All posts by Beryl

16 November, Saturday – The view from the other side of the Cross

Nov 16 – Memorial for St. Margaret of Scotland; Memorial for St. Gertrude, Virgin

Margaret (1045–1093)was the granddaughter of King Edmund Ironside of England, and the great-niece of St. Stephen of Hungary. She was born in Hungary while her family was in exile due to the Danish invasion of England. Even so, she still much of her youth in the British Isles.

While fleeing the invading army of William the Conqueror in 1066, her family’s ship wrecked on the Scottish coast. They were assisted by King Malcolm III Canmore of Scotland, whom Margaret married in 1070, and became Queen of Scotland. They had eight children, one of whom was St. Maud, wife of Henry I. Margaret founded abbeys and used her position to work for justice and improved conditions for the poor.

  • Patron Saint Index

Gertrude (1256–1302) may have been an orphan. She was raised in the Benedictine abbey of St. Mary of Helfta, Eiselben, Saxony from the age of five. She was an extremely bright and dedicated student, and she excelled in literature and philosophy. When she was old enough, she became a Benedictine nun.

At age 26, when she had become too enamoured of philosophy, she received a vision of Christ who reproached her. From then on she studied the Bible and the works of the Church Fathers. Gertrude received other visions and mystical instruction, which formed the basis of her writings. She helped spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Her writings have been greatly praised by St. Teresa and St. Francis de Sales, and continue in print today.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Wisdom 18:14-16,19:6-9

When peaceful silence lay over all,
and night had run the half of her swift course,
down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt your all-powerful Word;
into the heart of a doomed land the stern warrior leapt.
Carrying your unambiguous command like a sharp sword,
he stood, and filled the universe with death;
he touched the sky, yet trod the earth.

For, to keep your children from all harm,
The whole creation, obedient to your commands,
was once more, and newly, fashioned in its nature.
Overshadowing the camp there was the cloud,
where water had been, dry land was seen to rise,
the Red Sea became an unimpeded way,
the tempestuous flood a green plain;
sheltered by your hand, the whole nation passed across,
gazing at these amazing miracles.
They were like horses at pasture,
they skipped like lambs,
singing your praises, Lord, their deliverer.

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Luke 18:1-8

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town’ he said ‘who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, “I want justice from you against my enemy!” For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death.”’

And the Lord said ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’

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“ But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?”

I cannot recall when I first heard this phrase, but I do know that it has left a deep impression on me and I have cited it often in various circumstances of faith sharing. It goes like this, “Conversion happens from an experience of the mercy of God and not from the judgement of God”. Today’s parable is an interesting one and has various facets to it. From one angle, it alludes to the need for persistent faith. From another perspective (perhaps a slightly confusing one), it suggests our God to be one who finds us pretty much a nuisance which he can’t wait to get off His back.

The perspective I would like to offer in this sharing is for us to see the judge mentioned to be indeed that of an unjust judge which “neither feared God not cared what people thought” – a judge that is self-interested, self-serving, ungodly and indifferent and the only reason for attending to the cause of the widow is nothing more than simply to be rid of her persistent nuisance. However, let us then juxtapose this judge with our God – loving, self-sacrificial, whose justice over us is subjugated under His mercy and compassion for us. A God who sent His Son to die for us, to salvage a relationship that He treasures above all else. This is not a God that finds us to be a nuisance, but a God who can’t get enough of us in spite of all the nuisance we bring before Him … our incessant demands, our arrogance when our prayers are not answered or not answered in our way and in our timing, our unfailing infidelity to Him through sin, our blatant ingratitude and forgetfulness for all the times our prayers have been answered, our selfishness even to those dearest and closest to us, or total selfishness and difference to all others so much further away from our daily consciousness. Incomprehensible – this God of ours and how much He treasures us.

