Category Archives: Christmas Season

9 January, Monday – Complete Humility

9 January 2017

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Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7

Thus says the Lord:

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

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

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

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

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

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Acts 10:34-38

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

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

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Matthew 3:13-17

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

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

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“Do all that righteousness demands.”

In my previous career, I worked as a banker. Since I left this job in 2014, I have gone into, amongst other businesses, internet marketing. In this world, it is particularly interesting that many make themselves out to be experts in their respective fields. I remember a course I once took with such an ‘expert’, only to realise that his level of knowledge was nowhere near the level he claimed he had.

Similarly, in my previous corporate life, I would try my hardest to appear to be the smartest person in the room. In meetings and other interactions, I would often say things to make myself sound more important than I was.

We need to learn humility from our Lord and God. Despite being the Son of God and being sent to Earth as our Saviour, Jesus had the humility to ask John the Baptist to baptise Him. From the gospel, we know that this was not ‘for show’, but was something He felt was necessary and right to do.

Like Jesus, we should learn to have a humble heart and learn to focus on what is truly important.  We should not be caught up in the trivial and the less important aspects of our lives.  Instead, we should focus on what matters — our ‘insides’.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Lord, help us always to recognise the important and to sieve out the trivial. We ask for the gift of Your wisdom to discern and to always have the humility to do what is right.

ThanksgivingJesus, we thank You for teaching us the importance of being humble. We are grateful that we have You as a model to learn from and aspire to be like.

8 January, Sunday – God reaches out to us

8 January 2017

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Isaiah 60:1-6

Arise, shine out, Jerusalem, for your light has come,
the glory of the Lord is rising on you,
though night still covers the earth
and darkness the peoples.

Above you the Lord now rises
and above you his glory appears.
The nations come to your light
and kings to your dawning brightness.

Lift up your eyes and look round:
all are assembling and coming towards you,
your sons from far away
and your daughters being tenderly carried.

At this sight you will grow radiant,
your heart throbbing and full;
since the riches of the sea will flow to you,
the wealth of the nations come to you;

camels in throngs will cover you,
and dromedaries of Midian and Ephah;
everyone in Sheba will come,
bringing gold and incense
and singing the praise of the Lord.

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Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6

You have probably heard how I have been entrusted by God with the grace he meant for you, and that it was by a revelation that I was given the knowledge of the mystery. This mystery that has now been revealed through the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets was unknown to any men in past generations; it means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Jesus Christ, through the gospel.

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Matthew 2:1-12

After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews?’ they asked. ‘We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.’ When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born. ‘At Bethlehem in Judaea,’ they told him ‘for this is what the prophet wrote:

And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah,
for out of you will come a leader
who will shepherd my people Israel.’

Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them on to Bethlehem. ‘Go and find out all about the child,’ he said ‘and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’ Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward, and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.

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“Where is the infant king of the Jews?”

The story of the three wise men in the Epiphany had always intrigued me, even before I became a Christian. I often wondered how God reached out and spoke with these three kings, and more importantly, how they were led to find Jesus.

These three men get only a brief mention in the gospel of Matthew, but what is evident to me was that they were seeking the stars — seeking God. It was because they were looking out for Him that they saw the Star in the first place. I had often wondered if I did not seek God, would I have been able to see Him at all.

For three to four years, in my late twenties, I stopped going to church. Facing challenges in a personal relationship, I was angry and felt abandoned by God. And yet, on hindsight, I recognized that God had been reaching out to me throughout this period. Even while I was not seeking Him, I now recognise so many occasions when He was there for me.

After I reconciled with God and as I developed a deeper relationship with Him, I grew to realise that many of the things I did in my secular life did not sit well with my faith. Over time, I had to ‘take a different route,’ as the three wise men did, after their encounter with Jesus.

This journey after my Jesus encounter has not ended and continues even today.  Let us remember that our Epiphany should not be a destination, but should be a journey.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Lord, help us always to seek You and to bow before You. Help us Lord to recognize You, help us to have the desire always to reach out to You. Help us to have the courage to be converted by our relationship with You.

ThanksgivingThank You Father, for reaching out to us, whatever our disposition is. Thank you for always loving us, in spite of our personal circumstances.

