Category Archives: Feastdays

12 January, Sunday – The Last Day of Christmas

12 January – 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. 

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Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7

Thus says the Lord:

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

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

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

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

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

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Acts 10:34-38

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

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

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Matthew 3:13-17

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

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

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This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased

There is often much confusion and debate as to when is the last day of Christmas. In the secular world, Christmas pretty much ends the day after Christmas Day. In the streets, most Christmas decorations are taken down immediately after and here in Singapore, quickly replaced by Chinese New Year decorations. I find myself arguing with friends that it is still Christmas and we should not hasten to take down the Christmas tree, and that it is still okay to sing Christmas songs!

At this year’s Christmas mass, the priest was preaching about the meaning of Christmas for us Catholics, why we Catholics especially should wish each other “Merry Christmas” and not “Happy Holidays” all the way till the end of Christmastide. We should celebrate and proudly proclaim the reason for the season! Christmas literally translates to the ‘Mass of Christ’, and the mass is the death sacrifice Jesus gave to us.

So when exactly is the end of Christmastide? Many believe, Catholics included, that it ends with the Feast of the Epiphany, where the three wise men paid homage to Baby Jesus. This usually coincides with the traditional twelfth day of Christmas. However, according to the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, the official end of the entire Christmas season is the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, the Sunday after Epiphany.

I first heard this explanation during the homily, and when I went to visit the beautiful Nativity scene at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, there were posters describing this; and this was further reinforced a third time when a friend shared a picture of this poster in a WhatsApp group chat. I can no longer say I am confused or ignorant about this subject, and must do my part in sharing with my fellow brothers and sisters. How apt then, that I was rostered to write on the Feast on the Baptism of the Lord! This is my personal God-moment.

With Chinese New Year just round the corner, getting sucked in to more festivities, it is honestly a little challenging to remember to live out our Christian lives. But as we celebrate the last day of Christmas, let us remember how Jesus came into our lives and how we marry our cultures together, that to be a Christian means being a Christian in every day and aspect of our lives, not just on Sundays.

(Today’s Oxygen by Kristel Wang)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, we pray for the strength to be the Christian you desire us to be in every day of our lives, to be the face of Christ to others, and always spread your message of love, joy and peace.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Heavenly Father, for the beautiful sacrifice of your only Son. Help us to always remember all that you do for us, especially when we find it difficult to see, to search for you in all the little moments. Amen.

29 Dec, Sunday – Pilgrims Searching for Love and Home

29 Dec 2019 – Feast of the Holy Family

[Let us adore Christ, the Son of God, who made himself obedient to Mary and to Joseph.]

The feast of the Holy Family offers the opportunity to reflect on the mystery of family life. Every family and community share the perplexing, frustrating, demanding challenge Luke described. Put most simply, Mary and Joseph faced the difficult discovery that Jesus was not going along with them every step of the way. It is a real story of a family conflict and is symbolic of all kinds of relationships.

We know what it is like when family members do not go along with us on the journey. When Mary and Joseph confronted Jesus in the Temple, they confronted the fact that he would have to discover his own path in life. No matter what they might hope for him, he did not belong to them.

The story reminds us that love is rooted in profound reverence for the mystery of the other. Such reverence cultivates profound respect for the other’s mysterious freedom. In that, we learn to desire that the other will become who they are meant to be rather than what we would have them be.

Excerpt taken from: Feast of the Holy Family: The Mystery of Love (https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/scripture-life/feast-holy-family-mystery-love) 

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Ecclesiasticus 3:2-6,12-14

He who fears the Lord respects his parents

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

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Colossians 3:12-21 

Family life in the Lord 

You are God’s chosen race his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful. 

Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you. Teach each other, and advise each other, in all wisdom. With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God; and never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 

Wives give way to your husbands, as you should in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and treat them with gentleness. Children, be obedient to your parents always, because that is what will please the Lord. Parents, never drive your children to resentment or you will make them feel frustrated.

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Matthew 2:13-15,19-23

The Flight into Egypt and the return to Nazareth

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

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

 

‘He will be called a Nazarene.’

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May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts… Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you.

I was prepared to write my reflection on this Feast day more than a week ago but I could not put words to my thoughts as I was facing struggles of my own in my family. I was dumbfounded to be assigned this specific day, and while I knew intellectually, that God had a message for me in here, it took some wresting within for me to finally sit down to listen to Him.

