Category Archives: Feastdays

25 April, Tuesday – Proclaiming the Gospel

25 Apr – Feast of St. Mark, evangelist

St. Mark is believed to be the young man who ran away when Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:51-52), and the “John whose other name was Mark” (Acts 12:25). He was a disciple of St. Peter who travelled with him to Rome, and was referred to as “my son Mark” by the first Pope. He was the author of the earliest canonical Gospel. He travelled with his cousin St. Barnabas, and with St. Paul through Cyprus. He evangelized in Alexandria, established the Church there, and founded the first famous Christian school.

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1 Peter 5:5-14

All wrap yourselves in humility to be servants of each other, because God refuses the proud and will always favour the humble. Bow down, then, before the power of God now, and he will raise you up on the appointed day; unload all your worries on to him, since he is looking after you. Be calm but vigilant, because your enemy the devil is prowling round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to eat. Stand up to him, strong in faith and in the knowledge that your brothers all over the world are suffering the same things. You will have to suffer only for a little while: the God of all grace who called you to eternal glory in Christ will see that all is well again: he will confirm, strengthen and support you. His power lasts for ever and ever. Amen.

I write these few words to you through Silvanus, who is a brother I know I can trust, to encourage you never to let go this true grace of God to which I bear witness.

Your sister in Babylon, who is with you among the chosen, sends you greetings; so does my son, Mark.

Greet one another with a kiss of love.

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Mark 16:15-20

Jesus showed himself to the Eleven and said to them:
‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.’

And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven: there at the right hand of God he took his place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.

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“Go out to the whole world; proclaim the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Building on the previous readings, we see in the Gospel today how Jesus asks us to go out to the whole world and proclaim the gospel. The truth really is not so much that Jesus asks us to do so, but if we have truly encountered the Risen Lord in our lives, we will want to share Him with all.  When we know who Jesus is, when we know who we are and who we are called to be, there really is nothing to fear when we are speaking the truth, living in the truth, living in light.

Many times, we rely on our own strength and we fear that we are not good enough, that we are not ready, and question who are we to comment/advise or to share our experiences and our lives. Of course, humanly it is very daunting but, when we trust and allow the Holy Spirit to take over, not only do we encounter Christ in His working within us, we allow others to encounter Christ too.

Evangelisation isn’t solely spreading Jesus by word of mouth. It is really allowing Him to live in us, and by our example, enable others to see Christ. So we practice what we preach but very importantly, with humility, recognising and giving thanks for all the blessings that Christ has bestowed on us — the people He has sent in our lives, the opportunities given to us, the graces we’ve received. In other words, to give Him the glory not just with our mouths but also with our lives.

Together with the spirit, nothing is too difficult to overcome. Let us embrace this spirit, our faith, our baptism, to go forth and share our Risen Lord with all.

“You will have to suffer only for a little while: the God of all graces who called you to eternal glory in Christ will restore you, he will confirm, strengthen and support you. His power lasts for ever and ever. Amen.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to be faithful to you. Help us to embrace our identity, for you created us in your image, with love. Help us share you by our lives with all.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your love and your Word. Continue to show yourself to those who do not know you.

25 March, Saturday – “God is with us”

25 Mar – Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

The annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary by Gabriel, the archangel, that she was to be the Mother of God (Luke 1), the Word being made flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The feast probably originated about the time of the Council of Ephesus (c. 431), and is first mentioned in the Sacramentary of Pope Gelasius (d. 496).

The Annunciation has been a key topic in Christian art in general, as well as in Roman Catholic Marian art, particularly during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It is represented in art by many masters, among them Fra Angelico, Hubert Van Eyck, Ghirlandajo, Holbein the Elder, Lippi, Pinturicchio, and Del Sarto.

This feast is celebrated on Mar 25, nine months before the feast of the Nativity of Jesus (Christmas) on Dec 25.

The Annunciation is also mentioned twice in the Quran, the holy book for the Muslims.

