Category Archives: Christmas Season

13 January, Sunday – I am the Beloved

13 Jan – Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord

The Baptism Of The Lord

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

– The Sunday Missal

__________________

Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11

‘Console my people, console them’
says your God.
‘Speak to the heart of Jerusalem
and call to her
that her time of service is ended,
that her sin is atoned for,
that she has received from the hand of the Lord
double punishment for all her crimes.’

A voice cries, ‘Prepare in the wilderness
a way for the Lord.
Make a straight highway for our God
across the desert.
Let every valley be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low.
Let every cliff become a plain,
and the ridges a valley;
then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed
and all mankind shall see it;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

Go up on a high mountain,
joyful messenger to Zion.
Shout with a loud voice,
joyful messenger to Jerusalem.
Shout without fear,
say to the towns of Judah,
‘Here is your God.’

Here is the Lord coming with power,
his arm subduing all things to him.
The prize of his victory is with him,
his trophies all go before him.
He is like a shepherd feeding his flock,
gathering lambs in his arms,
holding them against his breast
and leading to their rest the mother ewes.

——–

Titus 2:11-14,3:4-7

God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions; we must be self-restrained and live good and religious lives here in this present world, while we are waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the Appearing of the glory of our great God and saviour Christ Jesus. He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.
But when the kindness and love of God our saviour for mankind were revealed, it was not because he was concerned with any righteous actions we might have done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own compassion that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and by renewing us with the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our saviour. He did this so that we should be justified by his grace, to become heirs looking forward to inheriting eternal life.

________

Luke 3:15-16,21-22

A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to think that John might be the Christ, so John declared before them all, ‘I baptise you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Now when all the people had been baptised and while Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily shape, like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’

___________________

You are my son the Beloved; my favour rests on you

With the turn of each year, many of us may have adopted the annual tradition of setting new year resolutions. 2019 will (finally) be the year we eat clean, exercise regularly and sleep early. We will spend quality time with family and friends who matter, or decisively end a toxic relationship or a friendship which has run its course. Professionally, we will work smart and finally clinch the promotion we deserve. At least, this is what everyone seems to be saying on social media.

The world bombards us with expectations such as “You are what you have. You are what people say about you.” We are told we need to hustle – to get out there and work it until we find the opportunities we want in life. We need to fight for whatever is worth having. In stark contrast, the Word tells us that we are loved unconditionally, loved as we are, flaws, warts and all.

Having spent all our lives tuned into what the world is telling us to be, the greatest challenge for many of us is to fully accept the truth that we are God’s children, His Beloveds. At today’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we are reminded of our identity as God’s children, just as Jesus is the Beloved Son. As I reflected on today’s readings, a dear friend sent a poem which presciently encapsulates how I aspire to live the life of the Beloved in 2019, as well as the years ahead:

For Presence (John O’Donohue)

Awaken to the mystery of being here

and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.

Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.

Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.

Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to follow its path.

Let the flame of anger free you of all falsity.

May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.

May anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror on inner dignity of soul.

Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Dear Father, we pray that we may always remember and live out our identity as your beloved Children.  Help us to reach out to those around us as people loved unconditionally. 

Thanksgiving: Thank you God for the gift of Your perfect and unconditional love.

12 January, Saturday – Size is relative

12 January 2019

____________________
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

______________________

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.’

__________________

“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.

11 January, Friday – Seeking Solitude

11 January 2019

________________

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.

__________________

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.

________________

“‘…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.

10 January, Thursday – Recognising

10 January 2019

_______________

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.

_________________

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.

___________________

“…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.

9 January, Wednesday – Animated by Love

9 January – Wednesday after Epiphany Sunday

________________

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.

________________

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.

________________

In love there can be no fear, but fear is driven out by perfect love

Emotions are truly powerful feelings and they have an incredible ability to spur a person on to greater heights to achieve what he may not have been able to achieve or paralyse him and make him unable to achieve what he could have done very easily in the past. The readings of today remind us that we are driven not by emotions but by a deeper sense of purpose; which is the desire to accept each person for who they are and just as they are.

St John in the First Reading reminds us of how the love which Jesus Christ has for us animates all actions and is the basis on which Christianity is built upon. The importance of the love of God in our midst cannot be under-estimated. Instead what we need to do is to re-kindle this love of God in ourselves through prayer and action. As mentioned in an earlier reflection this week, prayer is communication with God. We need to ask God for what His plans are for us and then accept the message which comes along even if it goes against what we want. We then need to put Christian love in action by sharing with others the faith we have inherited by being kind to others and putting in a good word. What distinguishes us from any other kind-hearted person is the consistency and manner in which we carry out these actions. We should be deliberate with our actions and allow the other party to know that what we do is borne out of a desire to share the Love of God which we have experienced with the other person.

