Category Archives: Advent

23 December, Saturday – Plans

23 Dec – Memorial for St. John of Kanty, presbyter

John (1390-1473) was a Polish country lad. A brilliant student at the University of Krakow, Poland, he became a priest and professor of theology at the University of Krakow, where he was falsely accused and ousted by university rivals.

At the age of 41, he was assigned as parish priest at Olkusz, Bohemia. He took his position seriously, and was terrified of responsibility, but did his best. For a long time that wasn’t enough for his parishioners, but in the end he won their hearts. After several years in his parish, he returned to Krakow and taught Scripture for the rest of his life.

John was a serious, humble man, generous to a fault with the poor, sleeping little, eating no meat and little of anything else. He was a pilgrim to Jerusalem, hoping to be martyred by Turks. He made four pilgrimages to Rome, carrying his luggage on his back. When warned to look after his health, he pointed out that the early desert fathers lived long lives in conditions that had nothing to recommend them but the presence of God.

At the time of his death, John was so well loved that his veneration began immediately. For years his doctoral gown was worn by graduates receiving advanced degrees at the University of Krakow. He was declared patron of Poland and Lithuania in 1737 by Pope Clement XII, 30 years before his final canonization.

– Patron Saint Index


Malachi 3:1-4,23-24

The Lord God says this: Look, I am going to send my messenger to prepare a way before me. And the Lord you are seeking will suddenly enter his Temple; and the angel of the covenant whom you are longing for, yes, he is coming, says the Lord of Hosts. Who will be able to resist the day of his coming? Who will remain standing when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire and the fullers’ alkali. He will take his seat as refiner and purifier; he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and then they will make the offering to the Lord as it should be made. The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will then be welcomed by the Lord as in former days, as in the years of old.

Know that I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before my day comes, that great and terrible day. He shall turn the hearts of fathers towards their children and the hearts of children towards their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a curse.


Luke 1:57-66

The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son; and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy.

Now on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up. ‘No,’ she said ‘he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘But no one in your family has that name’, and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they were all astonished. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.


Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me

As always during this time of the year, I have been extremely busy the last few weeks with a slew of events as well as a new marketing campaign to launch, working with new staff who are ‘experiencing the pain’ for the first time. After so many cycles, I have learnt never to take anything for granted and to always be prepared with possible solutions for any scenario that may arise. And while we try to anticipate and plan ahead, I have also learnt to be more open to situations (and fresh ideas/opinions) and not let any hiccups affect me (or my mood) in any way. For no matter how hard one prepares, you can never anticipate all situations and their possible outcomes.

This Advent season has certainly been one of anticipation for me. And I am looking forward to taking a few days off from work just to ‘chill out’ and to be with my loved ones. My brother will be coming back from Perth to spend Christmas with us and we are already planning Christmas meals, cell group gatherings and various other get-togethers (some on the golf course).

Amidst all the preparation, let us not forget the reason we celebrate Christmas. For while God sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for Christ, the birth of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, heralds for us new hope and signifies a resurrection in our spirits. Christ was sent to prepare us for our journey back to our heavenly Father. So while we plan to a fault, everything that we would like to do here on earth, are we doing any planning for the day when we eventually meet our maker?

For while God sent His son to prepare the way for us, that is only one side of the coin. We ourselves need to be prepared to receive Jesus Christ in our hearts. So I encourage all of us to reflect on the past year and ask ourselves this – have we fed the hungry, clothe the naked, given hope to the hopeless, brought joy to those in despair, a smile to those who weep, comfort to those in sorrow? Have we truly lived our lives the way God intended them to be, in humility and in gratitude for all that He has blessed us with? Or have we lost our way amidst the trappings of success and the hurly-burly of our seemingly busy lives?

Brothers and sisters, take out your management diaries and have a look at your scheduling assistant on your smartphone. What are the plans you’ve made to be with the Lord this holiday season?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: We pray Lord, that you will give us the time to spend with you in reflection as we prepare to welcome your Son. May we respond to your promptings and seek you in the stillness of our hearts.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we give thanks for your gift of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.

22 December, Friday – Rejoice And Be Glad

22 Dec


1 Samuel 1:24-28

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


Luke 1:46-56

Mary said:
‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.


My spirit rejoices in God my saviour

I recently attended the confirmation mass of my niece and was truly honoured to have been asked to be her godfather. For me, it was a real highlight accompanying Ella as she prayerfully walked up to receive the blessing from our beloved Archbishop. The joy and pride I felt was indescribable as I fully connected with the feelings of joy and peace that Ella would have felt the moment His Grace christened her forehead and touched her cheek.

