All posts by Edith Koh

19 January, Sunday – Only if you know where to look

19 January – Second Sunday In Ordinary Time

The Lamb of God

We celebrate the Servant of God who came to do the Father’s will to perfect obedience. Yet he was more than a servant. John the Baptist calls him the Lamb, the chosen one of God. 

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1 Samuel 9:1-4,17-19,10:1

The Lord said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel,
in whom I shall be glorified’;
I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord,
my God was my strength.
And now the Lord has spoken,
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
to gather Israel to him:

‘It is not enough for you to be my servant,
to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel;
I will make you the light of the nations
so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’

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1 Corinthians 1:1-3

I, Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle, together with brother Sosthenes, send greetings to the church of God in Corinth, to the holy people of Jesus Christ, who are called to take their place among all the saints everywhere who pray to our Lord Jesus Christ; for he is their Lord no less than ours. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace.

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John 1:29-34

Seeing Jesus coming towards him, John said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I spoke of when I said: A man is coming after me who ranks before me because he existed before me. I did not know him myself, and yet it was to reveal him to Israel that I came baptising with water.’ John also declared, ‘I saw the Spirit coming down on him from heaven like a dove and resting on him. I did not know him myself, but he who sent me to baptise with water had said to me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is going to baptise with the Holy Spirit.” Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God.’

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I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven

Some of you may have come across a cartoon depicting a priest and a lay person standing on the rooftop of a skyscraper building. The lay person looks down and has terror on his face – the priest looks up and smiles. No words needed – the message is simple but succinct enough.

I once stood at the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world, whilst on holiday some years ago. I am pretty sure most of you have done something similar on holiday – going atop one of these skyscrapers to catch a glimpse of things from up there. From such a vantage point, the very first thing most people would invariably do is to scan the horizon and be wowed. The next thing that will come very naturally is to look down and feel a sense of joyful trepidation. I am confident to conjecture that practically none will bother to look up into the sky. Nothing to see there – the clouds and the sun look the same no matter where you are looking at the sky — nothing exciting, nothing new, nothing worth the time and effort.

Using this as an analogy to life and faith, this sums up the message of today’s scripture readings. How far short we seem to always be when compared to what God has planned for us, how great the potential he sees in us and how glorious His mission and calling is for us. We scan the horizon trying to see into the future, to know what is ahead of us, to try to foresee the problems and to circumvent the crises. We try to identify each step we need to take ahead of us – not just for tomorrow but the tomorrows for the rest of our lives. We also tend to look down. We look at the negative things that have happened in our lives. We look down to see the disappointments, the insecurities, the discouragements, the failures, the hurts, the worries and the terrors. We become filled with despair and despondency.

When we keep our eyes fixed on the past and the future – the hurts, the failures, the illusions and the fears — we lose sight of what truly matters: God in the present. We get bogged down by earth bound things and we get choked by its thorns of worry, of tedium, of its uncertainties, its perils and dangers. We falter, we lose courage, we lose our bearings, we lose hope. We lose sight of God and we lose our faith and trust in Him. When we stand atop and turn our gaze upwards – we sometimes see clouds, we sometimes get the sun in our eyes. But if we push our vision forward, we get to see that heaven lies just beyond those clouds.

It may not be as exciting as scanning an awe-inspiring horizon or the adrenaline of looking 2720 feet down as if floating on air. But looking up heavenwards, we get to see heaven. Therein awaits the light of God which dispels our darkness and points the way forward (and upward) for us, back into His loving embrace. Aurora Borealis aside, the sky looks pretty much the same from wherever in the world you look up at it. And such is the constancy of God – the constancy of His love, His care, His mercy, His fidelity, His providence and protection over us, His love for us. Unchanging and unchangeable. Where the journey of faith mirrors the journey of life. A journey meant to be taken one step at a time, loved in the here and the now. A journey meant not to be taken alone, but with our Shepherd beside and in front of us leading us through each cloud, each valley, each step — one step at a time. Beyond the clouds we get to see our destiny and the place we will one day return to – the only view worth looking at. Looking up, we get to see a vision of home for the rest of eternity. Our eternity.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us, we have lost our vision of You. We are bound to this earth and to the narrowness of what our vision of what our lives on earth are meant to be. We have lost our way when we can no longer see you in our horizon. We see only this world and we realize how far we have strayed from you and how lost we really are.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for all the times you have dispelled the narrowness of our hearts and our minds. And for the times, you have allowed us to see your face and to live. To fully live.