Christianity is a religion of action and as we continue with our daily lives, we need to appreciate that sometimes this call to action runs contrary to what the world expects from us. As such, let us never falter from this call but instead continue to soldier on and persevere with God’s grace and help.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Father, we pray for the grace to continue to share your love to all around us despite difficulties which we may face

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the missionaries who spread God’s love to all around us.

8 January, Tuesday – Generosity of Love

8 January – Tuesday after Epiphany Sunday

________________

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.

________________
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.

________________

Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love.

Movie plots and TV series tend to dramatise the emotion of love by illustrating the heights and depths of what a person would do for the people whom he or she loves. Sometimes this entails the embarking of a path of revenge in order to seek redress against grievance which the family has suffered. This approach I believe is a misguided type of love. The readings of today show us that to identify true love, we only need to look at the fruits and the outcomes of one’s actions.

One of the fruits of love is a spirit of generosity and this is seen in the Gospel of today where Jesus multiplied the loaves. For some, this parable could have been heard so many times that we may have become immune to its message. Jesus showed to the people his compassion for those around him. He cared for their well-being and made sure their material needs were met. I believe that sometimes we also need to be more aware of the need to be more observant of the lives of the people in our peripheral vision. The lady who cleans the pantry, the worker who clears our rubbish and the man who distributes the newspapers all have a background and story from which we can encounter and share the love of God with.

Love therefore is not a vengeful type of love but one which shows great generosity of spirit and forgiveness to all whom we meet. As we go about our daily lives, let us find an opportunity to show love to these people and in the process allow others to discover the great mercy of God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Father, we pray for us to love all others with empathy.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who make a point to forgive their enemies despite the difficulty.

7 January, Monday – Devoted in Prayer

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

___________________________

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.

________________

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.

________________

But we are children of God and those who know God listen to us

I often wondered how a fellow Catholic can recognise another Catholic in his surroundings? Is it the way he speaks or the way he behaves which gives some sort of clue? I believe that perhaps Catholics are recognised for their general lukewarm response to matters in the world which would often see other people holding different faiths respond more strongly in line with their faith. The readings of today remind us of the need to be the difference to those around us.

However, the main query is then to discover how can we go about doing so? The answer, I believe, lies in us first discovering what is the status of our relationship with God. To use common internet terminology, are we constantly “online” with God?  Are we constantly “updating” God on how we are doing throughout the day and asking him for help and advice? We must be ready to accept the message which God has for us which we might not necessarily agree with. When we stay in communication with God, we become closer to Him and allow Him to work through us. Gradually, we become closer to God and follow Him in his image and likeness.

When we have reached that level, I believe it will be the case that others will listen to us when we speak because they can see that we have the spirit of God within us which animates all of us. As we continue in the last week of the season of Christmas, let us ask God to help us acknowledge our failings and ask Him to help us in this aspect.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Father, we pray for the spirit of discernment to help us appreciate our weaknesses.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all those who help others in their faith journey.

6 January, Sunday – Our Unlimited Potential

7 January 2019

__________________

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.

________________________

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.

____________________________

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.

______________________________

“Arise, shine out, Jerusalem, for your light has come”

My family and I love reading books. Since I was about 9, I developed a lifelong habit of reading for at least an hour daily. I am blessed that my wife, too, has a strong love for reading and am happy to add that both my children are avid readers as well.

Motivated by the stories I read and fascinated by the exciting lives of the characters, I sought to understand how authors seemed to be able to put such lovely plots together. I dug deeper into the themes and came across the ‘Hero’s Journey’, illustrating how a ‘hero’ comes about. Typically, he moves from his current, comfortable position and faces extraordinary challenges. Through these trials, he learns (many times reluctantly) how to step up and face these obstacles. At the end of the journey, he realises that he has become a different person altogether and, unknowingly, has become a hero!

Our Lord’s story does not quite fit this narrative as our Lord Jesus did know His purpose — to show us the way to live and to bear and die for our sins. The Gospel of today does, however, show the challenges He had to go through in His early days as an infant. We see how the wise men had to deal with a cunning and jealous Herod, who went out of his way to try to kill Jesus. In essence, this is Jesus’ ‘Hero Journey’.

However, because of Jesus’ coming, this Epiphany shows our own personal journeys as heroic. In His coming, He shows us what and who we can become. Jesus, through His life and teachings, teaches us HOW to live and WHAT WE CAN BECOME if we follow His path. How powerful is this and how blessed are we!

