Category Archives: Advent

24 December, Monday – I will prepare a place for you, a home within my heart.

24 December

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2 Samuel 7:1-5,8-12,14,16

Once David had settled into his house and the Lord had given him rest from all the enemies surrounding him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘Look, I am living in a house of cedar while the ark of God dwells in a tent.’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go and do all that is in your mind, for the Lord is with you.’

But that very night the word of the Lord came to Nathan:

‘Go and tell my servant David, “Thus the Lord speaks: Are you the man to build me a house to dwell in? I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be leader of my people Israel; I have been with you on all your expeditions; I have cut off all your enemies before you. I will give you fame as great as the fame of the greatest on earth. I will provide a place for my people Israel; I will plant them there and they shall dwell in that place and never be disturbed again; nor shall the wicked continue to oppress them as they did, in the days when I appointed judges over my people Israel; I will give them rest from all their enemies. The Lord will make you great; the Lord will make you a House. And when your days are ended and you are laid to rest with your ancestors, I will preserve the offspring of your body after you and make his sovereignty secure. I will be a father to him and he a son to me; if he does evil, I will punish him with the rod such as men use, with strokes such as mankind gives. Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me and your throne be established for ever.”’

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Luke 1:67-79

John’s father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:

‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel
for he has visited his people, he has come to their rescue
and he has raised up for us a power for salvation
in the House of his servant David,
even as he proclaimed,
by the mouth of his holy prophets from ancient times,
that he would save us from our enemies
and from the hands of all who hate us.
Thus he shows mercy to our ancestors,
thus he remembers his holy covenant
the oath he swore
to our father Abraham
that he would grant us, free from fear,
to be delivered from the hands of our enemies,
to serve him in holiness and virtue
in his presence, all our days.
And you, little child,
you shall be called Prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord
to prepare the way for him,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins;
this by the tender mercy of our God
who from on high will bring the rising Sun to visit us,
to give light to those who live
in darkness and the shadow of death
and to guide our feet
into the way of peace.’

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‘The Lord will make you a house’

 December is a busy month for most of us. On the work front, most of us are busy wrapping up the year. Before the year ends, it’s already ended! We are already into 2019 strategies, plans and executions.

On the home front, we would have been busy preparing our homes for Christmas. Putting up the tree, buying gifts and preparing the ingredients for the festive meal. Busy getting ready for the festivities and to welcome family and friends to our home.

December has traditionally been very stressful for me. My heart and mind are in 2 different places. When advent comes around and we are meant to prepare our hearts for Christmas, we are often pulled apart by busyness to even settle down. I struggle to calm down and silence my heart interiorly during advent. And sharing this with my friends, they feel the same too.

Recently, I heard a new song. It’s a beautiful song and really puts into perspective what this time is for, while we await the coming of Christmas. A line in the lyrics of the song goes… I will prepare a place for you, a home within my heart. I will make my heart your Bethlehem, where you oh Lord can enter in.

 Today’s first reading sees the Lord asking King David, ‘Are you the man to build me a house to dwell in?’. The Lord has been so generous to David. He has been there for David throughout his expeditions, protected him for his enemies. ‘I will give you fame as great as the fame of the greatest on earth….. The Lord will make you great; the Lord will make you a house.’ As we look back on the year, can we take stock of the times that the Lord has been there for us, through our ups and downs, through victories and even losses? Through the happy moments and painful ones? Are we today sitting right here in our homes, in our offices, on a bus or train, are we breathing, did we wake up this morning? The Lord has been with us all along. He too promises to make us a house. And our house will stand secure before Him. Just like David’s.

How are we preparing a place for Him? Will our Lord Jesus have a place to lay his head on this holy night of his birth? Are we ready to welcome Jesus into our homes, to celebrate His birthday? Can we spend these last few hours before Christmas preparing a home for Jesus – a place within our hearts? Have a blessed, holy Christmas my brothers and sisters.  May Jesus dwell in the home of your heart.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, may our hearts be your Bethlehem.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for the best gift a Father could ever give His children. Thank you for giving us your Son, Jesus Christ. As we await His birth, may we prepare a manger for Him in our hearts. May this ‘home’ be warm and welcoming.