I had made it a point to arrive at the church a lot earlier so that we could spend about 30 minutes in the adoration chapel. I had also fond out that she had attended her first ‘Nox Gaudi’ the month prior and was happy that she had experienced a new way of worshipping God. When I was her age, God was far from my mind and going to church for me was more of a Sunday chore. But as I observed her reverently prostrating before the Blessed Sacrament, I knew that she had been touched by the Lord and my heart rejoiced as we spent some quiet time with Him together.

The Lord has given me much to be thankful for this year. My journey with my discipleship group has led to a deepening of my relationships with my brothers and a new-found confidence that He is leading me to bigger things. Especially so in worship, where my ‘stop-start’ relationship with my violin has finally been set aflame. As a result, I am playing (and worshipping) with a renewed passion and zeal that seems to come from a deeper place within.

He gave me healing and brought me closer to the priests in my parish through the generosity and grace of my other half, who continues to amaze me day by day with her fortitude and inner strength. He sent many angels during our most difficult periods, to assist and to guide us. Indeed, I feel that our relationship, centred on Christ, has taken on a new meaning and while the road ahead may not be too smooth, I am 100% sure that we will weather all storms that will come our way.

I recall vividly how overjoyed I was when we sang ‘These Alone Are Enough’ by Dan Schutte recently at a mass; and continue to be amazed that He would bless a sinner searching for redemption, with the ability to praise and worship Him in song. This is something I will never fathom. All I can do is to continue practising in faith, knowing that the flame which burns in my heart is a gift from my heavenly Father. And that, brothers and sisters, is more than enough reason to rejoice every single day.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, we ask you to continue blessing us daily with your love and graces so that we may always be grateful for the privilege of calling you ‘Abba, Father’. Let us rejoice and be glad.

Thanksgiving: We thank you, O loving Father, for your gifts that you bestow on us each and every day.

21 December, Thursday – Joy Of The Visitation

21 December – St Peter Canisius, Priest, Doctor

He was born in Nijmegen (now in Holland) in 1521. He studied at Cologne and joined the Society of Jesus: he was ordained priest in 1546. He was sent to Germany, where for many years he worked hard to defend and strengthen the Catholic faith both by writing and by preaching. He wrote many books, of which The Catechism is particularly noteworthy. He died at Fribourg in Switzerland on 21 November 1597.

– Universalis


Song of Songs 2:8-14

I hear my Beloved.
See how he comes
leaping on the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My Beloved is like a gazelle,
like a young stag.

See where he stands
behind our wall.
He looks in at the window,
he peers through the lattice.

My Beloved lifts up his voice,
he says to me,
‘Come then, my love,
my lovely one, come.
For see, winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth.
The season of glad songs has come,
the cooing of the turtledove is heard
in our land.
The fig tree is forming its first figs
and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance.
Come then, my love,
my lovely one, come.
My dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock,
in the coverts of the cliff,
show me your face,
let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet
and your face is beautiful.’


Luke 1:39-45

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’


The child in my womb leapt for joy

There is an image of the visitation of Elizabeth by Mary, portrayed in many statues. It shows two women bending forward towards each other, foreheads almost touching, hands joined. Both are with child, and their expression is one of gratitude and joyful anticipation.

It is interesting how this joy came about. The young woman got pregnant before she married, and her much older cousin was also about to have a child, unheard of for a woman her age. Both would have had to deal with a fair amount of external gossip, but in each other, they found the affirmation that comes from another who is in a similar situation. Not only that, they received tangible signs of God’s blessings and graces, and marvelled at the wonder of how the fates of their children will be closely intertwined.

How joyful are you as we approach Christmas? I have to say that presently, I feel besieged by anxiety about my work next year and the uncertainty of my future career. In the midst of such thoughts and feelings, it feels much more comfortable to slip into a state of self-absorbed melancholy. It is hard to feel joy presently, but I shall continue to reflect on Elizabeth’s words in Luke 1:45 – “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that the joy of the Good News will touch our hearts this Christmas.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the spiritual graces that the Lord has blessed us with.

20 December, Wednesday – Preparing The Nativity Of Our Hearts

20 Dec


Isaiah 7:10-14

The Lord spoke to Ahaz and said, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign for yourself coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above.’ ‘No,’ Ahaz answered ‘I will not put the Lord to the test.’

Then Isaiah said:

‘Listen now, House of David:
are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men
without trying the patience of my God, too?
The Lord himself, therefore,
will give you a sign.
It is this: the maiden is with child
and will soon give birth to a son
whom she will call Immanuel,
a name which means “God-is-with-us.”’


Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.


I am the handmaid of the Lord.