We are Pilgrims

In three days, my family would be collecting a new set of keys to our rental apartment. We had been praying to find a new home in Singapore after moving back from Hong Kong. By the new year, this would be the fifth house that I will setting up home in, notwithstanding the many interim roofs we have temporarily rested our heavy-laden bodies to rest in. All these moves were made within the span of three years, over three countries. Some of them are moves related to jobs, while some were a result of grave illnesses within our families that required us to either ‘stay-put’ or ‘return-home’.

Whenever I behold the idea of packing up house again, I am seized with anxiety first, and then sadness for the home my family will soon be leaving behind. All the memories and efforts to dream up and personalise a blank space…must be let go. As my two-year old son is old enough to remember our various homes, I have been met with puzzling questions of “where is mummy-daddy house?” or “is this mummy-daddy house?” or “let’s go home!” even if ‘home’ is just a room for one week. I have held up hopes of stability as well as shed many tears for each of these homes. God knows that my heart aches for a place to sink roots in.

In the face of so much impermanence and instability, it is my faith that holds my fragile emotions together – however imperfectly. I humbly and wistfully recognise that my little family of three walks a shared path with the Holy Family. This is a realisation that struck me after I spent two successive Christmases accompanying a loved one in hospital over a cancer diagnosis – one with my husband and one with my mother. Surely Mary and Joseph must have struggled with the question of “not again, God?” when each time an angel forewarned them to “hasten and pack up, for you must leave this place.” Even if they had great faith, each blow of news and the logistics of being on the move must have been daunting – with a donkey or not.

How do we understand these difficult times? In my experience, I realise my efforts at understanding always fall short. The greater the effort I make, the more my heart and mind are fixated on the framework I have, and my framework is always too human, too limited, and too impatient. I perceive the things that have to be done and the answers I am seeking to be resolved in hours and days… but God is not limited by my perception of time. God’s plan exists in the dimension of eternity.

This is why the words of the prophets are never accepted in the present and can only be understood looking backwards: “He will be called a Nazarene.” This is why Herod and his son would fail to locate the Holy Family. God’s plan would still be carried out because God is above and beyond our human manipulations and frantic calculations.

I am learning to accept my family’s pilgrim state, as well as to embrace this sojourn of often being ‘homeless’ and always seeking a resting place, because I recognise this as an invitation from God to be very, very close to His chosen family – Jesus, Mary, Joseph. The privilege of too much earthly stability and permanence can turn out to be a grave distraction from seeking and desiring Eternal truths. Truths that will save our souls.

In Search for Love and Home

What are we really seeking in our lives? In the face of diagnoses of inexplicable illnesses, our fragile mortality, the sudden loss of a young life, the loss of a home, we realise how helpless and incapable we really are to make anything of true value happen without God’s grace. Evidently, we are human and not God. This is the ultimate truth that will strike at the heart of even the most stubbornly atheistic amidst us. Why does God permit this to happen to those whom He loves? Is this the kind of God whom I should place my hopes and trust in?

Our answers to this question will depend very much of what we understand about love, and ultimately the nature of God. For God is Love in its most perfect sense – more perfect, more profound, and vastly more giving than our minds can conceive. As St Thomas Aquinas said, “To love is to will the good of another.” Just as a parent would discipline a young child for the child’s own good, even if it involves certain pain or deprivation, so it is even more evident that God our loving Heavenly Father would desire the same for each of us in relation to our souls. We have a Father who suffers with us.

We need only look to the suffering person of Christ to understand the extent of God’s sacrificial love for us mankind. ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that anyone who believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life’ (John 3:16). A God who would give the gift of His own self, to be born as flesh in the infant Jesus, and Himself choose to take on the sins of others and die on the cross for this purpose, in order to bring us into eternal communion with Him in heaven… who could this God be?

In the face of all earthly suffering and our perplexing unanswered questions, let us look to these images: the vagrant and obedient Holy Family, Christ the pilgrim boy and mocked messiah, and Christ the suffering saviour, who, with his wounds, points us to His Father – who is also our most loving Father. How beautiful it is to truly and intimately know this God who suffers alongside me, and who loves me so.

In Him all of our journeys end. With Him lies our final, eternal, most perfect Home.

(Today’s Oxygen by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Pray with me please, dear friends, as I journey with the ones I love on the difficult paths of pain and healing. Pray for the grace to see our lives as God sees, for consolation that will be tangible, for hope that will carry us beyond the physical senses. Pray for hope and an increase in faith. As we pray, I believe that many among us who need these words shall also be healed.

