Category Archives: Christmas Season

11 January, Saturday – Size is relative

11 January

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1 John 5:14-21

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

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

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John 3:22-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

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

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

10 January, Friday – Seeking Solitude

10 January 

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1 John 5:5-13

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

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

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Luke 5:12-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

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

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

9 January, Thursday – Recognising

9 January 

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1 John 4:19-5:4

We are to love,
because God loved us first.
Anyone who says, ‘I love God’,
and hates his brother,
is a liar,
since a man who does not love the brother that he can see
cannot love God, whom he has never seen.
So this is the commandment that he has given us,
that anyone who loves God must also love his brother.

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ
has been begotten by God;
and whoever loves the Father that begot him
loves the child whom he begets.
We can be sure that we love God’s children
if we love God himself and do what he has commanded us;
this is what loving God is –
keeping his commandments;
and his commandments are not difficult,
because anyone who has been begotten by God
has already overcome the world;
this is the victory over the world –
our faith.

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Luke 4:14-22

Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside. He taught in their synagogues and everyone praised him.
He came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips.

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This is the victory over the world – our faith

There is a song we sometimes sing at retreats, which describes some articles that a typical knight would use – a sword, breastplate, etc; and each article is linked to a fruit of the spirit – joy, peace, etc. In the end, what we claim is that as Christians, we have put on an armour of faith, which protects us from all things terrible that go on in the world.

We celebrated New Year’s Eve with a countdown Mass at CSC and what a celebration it was. By 9.30 pm, when praise and worship began, the hall was full and you could sense the anticipation in the air as we prepared to welcome Jesus for an hour of adoration, followed by mass. And by divine providence, we were all truly blessed to mark the passing into the new year with Jesus at the altar. I stood in awe as we all counted down the seconds and celebrated joyously with one another before receiving communion.

As Catholics, we truly have the best of both worlds. Who else can claim to have a God who humbled himself to become man and to live among us? Anyone else would be hard put to find another example of divine Love. And while some of us have been blessed to have been given a vision or glimpse of paradise and perhaps even to engage with Christ, many among us simply believe.

And when things start to go downhill, that is when our faith is put to the test. For me, He has never let me down time after time. In fact, I have been fortunate enough to discern His hand in many of the trials and tribulations that I endured in 2018. So much so that I felt he gave me a much-desired present before the Christmas holidays. Looking back, I believe that in ‘winning’ that battle, it was God sat back and waited for me to do the same before he acted. It certainly made my Christmas break all the more satisfying.

So brothers and sisters, when the going gets tough, just let go and let God. Let Him take over and surrender fully to His will by praying and focussing on keeping your behaviour and actions as Christ-like as possible. Most importantly — have a little bit of faith. It is the title of a book I received as a Christmas present from mum and after reading it (it took me just two sittings), I could not help but shed a few tears and say, “I don’t know what to do anymore. Please take over.” At the end of the day, when we are at wits end, it is the only thing we can cling on to. Our faith in our loving, generous, merciful God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Thanksgiving: We thank you O heavenly Father, for your faith in us and for always being there for us in our darkest moments.

8 January, Wednesday – How is Love Perfected?

7 Jan – Wednesday after the Epiphany

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1 John 4:11-18

My dear people,
since God has loved us so much,
we too should love one another.
No one has ever seen God;
but as long as we love one another
God will live in us
and his love will be complete in us.
We can know that we are living in him
and he is living in us
because he lets us share his Spirit.
We ourselves saw and we testify
that the Father sent his Son
as saviour of the world.
If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,
God lives in him, and he in God.
We ourselves have known and put our faith in
God’s love towards ourselves.
God is love
and anyone who lives in love lives in God,
and God lives in him.
Love will come to its perfection in us
when we can face the day of Judgement without fear;
because even in this world
we have become as he is.
In love there can be no fear,
but fear is driven out by perfect love:
because to fear is to expect punishment,
and anyone who is afraid is still imperfect in love.

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Mark 6:45-52

After the five thousand had eaten and were filled, Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to Bethsaida, while he himself sent the crowd away. After saying goodbye to them he went off into the hills to pray. When evening came, the boat was far out on the lake, and he was alone on the land. He could see they were worn out with rowing, for the wind was against them; and about the fourth watch of the night he came towards them, walking on the lake. He was going to pass them by, but when they saw him walking on the lake they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they had all seen him and were terrified. But he at once spoke to them, and said, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ Then he got into the boat with them, and the wind dropped. They were utterly and completely dumbfounded, because they had not seen what the miracle of the loaves meant; their minds were closed.