It is so hard to recover the lost art of being a handmaiden in our day and age. These days, we have a thousand and one ‘hacks’ and ‘tips’ and ‘lists’ and ‘secrets revealed’ online about just any problematic topic. These lists are concise and quick reads, telling us in just 10 or 20 points how to resolve or overcome difficult marriages/relationships; run a household/company; understand ourselves/others better… and the list goes on! While some could be useful, I have found my recent fixation with these quick-fixes detrimental to my spiritual life.

I am tempted to think I can solve every problem I, or my loved ones, face; that a solution is just out there waiting to pop up on my daily newsfeed; that I can be the harbinger of answers to the people around me. The folly!

Likewise, elsewhere in Scripture, we hear of another Mary, and her sister Martha who received Jesus into their home. In the passage where Jesus visits the sisters, we see two ways of being – the ‘Mary’ way, and the ‘Martha’ way.

‘Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her”.’ (Matthew 10:38-42)

Mary understood what it was to be the handmaid of the Lord. She was not over-zealous to prove her worthiness in the doing-of-things like Martha was. She was aware of the transcendental presence of the Christ in their home. If Christ was the Lord that Martha called Him to be, then certainly He didn’t need the 1001 things to be done for Him. Jesus is the Lord of the Heavens and Earth, not the Lord of the world. There is nothing we can give to Him or add unto Him to illuminate His Holiness further.

The only desire He had in the house of Mary and Martha, was that they be present to Him. Their posture of a handmaid, waiting in watchful silence, ever-alert, ever-listening, surrendering our preoccupations with things to submit to His will. That was Mary’s way. Just as we would find it hard to find an appropriate gift for a very important person if we were invited to the house of say, the President of our country – he would have everything already. The most treasured and one-of-a-kind gift we could offer, would be the dedicated attention of our individual presence in his company. It is most simple, and yet our agendas can often be so obtuse!

Mary, Mother of our God, fashions for us the precise qualities of what it means to be a ‘Handmaid of the Lord’. It is her watchfulness, her humility, her openness and surrendered spiritual posture, that receives the Holy Spirit. It is this diminishment of her Self, and the desire to magnify the Lord, that allows the Holy Spirit to permeate and impregnate this graced moment, and bring us our Christ Jesus, Saviour of the world.

It is no easy feat for me. And I realise I constantly need this reminder to model my spiritual life after Mary our Mother. Being the Type A ‘fixer’ personality that I am, the tendency I have to solving problems (my way), stubbornness, impatience, and pride, has brought much friction to the relationships around me – demanding of others, ‘haven’t you seen what I have been doing?’ It is hard to truly be still and deeply ponder as Mother Mary does.

Indeed, as Jesus reminds me today: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her”. It is of far more eternal value to our Father, that we be-with-Him, than to be buzzing around Him. After all, isn’t He called Emmanuel, God-is-with-us?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving us Mary our Mother, who is our model of faith, humility, and surrender to Your Holy Will. Teach us to love and honour her the way You have specially chosen her for us.

Prayer: We pray for each other: That in this Christmas season, we lose our obsession to plan and over-plan around the festivities and parties, where the misguided focus is on ourselves to be charitable and hospitable to others in our homes and churches – but instead, we neglect to prepare our own souls to be hospitable to the Infant Jesus who is waiting to enter into the Nativity of our hearts. May we be more self-aware and humble like Mother Mary.

19 December, Tuesday – Prayer, A Mirror Into Our Souls

19 Dec


Judges 13:2-7,24-25

There was a man of Zorah of the tribe of Dan, called Manoah. His wife was barren, she had borne no children. The angel of the Lord appeared to this woman and said to her, ‘You are barren and have had no child. But from now on take great care. Take no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean. For you will conceive and bear a son. No razor is to touch his head, for the boy shall be God’s nazirite from his mother’s womb. It is he who will begin to rescue Israel from the power of the Philistines.’ Then the woman went and told her husband, ‘A man of God has just come to me; his presence was like the presence of the angel of God, he was so majestic. I did not ask him where he came from, and he did not reveal his name to me. But he said to me, “You will conceive and bear a son. From now on, take no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean. For the boy shall be God’s nazirite from his mother’s womb to his dying day.”’

The woman gave birth to a son and called him Samson. The child grew, and the Lord blessed him; and the spirit of the Lord began to move him.


Luke 1:5-25

In the days of King Herod of Judaea there lived a priest called Zechariah who belonged to the Abijah section of the priesthood, and he had a wife, Elizabeth by name, who was a descendant of Aaron. Both were worthy in the sight of God, and scrupulously observed all the commandments and observances of the Lord. But they were childless: Elizabeth was barren and they were both getting on in years.