Thanksgiving: Let us give thanks and delight in joyful praise for each and every day we are given. To live, to love, to forgive and seek forgiveness, to mend and heal, to laugh and breathe deeply. The best and only life we have is right now. Let us give thanks with a grateful heart.

30 November, Saturday – Panorama

Nov 30 – Feast of St. Andrew, apostle

Andrew was the first Apostle of Jesus Christ. He was a fisherman by trade, and the brother of Simon Peter. He was a follower of John the Baptist. Andrew went through life leading people to Jesus, both before and after the Crucifixion. He was a missionary in Asia Minor and Greece, and possibly areas in modern Russia and Poland. He was martyred on a saltire (x-shaped) cross, and is said to have preached for two days from it.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Romans 10:9-18

If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved. When scripture says: those who believe in him will have no cause for shame, it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: all belong to the same Lord who is rich enough, however many ask his help, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

But they will not ask his help unless they believe in him, and they will not believe in him unless they have heard of him, and they will not hear of him unless they get a preacher, and they will never have a preacher unless one is sent, but as scripture says: The footsteps of those who bring good news are a welcome sound. Not everyone, of course, listens to the Good News. As Isaiah says: Lord, how many believed what we proclaimed? So faith comes from what is preached, and what is preached comes from the word of Christ. Let me put the question: is it possible that they did not hear? Indeed they did; in the words of the psalm, their voice has gone out through all the earth, and their message to the ends of the world.

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Matthew 4:18-22

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; they were making a cast in the lake with their net, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ And they left their nets at once and followed him. Going on from there he saw another pair of brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they were in their boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. At once, leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.

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“Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”

I recently returned from a lengthy work trip that took me to some far flung places; places that I would have never visited on my own dime. It was a challenging assignment, with many highs and its fair share of lows. It had been quite a few years since I had gone on such a long posting and the time away made me realise how my world in Singapore was insiduously closing in on itself as the days flew by.

We are inherently resistant to change and become comfortable with routines, oftentimes regardless of how well they serve us. Sometimes, it takes a jolt to the system to ignite a reframing of our current state of life. I took on a new portfolio, met foreign partners, and experienced a living environment that was slower-paced than the one in Singapore. I felt refreshed and took time to reflect on my life and relationships. New thoughts and insights came to me effortlessly, as if the world was speaking to me directly.

As the year draws to a close, there is a frenzy of activity to complete projects, prepare the kids for their final exams, and to prepare for 2020. I’m sure the apostles were also perennially working to fulfil God’s mission. As tempting as it can be to be in full ‘doing’ mode, I wonder if we are better served by blocking out periods of time for new experiences, reflection, and rest. It is in these times that God can reach through to us, speaking to us individually in the ways we are most inclined to hear.

Brothers and sisters, our lives are works of art in a continual state of evolution. Let us appreciate the painter’s mastery both up close, and from afar.

(Today’s Oxygen by Anonymous)

Prayer:  Dear Lord, may we never be too consumed with life to not hear your voice. May we actively listen to your will for our lives.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for the wonders of our planet and for the opportunities you bless us with. We will always be grateful for your majesty and grace.

24 November, Sunday- He came to serve rather than be served

24 November

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2 Samuel 5:1-3

All the tribes of Israel then came to David at Hebron. ‘Look’ they said ‘we are your own flesh and blood. In days past when Saul was our king, it was you who led Israel in all their exploits; and the Lord said to you, “You are the man who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you shall be the leader of Israel.”’ So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a pact with them at Hebron in the presence of the Lord, and they anointed David king of Israel.

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Colossians 1:12-20

We give thanks to the Father who has made it possible for you to join the saints and with them to inherit the light.
Because that is what he has done: he has taken us out of the power of darkness and created a place for us in the kingdom of the Son that he loves, and in him, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.

He is the image of the unseen God
and the first-born of all creation,
for in him were created
all things in heaven and on earth:
everything visible and everything invisible,
Thrones, Dominations, Sovereignties, Powers –
all things were created through him and for him.
Before anything was created, he existed,
and he holds all things in unity.
Now the Church is his body,
he is its head.

As he is the Beginning,
he was first to be born from the dead,
so that he should be first in every way;
because God wanted all perfection
to be found in him
and all things to be reconciled through him and for him,
everything in heaven and everything on earth,
when he made peace
by his death on the cross.