In celebrating the Epiphany, let us celebrate God’s gift of eternal life and His gift of potential to us! Praise be to God!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, we pray that we will always be thankful for the life that You have given us. We pray that no matter what happens, You will be there for us as You were there for Your Son.

Thanksgiving: Thank You, Father, for showing in us, through Your Son Jesus, our potential. Thank You for showing us the right way to live and for loving us.

5 January, Saturday – A Love that is Real and Active

5 January 2019

______________

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.

____________________

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.’

____________________________

“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”

We take comfort in the first reading today, where we see how God understands the backlash or the consequences we will face in following Him. ‘You must not be surprised, brothers, when the world hates you’ and also mentions how we would be persecuted for doing what’s right simply because the other’s life is evil and ours good. It is so difficult to follow Christ in our world today, whether it be the fear of missing out, being labelled as the odd one out, losing friendships and relationships or seen as can be easily taken advantage of. Whatever it may be, we need “to 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.” When we cannot be condemned by our own conscience, we need not be afraid of ‘punishment’ from God.

The one thing I can testify to is that God provides. When we live our lives for Him, He gives us more than what we think we want but what we really need. A love that is real and active, God keeps His promise when He says that He came to give us life and life to the full. Indeed, He only desires the best for us, to lead a truly meaningful and purposeful life, not just to do good for society but to encounter His love, to be able to love as He loves and also to be loved by others. This is the love that is real and active, a love that no amount of money can buy, for it is a gift and it is this gift that God gives to us.

We will not be able to love as Christ loves until we ourselves have experienced His love. Today I’m urging to recommit to Him, wherever you are in your faith journey, whether even Catholic or not, to pray to once again encounter His love for you. There’s nothing else in this world worth living for. As we prepare for Epiphany, may we also be like the wise men, who travelled far and not comfortably, to bring Him gifts though they probably wouldn’t get anything back in return. They eventually had to return by a different route after encountering the Lord, which resulted in a conversion of hearts and transformation of lives. Live Jesus in our hearts forever. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for this renewal, this renewed faith and passion as we continue in our ministries and communities, help us to encounter you and your love in the people that we meet and pray that we also bring you to those we meet daily.

Thanksgiving: Thank your Lord, for understanding us, thank you for loving us so much that you humbled yourself to being born as a child in the manger and eventually for dying on the cross for our salvation. May we give our lives to you just as you have given yours to us.

4 January, Friday – Seek and you shall find

4 January 2019

________________

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.

__________________

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.

___________________

“‘where do you live?’ ‘Come and see’ he replied; so they went and saw where he lived, and stayed with him the rest of the day.”

In today’s Gospel, we read of the familiar phrase, ‘Come and See’. Why didn’t Jesus start to share who He was? Why didn’t He say anything regarding being the Son of God and the Saviour of the world, or that He can move mountains and calm the seas, why didn’t He show off?

I would like to think that the opposite of ‘promotion’ is truly, to be that living example. The world can say what it wants about me, but really, what matters most is how God sees me and how I see myself, and Jesus was very clear of that. ‘Come and See’ because the individual needs to make the first step, there is no point forcing. When we choose to respond, there is also a sense of preparation and openness to what we are going to receive, it is a risk because we do not know what we are going to receive, whether it will be a waste of time or not.

It is important that our senses are always alive, that we don’t just pay attention to things we can see but to be aware of the Holy Spirit moving in our lives. There was a beautiful experience during World Youth Day 2016 in Poland — I was with a friend and we were in one of the churches there. At a certain section within the church, I could feel the Holy Spirit so tangibly and mentioned of the encounter to my friend and he told me he had felt the Holy Spirit too. There was nothing special happening, it was very ordinary but yet at that moment, very special. It is important to move with the Spirit, for through the Spirit is how we are able to grow closer to the heart of Jesus. Moving with the spirit also helps us in our discernment of good and evil, right and wrong, as in the first reading, where we are called to live a holy life and to distinguish the children of God from the children of the devil.

My friends, in our lives today, there are many obstacles, expectations and excuses that prevent us from ‘Come and See’. Deep down, we already know the times when we have chosen many other insignificant worldly materials over Christ, we failed to ‘Come and See’. Today, let us give God a chance, that we respond with no expectations that we remove our ‘appointments’ and make time for Him and to be a witness to say we are deepening our relationship with God; that in our witnessing, we are also evangelising to all those we meet. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we will be more discerning to the works of your spirit, to know where you are leading us, how you are working in our lives and to know and respond to your calling. Help us to grow in love with you and to be grateful for the many blessings you have bestowed upon us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for not placing unrealistic expectations, requirements or prerequisites for us to be a part of your family. Thank you for always being patient, forgiving and continuously not giving up on us. Thank you for your love.