18 January, Saturday – True Value

18 January

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1 Samuel 9:1-4,17-19,10:1

Among the men of Benjamin there was a man named Kish son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah; a Benjaminite and a man of rank. He had a son named Saul, a handsome man in the prime of life. Of all the Israelites there was no one more handsome than he; he stood head and shoulders taller than the rest of the people. Now some of the she-donkeys of Saul’s father Kish had strayed, so Kish said to Saul, ‘My son, take one of the servants with you and be off; go and look for the she-donkeys.’ They passed through the highlands of Ephraim and passed through the land of Shalishah, but did not find them; they passed through the land of Shaalim, they were not there; they passed through the land of Benjamin, but did not find them.

When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, ‘That is the man of whom I told you; he shall rule my people.’ Saul accosted Samuel in the gateway and said, ‘Tell me, please, where the seer’s house is?’ Samuel replied to Saul, ‘I am the seer. Go up ahead of me to the high place. You are to eat with me today. In the morning I shall take leave of you and tell you all that is in your heart.

Samuel took a phial of oil and poured it on Saul’s head; then he kissed him, saying, ‘Has not the Lord anointed you prince over his people Israel? You are the man who must rule the Lord’s people, and who must save them from the power of the enemies surrounding them.’

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Mark 2:13-17

Jesus went out to the shore of the lake; and all the people came to him, and he taught them. As he was walking on he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus, sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

When Jesus was at dinner in his house, a number of tax collectors and sinners were also sitting at the table with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many of them among his followers. When the scribes of the Pharisee party saw him eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard this he said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’

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“Follow me”

As a couple, my wife and I attended our first Christian course known as the Christian Life Programme (CLP). When this ended, we joined a cell group and soon after, became facilitators in another CLP run in the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. At its conclusion, we continued our journey with the participants and became cell-group leaders.

One of the challenges was that we felt we were never ‘good enough’. As we prepared for our weekly cell group sessions, we prayed hard for divine inspiration and even when we came up with a topic or something inspired, we still never felt that we had ‘it’. We worked really hard and after a period of time, felt really tired.

The Catholic community we were in is known as ‘Couples for Christ’, and there were many members from the Philippines. One of the things we noticed was how cheerful and happy the Filipinos were in serving. No matter how daunting the project or task as hand, there was positive attitude and faith that it would accomplished. And despite all the challenges faced, every single project has been successful.

Jesus, in the Gospel of today, called on Levi to follow Him and dines with him, as well as sinners and tax collectors. In response to criticisms by the scribes for associating with these people, our Lord responds that it is precisely the sinners who need Him.

Our Lord recognises value in us and loves us. To Him, we are important for Him to spend time with. In order to live up to our full potential, we need to learn from our Filipino brothers and sisters, have faith in our Lord and draw our confidence from Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we will always see the same value in ourselves that You see in us.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for sending Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ to tend to us sinners. We praise You and thank You for showing us the way.

17 January, Friday – A True Relationship With God

17 January
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1 Samuel 8:4-7, 10-22

All the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. ‘Look,’ they said to him ‘you are old, and your sons do not follow your ways. So give us a king to rule over us, like the other nations.’ It displeased Samuel that they should say, ‘Let us have a king to rule us’, so he prayed to the Lord. But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for it is not you they have rejected; they have rejected me from ruling over them.’

All that the Lord had said Samuel repeated to the people who were asking him for a king He said, ‘These will be the rights of the king who is to reign over you. He will take your sons and assign them to his chariotry and cavalry, and they will run in front of his chariot. He will use them as leaders of a thousand and leaders of fifty; he will make them plough his ploughland and harvest his harvest and make his weapons of war and the gear for his chariots. He will also take your daughters as perfumers, cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields, of your vineyards and olive groves and give them to his officials. He will tithe your crops and vineyards to provide for his eunuchs and his officials. He will take the best of your manservants and maidservants, of your cattle and your donkeys, and make them work for him. He will tithe your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out on account of the king you have chosen for yourselves, but on that day God will not answer you.’