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Luke 23:35-43

The people stayed there before the cross watching Jesus. As for the leaders, they jeered at him. ‘He saved others,’ they said ‘let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.’ The soldiers mocked him too, and when they approached to offer vinegar they said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’ Above him there was an inscription: ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals hanging there abused him. ‘Are you not the Christ?’ he said. ‘Save yourself and us as well.’ But the other spoke up and rebuked him. ‘Have you no fear of God at all?’ he said. ‘You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus,’ he said ‘remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ ‘Indeed, I promise you,’ he replied ‘today you will be with me in paradise.’

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This is the King of the Jews.

As I reflected on today’s gospel, I imagined myself as one of the 2 criminals hanging on the cross there with Jesus, one on his left and the other on his right. Which one of the two criminals would I be? Would I be like the leaders who stood by watching Jesus, not believing that He is indeed the King of the Jews? If I were honest, I’d probably be the one who said “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”  If I were that criminal, not having met nor encountered Jesus, I would probably be a bit sceptical, and also a bit anxious and afraid about my impending death. I may not go to the extent of expressing contempt, but I would surely be challenging him to prove himself and his ‘powers’ to save me from this painful death. In contrast, the other criminal was full of remorse for everything he had done in his lifetime. He recognized that Jesus is indeed the Lord and Saviour. His heart repentant, he humbly asked Jesus to remember him in His Kingdom. He didn’t demand this, he asked.

Unlike the 2 criminals, we don’t have to guess or wonder about Jesus’ power and royalty. We are blessed to have experienced the hand of God and Jesus in our lives, in big or small ways. Can we walk in faith that no matter what circumstances we face today, whatever challenges, pain and suffering, we can be assured that Jesus, the crucified King’s only aim is to help and protect the weak, and restore dignity to the poor and the helpless?

Today’s first two readings focus on kingdoms and power. In 2 Samuel, the tribes of Israel anoint David as king, following the will of the Lord who put him in charge of the Israelites even when Saul was still king. The Lord had, at the time, given David two charges, the second of which was to be “commander of Israel.” The first, however, was to “shepherd my people Israel” — to care for them, to love them, and to serve them. Power serves — it is not served. Jesus did not come to earth to declare a material kingdom of power and might, but came to serve us and save us. He came to serve rather than be served, and that service extends throughout time.

Just over the Deepavali weekend, social media was abuzz with news of a certain resident arguing and verbally abusing a security guard at his condominium. He was purportedly unhappy with a rule by the condominium’s management, which imposed a S$10 fee for visitors who park their cars there after 11pm. Being a guest of our country, he really upset many Singaporeans (and me) with the way he treated the innocent security guard, who was merely doing his job. He showed a disdain for those who live in public housing and had no respect for a fellow human being, deemed below his social status, I suppose. Like all fellow Singaporeans, I waited till the holiday weekend was over to see how this story would pan out. Would he lose his residency, his job and all credibility? His life must have been a living hell that Deepavali weekend – the backlash of his actions. Did he feel that his status in life gave him the power and ‘authority’ to treat others without respect? To demand service, without first serving?

As upset as I am over this incident, I am reminded that Jesus forgives those who wrong him — as he says, “…they do not know what they are doing.”

Can we step back, recognize what we are doing or not doing, and make a concerted effort to change? At the same time, can we extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for your Kingship. For being a perfect example of what love, compassion and service means. May our lives be a true reflection of what it is to be Christian. Thank you for being Lord of our lives.

9 November, Saturday – The Sanctuary

9 November – Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

The Lateran Basilica was built by the Emperor Constantine on the Lateran Hill in Rome in about 324. The feast of its dedication has been celebrated in Rome on this date since the twelfth century. In honour of the basilica, “the mother and head of all the churches of the City and the World,” the feast has been extended to the whole Roman Rite as a sign of unity and love towards the See of Peter, which, as St Ignatius of Antioch said in the second century, “presides over the whole assembly of charity.”

– Universalis

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Ezekiel 47:1-2,8-9,12

The angel brought me to the entrance of the Temple, where a stream came out from under the Temple threshold and flowed eastwards, since the Temple faced east. The water flowed from under the right side of the Temple, south of the altar. He took me out by the north gate and led me right round outside as far as the outer east gate where the water flowed out on the right-hand side. He said, ‘This water flows east down to the Arabah and to the sea; and flowing into the sea it makes its waters wholesome. Wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live. Fish will be very plentiful, for wherever the water goes it brings health, and life teems wherever the river flows. Along the river, on either bank, will grow every kind of fruit tree with leaves that never wither and fruit that never fails; they will bear new fruit every month, because this water comes from the sanctuary. And their fruit will be good to eat and the leaves medicinal.’