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Isaiah 7:10-14,8:10

The Lord spoke to Ahaz and said, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign for yourself coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above.’ ‘No,’ Ahaz answered ‘I will not put the Lord to the test.’
Then he said:
Listen now, House of David:
are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men
without trying the patience of my God, too?
The Lord himself, therefore,
will give you a sign.
It is this: the maiden is with child
and will soon give birth to a son
whom she will call Immanuel,
a name which means ‘God is with us.’
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Hebrews 10:4-10
Bulls’ blood and goats’ blood are useless for taking away sins, and this is what Christ said, on coming into the world:
You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation,
prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin;
then I said,
just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book,
‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’
Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.
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Luke 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’
Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.
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Every day at 12 noon, my alarm goes off. And as long as I am not urgently occupied I say the Angelus (or my wife reminds me to). Traditionally, it was prayed three times a day, accompanied by church bells. Even the Holy Father makes an event of praying the Angelus when he does it on Sundays at noon and gives a short address. The Church has also attached a partial indulgence to praying the Angelus.

Why does this prayer get so much air time? I think, precisely because it represents the single most significant event in the history of the world. The Annunciation. Mary said ‘Yes’ and the 2nd person of the Holy Trinity was immediately present in her womb and, until now, is present in the world. Literally, God is with us. So every day, millions of people take a bit of time to ponder this great mystery. The one sovereign God loves us so much that he became exactly like one of us, holding on to none of His splendour and grandeur.

What does this mean to us? Do we live like God is among us? Or is He only present in the tabernacle or worse, only 2000 years ago? I have come to realise that once we make ourselves aware of God’s true presence within and around us all the time, then we truly live as His children; like recently, when I visited an old workplace of mine and met with old colleagues, (post reversion to the faith) I could see people for the people they are and not what they can do, how they work or what position they hold. Being more aware of God’s presence makes us less judgmental and more compassionate. It makes us model Mary, just a little bit.

“I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me,” said Mary. And from that moment, the Lord was with her. Let us, in recitation of the Angelus daily, become handmaids too, and do all the Lord asks of us and always be aware that he is truly with us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer: Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross, be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank you for your Mother; Our Mother, for her yes, for her intercession and for her leading us to you.

19 March, Monday – Eeny, Meenie, Miney, Mo

19 March – Solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Joseph is a descendant of the house of David. A layman and a carpenter, he was the earthly spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and foster and adoptive father of Jesus Christ. He was a visionary who was visited by angels, and is noted for his willingness to immediately get up and do what God told him.

Prayer to St. Joseph

Blessed Joseph, husband of Mary, be with us this day.
You protected and cherished the Virgin;
loving the Child Jesus as your Son,
you rescued Him from the danger of death.
Defend the Church, the household of God,
purchased by the blood of Christ.

Guardian of the Holy Family,
be with us in our trials.
May your prayers obtain for us
the strength to flee from error
and wrestle with the powers of corruption
so that in life we may grow in holiness
and in death rejoice in the crown of victory. Amen.

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2 Samuel 7:4-5,12-14,16

The word of the Lord came to Nathan:
‘Go and tell my servant David, “Thus the Lord speaks: “When your days are ended and you are laid to rest with your ancestors, I will preserve the offspring of your body after you and make his sovereignty secure. (It is he who shall build a house for my name, and I will make his royal throne secure for ever.) I will be a father to him and he a son to me; if he does evil, I will punish him with the rod such as men use, with strokes such as mankind gives. Yet I will not withdraw my favour from him, as I withdrew it from your predecessor. Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me and your throne be established for ever.”’

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Romans 4:13,16-18,22

The promise of inheriting the world was not made to Abraham and his descendants on account of any law but on account of the righteousness which consists in faith. That is why what fulfils the promise depends on faith, so that it may be a free gift and be available to all of Abraham’s descendants, not only those who belong to the Law but also those who belong to the faith of Abraham who is the father of all of us. As scripture says: I have made you the ancestor of many nations – Abraham is our father in the eyes of God, in whom he put his faith, and who brings the dead to life and calls into being what does not exist.

Though it seemed Abraham’s hope could not be fulfilled, he hoped and he believed, and through doing so he did become the father of many nations exactly as he had been promised: Your descendants will be as many as the stars. This is the faith that was ‘considered as justifying him.’