Sometimes when at prayer, especially when I am in front of the shrine of our Blessed Mother carrying baby Jesus, my eyes shift inadvertently to those who come up to pray to her and Jesus. And I wonder to myself, what goes through the mind and the heart of Mother Mary and Jesus when we pray before them. And always without fail, I get moved when I think that their response to us is always that of compassion, understanding, forgiveness, consolation – never judgement. Always accepting us for who we are, always understanding the sins we commit, the hurts we cause to others, our infidelity and ingratitude because of the woundedness within us that makes us hurt others, the bondage within us that leads to our helplessness against sin and addiction, the way the evil one has used the values of this world to keep us so helpless in our greed, our selfishness, our pride, our vanity, our lusts, our indifference to those around us who are hurting and dying and killing. No matter how hard we try, no matter how good our intentions, no matter how many times we keep falling, we need to keep coming before the Cross and before Your Mother.. That is the persistent prayer of the widow.

Compassion, forgiveness and love – that is what it looks like from the other side of the Cross. This is the lens by which Jesus and our Mother look upon us with. And that is why, despite ourselves, God still loves us, Mother Mary still embraces us, the Holy Spirit still fights for us, our Saviour still hangs on the Cross for us. This is the persistent grace of God. The persistent love of God. I am not sure how much faith He will find when the Son of Man comes to earth again; but I do know that when He comes, He will come, as He always has, with compassion, forgiveness and love.

(Today’s Oxygen by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. You know what it is like to come to a place of discouragement so deep that it’s hard to pray any longer, hard to hold out hope. Some of our brothers and sisters are there right now and you are speaking to their hearts. Lift them, today, I pray. Turn their eyes to you afresh. Strengthen their faith, freshen their hope, enliven their prayers — until you come. Come soon, Lord Jesus!

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you. For the compassion, forgiveness and love which you keep showing to us, our loved ones and this world. Thank you for your insane, incomprehensible love and unbelievable fidelity to us. Thank you for not judging us. Thank you for only loving us.

15 November, Friday – The Cross and the Crucifix

Nov 15 – Memorial for St. Albert the Great, Bishop, Religious, Doctor

Albertus (1206-1280) was the son of a military nobleman. A Dominican priest, he taught theology at Cologne and Paris and was the teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas. He was an influential teacher, preacher, and administrator, and became the Bishop of Regensburg. He introduced Greek and Arabic science and philosophy to medieval Europe.

He is known for his wide interest in what became later known as the natural sciences – botany, biology, etc. He wrote and illustrated guides to his observations, and was considered on par with Aristotle as an authority on these matters. He was a theological writer, and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church.

“It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where charity is not found, God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for “God is Charity” (1 John 4:8)” – St. Albert the Great

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Wisdom 13:1-9

Naturally stupid are all men who have not known God
and who, from the good things that are seen, have not been able to discover Him-who-is,
or, by studying the works, have failed to recognise the Artificer.
Fire however, or wind, or the swift air,
the sphere of the stars, impetuous water, heaven’s lamps,
are what they have held to be the gods who govern the world.

If, charmed by their beauty, they have taken things for gods,
let them know how much the Lord of these excels them,
since the very Author of beauty has created them.
And if they have been impressed by their power and energy,
let them deduce from these how much mightier is he that has formed them,
since through the grandeur and beauty of the creatures
we may, by analogy, contemplate their Author.

Small blame, however, attaches to these men,
for perhaps they only go astray
in their search for God and their eagerness to find him;
living among his works, they strive to comprehend them
and fall victim to appearances, seeing so much beauty.
Even so, they are not to be excused:
if they are capable of acquiring enough knowledge
to be able to investigate the world,
how have they been so slow to find its Master?

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Luke 17:26-37

Jesus said to the disciples:

‘As it was in Noah’s day, so will it also be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating and drinking, marrying wives and husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It will be the same as it was in Lot’s day: people were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but the day Lot left Sodom, God rained fire and brimstone from heaven and it destroyed them all. It will be the same when the day comes for the Son of Man to be revealed.

‘When that day comes, anyone on the housetop, with his possessions in the house, must not come down to collect them, nor must anyone in the fields turn back either. Remember Lot’s wife. Anyone who tries to preserve his life will lose it; and anyone who loses it will keep it safe. I tell you, on that night two will be in one bed: one will be taken, the other left; two women will be grinding corn together: one will be taken, the other left.’ The disciples interrupted. ‘Where, Lord?’ they asked. He said, ‘Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather.’