Now it was the turn of Zechariah’s section to serve, and he was exercising his priestly office before God when it fell to him by lot, as the ritual custom was, to enter the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense there. And at the hour of incense the whole congregation was outside, praying.

Then there appeared to him the angel of the Lord, standing on the right of the altar of incense. The sight disturbed Zechariah and he was overcome with fear. But the angel said to him, ‘Zechariah, do not be afraid, your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth is to bear you a son and you must name him John. He will be your joy and delight and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord; he must drink no wine, no strong drink. Even from his mother’s womb he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, and he will bring back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah, he will go before him to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children and the disobedient back to the wisdom that the virtuous have, preparing for the Lord a people fit for him.’

Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is getting on in years.’ The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel who stand in God’s presence, and I have been sent to speak to you and bring you this good news. Listen! Since you have not believed my words, which will come true at their appointed time, you will be silenced and have no power of speech until this has happened.’ Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were surprised that he stayed in the sanctuary so long. When he came out he could not speak to them, and they realised that he had received a vision in the sanctuary. But he could only make signs to them, and remained dumb.

When his time of service came to an end he returned home. Some time later his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept to herself. ‘The Lord has done this for me’ she said ‘now that it has pleased him to take away the humiliation I suffered among men.’


‘…it has pleased him to take away the humiliation I suffered among men.’

We read two stories of women who endured a long season of barrenness. In the Bible, as is the case of many agrarian civilisations, fertility is regarded as anointing from God. It is a blessing from the Heavens if a woman bears many children and her husband is also deemed a righteous man for fathering many. Likewise, if a woman remains barren, it is seen as a curse from God and she is frowned upon by her kinfolk. If her husband is a good man, he would still love and protect her. If he was a strong man of faith, he would still honour and cherish her as God did Israel, he would defend her from their tribespeople. A woman was therefore largely dependent on the spiritual, mental, and emotional strength and resilience of her husband – to withstand these humiliations himself, and therefore protect her and uphold her dignity.

These two women – the mother of Samson; and Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist – were women of great faith. They were also blessed by good and righteous men of God who stayed with them and honoured them. However, were their husbands impervious or immune to the humiliations their wives faced because they were childless? I doubt it. Were the husbands themselves troubled, humiliated, discouraged? I am sure. As Elizabeth said, ‘The Lord has done this for me’ she said ‘now that it has pleased him to take away the humiliation I suffered among men.’ She suffered when her husband suffered, but she had to remain strong for the both of them.

Zechariah was a priest and, as Scripture tells us, he and Elizabeth scrupulously observed the commandments and were worthy in God’s sight. For this fact alone, I am sure many of their prayers in the dark of the night consisted of lamentations that their faithfulness had not resulted in fruitfulness – they were only human. Even I can feel their yearnings on my lips! Zechariah must have been worn down by years of unanswered prayers and the ridicule of his fellow priests that his first response to the angel of God (unlike Elizabeth’s) was ‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is getting on in years.’ Hence he was struck dumb – it was a lesson from God.

None of us are immune to seasons of doubt. And especially for husbands and wives who may pray specifically for answers to ‘why isn’t my husband a more loving and gentle man?’ to ‘why isn’t my wife more understanding to my needs?’ to ‘why are our children so rebellious?’ it can get very exhausting and despairing. Prayers for our loved ones are always riddled with seasons of barrenness as what we pray for about them, are actually things that God is teaching us about ourselves. That is, prayers for a more understanding and pliant wife, could be God’s invitation to the man to grow more noble and generous in himself.; while prayers for a more loving and tender husband, could be God’s invitation to the woman to soften in patience and gentleness. Many of these prayers we make are often mirrors for ourselves illuminating blind-spots that we need to grow more aware of in ourselves, to experience a conversion of our mentality and approach.

When the things we pray for do not get answered immediately, or things do not work out the way we envision or prescribe to God, we need to re-examine our prayer life and our own relationship with our Lord Jesus. Have we tried to conform God’s love and mercy into our own mould and image? Have we tried to specify to God how we want Him to help and bless us?

In the light of our Scriptures today too, it is an invitation for husbands to reflect if they have continued to protect their wives needs, to cherish and honour them, as the Bride whom they took at the altar. It is an invitation for wives to reflect if they have been loving, respectful, and tender to their husbands needs, to build them up and encourage them to grow in imitation of Christ.

It is so tough – and it is tougher when we are called to love as God first loved us, in moments when it seems the other party is wringing us dry… And so we look to our Lamb of God, and we draw on His strength and mercy.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord, for the love of our family members who, by their patience and endurance in loving us in our difficult moments – help to change us from within.

