One family in Christ. Can we also be the message of love, hope and joy to our fellow brothers and sisters who are going through a bit of a bumpy road today? Spend some time with your elderly parent whom you haven’t seen in a while. Bring some festive cheer to the family who has no roof over their heads.

Let us be an example of love that binds people together.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: May His Spirit help us to love our family more each day – as we encourage, pray and love one another with His love. Make us an instrument of love and compassion for those who need love the most today.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for blessing us with family relationships where we can learn to love and be loved. For parents, we pray that you will teach us to be patient with our children and that we might bring them up with discipline and careful instruction. For those hurt by things happening in our families, may You always be a source of healing and comfort. May You take us into your loving care. In your name I pray, Amen.

29 December, Saturday – The Spirit of Giving

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

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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, Friday – Rebooted

28 December – Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs

The Holy Innocents are the children slaughtered by Herod the Great when he tried to kill the infant Christ.

– Patron Saint Index

The children died for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourned for the death of martyrs. The Christ child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to Himself.

To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.

– From a sermon by bishop St. Quodvultdeus about the Holy Innocents

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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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My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

December marks the eighteenth month of my tennis journey. The path has been a challenging one, as I struggle to master a new sport. This has been made all the more difficult by the negative transfer of footwork and strokes from two prior decades of playing badminton.

The tennis movements are so disparate; instead of taking long leaps across the court and planting myself in position to hit the shuttlecock, I now have to shuffle across the court, making miniscule adjustments along the way to ensure an optimum ball contact position. Rather than using my wrist to flick the ball across the net, I now need to use my legs, hips and arms to drive the tennis ball with as much topspin as possible.

Slices are taken on the move, and volleys require considerable follow-through; markedly different from the jabbing, staccato style of badminton. I was stunned as to how ingrained the strokes had been etched into my muscle memory.

It is always more difficult to undo past mistakes, and to right previous wrongs. Old habits are hard to break; hard, but never impossible. With encouragement from my coach, friends, and family, I celebrate my little wins and the improvements that I notch up with each passing day.

I believe that God will fortify my hunger to succeed, and grant me the patience to persevere. Brothers and sisters, what changes in your life are you struggling to make, and do you believe that God will see you through?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dearest God, may we always be able to reinvent ourselves in accordance to your will. Keep us malleable and open to your guiding hand.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the determination and grit to keep on striving in the face of endless uncertainties.

27 December, Thursday – Spreading the Joy

27 December – 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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We are writing this to you to make our own joy complete.

I have been part of this writing ministry for a good 10 years, starting first as a contributor in 2007 when I was based in Dubai. Back then, I needed to focus myself on getting through a week without a ‘meltdown’ at work and Oxygen helped me to centre my attention back on my faith.

Then, as I took on other duties, including editing and uploading, I got a better sense of how we were impacting the loves of others, especially when I read the comments that we were receiving on our WordPress platform. This humble little ministry that will soon reach 20 years, actually spreads His word around the world, as far as Canada and Africa. The core team met recently and we will be making efforts to help make Oxygen even more ‘palatable’ and shareable come 2019 because we felt that we needed to spread the joy that others were getting from some of the reflections. Thanks, in huge part, to the team of dedicated contributors who have diligently reflected on their own lives throughout the year and never fail to touch me with their honest and open sharings.

I cannot deny that I have often questioned my purpose in being in this unusual ministry where the members ‘meet’ online (though I do know some of the contributors personally). I figure that amidst the challenges we each face in our daily lives, we find joy in being able to use our God-given talents as writers and craftspeople to share about what the Lord has done for us. At times, we have struggled to find our voice. But I have found that trusting in the Lord’s providence and wisdom often leads to a small awakening in my heart, whether it is a topic I am passionate about, or if I feel down and need to express my feelings.

On behalf of the entire team, I would like to thank all of you who receive and read Oxygen faithfully. And a special thanks to the motley crew of contributors who have helped shape this ministry since 2000, when the original founder started his musings while in university. There is no doubt in my mind that the Holy Spirit has been guiding and shaping us in sharing our joys, our disappointments, our fears, our sorrows and, most of all, our hope – that in touching your lives, we not only fulfil a promise within our heart to make the most of our talents, but that we bring some hope to those who are searching.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for all those who have contributed to this ministry and ask for your continued blessings upon us as we share our hope and faith with others around us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for sustaining us throughout our struggles and for always helping us to remain steadfast and courageous as we spread your Word.