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Matthew 1:16,18-21,24

Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary; of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.

This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do.

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“She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus.”

 St. Joseph is never referred to as the guardian, or the father of Jesus. Being more often known as the husband of Mary, he lived a life of humility and service, supporting God’s plan while working tirelessly outside of the limelight. I empathized with him, as he wrestled with the news of how the birth of Jesus would forever change his life, regardless of his response. He could either have stood by Mary’s side and fulfilled his duties as a husband, or he could have walked away and started afresh.

Sometimes God entrusts us with responsibilities that we may not want to undertake. These duties fill us with fear and anxiety, and make us question our worthiness to live up to grand expectations perpetuated by society, and ourselves. In today’s ‘empowered’ world where the ability to make our own choices is held so dearly, we wrestle with the constant dilemma of choosing to live for God wholeheartedly, to live the life that we tweak and adjust so that it seems like we are living in accordance to God’s will, or to dive completely into the mission that God tasks us with.

But is the choice really one between similar outcomes? I’ve been guilty of making ‘good’ choices, only to feel a deep sense of restlessness that only subsides once I tweak my original plan. I have also made choices after much prayer and reflection, only to still have to face God’s silence, as I work through the consequences of my actions while managing the uncertainty that still lingers for a long time after. Choice, it would seem, is just the beginning of a pact we make with God and ourselves.

Our loving God not only grants us the wisdom to make choices out of our own free will, but he also empowers us to follow-through on those choices in spite of the fog of confusion or doubt that is along that path. It is the beauty of the relentless cycle of choices being presented, discerning and praying before choosing, and leaning on God as we work through the consequences of our actions, that make the Christian life so rigorous, and comforting. The simplicity and difficulty of this cycle, help us to plant deep roots into the rich field of our earthly life so that no storm or tempest could ever sway us beyond our limits.

St. Joseph made his choice all those years ago and his legacy is something that we give thanks for everyday. Fellow journeyers in Christ, how will the choices you make today leave a legacy that would be pleasing to God?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we ask you to reveal your plan for our life’s vocation, and to give us the courage to do whatever it takes to answer your call.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for the quiet workers in our lives. With gratitude, we praise you for the giants on whose shoulders we stand.

22 February, Wednesday – Profession of Faith

22 Feb – Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the Apostle

The feast of the Chair of St. Peter at Rome, Italy has been celebrated from the early days of the Christian era on Jan 18, in commemoration of the day when St. Peter held his first service in Rome. The feast of the Chair of St. Peter at Antioch commemorating his foundation of the See of Antioch, has also been long celebrated in Rome, on Feb 22. At each place, a chair (cathedra) which the Apostle had used while presiding at Mass was venerated.

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This feast has been kept in Rome since the fourth century, as a symbol of the unity of the Church.

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1 Peter 5:1-4

Now I have something to tell your elders: I am an elder myself, and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, and with you I have a share in the glory that is to be revealed. Be the shepherds of the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, because God wants it; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it. Never be a dictator over any group that is put in your charge, but be an example that the whole flock can follow. When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the crown of unfading glory.

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Matthew 16:13-19

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’

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“Who do you say I am? … You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”

Today we celebrate the feast of the Chair of St Peter, the Apostle. Very much in line with the messages from the previous days, about faith, about the example. In today’s Gospel, we focus on the faith of Peter but also His example. Peter didn’t just say those words, he lived those words and Jesus knew. His faith was his life.

We profess our faith weekly but how does it affect us? Or is it simply just words?

Like Peter, we are all human, imperfect. But Peter has chosen to see Christ in His life. Yes, we may say that Christ performed many miracles then and hence it was easier to believe but He is still performing many miracles today, why is it we don’t see?

Maybe because we are waiting for someone to come down from the clouds or a voice from heaven?

I believe Christ lives in each and everyone of us and we are all called to be Christ to one another. The Holy Spirit is working in us, to reach out and minister to others. When we give out of compassion, when we forgive, reconcile, love. When we make sacrifices, when we affirm, when we reach out to the needy. These are the many miracles Christ is working in our lives today.