Prayer: We ask you Jesus, for the strength to keep on loving even when it hurts, when it gets tiring, when it becomes senseless to do so. Teach us Your ways O Lord.

18 December, Monday – Where Are You, God?

18 Dec


Jeremiah 23:5-8

See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks –
when I will raise a virtuous Branch for David,
who will reign as true king and be wise,
practising honesty and integrity in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel dwell in confidence.
And this is the name he will be called:

So, then, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when people will no longer say, “As the Lord lives who brought the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt!” but, “As the Lord lives who led back and brought home the descendants of the House of Israel out of the land of the North and from all the countries to which he had dispersed them, to live on their own soil.”


Matthew 1:18-24

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.



Whenever we hear of the terrible and tragic news around the world, such as the hostage situation and deaths striking the Lindt Cafe in Sydney; the massacre of students in the Peshawar military-run school by the Pakistani Taliban; the Sewol ferry tragedy in Seoul; the victims of Super Typhoon Hagupit in Philippines, it is hard to believe that God truly is with us. Recently, a very dear friend of mine lost her beloved husband to an unexpected sudden death, and I could not help but share in her grief and tears, myself asking, “God, are you there?” In times like these, I ask God: did you show your glorious face to them in their final moments? Do they know You are real, did they know You as Love as they passed through this life?

On this side of life, we struggle to understand, give, receive, experience love. What is love to those of us who have experienced heartbreak, growing pains, mental-, emotional-, sexual-abuse, loss and grief? How can we make sense of this constant falling short of true joy and fulfilment in life… this almost-but-not-there-yet-ness of many endeavours we put ourselves through? God seems so far from us in these desperate moments. It is cold, dark, lonely, and terrifying to find ourselves trapped in this valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23) – living in this moment of the absence of God. But God is with us even in this very valley.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows. (Psalm 23)

How do we see God in this pitch-black night of sorrow and fear? The reality of our understanding of darkness is testament to our existent experience and knowledge of light. As darkness is not a level of brightness, but the absence of light, we need to trust that we have once seen and experienced Pure Light. This is the prior knowing of our soul. We have been kissed and visited by the Light of God when God had knitted us in our mother’s womb – and this imprint of Love and Light is carried deep inside of our soul throughout this life. Our constant realisation of the falling-short-of joy and fulfilment in this life, the frustrating incompleteness of life’s endeavours, serves to point us to the light of Eternal Truth, Way and Life.

The secret is to ‘walk through’ this valley of the shadow of death as Psalm 23 tells us. It is not enough to stand at the mouth of the valley staring into darkness and fearing the worst. As consuming as whatever darkness we experience can be, there is always an imperceptible glimmer of brightness by which our eyes eventually acclimatise to see. We can still discern the edges of this shadowed valley and fumble through. And God-is-with-us in each present moment.

The Word proclaims His promises of rescue and shelter for us. His Promises are the rod and staff by which we steady our gait. This is what we need to cling onto whenever we feel shattered by fear and grief, hatred and injustice.

Baby Jesus was himself pushed through the darkness of Mary’s birth canal. Our Lord was born unto us after much human struggle. His first sounds were cries of fear and confusion, turned to the relief and comfort of Mary’s breast. The God Almighty allowed Himself to experience the necessary human passage through time and shadow in order to be one with us and share in our human passions and sufferings and ultimately, death.

May we realise that this is how God-is-with-us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Thanksgiving: Jesus, you have gone through everything we will ever go through in our lives. Your first infant cries; your playground scuffles; the frustration of learning the ropes of carpentry; the betrayal of friendships; the humiliation of slander; injustice for innocence; and cruel death on Calvary. For Your companionship in all that I fear and suffer in, I thank You Lord.

Prayer: We pray for the innocent departed souls of all we hear in the news and of our loved ones. May our Lord shine His Divine Mercy and Love upon them and grant to them Eternal Peace and Rest.

17 December, Sunday – Jesus, With Joy I Shall Trust In You

14 Dec – 3rd Sunday of Advent

Our Joy In Christ

We celebrate our joy in Christ’s redeeming work among us, realising that he who is to come is indeed already with us, unknown to us. 

– Sunday Missal


Isaiah 61:1-2,10-11

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up hearts that are broken;

to proclaim liberty to captives,
freedom to those in prison;
to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.

‘I exult for joy in the Lord,
my soul rejoices in my God,
for he has clothed me in the garments of salvation,
he has wrapped me in the cloak of integrity,
like a bridegroom wearing his wreath,
like a bride adorned in her jewels.