The people refused to listen to the words of Samuel. They said, ‘No! We want a king, so that we in our turn can be like the other nations; our king shall rule us and be our leader and fight our battles.’ Samuel listened to all that the people had to say and repeated it in the ears of the Lord. The Lord then said to Samuel, ‘Obey their voice and give them a king.’

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Mark 2:1-12

When Jesus returned to Capernaum, word went round that he was back; and so many people collected that there was no room left, even in front of the door. He was preaching the word to them when some people came bringing him a paralytic carried by four men, but as the crowd made it impossible to get the man to him, they stripped the roof over the place where Jesus was; and when they had made an opening, they lowered the stretcher on which the paralytic lay. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, ‘My child, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some scribes were sitting there, and they thought to themselves, ‘How can this man talk like that? He is blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God?’ Jesus, inwardly aware that this was what they were thinking, said to them, ‘Why do you have these thoughts in your hearts? Which of these is easier: to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven” or to say, “Get up, pick up your stretcher and walk”? But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ – he turned to the paralytic – ‘I order you: get up, pick up your stretcher, and go off home.’ And the man got up, picked up his stretcher at once and walked out in front of everyone, so that they were all astounded and praised God saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this.’

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“My child, your sins are forgiven”

I used to help at the bookshop at my church. We sold everything from candles to incense, rosaries and other religious articles. What I really loved, however, were the books; and the one book I really adored was “Mister God, this is Anna”.

What caught my attention was the intimate relationship Anna, a precocious 4-year-old, had with God. It was not a conventional viewpoint of God and it was this special relationship that appealed to me. Her conversations with God troubled some people, who did not hesitate to let her know what they thought.

I have always been such a ‘follow the rules’ kind of person. For example, my wife laughs at how I continue to follow directional signs in car parks, even if the car park was empty. Similarly, I was always conventional in the way I worshipped God. I found it difficult to take part in Charismatic or Praise and Worship services, and found I could only properly do so during mass. Like the ‘conventional’ folks from the book, I was extremely uncomfortable with other forms of worship.

In the Gospel, the scribes objected to Jesus telling the paralytic man that his sins were forgiven. Responding to this, Jesus instead told the man to pick up his stretcher and walk. While the ‘form’ looks different, this does not change the essence of what Jesus was saying, or Jesus’ relationship with the man.

“Mister God, This is Anna” really opened my mind, and also taught me that our relationship with God is more just about “looking and acting right”. It goes beyond that. It has also showed me that our relationship with our God is precisely that — our own, and not for others to judge and dictate.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we may not be like the scribes and be blinded by what ‘ought to be’. Help us Father, to recognise that our primary focus should always be on You.

Thanksgiving: Lord Jesus, we praise and thank You for teaching us that faith is a personal relationship with You. Thank You for Your love.

16 January, Thursday – True vs Superficial Worship

16 January 
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1 Samuel 4:1-11

It happened at that time that the Philistines mustered to fight Israel and Israel went out to meet them in battle, encamping near Ebenezer while the Philistines were encamped at Aphek. The Philistines drew up their battle line against Israel, the battle was hotly engaged, and Israel was defeated by the Philistines and about four thousand of their army were killed on the field. The troops returned to the camp and the elders of Israel said, ‘Why has the Lord allowed us to be defeated today by the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of our God from Shiloh so that it may come among us and rescue us from the power of our enemies.’’ So the troops sent to Shiloh and brought away the ark of the Lord of Hosts, he who is seated on the cherubs; the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, came with the ark. When the ark of the Lord arrived in the camp, all Israel gave a great shout so that the earth resounded. When the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, ‘What can this great shouting in the Hebrew camp mean?’ And they realised that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp. At this the Philistines were afraid; and they said, ‘God has come to the camp.’ ‘Alas!’ they cried ‘This has never happened before. Alas! Who will save us from the power of this mighty God? It was he who struck down Egypt with every kind of plague! But take courage and be men, Philistines, or you will become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been slaves to you. Be men and fight.’ So the Philistines joined battle and Israel was defeated, each man fleeing to his tent. The slaughter was great indeed, and there fell of the Israelites thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured too, and the two sons of Eli died, Hophni and Phinehas.