23 December, Sunday – Thy will be done.

23 December 2018

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Micah 5:1-4  

The Lord says this:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
the least of the clans of Judah,
out of you will be born for me
the one who is to rule over Israel;
his origin goes back to the distant past,
to the days of old.
The Lord is therefore going to abandon them
till the time when she who is to give birth gives birth.
Then the remnant of his brothers will come back
to the sons of Israel.
He will stand and feed his flock
with the power of the Lord,
with the majesty of the name of his God.
They will live secure, for from then on he will extend his power
to the ends of the land.
He himself will be peace.

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Hebrews 10:5-10

This is what Christ said, on coming into the world:

You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation,
prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin;
then I said,
just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book,
‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’

Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.

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Luke 1:39-44

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.’

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“Here I am! I am coming to obey your will.”

 We pray the Lord’s Prayer each time we go for mass and even daily. But some of us have been so conditioned to recite this prayer without giving it a second thought. ‘Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’. But are we truly willing to give all we have and own to the Lord? Do we allow our Father to direct our lives? Or do we only ‘allow’ Him to lead when it is comfortable for us or fits into our plan? ‘Thy will be done’. Personally, I am always filled with trepidation whenever I pray that line. Because I know that My Father’s plan for me isn’t always my plan. His plan takes me into uncomfortable and unknown territory and that’s scary.

Recently, I prayed for the Lord to give me the courage to really submit to His will. I am not sure if that was a good idea, but shortly after, an avalanche of ‘invitations’ were extended to me.

As a result, I feel overwhelmed and yes, I feel extremely uncomfortable.

Days leading up to a retreat I was serving and also during the retreat proper, I have been asked to help out in our community’s forward strategic planning and communications. ‘Step up’, they say. In my own mind, I think to myself that I was asked because few people would want to do this on a volunteer basis. I do this professionally and this would be a good way of giving back; but I am hesitant and have not said ‘Yes!’

A more recent incident occurred when I was asked to do something, and this time, really against my will. I was asked to cantor the Responsorial Psalm in front of a large, unfamiliar crowd of people who are very used to extremely good cantors. Every fibre of my being was screaming ‘NO!’  I have been a part of this choir now for almost 8 years; very comfortable as part of the general choir and doing other work necessary to support the team in retreats. I do not have a great nor strong voice and so this request freaked me out. I had planned an ‘exit strategy’. A very viable and workable one. However, a very competitive part of me also challenged myself to just do it – to prove to others and myself that I would not chicken out. So when the time came, God allowed me exactly 45 seconds of calmness. I got through the Psalms. But as I sat down waiting my turn to do the gospel acclamation, my mind went blank and I simply forgot the tune. Too late and I whispered a quick prayer for the Holy Spirit to take over. Long story short – I survived the entire experience and I know the Holy Spirit took over. Will I do this again? Probably yes, not by my will, but by my Father’s.

I share this experience with you, my brothers and sisters, not to direct any attention to myself. The examples are share with you today are miniscule compared to other’s who have their lives turned upside down when they submit to Our Father.

Look at Mary in today’s gospel. Her trust and obedience to God led her to say ‘Yes’ although by any human standards, it seemed a really bad idea. Her ‘fiat’ led to many other ‘yes-s’. Her ‘yes’ led to a lot of pain, suffering and humiliation. Her ‘yes’ also gave her joy and happiness. Her ‘yes’ gave us her son, our Father’s Son – Our Lord and Saviour, whose birth we commemorate and will celebrate very soon.

Are we willing and truly open to really say ‘Thy will be done?’ knowing that Our Father’s will leads to a greater good than just our own?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Father, the next time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, let us pray this with our heart.  To truly and courageously say ‘Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven’. Give us the obedience to act and live according to Your Will and may our lives be living testimonies of putting you in the centre of everything. May we bring love, peace and hope to others this Christmas time.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your love and patience in teaching and moulding us. We thank you for showing us that when we obediently allow ourselves to be led by You, you show us all the wonderful possibilities and, more importantly, how our gifts and talents can be used to evangelise and bring others closer to you.