‘For as the earth makes fresh things grow,
as a garden makes seeds spring up,
so will the Lord make both integrity and praise
spring up in the sight of the nations.’


1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Be happy at all times; pray constantly; and for all things give thanks to God, because this is what God expects you to do in Christ Jesus.

Never try to suppress the Spirit or treat the gift of prophecy with contempt; think before you do anything – hold on to what is good and avoid every form of evil.

May the God of peace make you perfect and holy; and may you all be kept safe and blameless, spirit, soul and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has called you and he will not fail you.


John 1:6-8,19-28

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.
This is how John appeared as a witness. When the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ he not only declared, but he declared quite openly, ‘I am not the Christ.’ ‘Well then,’ they asked ‘are you Elijah?’ ‘I am not’ he said. ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you? We must take back an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself?’ So John said, ‘I am, as Isaiah prophesied:

a voice that cries in the wilderness:
Make a straight way for the Lord.’

Now these men had been sent by the Pharisees, and they put this further question to him, ‘Why are you baptising if you are not the Christ, and not Elijah, and not the prophet?’ John replied, ‘I baptise with water; but there stands among you – unknown to you – the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal-strap.’ This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan, where John was baptising.


God has called you and he will not fail you.

It is the year end and, as the year closes, it is predictably a difficult time for me – both in my work and personal life. I start to take stock of stuff, evaluate progress, achievements, and improvements. Some events bring joy, other situations strap me with anxiety. Then again, this is Advent, a season of waiting.

One of the toughest things to cling onto in my faith journey is to trust that God’s got my back 100% of the time. Truth is, there are countless moments where I suddenly feel abandoned by the very God who is all-knowing and all-seeing. I could come home after a lovely night out celebrating a milestone with my friends, or after a peace-infused quiet time in the Adoration Chapel, to a home that has mysteriously gone all discordant in the few hours I’d been out. Tempers are flaring, temperatures rising. A rug pulled out from under my feet. Wondering if I’m actually allowed to even trust that life and people can be stable and reliable. I get impatient, angry, frustrated, and most of all I despair, and throw myself into the sea of doubt.

The second reading of Thessalonians today strikes a chord – “Be happy at all times; pray constantly; and for all things give thanks to God, because this is what God expects you to do in Christ Jesus.” I am challenged. But I am reminded that a joyful soul is a blessed soul – “I exult for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God, for he has clothed me in the garments of salvation…”

It is truly hardest to believe that we are cared for and protected when we lay our expectations on other people who cannot save themselves. Salvation does not come from with-in, it enters into our lives from with-out, and beyond our earthly dimensions. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we are able to admit this invasion of Eternity into our present moment – that is, the infant Christ can then be born in our hearts and lives.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, […] Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? […] And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? […] But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:25-33)

This restfulness and blessedness is revealed in the Gospel passage today when John the Baptist is not fazed by the incessant haranguing and harassment of questions by the Jewish priest and Levites about his identity and origin. “This is how John appeared as a witness” it is said; that sentence is full of authority and certainty. John appeared as a witness without mincing his words or flailing with anxiety. John replies “I am… a voice that cries in the wilderness: Make a straight way for the Lord.” John does not need to reply to their superficial questions about his place of birth or his ancestry. Instead, he proclaims his identity and purpose in the Lord God Almighty. Simply said.

How often do we grow anxious, weary, despondent, and fearful about how we appear to the world, and how the world (mis)treats us, when all the world is passing anyway? Indeed as God has called us, He will never, ever fail us. He calls us My beloved, and He calls us to come to Him as children to their father. Our only duty and purpose in life during these storms is to cling to His everlasting promise of salvation, and root our identity in being His beloved children. He will lift us up, and save us in the most unexpected of ways – just as He did by sending a baby in manger to be the Saviour of the world. As we proceed into the third week of Advent, may we wait in joyful, expectant, and child-like hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(Today’s Oxygen by Debbie Loo)

Thanksgiving: Lord, I thank you for this timely reminder of my sin of distrust and pride in the blaming you for abandoning me, when it is in fact my momentary choice to let go of You. Help me be better at loving and trusting in You Jesus!

Prayer: Holy Spirit, prepare my heart to receive Christ with joy and praise on my lips. Fill me with the grace to give thanks and bring Jesus to others around me.

16 December, Saturday – Doing vs Knowing

16 Dec


Ecclesiasticus 48:1-4,9-12

The prophet Elijah arose like a fire, his word flaring like a torch.

It was he who brought famine on the people, and who decimated them in his zeal.

By the word of the Lord, he shut up the heavens, he also, three times, brought down fire.