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1 Corinthians 3:9-11,16-17

You are God’s building. By the grace God gave me, I succeeded as an architect and laid the foundations, on which someone else is doing the building. Everyone doing the building must work carefully. For the foundation, nobody can lay any other than the one which has already been laid, that is Jesus Christ.

Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.

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John 2:13-22

Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money changers sitting at their counters there. Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.’ Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: Zeal for your house will devour me. The Jews intervened and said, ‘What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?’ Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary: are you going to raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said.
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I have chosen and consecrated this house, says the Lord, for my name to be there forever.

Today’s Gospel on the Temple and the sacred sanctuary that is Jesus reminds me of the pilgrimage I made to the Holy Land in Israel last year. We had made a trip to the Wailing Wall, otherwise known as the Western Wall, which was the very exact same temple that was mentioned in today’s Gospel.

We pilgrims had stood in awe and appreciated the grandeur of this structure, the only remaining fragment of the Great Temple of Jerusalem to survive the Roman destruction. It still stands today as the most sacred structure of the Jewish people. But for us Christians, this is considered a holy site because Jesus was present at this very temple. It was here that the incidents of the 4th and 5th Joyful mysteries of the Rosary took place — The Presentation of the Baby Jesus in the Temple and The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. In his years of ministry, Jesus also preached at this temple, and it was here where He expelled all the money changers.

“Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.” It was this very temple whose veil was torn in two the moment Jesus died. Jesus was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body. And when He rose from the dead, it marked the beginning of a new covenant.

The significance of this Jewish sacred structure to us Christians and Catholics cannot be understated. However, I was personally filled with confusion at that moment as I stood hesitating whether I should go up and touch the wall or not. At that time, I could not fully comprehend the significance of this place, and I seriously pondered why my fellow pilgrims were visibly moved as they touched the wall. But as I finally approached and put my hands on the cold stones, I could feel my heart pumping stronger, and it hit me, this was where ‘the Divine Presence always rests’.

On my left and right were Jews praying fervently, and yet there I was praying as a Christian. That moment was surreal to me. The prophet Isaiah called the Temple a “house for all nations”. Israel is a land where there is much fighting amongst the Jews, Muslims and Christians, but in front of the Wall, all stand equal. This is a universal centre of spirituality. The Wall has withstood time, it has witnessed war and peace, destruction and revival. For generations, it has absorbed the prayers and yearnings of those near and far.

I am still very grateful that I had this incredible privilege to go on this pilgrimage. A year on, and I am still appreciating the wonders of the Gospel coming alive to me at the Holy Land.

(Today’s Oxygen by Kristel Wang)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, we pray for peace and harmony amongst all nations and religions.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for reminding us of your goodness and everlasting truth. Amen.

18 October, Friday – Influencers

Oct 18 – Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist

Luke (d. 74) was born to pagan Greek parents, and possibly a slave. He was one of the earliest converts, and a physician studying in Antioch and Tarsus. He probably travelled as a ship’s doctor, and many charitable societies of physicians are named after him. Legend has that he was also a painter who may have done portraits of Jesus and Mary, but none have ever been correctly or definitively attributed to him; this story, and the inspiration his Gospel has always given artists, led to his patronage of them.

He met St. Paul at Troas, and evangelised Greece and Rome with him, being there for the shipwreck and other perils of the voyage to Rome, and stayed in Rome for Paul’s two years in prison. He wrote the Gospel According to Luke, much of which was based on the teachings and writings of Paul, interviews with early Christians, and his own experiences. He also wrote a history of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles. He was likely to have been martyred for his faith.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Timothy 4:10-17

Demas has deserted me for love of this life and gone to Thessalonika, Crescens has gone to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia; only Luke is with me. Get Mark to come and bring him with you; I find him a useful helper in my work. I have sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak I left with Carpus in Troas, and the scrolls, especially the parchment ones. Alexander the coppersmith has done me a lot of harm; the Lord will repay him for what he has done. Be on your guard against him yourself, because he has been bitterly contesting everything that we say.

The first time I had to present my defence, there was not a single witness to support me. Every one of them deserted me – may they not be held accountable for it. But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.

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Luke 10:1-9

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.”’

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But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.