22 December, Saturday – The Almighty has done great things for me

22 December

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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.’

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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.

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“…the Lord granted me what I asked him.”

In writing today’s reflection, I can’t help but look back on the year 2018, and the journey I have been on. I am truly grateful for what the Lord has granted me, and the path He has laid out for me. Leaving corporate work at the end of last year to embark on my entrepreneurial pursuit was never the plan but, in doing so, He has opened so much possibilities. Opportunities for me to slow down and serve him, more time with my family, pursuits of interest and hobbies which would otherwise not have happened. Not to mention the self-development work I continue to explore. The road ahead is still uncertain for I still struggle with getting my business going and am discerning what is His plan for me.  Despite these struggles, I feel blessed for the year and what He has done for me.

Reciting the Magnificat found in today’s Gospel always gives me so much comfort and peace — the total surrender to His plan and the unwavering trust our Lady has inspires me. As the year comes to an end, there are regrets for things I could have done better, or people/encounters I could have deepened, but at the same time, knowing His plans are always the most perfect and what needed to be accomplished has been completed, I am at peace.

In our journey through life, let us never forget that He fulfills promises and will grant us our hearts desires.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, the road ahead is filled with uncertainty and, sometimes, in our struggles, we rely on our own strength and understanding. Help us never to forget the great blessings you have bestowed upon us and how you have always answered our prayers, help us to fix our gaze on you and cling to your cloak in our journey through life.

Thanksgiving: Abba Father, thank you for loving, even though we sometimes stray away from you, you have never abandoned us and always know what is best for us. Thank you for your providence, guidance and mercy.

21 December, Friday – Promises of God

21 December – Memorial for St. Peter Canisius, priest, doctor of the Church

Peter (1521–1597) was the son of Jacob Canisius, a wealthy burgomeister, and Ægidia van Houweningen, who died shortly after Peter’s birth. He was educated in Cologne, Germany, where he studied art, civil law, and theology. He received a master’s degree by age 19. His closest friends at university were monks and clerics.

He joined the Jesuits on May 8, 1543 after attending a retreat conducted by Bl. Peter Faber. He taught at the University of Cologne, and helped found the first Jesuit house in the city. He was ordained in 1546. He was theologian of Cardinal Otto Truchsess von Waldburg, Bishop of Augsburg in 1547.

He travelled and worked with St. Ignatius of Loyola who was his spiritual director in Rome, Italy. He taught rhetoric in Messina, Sicily in 1548, preaching in Italian and Latin. He was doctor of theology in 1549. He began teaching theology and preaching at Ingolstadt, Germany in 1549, and was rector of the university the following year.

In 1552 he began teaching theology, and preaching in the Cathedral of St. Stephen in Vienna, Austria. He was the royal court confessor even as he continued to work in hospitals and prisons. During Lent in 1553 he travelled to preach in abandoned parishes in Lower Austria.

During Mass one day, he received a vision of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and ever after offered his work to the Sacred Heart. He led the Counter-Reformation in Germany, Austria, Bohemia, and Switzerland, and his work led to the return of Catholicism to Germany. His catechism went through 200 editions during his lifetime, and was translated into 12 languages. In some places catechisms were referred to as “Canisi”.

He attended the Diets of Augsburg (1555), Ratisbon (1556, 1557), and founded Jesuit colleges in Ingolstadt, Prague, Dilingen, and Fribourg. Everywhere he worked he became a noted preacher, and often worked with children, teaching them and hearing their confessions.

He represented Pope Paul IV at the imperial Diet of Pieternow. He addressed the Council of Trent on the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. He recommended St. Stanislaus Kostka for reception as a Jesuit. He was court preacher to Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria.

While in Fribourg, Switzerland, he received a message from the city’s patron saint, Nicholas of Myra, that he should stop travelling. Canisius spent the rest of his life there. He taught, preached, edited books, and worked to support the Catholic press and printers in many cities. His advice was sought by St. Francis de Sales, and by his friend St. Charles Borromeo. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1925 by Pope Pius XI.

– Patron Saint Index

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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.’

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Luke 1:39-45

Mary set out at that time 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.’