6 January, Friday – Unshakable Faith

6 January 2016

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1 John 5:5-13

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

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

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Mark 1:6-11

In the course of his preaching John said, ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’
It was at this time that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised in the Jordan by John. No sooner had he come up out of the water than he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’

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

Beliefs can be a very powerful tool for people. There are those who are willing to die for their beliefs in the face of opposition, and the Catholic Church is filled with the examples and stories of martyrs which encourage us to hold onto our faith. Whilst these martyrs have certainly given up their lives for their beliefs, martyrdom is also suffered in a different form in this modern day and age.

We will be constantly attacked for our beliefs in the office e.g. engaging in acts which border on being illegal or immoral. It is in such times like these that we have to re-examine what we stand for. It is easy to go with the flow and say that because everyone is doing it, it is ok to engage in such actions. I pray for each one of us that we will not be placed in such a position where we have to make such difficult decisions; but if we do, that we turn to God the Holy Spirit within us to guide us on what we need to do. The readings of today remind us that God the Holy Spirit is given to us in this present day and age to help us make decisions in an uncertain world.

As Christians, we need to be in constant contact with God the Holy Spirit to enlighten us on our actions and not take things for granted. To take a decision which is God-filled requires us to sometimes, or even most of the time, go against the flow of the world. This is something we can do as long as we are firm in our Faith. The issue here is not the recognition which the world offers us but that we make a decision based on the principles which God has given us. As we do so, we will be able to let others see that we are Christians who believe in the Son of God and are unwavering in our beliefs.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to hold onto our Faith despite persecutions.

ThanksgivingWe give thanks for all who hold onto their Faith despite persecution.

5 January, Thursday – A Life of Deeds

5 January 2017

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1 John 3:11-21

This is the message
as you heard it from the beginning:
that we are to love one another;
not to be like Cain, who belonged to the Evil One
and cut his brother’s throat;
cut his brother’s throat simply for this reason,
that his own life was evil and his brother lived a good life.
You must not be surprised, brothers, when the world hates you;
we have passed out of death and into life,
and of this we can be sure
because we love our brothers.
If you refuse to love, you must remain dead;
to hate your brother is to be a murderer,
and murderers, as you know, do not have eternal life in them.
This has taught us love –
that he gave up his life for us;
and we, too, ought to give up our lives for our brothers.
If a man who was rich enough in this world’s goods
saw that one of his brothers was in need,
but closed his heart to him,
how could the love of God be living in him?

My children,
our love is not to be just words or mere talk,
but something real and active;
only by this can we be certain
that we are children of the truth
and be able to quieten our conscience in his presence,
whatever accusations it may raise against us,
because God is greater than our conscience and he knows everything.

My dear people,
if we cannot be condemned by our own conscience,
we need not be afraid in God’s presence.

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John 1:43-51

After Jesus had decided to leave for Galilee, he met Philip and said, ‘Follow me.’ Philip came from the same town, Bethsaida, as Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, the one about whom the prophets wrote: he is Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.’ ‘From Nazareth?’ said Nathanael ‘Can anything good come from that place?’ ‘Come and see’ replied Philip.

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said of him, ‘There is an Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit.’ ‘How do you know me?’ said Nathanael ‘Before Philip came to call you,’ said Jesus ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ Nathanael answered, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.’ Jesus replied, ‘You believe that just because I said: I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.’ And then he added ‘I tell you most solemnly, you will see heaven laid open and, above the Son of Man, the angels of God ascending and descending.’

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[O]ur love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active.

I once had a non-Christian friend comment to me that he admires Christians because it is the only Faith where the Son of God come down to save His creatures. It caught me by surprise when he mentioned it to me in that manner because I have never considered it from that angle. The readings of today remind us of the need to live out a life of action and not just to pay lip-service.

Perhaps we can draw a lesson from Nathanael, who wanted to follow somebody who was of action and hence was concerned about the origin of the person. Jesus eventually answered all the questions he had but we could also ask ourselves if we are a bit like Nathanael, who insists on seeing things here and now. The Faith we possess allows us to continue to trust in God’s abundant mercy and love despite the lack of action and physical movement in our presence.

As Christians, we should show others the importance of love because of our Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We should not engage in actions just to please the people around us but because we want to make manifest the love of God in our lives to all whom we meet. In doing so, we draw closer to Jesus’ example to show His love for us even to the extent of our death.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us follow your example in showing love unconditionally to all around us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who proclaim their Faith.

4 January, Wednesday – A Holy Life

4 January 2017

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1 John 3:7-10

My children, do not let anyone lead you astray:
to live a holy life
is to be holy just as he is holy;
to lead a sinful life is to belong to the devil,
since the devil was a sinner from the beginning.
It was to undo all that the devil has done
that the Son of God appeared.
No one who has been begotten by God sins;
because God’s seed remains inside him,
he cannot sin when he has been begotten by God.