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“…nor did they recognize the craftsman while paying heed to his works…”

The coming of Christ at Christmas, and the remembrance of this ever since, is an event looked upon and experienced with much joy, celebration, herald. Secularization and commercialization aside, even to a non-Christian, albeit for the ‘wrong’ reasons, Christmas is nevertheless a time when spirits are lifted, there is celebration in the air and people seem to walk with perhaps a bit more lightness in their step. However, that’s where it ends.

The first reading talks about how man, in his foolishness in paying heed to created things, has lost sight of the more important thing – the Creator. And in the Gospel, God reminds man of the consequences of forgetting Him and turning his back from Him. Much like the tale of the Prodigal Father – where the love of the Father seems almost foolhardy in its over-indulgence of the Prodigal Son. So too, God in His infinite patience and love for His children, continues to accept, to forgive, to redeem and to hope against all hope but for divine hope, that one day His children will abandon their foolishness and begin to finally realize how much they are loved and cherished — and how undeservedly so. Till then, man continues in his sinful, unrepentant, ungrateful, unfaithful and ignorant ways. Brothers and sisters, judgement day WILL come. It’s like taking a roller-coaster zooming towards the peak of an up-climb, however, only to discover that the tracks end there … there are no more tracks for the rest of the journey back down. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah found this out the hard way. Many, if not most of humanity, will also sadly come to this when the end-times come – be it through the individual death of a person or when Christ comes again.

The second coming of Christ, will not be anything like the first. The world will not be converted when Jesus comes again. The earth will not be full of the knowledge of the Lord. The reign of peace will not have been established. The end times will be apocalyptic – any semblance of peace will simply be the calm before the storm. Scripture has said so. And in the midst of this, we are confronted with a cross and a crucifix before us. We have the cross and we have the Crucifix. Between these two, lies man’s eternity. What is the difference between the Cross and the Crucifix? It is simply this – the former is just an empty piece of wood whereas upon the other, hangs the Saviour of the world.

For those who profess the cross and not the Crucifix, theirs is an empty proclamation – empty, devoid of divine focus, nor the unity that comes from the Holy Spirit. One that lacks identity, authority and a common theology that can truly save. Clinging to such a cross is clinging only to the delusion of salvation through the Word and that good works will never bring one to redemption and salvation. It points not to divine wisdom, but the foolishness of man that has allowed deception, pride, vain-glory and disunity in place of what should rightfully belong in its place – a Saviour’s sacrifice, a Redeemer’s justification. An empty cross can never be able to help a Christian understand why a loving God allows suffering in this world, why worldly prosperity is not an affirmation of one’s salvation, but rather in poverty do we find great treasures of divine grace, why giving up one’s life for love of a friend is not salvation from the Word alone but how the Word transforms one into making the ultimate act of sacrifice for the love of another, even for an enemy. Only when we are able to see Christ hung upon that Cross, does one truly embrace Christianity and become a Christian – and Catholic.

The Crucifix is where Christ hangs – a sign of unity of a Faith and a Church that finds its salvation not in the created icon of a cross, but in Jesus Christ — the Creator himself. This is the difference between a piece of wood symbolizing punishment, shame and defeat and a place of sanctification, redemption and salvation. And upon this Creator hangs true authority and a unity of identity, regardless who you and where you are on planet earth. Upon this Crucifix hangs the redemption that can only be won by the blood of the sacrifice of Jesus. Upon this Crucifix hangs a reminder of our need to carry our own crosses as the only way of true discipleship.And on the Crucifix, we choose to find courage and strength and hope of a Saviour who carries our crosses for us –as much today as He did for us 2019 years ago, and since the beginning of time. And upon the Crucifix, we are reminded that we do not save ourselves, but that our salvation comes from allowing Him to save us. It is not the Cross that will save us, it is the one that hangs on the Cross that will do so. Who, or what, hangs on YOUR cross?

(Today’s Oxygen by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. In the midst of the noise and foolishness of this fallen world, we struggle to find our way to you.  In the midst of so much that has been created by man, we can no longer see our Creator. We are lost and the end times bring us terror for we can no longer see you in the midst of all that turmoil.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for your Crucifix which stands strong defiant in the midst of the storms of life and which defiant in the midst of the forces of this world and of evil which wants to snuff you out simply because it knows you are the truth, the light and the way.