26 December, Wednesday – Standing Firm

26 December – 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

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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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[B]ut the man who stands firm will be saved

The world today is plagued with many versions of how events in the world can be interpreted. The introduction of many forms of news media has left us to become more confused and sometimes leads to a distrust of the people around us. The Gospel of today reminds us of the need to stay firm in the Lord Jesus despite the contrasting view presented to us.

St Stephen was the first martyr of the Catholic Church. He firmly believed in the Lord Jesus and was prepared to give up his life for his belief. The crowd was not willing to be open to reason, to see his point of view when they realised that his point was much stronger than the points they could offer. Perhaps this is already indicative of the situation we see in our lives today – where when the truth hurts, people will attack the person.

Whilst today’s feast may be a historical event to some, it is a reminder that to be Christian means to suffer. In the season of Christmas, Christians are reminded that the birth of Christ marks the beginning of a lifetime of adhering to the faith of God come what may. As we wish each other Blessed Christmas in this season of Christmas, let us remember to stay firm in our faith and not let the secular world diminish the value of Christmas to another civic holiday.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to stay firm in spite of all persecution.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who hold on to the faith despite persecution.

25 December, Mass in the Day – The Reason for the Season

25 December – Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord (Mass in the Day)

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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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The Word was made flesh, and lived among us

Advent is the season of waiting and preparation in anticipation of the Lord’s coming.  Yet many of us find ourselves caught up with worldly activities – family vacations, company parties, Christmas shopping, feasting and general festivities. Not that we should be cutting these out from our calendars, but it is timely to consider whether these may have overtaken the significance of Jesus’ coming in our lives.

Christmas is not a historical event that took place in a distant land centuries ago, nor a time for merry-making. For us Christians, it is a time to not only relive the gift of Jesus’ birth but also a time to receive Jesus the gift, given anew once more.

Even as we go about our festivities, let us bear in mind that the nativity of our Lord is God becoming man to dwell among us, so that all of us may have everlasting life in God’s love.A love that is freely given through His grace, one not earned by our merits.

This Christmas, let us celebrate the fulfilment of God’s promise of love by giving us the greatest gift of all – His Son, Jesus Christ, to show us the way.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, may we always remember the birth of Your Son as the fulfilment of Your promise and perfect love.  Just as Jesus has come to do Your will, may we learn to always seek and do Your will.

Thanksgiving: Thank you God for revealing the gift of Your Son to us.  Help us to always seek You the giver, the Reason for this Season.

25 December, Mass at Dawn – Wonderfully Made

25 December – Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord (Mass at Dawn)

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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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It was no reason except His own compassion that He saved us

As the year drew to a close, I did a 7-day silent retreat at Da Lat, Vietnam.  It was my way of seeking closure for the year gone by, and making peace with the developments and decisions in my life.

2018 has been challenging on many fronts in terms of work, personal, health and family life. It felt like each time I surmounted an obstacle, three others would surface. As I grappled with the weight of my expectations and those of others, I often felt like I was not doing enough, even though I was doing all I could. It was with this sense of ‘running on empty’ that I entered the retreat.

The song “Wonderfully Made” was played during adoration one evening.  While I struggled to see God’s presence in my life in the past year, I felt Him speaking directly to me through the lyrics.

Wonderfully Made (Mark Lopez, SJ)

I’ve seen ev’ry tear that you’ve cried

The fears and the failures you struggle to hide

The worthiness doubted beneath all that pride

The visions and dreams left behind.

I know your remorse and regret

The secrets and stories you ache to forget

So many people you’d die to be yet

[Chorus]

I choose you, I choose you

Do you know why I choose you?

I choose you.

If only you could see yourself the way that I do

And know yourself the way I know you

Then you’d love yourself

As somebody who is wonderfully made

Wonderfully made are you.

How faultless you are in my eyes

So gentle and guiltless, so perfect and prized

There’s so much to love that you don’t realise

My child, My beloved, My pride.

A future with so much in store

A gift those around you are so grateful for

Nothing can alter that anymore.

[Chorus]

Wonderfully made

Wonderfully made

Wonderfully made are you.