What are our personas in the quilt of our lives? At work, home, with friends, and at church, there are nuances in whom we present to the world. While the differences can be subtle, they are nevertheless there. Sometimes we respond unconsciously, and at other times we make a deliberate effort to wear the appropriate mask.

While life’s experiences have shaped who we are, we cannot proceed on autopilot lest we lose sight of our being. The power to influence others is a considerable one, and like the saints before us, our message needs to be pure. We show up as children of God, embodying the life and teachings of Christ.

Influence is not about the spouting of manifestos or treatises. Neither is it heavy-handed. Influence is the ability to shape the behaviours of others through our examples and ways of life. Take a moment to notice people whom you’ve dealt with. Are they following what you do? Are they using terms and phrases that you do? Have they changed their lives to mimic yours?  If that has ever happened, then you are an influencer!

If those changes were good ones, then I would say that you’re on the right path. However there is a polarity to this; if you notice people actively NOT doing what you do, then that gives pause for some introspection. We are always providing others with an opportunity to judge their own lives as they reference ours. In searching for purchase, people savvily absorb what they deem to be good, and the things about you that others draw reference to also speaks volumes about them.

Brothers and sisters, I invite you to rigorously analyse the power you have over others. Specifically, the soft power that is in each and every one of us that makes us who we are. May we never take that for granted.

(Today’s Oxygen by Anonymous)

Prayer:  Help us dear Lord to walk in your ways, always gifting others with the joy of our companionship.

Thanksgiving:  We thank you Father, for our individuality. There is no greater gift than to be beautiful and complete in you.

21 September, Saturday – Only God Can Judge Me

Sep 21 – Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Matthew was the son of Alphaeus, and he lived at Capernaum on Lake Genesareth. He was a Roman tax collector, a position equated with collaboration with the enemy by those from whom he collected taxes. Jesus’ contemporaries were surprised to see the Christ with a traitor, but Jesus explained that he had come “not to call the just, but sinners”.

Matthew’s Gospel is given pride of place in the canon of the New Testament, and was written to convince Jewish readers that their anticipated Messiah had come in the person of Jesus. He preached among the Jews for 15 years; his audiences may have included the Jewish enclave in Ethiopia, and places in the East.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13

I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.

Each one of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it. To some, his gift was that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; so that the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ. In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.

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Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus was walking on, he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

While he was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’

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I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.

Matthew the tax collector, was a sinner in the righteous eyes, yet was chosen and called to be Jesus’ disciple, one of the twelve apostles, and continued to become one of the great evangelists. Today’s Gospel reminds us, “Who are we to judge anyone?” And especially if we call ourselves Christians, should we not show mercy to everyone, just as Jesus did?

Some of the gripes of people who have fallen away from the faith, are that we Christians or Catholics are hypocrites. We claim to be righteous, to be holy and do good, yet often we are quick to judge a fellow brother or sister, just because they do not conform to certain outwardly appearances or practices. Do we take the time to understand someone else’s circumstances, and even if they may truly be at fault, do we exercise compassion?

I serve in a ministry where I have the privilege to hear people’s stories; their willingness to be vulnerable and share deeply always touches me. And often I am shocked by what they have gone through, the phrase ‘do not judge a book by its cover’ always rings true. People are very capable of hiding under a mask, but when there’s trust and mercy, they will dare to be uncovered.

Last month, I shared a personal testimony on my return to the church in front of a bunch of total strangers. With the help of trusted friends, I rewrote my story many times, cautious of the unknown audience I was going to be delivering it to. When the day finally came, I was filled with nervousness and anxiety, but I believed that it was a safe space, and that the people present, strangers as they may be, could possibly identify with me and parts of my story. I got emotional and choked at one point, but I also think that just proved my humanness.

The whole experience was very humbling, and at the same time, edifying. As part of my testimony, I shared that despite all my sins and mistakes, God was still always there. And like Matthew the tax collector, God still chose me. I understand first-hand, what’s it like to be judged without mercy, but I know that it is God who sees me, and I am good enough for Him. I also pray that I can strive to be like Jesus, and be the conduit for grace and love to flow.

(Today’s Oxygen by Kristel Wang)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to be compassionate and merciful to everyone, especially to those whom we find difficult. Help us not to be judgmental, but to be kind and graceful, just as you are.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for always being there, for choosing us, and for always loving us, despite our shortcomings. Amen.