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…as long as we love one another God will live in us and his love will be complete in us.

It is human and expected to have short-term memory. Many of us truly struggle to remember and believe that we are so fully, completely, and unconditionally loved by God. We all need constant reminders. This inevitably happens because the bulk of our earthly human experiences of love are tinged with disappointments, conditions, and unmet expectations. Sometimes, we are also blinded by our pre-existing wounds from receiving love from those around us, as their best intentions may appear jarring to our senses and comfort zones. We judge the imperfection of their love-efforts, more than perceiving the goodness of their heart-intentions.

“The great spiritual task facing me is to so fully trust that I belong to God that I can be free in the world–free to speak even when my words are not received; free to act even when my actions are criticized, ridiculed, or considered useless…. I am convinced that I will truly be able to love the world when I fully believe that I am loved far beyond its boundaries.” (Reaching Out, Henri Nouwen)

In today’s scripture passages, the early disciples themselves admitted that none of them had ever seen God. This utter humility and honesty that they lacked hard evidence for their faith, did not dampen their conviction to love each other as faithfully as Jesus had commanded them to do.

This reminds me of how I often may not like certain persons I come across in my life, and yet, I recognise that God had allowed for our paths to cross because I am to learn something very valuable from our interactions and the mutual-journeying. Indeed, although I am not called to like every single person I encounter, but I am called to love my neighbour as I love myself. This is only possible when we ask for the grace of God to see as perfectly as He does… the inherent goodness and dignity of each soul as loved by the Creator.

“We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves. God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him. Love will come to its perfection in us when we can face the day of Judgement without fear; because even in this world we have become as he is.” (1 John 3-4)

How then are we taught to love perfectly like God does, since our human nature is so imperfect? The person of Jesus is the ‘gold standard’ of perfect love – love purified by the emptying of one’s Self in self-sacrifice. Jesus’s love for us is so perfect that it is purely free from self-love, self-gratification, and self-preservation. As for us, we share in this gift of love through the rays of trials and tribulations, the purification of living with a difficult family member, the suffering of illnesses, the hardship of financial instability or even joblessness. We need the courage that our faith in Jesus can bring us through each of these storms. “Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.” Each of these can be a sanctifying beam to burn off the dross of self-love and self-gratification and self-preservation. Only if we bravely allow it to.

How can I seek God’s will today and allow Him to perfect His love in, and through me? How can I draw closer to God and allow His will to sanctify my soul?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, indeed sometimes the challenges we face are truly insurmountable. Help us to trust that your perfect love is both the safe boat to travel in, and the safe harbour to return to. 

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to God for always guiding us through our trials even while we could not fathom His merciful hand in each situation.

 

7 January, Tuesday – Because God is love

7 Jan – Memorial for St. Raymond of Penyafort, priest

St. Raymond (1175-1275) was of Aragonian nobility. He was educated at the cathedral school in Barcelona, and became a philosophy teacher at the age of 20. He was a priest. He graduated from law school in Bologna, Italy, and joined the Dominicans in 1218. He was summoned to Rome in 1230 by Pope Gregory IX, and assigned to collect all official letters of the popes since 1150. Raymond gathered and published five volumes, and helped write Church law.

He was made Master General of the Dominicans in 1238. He reviewed the Order’s Rule, made sure everything was legally correct, then resigned his position in 1240 to dedicate himself to parish work. The pope wanted to make Raymond an archbishop, but he declined, instead returning to Spain and the parish work he loved. His compassion helped many people return to God through Reconciliation.

During his years in Rome, Raymond heard of the difficulties missionaries faced trying to reach non-Christians of Northern Africa and Spain. Raymond started a school to teach the language and culture of the people to be evangelized. With St. Thomas Aquinas, he wrote a booklet to explain the truths of faith in a way non-believers could understand. His great influence on Church law led to his patronage of lawyers.

  • Patron Saint Index

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1 John 4:7-10

My dear people,
let us love one another
since love comes from God
and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Anyone who fails to love can never have known God,
because God is love.
God’s love for us was revealed
when God sent into the world his only Son
so that we could have life through him;
this is the love I mean:
not our love for God,
but God’s love for us when he sent his Son
to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.