In this way we distinguish the children of God
from the children of the devil:
anybody not living a holy life
and not loving his brother
is no child of God’s.

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John 1:35-42

As John stood with two of his disciples, Jesus passed, and John stared hard at him and said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God.’ Hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. Jesus turned round, saw them following and said, ‘What do you want?’ They answered, ‘Rabbi,’ – which means Teacher –’where do you live?’ ‘Come and see’ he replied; so they went and saw where he lived, and stayed with him the rest of that day. It was about the tenth hour.
One of these two who became followers of Jesus after hearing what John had said was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. Early next morning, Andrew met his brother and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ – which means the Christ – and he took Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked hard at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John; you are to be called Cephas’ – meaning Rock.

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[T]o live a holy life is to be holy just as God is holy

What is a holy life? I have been wondering what does it mean to become a person who is living a life of holiness to the people around us? It used to be for me, the continued repetition of certain prayers and the ability to recall as many prayers as I could possibly do. Yet I believe that our Faith is deeper and richer than just a recollection of prayers but also goes down to the meaning of the words within the prayer.

To understand our Faith is to enter into the depths of the Mystery of the Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery of Jesus’ life, death and Resurrection. Indeed what matters is that we reflect on what Christ’s birth means to our lives. Receiving Christ in our hearts is a wonderful gift and yet this gift is not meant to be kept but to be shared with others, in order for us to appreciate the need of dying to ourselves. We need to put on the Cross all things which hamper us from drawing closer to God.

God never forces us to love Him because He respects our free will. Indeed, such things in our life are best not to force upon ourselves, because only when we enter into something freely will we accept the challenges which such a belief will entail. We will then be able to live out the words of the prayers, which we recite regularly, and grow closer to God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us live a life of sanctity for others to be edified.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those struggling with their Faith.

2 January, Monday – The Truth

2 Jan – Memorial for Sts. Basil the Great & Gregory Nazianzen, bishops

Basil the Great (329-379) was a noble by birth. His parents and four of his nine siblings were canonized, including St. Gregory of Nyssa. He was the grandson of St. Marcina the Elder. As a youth, he was noted for organizing famine relief, and for working in the kitchens himself, quite unusual for a young noble.

He studied in Constantinople and Athens with his friend St. Gregory Nazianzen. He ran a school of oratory and law in Caesarea. He was so successful and sought after as a speaker that he was tempted by pride. Fearful that it would overtake his piety, he sold all that he had, gave away the money, and became a priest and monk.

He founded monasteries and dew up rules for monks living in the desert. He is considered as key to the founding of eastern monasticism as Benedict was to the west. He was the bishop and archbishop of Caesarea. He conducted Mass and preached to the crowds twice daily. He fought Arianism, is a Greek Doctor of the Church, and a Father of the Church.

Gregory of Nazianzen (330-390) was the son of St. Gregory of Nazianzen the Elder and St. Nonna, brother of St. Caesar Nazianzen, and St. Gorgonius. He spent an itinerant youth in search of learning. He was a friend and fellow student with St. Basil the Great, and a monk at Basil’s desert monastery.

He was a reluctant priest, feeling himself unworthy, and fearing that the responsibility would test his faith. He assisted his bishop father to prevent an Arian schism in the diocese. He opposed Arianiam and brought its heretical followers back to the fold. He became Bishop of Caesarea in 370 which put him in conflict with the Arian emperor Valens. the disputes led his friend Basil the Great, then archbishop, to reassign him to a small, out of the way posting at the edge of the archbishopric.

Following the death of Valens, he was appointed Bishop of Constantinople from 381-390. He hated the city, despised the violence and slander involved in these disputes, and feared being drawn into politics and corruption. But he worked to bring the Arians back to the faith. For his trouble, he was slandered, insulted, beaten up, and a rival “bishop” tried to take over his diocese.

He was a noted preacher on the Trinity. When it seemed that the faith had been restored in the city, Gregory retired to live the rest of his days as a hermit. He wrote theological discourses and poetry, some of it religious, some of it autobiographical. He was a Father of the Church, and a Doctor of the Church.