 

 

14 November, Thursday – Didn’t see this coming…

14 November 2019

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Wisdom 7:22-8:1

Within Wisdom is a spirit intelligent, holy,
unique, manifold, subtle,
active, incisive, unsullied,
lucid, invulnerable, benevolent, sharp,
irresistible, beneficent, loving to man,
steadfast, dependable, unperturbed,
almighty, all-surveying,
penetrating all intelligent, pure
and most subtle spirits;
for Wisdom is quicker to move than any motion;
she is so pure, she pervades and permeates all things.
She is a breath of the power of God,
pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;
hence nothing impure can find a way into her.
She is a reflection of the eternal light,
untarnished mirror of God’s active power,
image of his goodness.
Although alone, she can do all;
herself unchanging, she makes all things new.
In each generation she passes into holy souls,
she makes them friends of God and prophets;
for God loves only the man who lives with Wisdom.
She is indeed more splendid than the sun,
she outshines all the constellations;
compared with light, she takes first place,
for light must yield to night,
but over Wisdom evil can never triumph.
She deploys her strength from one end of the earth to the other,
ordering all things for good.

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Luke 17:20-25

Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was to come, Jesus gave them this answer, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God does not admit of observation and there will be no one to say, “Look here! Look there!” For, you must know, the kingdom of God is among you.’
 
He said to the disciples, ‘A time will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man and will not see it. They will say to you, “Look there!” or, “Look here!” Make no move; do not set off in pursuit; for as the lightning flashing from one part of heaven lights up the other, so will be the Son of Man when his day comes. But first he must suffer grievously and be rejected by this generation.’

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“The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed…”

I recently watched a Netflix documentary on the life of Bill Gates. It revealed how Bill, in wanting to give back to humanity, was trying to identify what was the most critical thing that the world is in need of and that he could help in, which would make the world a better place. Eventually, he decided on something which would save millions of lives of those living in underdeveloped countries each year – he decided there was a dire need to provide them with loos. Not just any loo –but one which did not require water nor electricity to function and which could recycle human waste instantaneously. And the loo must cost less than US$500 each. If this solution was not found, many millions more would continue to die –painfully, needlessly and without dignity.

It was surprising, unexpected. Perhaps like many others, I was expecting him to get into something a lot more ‘techy’. In fact, it was the reverse – he was looking for a solution that had to be as ‘un-techy’ as possible. Yet what struck me most was how brilliant Bill was in being able to see beyond the obvious and identifying something so basic and fundamental as a working toilet – and how this would save millions of lives. It was surprising that the richest man in the world, a technical and business genius, would care so deeply about people so far removed from his day-to-day reality and to identify an issue so far away from the world of Apple computers. In my opinion, Bill Gates, showed exceptional wisdom and in his own way, will one day be able to turn the developing world upside down. Thankfully, it will be for the better.

So too when God chooses to turn the world upside down, the power of Wisdom is at its fullest.The greatest revelations of faith, the most poignant moments of truth are the result of the grace when the Wisdom of God chooses to reveal itself to humanity, in the process, revealing just how foolish the ‘wisdom’ of this world really is. Consider this …