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Mark 1:40-45

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

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“Why has the Lord allowed us to be defeated today by the Philistines?”

Some time back, my soon-to-be-13-year-old had just entered Secondary 1, having completed the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).

It was an anxious time for his cohort. Parents were understandably nervous; and the WhatsApp chat groups were filled with requests for solutions to questions from all sorts of mock exam papers.

There were also the prayer services and vigils that accompanied the examinations.

To be candid, these services and prayers troubled me.

During the examination period, I heard parents telling me that I should say a certain prayer or attend a certain novena because they “work”.

In today’s first reading, we read about how the elders of Israel decided to bring out the Ark of the Covenant to rescue them from their enemies. When the Ark arrived among the ranks of the soldiers, the Israelites gave a great shout and drew the attention of the Philistines. Aware of the ‘power’ of the Ark, this ironically motivated them, resulting in the loss of some 30,000 men, and consequently the battle.

How was it possible that the Ark had ‘failed’ the Israelites when it had been so ‘successful’ in the Battle of Jericho?

When we look into scripture, we realise that there is a huge difference; in the Battle of Jericho, it was the Lord who had shown the Israelites what to do, while the elders themselves took the decision to use the Ark as a weapon because it was something that they thought would ‘work’.

Brothers and sisters, the ultimate target of any prayer should not be ourselves. Instead, our eyes should always be cast on God. We should never use these prayers to honour and praise our God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, we pray that we will always keep our eyes on You. Teach us Lord, to never use You for our own purposes.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for showing us what is right. We are grateful for Your protection and Your love.

15 January, Wednesday – Be all ears to His call!

15 January
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1 Samuel 3:1-10, 19-20

The boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli; it was rare for the Lord to speak in those days; visions were uncommon. One day, it happened that Eli was lying down in his room. His eyes were beginning to grow dim; he could no longer see. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying in the sanctuary of the Lord where the ark of God was, when the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ He answered, ‘Here I am.’ Then he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, since you called me.’ Eli said, ‘I did not call. Go back and lie down.’ So he went and lay down. Once again the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, since you called me.’ He replied, ‘I did not call you, my son; go back and lie down.’ Samuel had as yet no knowledge of the Lord and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. Once again the Lord called, the third time. He got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, since you called me.’ Eli then understood that it was the Lord who was calling the boy, and he said to Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if someone calls say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

The Lord then came and stood by, calling as he had done before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Samuel answered, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’

Samuel grew up and the Lord was with him and let no word of his fall to the ground. All Israel from Dan to Beersheba came to know that Samuel was accredited as a prophet of the Lord.

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Mark 1:29-39

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

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

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

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Speak Lord, Your servant is listening

When I was much younger, I used to have hopes and dreams of one day becoming a sister or nun. Every day, I would pray to God to call me and would also try my best to hear Jesus’s call in the form of a whisper. Growing up in an IJ school certainly provided me with a lot of time in school to spend time with the Lord and pray to Him. Later, I went to a state junior college and I’m currently in a state university. Sadly, I am spending less time with Him, and now it is much harder for me to listen to Jesus. I have realized how distant I have grown from the Lord in terms of spiritual development, and how I am so involved in getting the best grades and career, that I have completely lost sight of my childhood dreams of becoming a clergy.

I realize that there are a lot of distractions in today’s world. It could be in the form of chasing for wealth, status, sex and power. We all need these to survive in today’s competitive world. Perhaps deep down in our heart, we know that all these are fleeting, and that only God is eternal, but we are more willing to spend time with these temporal and material things. By chasing for all these, it means that we are on survival mode. After all, without money, how can we have enough to eat or have a roof over our heads? Without power, how can we get ahead of others and obtain privileges to lead a comfortable life?