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“filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Christmas is truly my favorite season of the year; it has always been since I was a child, even though my family were non-Catholics during my growing up years, and never really celebrated Christmas. Somehow, it has this magical spirit that was so captivating to me. Only years later when I received Christ did I truly comprehend its significance!

It was also during this season that my husband and I met (over caroling practice) and this year, we celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary. What makes it even more special for me as I reflected on today’s first reading, is that it was one of the readings chosen for our wedding mass and he sang these verses as I walked down the aisle.

There is such an atmosphere of joy and good cheer during Christmas and today’s readings remind us of Christ’s triumphant coming. So what is joy really? To me joy is not the absence of pain and suffering but to have joy in spite of it. In 21 years of marriage, we have had our fair share of ups and downs. We have gone through many trials, but through it all, we never felt abandoned by the Lord. These difficulties strengthened us and our marriage, and it is because Jesus has been with us through it all, and He still is! When Mary visited Elizabeth carrying the child Jesus, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leapt for joy and “she was filled with the Holy Spirit.” So it is in our marriage and in our lives, wherever we go, as long as we have Christ in us, joy follows! True joy is not found in the future or the often mistaken view that we will be happy ‘only if…’; only if we live in a bigger house; only if we have that promotion; only if we get to go on that holiday etc. True joy is found here and now for His spirit lives in us!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to see the joy that is around us in our everyday life, to see the joy that is within us, and to celebrate being alive in the Spirit. For you are with us, and nothing else matters.

Thanksgiving: Our Father in Heaven, we are grateful for your unyielding love and for giving us Jesus to redeem our sins, and for the Holy Spirit that lives in us.

20 December, Thursday – God is with us

20 December

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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.”’

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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.

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“…Immanuel.”

God is with us…..just pause for a moment and let these words sink in slowly — GOD IS WITH US.

I am guilty of keeping this at the head level and not hold this dear to my heart. In the busyness of everyday life, worrying about my business, worrying about the children and what is ahead of me, I have often relied on my own strength and understanding. Even in times of joy and happiness, I have often neglected to stop and ponder on this beautiful mystery. And yet, especially when life becomes overwhelming, it is important to slow down, to pause and remind myself of His presence.

Our family took a trip to Hokkaido recently, and we were exposed to subzero temperatures. The silence was deafeningly beautiful and, in that moment, standing in the snow with the wind blowing, I found God once again. This reminded me of saint Mother Teresa’s quote: “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass — grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

Just like our beautiful Mother, her purpose in life was fulfilled when she was deep in prayer and in the silence of the night. As in today’s Gospel, when she said those famous words “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me.” None of this would have happened if not because of Mary’s devotion to God and seeking him in the silence.

I am reminded today to persevere in my quiet time with the Lord, so as to hold dear in my heart that God is with us, as saint Mother Teresa said that nature grows in silence, and we need silence to be able to touch souls. I am part of nature and his creation and I grow and move in silence.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, let my soul be touched by you in silence. Help me to remain faithful to you throughout my day. Even in the busyness of the season, I can find silence; to reach into my heart and soul to encounter you in every moment and hear the whisper “I am with you.”

Thanksgiving: Our Father in Heaven, thank you for blessing us with nature and the changing of seasons, for in these encounters with your creation we are reminded of your presence here on earth.

19 December, Wednesday – Children and Believers of Action

19 December

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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.

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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.’

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“Listen!”

For every birthday I had as a child, my grandaunt did two things consistently. First thing was to cook me a bowl of mee sua (rice noodles) and the next thing was to have me pick out some ‘lucky numbers’ for her to go and buy the lottery in the hope of winning some money.

Growing up, it was her belief that in order for us to escape poverty, we needed help from others. She often talked about how her children did not bother to help her (or to be more correct, us) by providing more for us. Now, please do not get me wrong; my grandaunt was an extremely hardworking woman, and she took very good care of me. She truly loved me.

What struck me was how I take on this mindset when I am thinking of God. Often, I find myself thinking this: “Oh, if only God would provide me with a fantastic career, or if this prayer was answered, or if circumstances would turn out the way I want them.” All too often, I end up sitting back and waiting for the Lord to provide.