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Mark 6:34-44

As Jesus stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length. By now it was getting very late, and his disciples came up to him and said, ‘This is a lonely place and it is getting very late, So send them away, and they can go to the farms and villages round about, to buy themselves something to eat.’ He replied, ‘Give them something to eat yourselves.’ They answered, ‘Are we to go and spend two hundred denarii on bread for them to eat?’ How many loaves have you?’ he asked ‘Go and see.’ And when they had found out they said, ‘Five, and two fish.’ Then he ordered them to get all the people together in groups on the green grass, and they sat down on the ground in squares of hundreds and fifties. Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessing; then he broke the loaves and handed them to his disciples to distribute among the people. He also shared out the two fish among them all. They all ate as much as they wanted. They collected twelve basketfuls of scraps of bread and pieces of fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.

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Because God is love

Having just returned from the Holy Land filled with questions, trying to comprehend how Jesus could have gone ahead with his mission in the climate of the time he preached and walked the earth, I have been brought back to earth with a huge thud. This feeling began at our countdown mass on New Year’s Eve, when I had to lead a paraliturgy. I thought I had prepared sufficiently for it and had the prayers ready but as the time approached, I was in two minds — should I go with the rehearsed script? Or should I just lift the session to God?

In the end, I got through it with a mix of both and with some much-needed help from two (it could have been three) members of our young adult community, who stepped up to accompany our small team without being asked. As I turned to glance behind me when I heard a drum being played, a felt a wave of gratitude and my spirits were lifted just seeing the musicians bond with us, playing as one. I don’t think it would have happened under ‘normal circumstances’ — i.e. if it had been my ministry leading the session. The fact that we had a mix of prayer leaders from another ministry further drove home the point that as long as we are all united in love of God, it doesn’t matter who is leading or playing; because God simply takes over.

As a relatively young worship leader, I am still coming to grips with choice of appropriate songs, where and how to lead the congregation to in terms of a 30 or 45-min worship journey. Naturally, being open to feedback (constructive or otherwise) helps a lot and that itself takes a truly open, humble heart. Because it is the only way to be accepting of others and their opinions. This year, it is with such an open heart that I approached my division performance appraisals and I truly believe that it is why we went through a painless process, despite the fact that I was away for nearly two weeks.

Brothers and sisters, such is His immense love for us that what He wills for us would never take us to where His grace will not protect us. Today, at our ministry core meeting, a significant decision was taken where I, together with four others, am now placed in a position that requires me to have even more faith that He has a divine plan for all of us. I ask for your prayers over the next few weeks, months and years, that He will embolden, empower and enrich my spiritual journey as I allow Him to work in me.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we ask for your kindness and mercy to always fill us as we discern the plans you have for each and every one of us.

Thanksgiving: Abba Father, thank you for all the situations you create for us to manifest your love to others.

 

6 January, Monday – Love Comes From God

6 January 

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1 John 3:22-4:6

Whatever we ask God,
we shall receive,
because we keep his commandments
and live the kind of life that he wants.
His commandments are these:
that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ
and that we love one another
as he told us to.
Whoever keeps his commandments
lives in God and God lives in him.
We know that he lives in us
by the Spirit that he has given us.
It is not every spirit, my dear people, that you can trust;
test them, to see if they come from God,
there are many false prophets, now, in the world.
You can tell the spirits that come from God by this:
every spirit which acknowledges that Jesus the Christ has come in the flesh
is from God;
but any spirit which will not say this of Jesus
is not from God,
but is the spirit of Antichrist,
whose coming you were warned about.
Well, now he is here, in the world.
Children,
you have already overcome these false prophets,
because you are from God and you have in you
one who is greater than anyone in this world;
as for them, they are of the world,
and so they speak the language of the world
and the world listens to them.
But we are children of God,
and those who know God listen to us;
those who are not of God refuse to listen to us.
This is how we can tell
the spirit of truth from the spirit of falsehood.

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Matthew 4:12-17,23-25

Hearing that John had been arrested, Jesus went back to Galilee, and leaving Nazareth he went and settled in Capernaum, a lakeside town on the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali. In this way the prophecy of Isaiah was to be fulfilled:
‘Land of Zebulun! Land of Naphtali!
Way of the sea on the far side of Jordan,
Galilee of the nations!
The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light;
on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death
a light has dawned.’
From that moment Jesus began his preaching with the message, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’
  He went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness among the people. His fame spread throughout Syria, and those who were suffering from diseases and painful complaints of one kind or another, the possessed, epileptics, the paralysed, were all brought to him, and he cured them. Large crowds followed him, coming from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judaea and Transjordania.