How glorious you were in your miracles, Elijah! Has anyone reason to boast as you have?

Taken up in the whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with fiery horses; designated in the prophecies of doom to allay God’s wrath before the fury breaks, to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children, and to restore the tribes of Jacob,

Happy shall they be who see you, and those who have fallen asleep in love.


Matthew 17:10-13

As they came down from the mountain the disciples put this question to Jesus, ‘Why do the scribes say then that Elijah has to come first?’ ‘True;’ he replied ‘Elijah is to come to see that everything is once more as it should be; however, I tell you that Elijah has come already and they did not recognise him but treated him as they pleased; and the Son of Man will suffer similarly at their hands.’ The disciples understood then that he had been speaking of John the Baptist.


“… but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him… so also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands”

I often ask myself, would I be able to discern the Lord if he showed himself to me? What form would he come in? Would he be that homeless man I always want to buy breakfast for, but somehow never do? Or the old lady I often see diving in the dumpster outside of where I get my groceries? Have I walked past angels and not been aware? Or spoken out of turn to prophets because I was deaf to their message?

Would I be able to perceive Christ if He walked this earth again? I think the answer is no. And that’s really disappointing, because I like to think of myself as Catholic. I go to mass. I volunteer. I go to confession. I ‘do’ a whole bunch of things to check the boxes. But that’s all I do – check boxes. There is a ‘to-do’ list which I cross off as a matter of process and I go about it on autopilot. I don’t take the time to absorb the significance of why I am doing these things. In not doing so, I miss the point. And so I feel like I am just running errands all the time. Somewhere along the line, I put ‘doing’ above ‘knowing’ and shortchanged God in the process.

I became aware of this only recently, while moving house. My ‘to-do’ list exploded this past 3 weeks with all the things that needed to be sorted out when one moves house. Because I have tried to keep on top of everything, I’ve begun to behave with clockwork rigidity. Surprises are not welcome. I don’t do spontaneous. And there is no room for a change of plans. My husband looked visibly hurt one evening when he suggested we take a time-out for ourselves; instead of being loving and supportive, I angrily rattled off the litany of ‘to-do’s that were still outstanding and reminded him that he had things to accomplish too. So I shortchanged him in the process as well.

When we become all about ‘getting the job done’, when we’re so consumed with just crossing off the next thing, we lose sight of the ‘why’ in our lives. Why do we have friends? Why do we have family? Why do we have our faith? Why do we have a relationship with God? I lost sight of all of this while I was so busy trying to put together the ‘perfect’ house. But a house is not a home without family, without friends, without faith, without God.

We have just started to settle in and I am beginning to see clearly again. I hope that means that there will now be less ‘doing’ and more ‘knowing’. Being aware of our own compulsive disorder is the first step.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray that God makes us aware of the people in our lives, the relationships He has blessed us with and the evanescence of the time that we have with them.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for family, friends and the gift of faith.

15 December, Friday – Disagreeableness

15 Dec


Isaiah 48:17-19

Thus says the Lord, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:

I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is good for you, I lead you in the way that you must go. If only you had been alert to my commandments, your happiness would have been like a river, your integrity like the waves of the sea. Your children would have been numbered like the sand, your descendants as many as its grains. Never would your name have been cut off or blotted out before me.


Matthew 11:16-19

Jesus spoke to the crowds: ‘What description can I find for this generation? It is like children shouting to each other as they sit in the market place:

“We played the pipes for you, and you wouldn’t dance; we sang dirges, and you wouldn’t be mourners.”

‘For John came, neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He is possessed.” The Son of Man came, eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Yet wisdom has been proved right by her actions.’


“It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another”

My young nephew is almost two now. He’s a real wunderkind. At the tender age of 23 months, he has learned to have opinions and to voice them vociferously. He has acquired social graces. He has learned recall and the comforts of a daily routine. In short, he is learning to become a person and it’s a joy to watch. With children, the first acts of dissent and self-expression are empowering. Left unchecked though, they grow up to become adults who disagree for the sake of disagreeing. As the verse in Matthew puts it, they are like ‘children who sit in marketplace and call to one another’. Their own opinions are not necessarily grounded in arguments of any substance. They just want to be disagreeable.

One of Christ’s greatest challenges was dealing with exactly this sort of people. The Pharisees tried to thwart Jesus at every turn, manipulating his words to trap him, rabble rousing to cause unrest wherever he evangelized. We’ve all encountered such individuals at some point in our lives, people who block our progress, who scheme to thwart our plans, who disagree with whatever we say just for the sake of being disagreeable. They’re to be found everywhere – at our workplace, in our schools, in our churches, in our kids’ playgroups. When we’re faced with individuals like that, take a deep breath and remember the immortal words from Isaiah, that “I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go” (Isaiah 48:17-18).