In both readings today, effort was required of the recipients of good news. In the first reading, Samson’s father, Manoah, received the good news from an angel of the Lord that his wife (who was barren) was to conceive. They were to eat cleanly, and not consume any strong drink. In addition, the child was not to cut his hair. Similarly, in the Gospel, Zechariah too, received good news that his wife Elizabeth would conceive and bear a child, John the Baptist. The child was not to drink wine and consume no strong drink.

The point is, both these readings highlight the fact that we, the people of God, have a part to play in God’s plan. We are not expected to be mere passive recipients of good news. Instead, we are to play an active role. In Isaiah 48:17, we are instructed that our God is the Lord our God, and He directs us in the way we should GO. This clearly means that action is required of us.

In discerning what is required of us, this also means that we need to be consistently plugged into an active relationship with God. We need to be in consistent dialogue with our Lord, listening to His instructions for us.

May we be always open to His messages and that we may find courage and strength to act on this actions required of us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we may be able to hear and discern what You require of us Father. Help us to be obedient children and servants!

Thanksgiving: We praise and thank You for the role You have played in our lives, Father God. We thank You for always being there for us, even if we have been blind to You.

18 December, Tuesday – Plugging In

18 December

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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:
The-Lord-our-integrity.

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.”

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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.

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“… it is the Lord who speaks…”

The gift I have been praying to receive for the longest time is the gift of Wisdom. I would like to be able to discern if the actions and thoughts I undertake are within God’s plan.

In my (former) corporate career, I was praying hard for career progression and was glad that my prayers were answered. I had been on a holiday when I had been inspired to pray for this. When I returned to the office after that, I was told that I would be heading one of the existing sales teams. Announcements to this effect were made and I was to assume this new role within a few weeks.

I was upset, therefore, when I heard that this promotion was to be put off, due in part to politics (the existing team members did not like me owing to some previous misunderstanding). Given such strong objections to my new appointment, my supervisor had wanted to put off my promotion till a later date.

I was frustrated and considered resigning. I lost sleep and life became unbearable.

I felt I was ‘wise’, and was able to discern the plans that the Lord had for me, and then it hit me; I had been trying to do this on my own strength. It was then that I returned to praying, lifting all to the Lord. I prayed that whatever the outcome, I would lift all I had to Him and I had faith that everything that happened would be as He desired.

What happened was that my manager ended up creating a new team for me to manage. With the lack of emotional/political baggage, this new team managed to outperform the existing sales teams. Because of this, I ended up being promoted again within seven months to head the whole department.  Imagine if I had relied on my own understanding, wrongly believing this to be the message God wanted me to hear? This would have been ironic, given that I had not lifted these concerns to Him, instead choosing to play the various scenarios in my own mind.

In today’s Gospel, we read about how Joseph had wanted to divorce Mary, and yet decided otherwise, after he was prompted by the angel Gabriel to continue with their marriage. He did not depend on his own knowledge or thoughts. Instead, he trusted in his relationship with God.

So must it be with us. Like electrical appliances, we can only tap our God-given talents when we continue to draw on His power.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Help us to continually turn to you to draw strength and knowledge, Father. We pray that we may always pay heed to the Holy Spirit that continues to whisper to us.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for blessing us with Your Holy Spirit, for sending us an Advocate to whom we can always turn to.

17 December, Monday – God Is Enough For Me

17 December

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Genesis 49:2,8-10

Jacob called his sons and said:

‘Gather round, sons of Jacob, and listen;
listen to Israel your father.
Judah, your brothers shall praise you:
you grip your enemies by the neck,
your father’s sons shall do you homage,
Judah is a lion cub,
you climb back, my son, from your kill;
like a lion he crouches and lies down,
or a lioness: who dare rouse him?
The sceptre shall not pass from Judah,
nor the mace from between his feet,
until he come to whom it belongs,
to whom the peoples shall render obedience.’

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Matthew 1:1-17

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

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

The sum of generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.

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“…until he come to whom it belongs, to whom he peoples shall render obedience”

My wife and I were recently involved in the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER) held for the parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (OLPS). Specifically, I was asked to play in the music ministry, which was formed out of a group of ex-CER retreatants.