  • That it is not the self-professed wise and learned to whom God will reveal His kingdom but to mere children. Those who turn to him and accept Him with child-like faith, trust, dependence and obedience.
  • Not of the rich and the powerful of this secular world but those given the infinite power and wealth of grace from the Holy Spirit that he calls to true discipleship and apostleship. A bunch of fishermen, manual laborers, shepherds, a converted harlot, a 14 year-old maiden from the poorest tribe of Israel, and that odd tax-collector (someone rejected and hated by society) – these He chose to lay and build the unshakeable and unbreakable foundations of the Christian faith and of the Catholic Church.
  • That in sacrifice, the humbleness of the 2 coins given out of authentic love and sacrifice, amounted to infinite treasure in heaven, whereas millions upon millions of excess treasure, given conditionally, arrogantly and in vain-glory, amounts to nothing.
  • That prayer, when done ostentatiously at busy street corners for show to gain men’s adulation, does not reach the ears of God not of His heart. Whereas the silent, sincere lifting of one’s soul in the secret place where a soul is united to the soul of God, is heard … and answered.
  • That God helps not those who help themselves or who turn to this world for answers but who have finally come to the wisdom of realizing that they are no longer able to help themselves and that only God can help, redeem, heal, provide, protect, comfort and save them. For it is the wounded, the broken, the lost, the sick, the sinful, the helpless that God came to save. The Shepherd was sent not for the 99 sheep that are fine but for that one sheep who is the lost, the least and the last. To all the wolves in this world, a Shepherd is not a friend. Wisdom will also revel and remind us that the sheep have their Shepherd and the Shepherd is here not for the wolf, but only for His sheep.… those that know his voice and who follow him. Wisdom will also make us ponder if in this earthly life … are we wolves or sheep?
  • The folly of us thinking we are in control of our lives and the lives those around us. We try to negotiate, bribe, bargain, threaten, hoodwink, blackmail God into allowing us to have our way when God knows us better than we know ourselves –why we are alive, how we think and what we love. He knows exactly what will make us happiest in this life. And He loves us better than we can ever love ourselves.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom — it is grace personified. The grace of wisdom to know that only in God, all things are possible, and all things come to be according to His will. Not human effort or ‘strength’ or ‘intelligence’ but His will and grace alone. Choose wisdom. It is the difference between whether you choose to be a wolf or a sheep. Only the latter has the privilege to have a Divine Shepherd watching over it. Choose wisely.

(Today’s Oxygen by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us, in the midst of the distractions, confusion, deceptions and superficiality of this world, we often find ourselves lost and misguided in trying to do the right thing. We put more faith in ourselves thinking we are wise and able to live life without you. We then stumble and fall inside our own folly, often hurting ourselves and others around us.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for the times you allowed the truth of your light to penetrate the dark folly of this world and of ourselves.

 

 

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.

24 December (Monday), Vigil Mass – Jesus — Truly God, Truly Man

24 December – Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord (Vigil Mass)

Dear Readers!

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Today, we welcome Justus Teo and Stephanie Seet, two new contributors to our OXYGEN team. We are really happy to have Justus and Stephanie on board and hope they grow in this journey of writing reflections and sharing the glory of our Lord with all of our readers.

Here is a little about them:

Justus:

Justus is a cradle Catholic, having come from several generations of Catholic lineage. His grandmother’s deep devotion to our Lady and his dad’s fidelity to the Church when they were both still alive, left deep impressions of faith and planted the roots of faith within him. Today, he professes that he is fiercely proud to be Catholic.

His journey has been a gradual unfolding of the heart of Christ and encounter of Him from the head towards the heart. In the last few years, the call to service has also grown slowly but surely and has is now a compelling cry to love Christ and His Mother, by serving the church and those they have chosen to entrust to him in my daily encounters.

Mother Mary has been unfailing in leading him to Christ, through her own fidelity to her Son. And the one event that has influenced a personal conversion was his consecration to Mary. And this call to serve with Oxygen is a strange one for someone who does not pay as much attention to encounter with God through His Word. But he sees this as one more step taken in trust and faith that this is the step Jesus has asked him to take, through his mother, to help him come to truly know Him, for love of God and others and from God’s love for others and himself. The spiritual journey can be so surprising and yet so wonderful and so amazing.

Stephanie:

Stephanie was born and raised a Catholic in the Serangoon district of Singapore. She spent many years adrift after Confirmation, pursuing higher education abroad in UK and US, and subsequently, her career. After attaining a significant career milestone which she spent years working towards, she soon realised that joy lies neither in achievement nor in possession. She embarked on a sabbatical, lacing up her hiking boots and travelling the world in search of a higher calling.

She really need not have left her shores. Stephanie re-encountered God at the Catholic Spirituality Centre during the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER) in August 2016. This prompted her career switch into social services, with a charity serving the physically challenged. The tenacity of her clients inspires her to see the best in people and recognise the untapped potential in each individual.

Stephanie credits her friend, Shaun, for nudging her towards CER and introducing her to Oxygen. As a fledging contributor, she hopes that these baby steps will help her stay close to God and cultivate a greater discipline in reading and meditating on His Word.