In measuring ourselves by the world’s definition of success, our efforts will never be enough. We will never do enough to earn salvation on our own merit. Rather, we are saved by God’s infinite mercy and grace. He sent His Son out of love for us.

As we await the coming of Jesus, let us remember who is truly important — God’s love and our identity as children of God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Dear Father, we pray that we may always cherish the gift of Your Son. Just as You have loved us, help us to love the people around us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for the gift of Your love. We thank you for always walking with us and guiding us in every step of our journey.

25 December, Midnight Mass – Born to bringing us back to our Father’s love

25 December – Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord (Midnight Mass)

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 dwelt amongst us…”

To say that the Christmas story is so well known is probably an understatement. It is probably safe to say that the greater part of humanity, Christian and otherwise, knows when Jesus was born. And yes, to them, it is probably just one big party. For Christians, the birthday of Jesus whilst also an occasion for celebration and gathering with loved ones, also centers on that momentous event in salvation history, when God became man in the form of the infant Jesus – in Emmanuel, God comes to be with us.

Some years back, it came to me that the birth of Jesus, besides being the incarnation of God as man, also encapsulates a number of other hugely significant revelations of faith that are so poignant and central to our Christian faith. In this sharing, I would like to share my reflection of two of these ‘revelations’.

The first centers on the theme of family – and this ties in to my reflection yesterday on the genealogy of Jesus.

On the night when Jesus was born, Mary also became a mother. And so too, Joseph became a father. And the three of them formed a brand new family. On the night when Jesus was born, God’s family on earth came to be. Just as the birth of baby Jesus created and completed the Holy Family, it created and completes all of us as part of God’s family — sons and daughters of the Father, sisters and brothers of the Son, united and held together by the bond of love which is the Spirit.

At the heart of this is the revelation that God our Father’s greatest desire and most urgent reminder to all of humanity, precisely through the human but holy family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus, is simply but poignantly, that, we are family. We are His family. His children. He is our Father and he has nothing but overwhelming love for us as our father. And this is at the very heart of our faith. This is what it is all about – He is our Father, we are His children. He loves us. He wants us to be with him one day in eternal and blissful communion. And he sent His Son to redeem us and to show us the way back to the Father’s love for all his children.

The second theme I would like to reflect on is that of mission. Christ was born for one reason and one reason alone … to die. A little morbid to talk about dying on such a beautiful feast? Not if you understand that for Jesus, it is to die that we might be saved. No birth, no death on the cross, no salvation for all of us. Christmas was a necessary pre-condition in the eternal plan of the Father, in order that there would be an eventual Easter. A birth so serene and humble would be the pre-cursor of a Resurrection so glorious. The birth of Jesus was the second step of the salvation mission set out by the Father (the first step was Mary’s “yes” to Angel Gabriel).

And so, each and every one of us has also been given a mission by the Father, which is intended for us and us alone. This mission we have been given, which was already in the plan of the Father since before the beginning of time, is to be fulfilled only by us or otherwise remain uncompleted. Whether you are a religious, or as parents, tasked to give life to our spouses and children, or even in the ministries we do in church, as parents to give life and to be leaders of our families and in whatever work we feel called to in building the kingdom of God.

Indeed, Christmas is a celebration but far, far beyond the superficiality of merely party, family, food and friends. Instead, Christmas is one big momentous celebration of our Christian calling and vocation, purpose and mission. It was the day Christ was born into this world in answer to His calling by the Father, and to show us that all of us are also called to know the Father, to love the Father and to serve the Father. Perhaps this Christmas, in the silence and simplicity of Christmas at the manger, you begin to discover how you too can begin to truly live up to this mission and calling? How will You come to know, to love and to serve our Father?

Be silent this Christmas…perhaps you might hear the echo as Jesus affirms to us…“Yes .. I was born for this, I came into the world for this ” (John 18:37)

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: We adore you Lord Jesus, born to us that we may one day be saved. We adore you Lord Jesus, born to us in simplicity, peace and humility that we may find our way to you through simplicity, peace and humility. Help us to know what it fully means always, to walk in the fullness of being your child.

Thanksgiving: Father, we thank you for calling us into your family. Help us never forget how great a gift and privilege it is to call you Father and to know of your love for us.