  • Patron Saint Index

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1 John 2:22-28

The man who denies that Jesus is the Christ –
he is the liar,
he is Antichrist;
and he is denying the Father as well as the Son,
because no one who has the Father can deny the Son,
and to acknowledge the Son is to have the Father as well.
Keep alive in yourselves what you were taught in the beginning:
as long as what you were taught in the beginning is alive in you,
you will live in the Son
and in the Father;
and what is promised to you by his own promise
is eternal life.
This is all that I am writing to you about the people who are trying to lead you astray.
But you have not lost the anointing that he gave you,
and you do not need anyone to teach you;
the anointing he gave teaches you everything;
you are anointed with truth, not with a lie,
and as it has taught you, so you must stay in him.
Live in Christ, then, my children,
so that if he appears, we may have full confidence,
and not turn from him in shame
at his coming.

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John 1:19-28

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.

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Keep alive in yourself what you were taught in the beginning

I once had a question posed to me as follows, “What is so true about the Catholic Faith which makes it superior over the rest?” It is easy to go along the lines of why my Christian Faith, based on the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, is superior over the other believers of Christ but perhaps the manner in which we present ourselves will allow us to better convince the person asking the question.

That question got me thinking and reflecting on what mattered in my Faith, and the readings of today are helpful to guide us. What we have been taught in the beginning is that God loved us so much that He sent His only Son into the world to save us from the consequences of sin. Indeed, this season of Christmas reminds us that Christ came into this world to come and save us from our sins. Amidst the feasting and enjoyment of the people around us, we need to also be models of Faith and examples to all whom we meet. This means that we will need to continue to hold close to the love of God in our lives and deepen our Faith towards all whom we meet.

We can continue to do so by asking God to grant us the humility of heart to listen to His voice, and make us willing to accept the message He has taught us and to continue to share it with the people whom we meet. Let us continue to persevere in our Faith and soldier on despite the various difficulties we face.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear Father, we pray for strength to preach your message boldly.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who are involved in missionary work in foreign lands.

1 January, Sunday – Due Credit

 

1 Jan – Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God

The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God is celebrated on Jan 1, the Octave Day of Christmas (i.e. 8th day after Christmas). It is a celebration of Mary’s motherhood of Jesus. The title “Mother of God” is a western derivation from the Greek term ‘theotokos’, the God-bearer.

The term ‘theotokos’ was adopted at the Council of Ephesus as a way to assert the divinity of Christ, from which it follows that what is declared of Christ is declared of God. So, if Mary is the mother of Jesus, she is the Mother of God. Therefore, the title ‘Mother of God’ and the ‘Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God’, which celebrates her under this title, are at once Mariological and Christological.

  • Wikipedia

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Numbers 6:22-27

The Lord spoke to Moses and said, ‘Say this to Aaron and his sons: “This is how you are to bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them:

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace.”

This is how they are to call down my name on the sons of Israel, and I will bless them.’

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Galatians 4:4-7

When the appointed time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law and to enable us to be adopted as sons. The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’, and it is this that makes you a son, you are not a slave any more; and if God has made you son, then he has made you heir.

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Luke 2:16-21

The shepherds hurried away to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was exactly as they had been told.

When the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before his conception.

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‘As for Mary, she treasured all these things in and pondered them in her heart.’

There is an ancient advent prayer called the Christmas Anticipation Prayer and it goes like this,

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born Of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.”

What strikes me is where it says “in the piercing cold”. They had been travelling a long distance already, while heavily pregnant and it got me pondering how we can get caught up in the beauty and majesty and wonder of the incarnation, and rightly so, but we should also reserve some time to remember Mary’s role in all of this. And in this special role she played, she suffered greatly.

Simeon said at Jesus’ presentation in the temple that a spear shall also pierce her heart and she suffered many agonies when Jesus was undergoing his passion; which brings us back to the 9 months of labour. I know first-hand how difficult and painful it can be for a mother when morning sickness kicks in, when clothes don’t fit, when feet become swollen and when your back starts aching. Worst of all, when Mary watched and suffered in silence when her son, the Saviour of the world was beaten nearly to death and then hung for all to see until he breathed his last.

For a long time, I wasn’t quite sure of Mary’s role in my own life, until I undertook a 54-day Novena and really struggled through meditating upon Jesus’ life during those 54 days. At some point during the 54 days, I fell deeply in love with the Rosary and consequently with The Blessed Virgin. Some time later, my wife and I undertook the ‘33 Days to Morning Glory’ retreat and Mary’s role in salvation, and in my own life, became so much clearer and concrete.