But being on survival mode means only one thing — we do not trust in God. And it means just that one thing, we do not trust in the abundant providence of God. We think that we can do without God, so we need to possess material things to survive. By constantly feeding our materialistic desires, we are unknowingly and subconsciously leading spiritually empty lives, and this can be very dangerous for our own souls. Spiritual emptiness is a gateway for greater vices, and this can lead to life-threatening addictions or exploitations.

While it is important for us to survive, we should also not be laidback and complacent, thinking that God will provide for us. We need to do our best, and God will do the rest. But doing our best doesn’t mean that we overachieve in pursuit of wealth or power or fame and become materialistic. We should never neglect or ignore our spiritual development. Doing our best means that we develop holistically, both in material and spiritual aspects.

Perhaps, one day, God might call one of us to join the clergy. Hopefully, we will be able to listen to His voice and respond to His call accordingly.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please pray for us to listen to Your voice and not get consumed by materialistic desires. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for being patient with us in responding to Your mission that You have for us, as well as for fulfilling our material needs. Amen.

14 January, Tuesday – Armour of faith and courage

14 January
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1 Samuel 1:9-20

After they had eaten in the hall, Hannah rose and took her stand before the Lord, while Eli the priest was sitting on his seat by the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. In the bitterness of her soul she prayed to the Lord with many tears and made a vow, saying, ‘O Lord of Hosts! If you will take notice of the distress of your servant, and bear me in mind and not forget your servant and give her a man-child, I will give him to the Lord for the whole of his life and no razor shall ever touch his head.’

While she prayed before the Lord which she did for some time, Eli was watching her mouth, for she was speaking under her breath; her lips were moving but her voice could not be heard. He therefore supposed that she was drunk and said to her, ‘How long are you going to be in this drunken state? Rid yourself of your wine.’ ‘No, my lord,’ Hannah replied ‘I am a woman in great trouble; I have taken neither wine nor strong drink – I was pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not take your maidservant for a worthless woman; all this time I have been speaking from the depth of my grief and my resentment.’ Then Eli answered her: ‘Go in peace,’ he said ‘and may the God of Israel grant what you have asked of him.’ And she said, ‘May your maidservant find favour in your sight’; and with that the woman went away; she returned to the hall and ate and was dejected no longer.

They rose early in the morning and worshipped before the Lord and then set out and returned to their home in Ramah. Elkanah had intercourse with Hannah his wife and the Lord was mindful of her. She conceived and gave birth to a son, and called him Samuel ‘since’ she said ‘I asked the Lord for him.’

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Mark 1:21-28

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

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

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“Here is a teaching that is new, and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.”

Imagine if you were there in the synagogue and you saw what Jesus did to the evil spirit? What would you be thinking and feeling? Shocked? Or simply helpless, that you are most likely not able to have the power to drive out demons and devils unless you’re an exorcist?

Jesus has so much power and authority over evil spirits that He can drive them out effectively and almost immediately. I always admire priests and certain exceptional laity who are given this powerful gift from God to liberate people who are oppressed or possessed. I have wished that I could become like them and bring peace to the person who is being tormented by these evil spirits. However, I soon realised that not everyone will be given this special and extraordinary gift. In fact, we do not always need exorcists to resolve spiritual problems. Spiritual maladies can exist in many forms; for instance, addiction, exploitation, violence and abuse in today’s world. They do not need to manifest in severe and extreme cases of possession or oppression.

As Jesus’s disciples, we are surely aware of the many forms of spiritual illnesses that are taking place in the world. While we may blame technology for perpetuating some of these evils, like pornography or violence, we should also acknowledge that technology is like a knife – we can use it to cook a delicious meal for our family, friends and loved ones, or we can use it to kill others. In fact, through this online platform, we are able to recognize that technology can actually be used to glorify and help others, as well as prevent injustices like how Facebook was mobilized to overthrow tyrannical governments during the Arab Spring in 2010.