Today, WE are the church and Christ chooses each one of us to carry on His ministry, to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. We are His examples, His witnesses, His light, His love.

Let us not take the people around us, the people who love us and are closest to us for granted. Let us profess our faith with conviction and by example, that we are one church, we have one God and we are the children of the living God. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, empower us in our weaknesses, be our strength and our guide. May we not get caught up with routines and take for granted what is really important. Help us to open our eyes, bless us with wisdom, that we may see your hand continuously in our lives, to be Christ to all.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for the gift of community, of the church. Thank you for the Holy Spirit. Continue to live and move and work in us, that we may bring/lead all to you, to glorify your name. Amen.

2 February, Thursday – Ask!

 2 Feb – Feast of the Presentation of the Lord; World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life

This feast celebrates an early episode in the life of Jesus. In the Roman Catholic Church, the Presentation is the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is one of the twelve Great Feasts. In many Western liturgical churches, Vespers (or Compline) on the Feast of the Presentation marks the end of the Epiphany season.

This feast is also known by other traditional names including Candelmas, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, and the Meeting of the Lord. Prior to the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, Candlemas marked the end of the Christmas and Epiphany season.

The Western term ‘Candlemas’ (or Candle Mass) referred to the practice whereby a priest on Feb 2 (forty days after Christmas) blessed beeswax candles with an aspergilium (liturgical implement used to sprinkle holy water) for use throughout the year, some of which were distributed to the faithful for use in the home.

Since the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, this feast has been referred to as the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, with references to candles and the purification of Mary de-emphasized in favour of the Prophecy of Simeon the Righteous. Pope John Paul II connected the feast day with the renewal of religious vows.

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Malachi 3:1-4

The Lord God says this: Look, I am going to send my messenger to prepare a way before me. And the Lord you are seeking will suddenly enter his Temple; and the angel of the covenant whom you are longing for, yes, he is coming, says the Lord of Hosts. Who will be able to resist the day of his coming? Who will remain standing when he appears?

For he is like the refiner’s fire and the fullers’ alkali. He will take his seat as refiner and purifier; he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and then they will make the offering to the Lord as it should be made. The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will then be welcomed by the Lord as in former days, as in the years of old.

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Luke 2:22-40

When the day came for them to be purified as laid down by the Law of Moses, the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, – observing what stands written in the Law of the Lord: Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord – and also to offer in sacrifice, in accordance with what is said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

Now in Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to Israel’s comforting and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord. Prompted by the Spirit he came to the Temple and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the Law required, he took him into his arms and blessed God; and he said:

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

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

There was a prophetess also, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well on in years. Her days of girlhood over, she had been married for seven years before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. She came by just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.

When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.

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“This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him”

In Matthew 7:7, Jesus tells us to “ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened”.

So often, we find ourselves afraid to ask. We don’t ask because I think on some level, we’re afraid to believe; afraid of being disappointed. We’ve been let down so often by the people around us that subconsciously, we don’t want God to join their ranks. So if we don’t ask, He never gets the chance to say no and remains that distant, perfect being. But then our faith doesn’t get the chance to exercise itself either, and we end up wondering, ‘what if’? Worse than that, our prayer life doesn’t get to mature. We know God only as a distant Sunday school being, and never develop the kind of close relationship that comes from prayerful ‘asking’.

We see different kinds of ‘asking’ in Scripture. There are the requests for assurance like when Gideon needs a sign of God’s plan (Judges 6:33-39). There are the desperate pleas, like when Hannah asks God to bless her with a child (1 Samuel 1:9-28). There are the half-serious requests, like when Moses asks God to choose someone else (Exodus 4:13). And then there are the deep, resonant prayers in Scripture, the ones that silence us with their humility and complete surrender to God’s plan – “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). When we pray deeply, devotedly and in full faith, God sends the Holy Spirit to tune our hearts so that our desires align with His. Simeon prayed with devotion that he would see the ‘consolation of Israel’. Through prayer, he was infused by the Holy Spirit so that he discerned things with his heart and correctly identified Christ the child, the moment he walked into the temple. “Seek and you will find”. It is in prayerful asking, in prayerful seeking that the Holy Spirit reveals and aligns us to God’s will for us. He has plans for us that we would not even dream for ourselves. Let’s not let our fears and insecurities stop us from experiencing the richness of a life lived according to His will for us. We might surprise ourselves with what He is able to do if we would just let Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for God to work His will in our lives and to give us hearts tuned in to His plan for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all those that God sends to guide us onto the path He has set for us. May we recognize them when they show themselves to us. 