When Jesus was on the cross, he gave Mary to all of us when he said to the beloved apostle to take her as his mother and in the year 431, the Council of Ephesus declared that Mary is the Theotokos or God-bearer; Mother of God.

She suffered greatly for us, and she still does. She has taken us into her heart as her children, and just as children very often do not give due credit to their mothers, so do we sometimes. The Memorare has become very close to me as I seek her maternal care and providence in my life and I pray that you too, may discover that Mary, Mother of God is also our mother in the order of grace; and she will indeed care for us as a mother does, maybe that is why it is often said that mothers know best.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer: Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence I fly unto thee O Virgin of Virgins, my mother. To you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the word incarnate, despise not my petitions but in your mercy hear and answer me, Amen.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank you for giving us a human example or grace and humility to emulate and for giving her to us as a mother to intercede and to pour out graces upon us according to your will. Help us to love her as you did so that we may come to you, through her.

 

31 December, Saturday – New Year Resolutions

Dec 31 – Memorial for St. Sylvester I, pope

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

  • Patron Saint Index

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1 John 2:18-21

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

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John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word:
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things came to be,
not one thing had its being but through him.
All that came to be had life in him
and that life was the light of men,
a light that shines in the dark,
a light that darkness could not overpower.

A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.

The Word was the true light
that enlightens all men;
and he was coming into the world.
He was in the world
that had its being through him,
and the world did not know him.
He came to his own domain
and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to all who believe in the name of him
who was born not out of human stock
or urge of the flesh
or will of man
but of God himself.

The Word was made flesh,
he lived among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father,
full of grace and truth.

John appears as his witness. He proclaims:
‘This is the one of whom I said:
He who comes after me ranks before me
because he existed before me.’

Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received –
yes, grace in return for grace,
since, though the Law was given through Moses,
grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God;
it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart,
who has made him known.

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And we saw his glory

We have reached the last day of 2016. As I type this, I am watching a television programme that is reviewing the key events of the year that is about to pass. There were moments of great joy, and also great sorrow. There were also fun moments. The one event that had the greatest impact on me, interestingly, was a game called Pokemon Go. In order to capture the water Pokemon from the many Pokemon stops at the reservoir park, I made my way there. It was a momentous occasion, as I am usually found on the couch at home and never at the reservoir park, which is walking distance from home. The game got me addicted for a couple of months and even till now, there is a large number of addicts roaming around parks and other hotspots.

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

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

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for 2016, for the good, the bad and the ugly, as they have contributed, in one way or another, to our relationship with our Lord.

30 December, Friday – Challenges of the Call

Dec 30 – Feast of the Holy Family

We celebrate the Holy Family of Nazareth, which is the model for all who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

  • The Sunday Missal

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Ecclesiasticus 3:3-7,14-17

The Lord honours the father in his children,
and upholds the rights of a mother over her sons.
Whoever respects his father is atoning for his sins,
he who honours his mother is like someone amassing a fortune.
Whoever respects his father will be happy with children of his own,
he shall be heard on the day when he prays.
Long life comes to him who honours his father,
he who sets his mother at ease is showing obedience to the Lord.
My son, support your father in his old age,
do not grieve him during his life.
Even if his mind should fail, show him sympathy,
do not despise him in your health and strength;
for kindness to a father shall not be forgotten
but will serve as reparation for your sins.

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Matthew 2:13-15,19-23

After the wise men had left, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him.’ So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod was dead. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet:

I called my son out of Egypt.

After Herod’s death, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother with you and go back to the land of Israel, for those who wanted to kill the child are dead.’ So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, went back to the land of Israel. But when he learnt that Archelaus had succeeded his father Herod as ruler of Judaea he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he left for the region of Galilee. There he settled in a town called Nazareth. In this way the words spoken through the prophets were to be fulfilled:

‘He will be called a Nazarene.’

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So Joseph got up

Joseph is famously silent in the gospels. There is no record of him uttering a word anywhere. But there are records of his actions, which show that he is a faithful man, devoted to God and to caring for his family. Mary was the one who said ‘Yes’ to God to bring the Saviour to the world. Although largely overshadowed by his wife, Joseph had also said ‘Yes’ in a big way, ensuring that the Saviour was protected, and grew up in a complete family. He had to relocate his family over long distances based on a message received in a dream. Also, he surely could not tell others the truth of his son’s parentage, and he had to shoulder the responsibility of bringing up the son of God.