When I received the WhatsApp messages from a brother and his wife (both long-time and close friends), I did not answer immediately.  Instead, I took about two weeks to think about it.

One of the biggest concerns was that I had not played guitar for about a year and felt I was not good enough to play in such a ministry. This feeling of inadequacy was made worse after I attended the first practice session where I realised ALL the musicians were so well-trained that they actually did not need music song sheets to play along!

Over time, despite the disparity in the level of musical talent between my band members and I, we played together and had a level of understanding and communication that was surprising to me. Somehow, only God could know how well we would play and understand each other.

I was caught up in the trap of thinking I needed to be perfect in order to serve God. Instead, I should have trusted that God would take who I was and make me perfect enough.

The readings today reinforces this.

In Jesus’ geneology, we see Judah (who had slept with his daughter-in-law, Tamar, who had been dressed as a prostitute at the time), Ruth (from the tribe of Moab, a tribe begotten when Lot was held and raped by his two daughters) and finally David (who had committed adultery with Bathsheba).

In spite of such imperfection, God had chosen this particular lineage for Jesus to be born into. If perfection was totally important in God’s redemptive work, He could easily have chosen another ‘more perfect’ family.

How powerful! God truly is enough!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we may have faith in You Father, that You will make us enough. Enough to serve You and enough to serve all around us.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful, Father God, for loving us. For telling us that we, and our faith in You, is enough.

16 December, Sunday – True Happiness in the Lord

16 December 2018

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Zephaniah 3:14-18

Shout for joy, daughter of Zion,
Israel, shout aloud!
Rejoice, exult with all your heart,
daughter of Jerusalem!
The Lord has repealed your sentence;
he has driven your enemies away.
The Lord, the king of Israel, is in your midst;
you have no more evil to fear.

When that day comes, word will come to Jerusalem:
Zion, have no fear,
do not let your hands fall limp.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a victorious warrior.
He will exult with joy over you,
he will renew you by his love;
he will dance with shouts of joy for you
as on a day of festival.

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Philippians 4:4-7

I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord; I repeat, what I want is your happiness. Let your tolerance be evident to everyone: the Lord is very near.
There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus.

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Luke 3:10-18

When all the people asked John, ‘What must we do?’ he answered, ‘If anyone has two tunics he must share with the man who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.’ There were tax collectors too who came for baptism, and these said to him, ‘Master, what must we do?’ He said to them, ‘Exact no more than your rate.’ Some soldiers asked him in their turn, ‘What about us? What must we do?’ He said to them, ‘No intimidation! No extortion! Be content with your pay!’

A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to think that John might be the Christ, so John declared before them all, ‘I baptise you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’ As well as this, there were many other things he said to exhort the people and to announce the Good News to them.

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“I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord…”

I recently heard a lovely story.

Someone was shopping in a discount store when she spied a mother walking with her two children; an older child and a toddler.

The toddler was fussing, wanting to hold one of the glowsticks that the mother had just bought. To stop him crying, the mother removed one of the sticks and gave it to the toddler, who promptly stopped crying and was happy to just hold it.

The elder child took the glowstick and the toddler immediately began crying again. Before the mother could even chide the elder child, the boy broke the glowstick and returned it to the toddler, who was once again, happy. In a few seconds, he noticed that the glowstick had begun to emit a beautiful yellow hue. The elder brother responded, lovingly, “I had to break the glowstick so it would glow for you!”.

The toddler had been satisfied just to hold the glowstick (sans the glow!) but enjoyed something totally surpassing his original expectations with the glow! What a beautiful metaphor for our relationship with our God!

In the second reading of today, St Paul talked about being “happy in the Lord”. Very often, for me, this happiness is coloured by my own expectations. I want to be happy in the Lord, but only if things come out in the way I expect them to. In my mind, I am thinking: “Lord, please make things come out this way, or that way, and I’ll be happy”. If events do not quite pan out the way I expect, I am often disappointed.

I am like the little toddler in the story. I do not know the beauty that could come about if things were ‘broken’. Challenges that could happen; work or career difficulty, struggles with relationships, personal spiritual struggles, all serve to unleash the potential glow in me.