14 September, Saturday – Of Hope and Promise

Sep 14 – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

The feast was celebrated in Rome before the end of the 7th century. Its purpose is to commemorate the recovering of that portion of the Holy Cross which was preserved at Jerusalem, and which had fallen into the hands of the Persians. Emperor Heraclius recovered this precious relic and brought it back to Jerusalem on 3 May 629.

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Numbers 21:4-9

On the way through the wilderness the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’

At this God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. The people came and said to Moses, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede for us with the Lord to save us from these serpents.’ Moses interceded for the people, and the Lord answered him, ‘Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.’ So Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard, and if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived.

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John 3:13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus:
‘No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who came down from heaven,
the Son of Man who is in heaven;
and the Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.’

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God sent His Son into the world… so that through Him the world might be saved

Have you heard people complaining about the unfavourable lot that life has dealt them or the difficult circumstances they are going through? I cannot help feeling bemused when they end their lamentations with the statement “but this is a cross I have to carry”.

We encounter many struggles at different stages in our lives, especially as we try to live out our faith. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to carry our crosses and proclaim the Good News to the world. Yet many of us forget the significance of the Cross. Some even begrudge the challenges it brings, so much so that it gets relegated as a sweeping statement to connote a sense of helplessness.

Much like the Israelites from the first reading, we complain when things do not go our way, sometimes to the extent of doubting God’s plans for us. However, God shows His mercy and compassion even after we let Him down time and time again. This is best illustrated when He sent His Son to die an excruciating death on the cross for our redemption.

The Cross represents the sacrifices Jesus made for us to save us from our sins. For us, Jesus on the cross expresses God’s unconditional and faithful love, and how He gave His life so that we might live life to the fullest. There is no sin too great for God to forgive, as long as we believe that we have been forgiven. Once an instrument of torture, the Cross now stands as a symbol of hope and promise.

In embracing the Cross, each of us is challenged to follow Jesus as He leads us to the way of the Cross. We are called to model his obedience and to die to our pride, self-sufficiency, arrogance and prejudices.  On today’s feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, let us reflect on what the Cross signifies in our lives and how best to live out our identities as Christians.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that we may obediently abide in you amidst the trials and tribulations in our lives.  We pray for strength to journey on the path of the Cross, trusting that You are ever present with us.  

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the triumph of the Cross over sin and the promise of eternal life with You. 

24 August, Saturday – Supporting Structures

Aug 24 – Feast of St. Bartholomew, apostle

Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Apostles. He was probably a close friend of St. Philip, as his name is always mentioned in the gospels in connection with Philip, and it was Philip who brought Bartholomew to Jesus. He may have written a gospel, now lost, as it is mentioned in other writings of the time.

Someone preached in Asia Minor, Ethiopia, India, and Armenia and left behind assorted writings. Local tradition says it was Bartholomew.

– Patron Saint Index

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Apocalypse 21:9-14

The angel came to speak to me, and said, ‘Come here and I will show you the bride that the Lamb has married.’ In the spirit, he took me to the top of an enormous high mountain and showed me Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down from God out of heaven. It had all the radiant glory of God and glittered like some precious jewel of crystal-clear diamond. The walls of it were of a great height, and had twelve gates; at each of the twelve gates there was an angel, and over the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel; on the east there were three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. The city walls stood on twelve foundation stones, each one of which bore the name of one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

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John 1:45-51

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, the one about whom the prophets wrote: he is Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.’ ‘From Nazareth?’ said Nathanael ‘Can anything good come from that place?’ ‘Come and see’ replied Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said of him, ‘There is an Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit.’ ‘How do you know me?’ said Nathanael ‘Before Philip came to call you,’ said Jesus ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ Nathanael answered, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.’ Jesus replied, ‘You believe that just because I said: I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.’ And then he added ‘I tell you most solemnly, you will see heaven laid open and, above the Son of Man, the angels of God ascending and descending.’

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Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace.

The bible has many accounts of believers who were thrust into the spotlight, called by God to do great things in his name — Moses, David, and Joseph (both of them!) were directed to be leaders of their flock, much to their chagrin.

Yet in organisations or situations, there can only be one chief. Too many voices cloud decision making and the clarity of vision and purpose is diluted. What the chief needs are trusted and dependable deputies who work behind the scenes, implementing the plan. The deputies and workers may never get the same recognition and rewards as the chief, but they are no less important.

Being a deputy or a follower is not a passive undertaking. Merely following instructions, or doing the bare minimum are not behaviours that facilitate any leader’s job. Active followership involves being aligned to a mission, supporting the leader’s decisions, and being proactive in one’s work. The dynamism of shadowing, and pre-empting what our leaders need trains us for a day when we could possibly be the ones steering the ship.