Therefore, when faced with the evils of today’s world, Jesus is calling us to not be discouraged by the seemingly overwhelming amount of evil that appears to be magnified by the misuse of technology. He wants us to stand up and fight against the injustices of today’s society. We need not be exorcists to do this; we only need His armour of faith and courage, graces that we can ask God in prayer. Daunting as it is to battle against today’s evils, we must have the hope that God is with us, and He has the power to change people and their hearts, even if it is just one person at a time, one baby step in every move.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please pray for us to don Your armour of faith and courage to fight against the injustice and evils of today’s world, so that together with Your abundant grace and help, we can get rid of all addictions, exploitations, violence and abuse in every society. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for giving us the grace of faith and courage to put up a fight against injustice. Whether we put up a strong or weak fight, we do this for Your glory, and we know in our hearts that You are together with us in this battle. Amen.

13 January, Monday – Fishers of New Sheep!

13 Jan – Memorial for St. Hilary, bishop and doctor of the Church

St. Hilary of Poitiers (315-368) was known as Athanasius of the West. He was born to wealthy polytheistic, pagan nobility. His early life was uneventful as he married, had children (one of whom was St. Abra), and studied on his own. Through his studies he came to believe in salvation through good works, and then monotheism. As he studied the Bible for the first time, he literally read himself into the faith, and was converted by the end of the New Testament.

Hilary lived the faith so well that he was made Bishop of Poitiers from 353-368. He opposed the emperor’s attempt to run Church matters and was exiled; he used the time to write works explaining the faith. His teaching and writings converted many and, in an attempt to reduce his notoriety, he was returned to the small town of Poitiers where his enemies hoped he would fade into obscurity. His writings nonetheless continued to convert pagans.

Hilary introduced Eastern theology to the Western Church, fought Arianism with the help of St. Viventius, and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1851.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Samuel 1:1-8

There was a man of Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the highlands of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives, one called Hannah, the other Peninnah; Peninnah had children but Hannah had none. Every year this man used to go up from his town to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of Hosts in Shiloh. The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there as priests of the Lord.

One day Elkanah offered sacrifice. He used to give portions to Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; to Hannah, however, he would give only one portion, although he loved her more, since the Lord had made her barren. Her rival would taunt her to annoy her, because the Lord had made her barren. And this went on year after year; every time they went up to the temple of the Lord she used to taunt her. And so Hannah wept and would not eat. Then Elkanah her husband said to her, ‘Hannah, why are you crying and why are you not eating? Why so sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?’

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Mark 1:14-20

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

As he was walking along by the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net in the lake – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men.’ And at once they left their nets and followed him.
  
Going on a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they too were in their boat, mending their nets. He called them at once and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him.

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Come with me, and I will make you into fishers of people

Someone close to me will be baptized into our Catholic faith this Easter, and I feel very blessed and thankful to God that there will soon be a new sheep in our flock. I trust that Jesus will guide him along this new journey of being a new Catholic.

However, I was soon examining myself as to whether I am a good Catholic. I was concerned whether my way of life would influence him to continue living out and being strengthened by the Catholic faith. Being a good Catholic primarily involves building an intimate relationship with God as well as healthy interpersonal relationships with other people, by living as Christ called us to live and by loving everyone just as Jesus has loved us. I admit that I have not been the best Catholic, and that there is a lot of room for improvement and for me work on. First and foremost, I am not fervent in my prayers and I sometime have the tendency to not love our brothers and sisters in Christ as I should.

As I interact with my friends, I also realise that actions speak louder than words. Even if we may not know the A to Z of our Catechesis and theoretical foundations, we should love others and live our lives in a Christ-like manner, such that others will see the glory of God and praise Him. This will hopefully prompt them to want to know more about our faith, giving us an opportunity to evangelize and shine the way for the many lost sheep in today’s world.

So, my New Year Resolution this 2020 is to live as Christ would have lived amongst us today, selflessly loving other people and forgiving everyone around Him. And not to forget to spend more time praying more fervently and meaningfully to God amidst the distractions of the modern world. It will definitely not be easy as it involves some major changes to my way of life, but I hope that by living out my life as a good Catholic, by my actions and new lifestyle, I may influence another friend of mine to either join or return to our faith.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please pray for us to live our lives in Your light and guidance, so that we can be Your face to the lost sheep who are looking for You. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for giving us the grace to be able to forgive those who have hurt us, and for allowing us to shine Your light and glory before others, who will hopefully come to know You by Your love that is manifested through us. Amen.