Do not be afraid of their manoeuvres or be intimidated by their advances against you. If your intentions are good and premised on the truth, ‘wisdom is vindicated by her works’.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the tenacity to tolerate and rise above those who scheme, gossip and manoeuvre against us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who support us, who encourage us and pick us up when we’re beaten and laid down by the machinations of evil men.

14 December, Thursday – Their Fruit

Dec 14 – Memorial for St. John of the Cross, priest, religious, doctor of the Church

John (1675–1726) was born in poverty. He cared for the poor in the hospital in Medina. He became a lay Carmelite brother in 1563 at age 21, though he lived stricter than their Rule. He studied at Salamanca. He was ordained a Carmelite priest in 1567 at age 25.

He was persuaded by St. Teresa of Avila to begin the Discalced (or barefoot) reform within the Carmelite Order, and took on the name John of the Cross. He was a master of novices, and spiritual director and confessor at St. Teresa’s convent. His reforms did not sit well with some of his brothers, and he was ordered to return to Medina. He refused and was imprisoned at Toledo, Spain, and escaped after nine months.

He was vicar-general of Andalusia. His reforms revitalized the Order. He was a great contemplative and spiritual writer. On Aug 24, 1926, he was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI.

  • – Patron Saint Index


Isaiah 41:13-20

I, the Lord, your God, I am holding you by the right hand; I tell you, ‘Do not be afraid, I will help you.’

Do not be afraid, Jacob, poor worm, Israel, puny mite.’ I will help you – it is the Lord who speaks – the Holy One of Israel is your redeemer.

See, I turn you into a threshing-sled, new, with doubled teeth; you shall thresh and crush the mountains, and turn the hills to chaff.

You shall winnow them and the wind will blow them away, the gale will scatter them. But you yourself will rejoice in the Lord, and glory in the Holy One of Israel.

The poor and needy ask for water, and there is none, their tongue is parched with thirst. I, the Lord, will answer them, I, the God of Israel, will not abandon them.

I will make rivers well up on barren heights, and fountains in the midst of valleys; turn the wilderness into a lake, and dry ground into waterspring.

In the wilderness I will put cedar trees, acacias, myrtles, olives. In the desert I will plant juniper, plane tree and cypress side by side; so that men may see and know, may all observe and understand that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.


Matthew 11:11-15

Jesus spoke to the crowds: ‘I tell you solemnly, of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is. Since John the Baptist came, up to this present time, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence and the violent are taking it by storm. Because it was towards John that all the prophecies of the prophets and of the Law were leading; and he, if you will believe me, is the Elijah who was to return. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen!’


“… and the violent are taking it by force”

The image of ‘violent men’ is a strange one to be associated with the idea of a benevolent God. So often, ‘religious fervor’ is used as a means to justify Man’s end. In our time, the crimes committed against innocent, ordinary people in the name of ‘God’ have become something of a normal occurrence. That’s a sad indictment of our times. How did we arrive at this place?! These days, you can’t step into an airport or a crowded transportation hub without looking behind your back or casing the passengers around you. We live in a world that’s become warped by paranoia and rage, done allegedly in the name of ‘God’. When did anger become our ‘new normal’? How did we let ourselves get this way?

The violence inspired by the kingdom of heaven is not a new thing. From the time of Adam and Eve, Man has twisted God’s word to support his own cause and further his own end. People are not born angry and violent. Somewhere along the line, life events conditioned them to embrace the combative path for their own. God never asked us to wage a physical war with our brothers. Rather through Christ, He came to preach a message of love, acceptance and forgiveness. And John the Baptist paved the way for God’s message of redemption.

In the Book of Matthew, Christ chastises the Pharisees for misleading the people who looked to them for spiritual guidance. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to” (Matt 23:13). That’s always resonated with me. One’s spiritual progress really can be thwarted by men with ill intentions. I have personally experienced the discomfort of being around someone who likes to put forward contentious spiritual arguments, just to further his own agenda. You feel like you’re being mentally accosted. At times like this, when we feel ourselves being challenged, it’s an idea to do a ‘fruit’ test – does he bear good fruit? Will the fruit of his message endure through the ages? Is his fruit borne of love or something else?

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits… every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit… therefore by their fruits you will know them” – Matthew 7:15-20

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the wisdom to discern good men from those who would do us harm.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for our spiritual directors, who through the good fruit of their hearts, pass on Christ’s message of love, repentance and redemption.