Let us be open to our Lord. Let us not treat Him as our personal faith-dispensing machine. Our God knows what is best for us. All we need to do is to trust and to wait for the glow to happen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, we pray that we may have the spirit of trust that whatever happens, happens to help us release our ‘glow’. Help us to have faith in You always, and not tie You to our expectations.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for blessing us always, no matter whatever happens in our lives. We praise You and we thank You for all that we experience, whether we perceive them to be good, or bad. We trust that You will continue to watch and take care of us always.

15 December, Saturday – Entering into Relationship

15 December

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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.

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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.

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They did not recognise him but treated him as they pleased; and the Son of Man will suffer similarly at their hands.

In less than two weeks, it will be Christmas. The night of the Christmas Vigil Mass, we will then see the figure of baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the crib of the manger. This is the scene we would be none the wiser to recognise, if we were one of the wise men that fateful desert night. And that was part of God’s elaborate, intricate plan.

It is precisely this detail of our powerful God choosing to enter our world as a vulnerable and needing baby that reveals to us where His heart truly lies. He chose to appear in the flesh of the defenseless and uncelebrated. He deliberately chose vulnerability every time, as a baby and as the crucified Christ. Each time, the hearts of only a few were open to receiving Him, the eyes of only some could witness His surrendered glory.

The wise men had to strip off all presumptions of majesty in order to see the Christ-child. The young girl who first bowed her head with humble Fiat embraced vulnerability to be the holy vessel of the Immaculate Conception. She had to abandon worldly caution, social customs, and human logic. Joseph would defy his strict Jewish faith to obey the illogical command of this Mystery.

This ability to surrender and follow requires of us the willingness to enter into relationship with the Beloved. It is not possible to trust someone you do not know well – much less when the impossible is asked of your trust! To choose “Yes”, one needs to have faith that there is good ultimately in the end, no matter what evidences and reality is presented. Mary and Joseph, who brought to birth Christ to the world, were in deep communion with God, to the extent that their logical selves must have screamed, “You crazy!” in some of these moments, especially at the Annunciation. “Happy shall they be who see you, and those who have fallen asleep in love.” (Ecc. 48:12). In other translations, love is read as “friendship”.

Entering into earthly relationships is so tough. Whether they be romantic or friendships. We have to shed defences, and reveal vulnerabilities, in order to unlock the door towards new levels of intimacy, trust, and fellowship. It’s risky, terrifying, and it’s like giving someone the chance to disappoint you or break your heart. But at the same time, it is liberating to be able to choose trust. The freedom that came with spiritual surrender to God’s plan, enabled Mary and Joseph to keep saying “Yes” to how God used them, and where He led them.

I can imagine that it was only in the first “Yes”, that their intimacy and reliance on God deepened, and their relationship with Him continued to be strengthened and purified. It may have appeared ridiculous from the outside, but the interior room of their hearts was unlocked for Christ’s entrance. God was still actively moulding their journey of faith. They were actively remaining pliable and open to the Potter’s hands.

Recalling the prophet Elijah, who was considered a raving lunatic and an outcast amongst the people of Israel who had turned to worship Baal, Jesus uses the Old Testament prophecies to bring the disciples’ attention to the way John the Baptist’s ascetic life was being mocked in his time. For this same reason, the Memorial of St John of the Cross was chosen for this day’s readings. None of them could have continued on their paths and mission if not for their deep relationship with God and their abiding trust in His love and purpose. With that, they were able to choose present foolishness and ridicule, lay open their vulnerabilities, and push to birth God’s plan – an elaborate plan that could only be appreciated in retrospect.

His veiled power emanates from these hidden moments. A babe in swaddling cloths would overpower human sense. A cloth-less man in his prime hung on condemned cross would be the Saviour of the world. This divine plan of God had been set in motion since the beginning of time (John 1:1-5). It’s time we entered into this scene with Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Debbie Loo)

Prayer:  I thank you God for the models of faith in Mary and Joseph, who inspire us to enter into a deep relationship with You.

Thanksgiving:  I pray for the courage to be vulnerable, to remain open to Your love and purposes, starting with baby steps.