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Isaiah 62:1-5

About Zion I will not be silent,
about Jerusalem I will not grow weary,
until her integrity shines out like the dawn
and her salvation flames like a torch.

The nations then will see your integrity,
all the kings your glory,
and you will be called by a new name,
one which the mouth of the Lord will confer.
You are to be a crown of splendour in the hand of the Lord,
a princely diadem in the hand of your God;

no longer are you to be named ‘Forsaken’,
nor your land ‘Abandoned’,
but you shall be called ‘My Delight’
and your land ‘The Wedded’;
for the Lord takes delight in you
and your land will have its wedding.

Like a young man marrying a virgin,
so will the one who built you wed you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride,
so will your God rejoice in you.

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Acts 13:16-17,22-25

When Paul reached Antioch in Pisidia, he stood up in the synagogue, held up a hand for silence and began to speak:

‘Men of Israel, and fearers of God, listen! The God of our nation Israel chose our ancestors, and made our people great when they were living as foreigners in Egypt; then by divine power he led them out.

‘Then he made David their king, of whom he approved in these words, “I have selected David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will carry out my whole purpose.” To keep his promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour, whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel. Before John ended his career he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandal.”’

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Matthew 1:1-25

A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, Tamar being their mother,
Perez was the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram was the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon was the father of Boaz, Rahab being his mother,
Boaz was the father of Obed, Ruth being his mother,
Obed was the father of Jesse;
and Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Azariah,
Azariah was the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah;
and Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers.
Then the deportation to Babylon took place.
After the deportation to Babylon:
Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor was the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud was the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob;
and Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary;
of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.

The sum of generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.
This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son 
and they will call him Emmanuel,

a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home and, though he had not had intercourse with her, she gave birth to a son; and he named him Jesus.

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“… and the Word was made flesh …”

In the lead up to Christmas, Matthew’s Gospel details the long genealogy of Jesus to us. Fascinating though it may be, is this merely a record of the ancestry of Jesus? Perhaps not quite. It showed that the bloodline of Jesus went way back in time – not just physical time, but through the ages and through the history of the people of Israel itself. From Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to David, to Ahaz and eventually that of Jacob and Joseph, the genealogy seems to be pointing out that Jesus has always been the “Emmanuel” – it has been the eternal plan of the Father, from the beginning of time, that Emmanuel was to be and that he has always journeyed with Israel, His people, throughout the ages. Emmanuel has always journeyed with us in our own personal history with him. It was not a last-minute after-thought to salvage a people that seemed incorrigible.

The genealogy of Jesus drummed home the point of the true incarnation of the Son of God as man. That he is both divine AND human. That he was part of an earthly bloodline but yet no less in divinity as Son of God in the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary through the Holy Spirit.

And this has greatly shaped my own spiritual life and journey for Jesus has been to me, both God and brother. For the times I have knelt in awe at my God and Savior who has created the universe and yet loved me, who, in the entirety of everything, is not even a speck. But whom He has called His own and for whom He found worthy to hang on a cross for. Only God can do that. Only my God can do that for me.

And for the times, when I turn to my brother, the human Jesus, who like me, has felt the weight of this earthly human life of strife and struggle, pain and evil. For Jesus too, experienced the whole spectrum of the human condition – joy and friendship; pain and betrayal.

Only in the Catholic-Christian faith, do we find a God who is both divine and human. A God who is able and willing to save His people, and a God who knew exactly what his people needed to be saved from. The human Jesus knows exactly how tough human existence in this “vale of tears” can sometimes be. Only my human brother Jesus can truly relate to that. Only a human Jesus could know how much we needed God to save us. Where God and Man become as one – there is the abundance of life and of love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Loving Father, gentle Brother, help us never forget your unfailing love for us and that you are fully able to be with us in the midst of the joys and pain of our lives. Lift us by your Spirit that we can encounter the saving presence of you as our Almighty God. And come to us for the times when we are bound to earth’s darkness, as our brother who feels our pains and fears. Help us to persevere through your grace as our God and your friendship as our brother.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for calling us into your family as your sons and daughters and for the lavish love you have showered upon us as our Father.