Being obedient to God’s call usually comes with its challenges and sacrifices. Over the past two years, I have been active in the Catholic Student Community in my school. I stepped up after the main teacher left, mainly because I saw a need to fill the gap, and there are only a handful of Catholic teachers in the school. I did not think too much about how it would impact my workload, and it turned out to be, if I may be blunt, quite burdensome. My core work is in my subject area, and in managing the department and the teachers under me. In terms of my appraisal, such work on a religious level is quite extraneous and not given much prominence.

There were times when I was rushing out a lesson plan on religious education, or slides for mass, that I felt I was reaching the end of my tether, drowning in work. But my desire to do something for the Catholic teens helped me to push on. In the process, there were highlights that would become precious memories in my faith journey, and there were also countless instances of disappointment and frustration. I have since left my job, and I may not know what I managed to achieve, if there was anything at all. I just did what I could with my time there, trusting that God’s grace and might is way above my own inadequacies.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that when we encounter difficulties in our relationships with family members, we would turn to the Lord for guidance and healing.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the joy amidst pain in our daily lives.

29 December, Thursday – The Wait is Over

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

Thomas (1118-1170) was of Norman ancestry. He was educated at Merton Priory, Paris, Bologna, and Auxerre. He was a civil and canon lawyer, a soldier and officer. He was archdeacon of Canterbury, and was a Friend of King Henry II, as well as Chancellor of England. He was ordained in 1162 and was appointed archbishop of Canterbury the next day. He opposed the King’s interference in ecclesiastical matters. He was exiled several times, and was eventually murdered (and martyred) in 1170 in the Cathedral at Canterbury, England.

  • Patron Saint Index

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1 John 2:3-11

We can be sure that we know God
only by keeping his commandments.
Anyone who says, ‘I know him’,
and does not keep his commandments,
is a liar,
refusing to admit the truth.
But when anyone does obey what he has said,
God’s love comes to perfection in him.
We can be sure that we are in God
only when the one who claims to be living in him
is living the same kind of life as Christ lived.
My dear people,
this is not a new commandment that I am writing to tell you,
but an old commandment
that you were given from the beginning,
the original commandment which was the message brought to you.
Yet in another way, what I am writing to you,
and what is being carried out in your lives as it was in his,
is a new commandment;
because the night is over
and the real light is already shining.
Anyone who claims to be in the light
but hates his brother
is still in the dark.
But anyone who loves his brother is living in the light
and need not be afraid of stumbling;
unlike the man who hates his brother and is in the darkness,
not knowing where he is going,
because it is too dark to see.

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Luke 2:22-35

When the day came for them to be purified as laid down by the Law of Moses, the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord – observing what stands written in the Law of the Lord: Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord – and also to offer in sacrifice, in accordance with what is said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. Now in Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to Israel’s comforting and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord. Prompted by the Spirit he came to the Temple and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the Law required, he took him into his arms and blessed God; and he said:

‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace,
just as you promised;
because my eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared for all the nations to see,
a light to enlighten the pagans
and the glory of your people Israel.’

As the child’s father and mother stood there wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’

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Your word has been fulfilled

The day was 13 August 2016. I was in school that Saturday morning, overseeing the setting up of a carnival booth by students. Upstairs, a packed school hall was witnessing history. The whole place was pulsing with noise and I could not be sure, but I thought I heard screams and uproarious cheering coming from the hall. Moments later, a colleague walked past and announced, “He did it!”

To be very honest, I had long given up hope of Singapore garnering an Olympic gold medal. It was just one of those things that elude tiny countries like ours, no matter how wealthy we become. As a Singaporean, I felt my heart bursting with pride, and so deeply moved that a nation’s hope had been fulfilled so perfectly by a determined and gifted young man. The wait was over. We would never lament the futility of gunning for an Olympic gold ever again.

In today’s Gospel passage, Simeon had spent a lifetime waiting to glimpse his salvation. As his hair grew completely grey and his footsteps turned into a shuffle, would he have wondered whether his wait was worthwhile? Or would he have forged on with confidence that the Lord will fulfil his promise made to him? Imagine his joy when the wait was over.

Lately, I have been praying Simeon’s prayer at night, having decided out of the blue to start praying the Divine Office. I find it a beautiful prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord, as it expresses peace of mind at having accepted Jesus, joy at seeing the work of the Lord, and a humble submission to God’s will. “Lord, now let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that despite our wounds, we will find peace in our hearts.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the signs of grace that God places in our lives.