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Every spirit which acknowledges that Jesus the Christ has come in the flesh is from God; but any spirit which will not say this of Jesus is not from God…

Ever since I can remember, I always feel a little melancholy during the Christmas season. The Christmas just past was no exception. In fact, as the years progressed, the sense of something missing grows more prominent. Don’t get me wrong, Christmas is still a joyous season, to be shared with family and friends, and I thoroughly enjoy the festivities. But I find myself, along with the throngs of people, getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season to the point that the reason for the season was seemingly lost.  So caught up were we in shopping, gift giving, socializing, that we forgot to take a deep breath and remember what this was for.  In the throes of preparing for the festivities, rushing around to get things in order, we often become impatient or rude to others. The thing that saddens me most is how very few people greeted each other with “Merry Christmas”; instead, it had become predominantly “happy holidays”.

This sentiment has been slowly accumulating without alarming anyone. It came under the guise of inclusion and politically correctness. It is so insidious that it affects all aspects of life. We have become so careful not to voice or witness our faith out of fear of offending someone. Having faith has become ‘uncool’ and old-fashioned. Today’s reading has once again reminded me how we need to be vigilant, as there are so many factors out in the world that will detract us from our true purpose, true mission and true joy. There are so many voices in the world that try to detract us from our true goal.

Perhaps my melancholy comes from the sense that I am guilty of listening to all the false prophets out there and joining in the song and dance that seemed so enticing but leaves me empty. My joy is only restored when I focus on God and try to listen to His voice instead.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we can recognize Your voice, and that we may focus on what is from the spirit of truth instead of what is from the spirit of falsehood.

Thanksgiving: Jesus, thank you for coming to teach us and give us the chance to know the true God.

5 January, Sunday – Epiphany to be Shared

5 January

The Revelation of Christ to the World

We join all the people of the world in worshipping the infant King of the Jews. 

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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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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.

It is only recently that I truly looked into the meaning of ‘Epiphany’. According to the Cambridge dictionary, epiphany means the moment when you suddenly feel you understand or become conscious of something that is of great importance to you. In the Catholic sense, epiphany means the manifestation of Christ, both symbolic and real, to the whole world.

To the whole world. Not only to the shepherds, not only to the Magi, nor just the Israelites, but to the whole world. This is significant. This is what we should celebrate and be thankful for. Not only does God send His only Son, but He gives His Son as a gift for all mankind, for you, for me, for believers and non-believers alike. You may ask why this is important. It is important because The Son of God gives Himself to redeem us. That is the best and most precious gift anyone can receive; much more valuable than material gifts we receive for Christmas or any other occasion. This is a gift that is eternal in nature, versus the temporal qualities of worldly goods; the significance is immense. This gift is meant to be shared, not to be kept under wraps.

Much like when we find a good restaurant or recipe, we can’t wait to share the find with loved ones and friends, perhaps even post it on social media. Jesus is infinitely more treasurable than any such finds, and we should be more than eager to share this treasure with others. He fulfills the hungry heart and truly brings peace and joy amidst all the turmoil, so why wouldn’t we want to share this with others?

Not everyone is called to be a missionary, but we are all called to ‘evangelize’ or become a witness for Christ so that He is known to those who are searching and not finding what they search. We can become a witness in big or small ways.

I must admit that during the Christmas season, I felt that there was less focus on the true meaning of Christmas but more about socializing, buying gifts and indulging. There is nothing wrong about all that, but let’s help the world remember Christ is the reason for Christmas and to be more Christ-focused by sharing our ‘find’.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we set our hearts and minds on what is truly important and eternal; let us not fall into the trap of the material world and lose sight of our goal of being in heaven with you.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for revealing Jesus, Your only Son, to us and granting us your grace to help us battle the temptations of this world.

4 January, Saturday – Sharing the Faith

4 January 2019

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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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They answered, ‘Rabbi,’ – which means Teacher – ‘where do you live?’ ‘Come and see’ he replied

St Andrew has been the apostle bringing people to Jesus. He brought the boy holding the five loaves and two fish and he brought some Greeks to speak to Jesus. In this way, he has shown us what it means to be Christian which the readings of today provide us with the scriptural grounding and the practical way of how to behave.