All too many of us yearn for authority and influence, but God will only entrust us with responsibilities once we are ready. Consider how God is asking you to take the back seat in any aspect of your life; and decide if you want to be merely a passenger, or a trusted companion on the journey.

(Today’s Oxygen by Anonymous)

Prayer:  Help us dear Lord, to bloom where we are planted, and to serve with humility and enthusiasm.

Thanksgiving:  We thank you Father, for all the opportunities you present us in life. May we trust in your plan for our lives, as incomprehensible as it can sometimes be.

10 Aug, Saturday – Invitation to say “Yes”

Aug 10 – Feast of St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr

Lawrence was a third-century archdeacon of Rome, a distributor of alms, and “keeper of the treasures of the Church” in a time when Christianity was outlawed. On 6 August 258, by decree of Emperor Valerian, Pope St. Sixtus II and six deacons were beheaded, leaving Lawrence as the ranking Church official in Rome.

While in prison awaiting execution, Sixtus reassured Lawrence that he was not being left behind; they would be reunited in four days. Lawrence saw this time as an opportunity to disperse the material wealth of the church before the Roman authorities could lay their hands on it.

On Aug 10, Lawrence was commanded to appear for his execution, and to bring along the treasure with which he had been entrusted by the pope. When he arrived, the archdeacon was accompanied by a multitude of Rome’s crippled, blind, sick, and indigent. He announced that these were the true treasures of the Church. He died a martyr for the faith.

Lawrence’s care for the poor, the ill, and the neglected have led to his patronage of them. His work to save the material wealth of the Church, including the documents, brought librarians and those in related fields to see him as a patron, and to ask for his intercession. And his incredible strength and courage when being grilled to death led to his patronage of cooks and those who work in or supply things to the kitchen. The meteor shower that follows the passage of the Swift-Tuttle comet was known in the middle ages as the “burning tears of St. Lawrence” because they appear at the same time as Lawrence’s feast.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Corinthians 9:6-10

Do not forget: thin sowing means thin reaping; the more you sow, the more you reap. Each one should give what he has decided in his own mind, not grudgingly or because he is made to, for God loves a cheerful giver. And there is no limit to the blessings which God can send you – he will make sure that you will always have all you need for yourselves in every possible circumstance, and still have something to spare for all sorts of good works. As scripture says: He was free in almsgiving, and gave to the poor: his good deeds will never be forgotten.

The one who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide you with all the seed you want and make the harvest of your good deeds a larger one.

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John 12:24-26

I tell you, most solemnly, unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.

Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life.

If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too.

If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.

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The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

Recently, I’ve had to make some hard decisions about church ministry. I was serving’ in two different ministries; I put serving in inverted commas, because truthfully I had become just a member in name for one of the ministries. It had been weighing on my shoulders, the guilt that I was no longer an active member, yet still claimed to be a ministry member and enjoyed the benefits or ‘prestige’ that came with it. A priest advised me that it was not right to have one foot in and one foot out, and it was best to make a firm decision. I knew quite clearly that my call was to serve in the other ministry, but still it was difficult to officially call it quits as I clung onto the familiarity and security of the first one.

However, once I announced my decision to the ministry leaders and made the firm choice, I felt so much lighter. It felt right to focus on just this one ministry, especially when there had been multiple signs that this was my calling. It was just a matter of whether I was accepting and believing of the signs. And in doing so, I found myself being invited to do more in this ministry; I knew that since I had answered the call to serve in this ministry, I ought to say ‘yes’.

The latest ask of me, was to share my personal testimony, in front of a bunch of strangers. This was something I was somewhat willing to do, but not quite yet prepared to; I was unsure if it was the right time, and of course very fearful of a public sharing! I spent a couple of weeks discerning, and again I could not ignore the signs He gave me. But I needed the courage to say ‘yes’, and trust that no matter my readiness or the seemingly imperfect timing, God will make a way.

In today’s first reading, I’m reminded that “God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.” I am also reminded and comforted that even though my gift is small, He will take it all and multiply, just like the five loaves and two fishes that fed the thousands.

(Today’s Oxygen by Kristel Wang)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to remember to always run to you first, to trust that even though we are broken people, we are worthy of your love.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for nothing is possible without Your grace. Thank you for taking what little we have, and multiplying the harvest in abundance.