12 January, Sunday – The Last Day of Christmas

12 January – The Baptism of the Lord

The Baptism of the Lord

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

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Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7

Thus says the Lord:

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom my soul delights.
I have endowed him with my spirit
that he may bring true justice to the nations.

He does not cry out or shout aloud,
or make his voice heard in the streets.
He does not break the crushed reed,
nor quench the wavering flame.

Faithfully he brings true justice;
he will neither waver, nor be crushed
until true justice is established on earth,
for the islands are awaiting his law.

I, the Lord, have called you to serve the cause of right;
I have taken you by the hand and formed you;
I have appointed you as covenant of the people and light of the nations,

to open the eyes of the blind,
to free captives from prison,
and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.

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Acts 10:34-38

Peter addressed Cornelius and his household: ‘The truth I have now come to realise’ he said ‘is that God does not have favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him.

‘It is true, God sent his word to the people of Israel, and it was to them that the good news of peace was brought by Jesus Christ – but Jesus Christ is Lord of all men. You must have heard about the recent happenings in Judaea; about Jesus of Nazareth and how he began in Galilee, after John had been preaching baptism. God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil.’

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Matthew 3:13-17

Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John. John tried to dissuade him. ‘It is I who need baptism from you’ he said ‘and yet you come to me!’ But Jesus replied, ‘Leave it like this for the time being; it is fitting that we should, in this way, do all that righteousness demands.’ At this, John gave in to him.

As soon as Jesus was baptised he came up from the water, and suddenly the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. And a voice spoke from heaven, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on him.’

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This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased

There is often much confusion and debate as to when is the last day of Christmas. In the secular world, Christmas pretty much ends the day after Christmas Day. In the streets, most Christmas decorations are taken down immediately after and here in Singapore, quickly replaced by Chinese New Year decorations. I find myself arguing with friends that it is still Christmas and we should not hasten to take down the Christmas tree, and that it is still okay to sing Christmas songs!

At this year’s Christmas mass, the priest was preaching about the meaning of Christmas for us Catholics, why we Catholics especially should wish each other “Merry Christmas” and not “Happy Holidays” all the way till the end of Christmastide. We should celebrate and proudly proclaim the reason for the season! Christmas literally translates to the ‘Mass of Christ’, and the mass is the death sacrifice Jesus gave to us.

So when exactly is the end of Christmastide? Many believe, Catholics included, that it ends with the Feast of the Epiphany, where the three wise men paid homage to Baby Jesus. This usually coincides with the traditional twelfth day of Christmas. However, according to the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, the official end of the entire Christmas season is the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, the Sunday after Epiphany.

I first heard this explanation during the homily, and when I went to visit the beautiful Nativity scene at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, there were posters describing this; and this was further reinforced a third time when a friend shared a picture of this poster in a WhatsApp group chat. I can no longer say I am confused or ignorant about this subject, and must do my part in sharing with my fellow brothers and sisters. How apt then, that I was rostered to write on the Feast on the Baptism of the Lord! This is my personal God-moment.

With Chinese New Year just round the corner, getting sucked in to more festivities, it is honestly a little challenging to remember to live out our Christian lives. But as we celebrate the last day of Christmas, let us remember how Jesus came into our lives and how we marry our cultures together, that to be a Christian means being a Christian in every day and aspect of our lives, not just on Sundays.

(Today’s Oxygen by Kristel Wang)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, we pray for the strength to be the Christian you desire us to be in every day of our lives, to be the face of Christ to others, and always spread your message of love, joy and peace.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Heavenly Father, for the beautiful sacrifice of your only Son. Help us to always remember all that you do for us, especially when we find it difficult to see, to search for you in all the little moments. Amen.

11 January, Saturday – Size is relative

11 January

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1 John 5:14-21

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

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

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John 3:22-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

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

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

10 January, Friday – Seeking Solitude

10 January 

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1 John 5:5-13

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

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

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Luke 5:12-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

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

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