St John reminds us of the need to live a holy life. A holy life is one which represents a life of faith and hope. In this life, there is a spirit of prayer which reminds us of the importance of staying in closeness with God. Communication with God allows us to discover what he desires from us. When we choose to co-operate with this plan, we become closer towards God and achieve an inner peace which the world cannot provide.

This holy life is seen externally by the number of people whom we bring towards God. Like St Andrew in the Gospel, we continue to share with others the initial joy we had when we first encountered Jesus. This form of evangelisation means we can look for friends within the Catholic Faith who may be going through a difficult patch in life at the moment or perhaps a colleague who is a non-believer who may be waiting for us to invite them to church. All we have to do is ask with a spirit of humility and they will understand our intention. Let us take a moment to discover what it means to be Christian and how we can share this with the people around us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the courage to share our Faith.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who spread the Gospel.

03 January, Friday – Remaining Faithful

3 Jan – Memorial for the Most Holy Name of Jesus

Today’s feast day is a remembrance and celebration of the conferral of the Holy Name of Jesus. A separate votive Mass under this title is found in the revised Roman Missal, and may be used for an annual celebration (e.g. titular of a Church), or as an expression of devotion which is part of the tradition and spirituality of a religious order. It was formerly listed as the Sunday between 1 and 6 January, if one occurs. It was instituted in the 15th century by the bishops of Germany, Scotland, England, and Belgium. It was extended to the universal Church in 1721. There is a commemoration in the Mass of the Octave of St. Stephen if the feast is kept on the second, of St. John on the third, and of the Holy Innocents on the fourth of January.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 John 2:29-3:6

You know that God is righteous –
then you must recognise that everyone whose life is righteous
has been begotten by him.

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us,
by letting us be called God’s children;
and that is what we are.
Because the world refused to acknowledge him,
therefore it does not acknowledge us.
My dear people, we are already the children of God
but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed;
all we know is, that when it is revealed
we shall be like him
because we shall see him as he really is.

Surely everyone who entertains this hope
must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.
Anyone who sins at all
breaks the law,
because to sin is to break the law.
Now you know that he appeared in order to abolish sin,
and that in him there is no sin;
anyone who lives in God does not sin,
and anyone who sins
has never seen him or known him.

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John 1:29-34

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

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My dear people, we are already the children of God.

Being called a child of God is indeed a great privilege and this allows us to share in the inheritance of what Christ has promised, which is Eternal Life. However, something which keeps me going on despite being assured as God’s child is the deepest desire to be one with God. This means that I will need to discover the richness of the Catholic Faith and be willing to accept the challenges it poses to my way of life.

This continued struggle between what God wants us to do and what we want to do is definitely an ongoing one, but it is one which will allow us to grow in maturity in our Faith. Like John the Baptist in today’s readings, we are called to be a witness to the people whom we meet, of the great love of God which has touched us. This witness we are called to give includes the need to show the struggles we face in our daily lives and how we continue to hold onto our Faith despite the many difficulties it brings.

God invites us to remain faithful to Him and we can only do so if we turn to Him in continued prayer and devotion to what He asks of us. As we continue in this season of Christmas, let us put our hearts and souls towards accepting the challenge which has been put before us and to let others see that various challenges we are facing.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us accept our Cross with Faith and Courage.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who help people cope in their struggles against addictions.

02 January, Thursday – Staying Faithful

02 Jan- Weekday before Epiphany; Sts Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, bishops, doctors

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 drew 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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Live in Christ, then my children

There is a saying that a person is a chip off the old block. This signifies that the individual is similar to his parents. The readings of today remind us of the need to stay faithful to our identity as Christians because we are supposed to follow Jesus totally.

Being Christian requires us to stand up to the truth and to accept that in doing so, it might lead to some unhappiness amongst the people whom we speak to. This is not an easy thing to bear with because to face up to opposition requires us to reject the company which we used to belong to.

Today’s memorial of Sts Basil and St Gregory reminds us of the need to stay faithful to Christ come what may. Through their lives, they showed to the people living in their time what it means to remain faithful. They have accepted that nothing in this world can be superior than living a life aligned with Christ’s teaching. As we enter the year of  2018, let us take time to think on how we can live our life fully.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas)

Prayer: Sts Basil the Great and St Gregory of Nazianzen, pray for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who love us