26 January, Thursday – More than Just You and Me

26 Jan – Memorial for Sts. Timothy and Titus, bishops

Timothy (d. 97) was the son of a Greek gentile, his mother Eunice was Jewish. He was converted to Christianity by St. Paul around the year 47. He was a partner, assistant and close friend of Paul. He was a missionary as well, and became head of the Church in Ephesus. He was the recipient of two canonical letters from St. Paul, and was stoned to death for opposing the worship of Dionysius.

Titus (d. 96) was also a disciple of St. Paul and was the recipient of a canonical letter from him. He was the first bishop of the Church in Crete.

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2 Timothy 1:1-8

From Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus in his design to promise life in Christ Jesus; to Timothy, dear child of mine, wishing you grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.

Night and day I thank God, keeping my conscience clear and remembering my duty to him as my ancestors did, and always I remember you in my prayers; I remember your tears and long to see you again to complete my happiness. Then I am reminded of the sincere faith which you have; it came first to live in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I have no doubt that it is the same faith in you as well.

That is why I am reminding you now to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy.

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Mark 4:21-25

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Would you bring in a lamp to put it under a tub or under the bed? Surely you will put it on the lamp-stand? For there is nothing hidden but it must be disclosed, nothing kept secret except to be brought to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to this.’
He also said to them, ‘Take notice of what you are hearing.

The amount you measure out is the amount you will be given – and more besides; for the man who has will be given more; from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.’

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…fan into a flame the gift

Of those who do not understand Christians, some have the misconception that being a good follower of Christ is having that individual relationship with God. It is just yourself and Him. That it is just all about getting into that little comfortable quiet corner of reflection and leading a pious life, showing Him every day what you have done to make Him happy. That you have carried out actions that perhaps you feel would please God and thus He gives credit when it is due.

In actual fact, it is building that relationship with our neighbours that qualifies us in spreading the love of our Lord Jesus. We are all inter-connected through prayers. The faith of someone who prays for us and influences us in our spiritual guidance and journey gives us the immense grace which we are so privileged to receive. Likewise, we pray for others who are suffering and for those who are in need, it could be for the health of a loved one, or the comfort to those who are emotionally hurt for various reasons. To be called a follower of Christ, we are responsible for being that testament of how God has touched our life, and to build on our own little faith which He has ‘implanted’ in us. We, like Timothy, and Paul have been called to be holy in our actions and in the way we treat others.

It takes a lot of prayer and hard work, including the deep faith of our fellow Christians and the grace of our Lord to fill our lives. For we are the blessed ones who have, and will be given more.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We pray for the many faithful who are around us. Watch over them and may you shower them with the blessings of peace in their hearts, especially in times of heartache.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for the faith which you have planted in us. That it will grow and spread the Good News.

25 January, Wednesday – Hello?

25 Jan – Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

St. Paul (3-65) was a Jewish Talmudic student and a Pharisee. He was a tent-maker by trade. Saul the Jew hated and persecuted Christians as heretical, even assisting at the stoning of St. Stephen the Martyr. On his way to Damascus to arrest another group of them, he was knocked to the ground, struck blind by a heavenly light, and given the message that in persecuting Christians, he was persecuting Christ. The experience had a profound spiritual effect on him, causing his conversion to Christianity. He was baptised, changed his name to Paul to reflect his new persona, and began travelling and preaching. He died a martyr for his faith.

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Acts 22:3-16

Paul said to the people, ‘I am a Jew and was born at Tarsus in Cilicia. I was brought up here in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was taught the exact observance of the Law of our ancestors. In fact, I was as full of duty towards God as you are today. I even persecuted this Way to the death, and sent women as well as men to prison in chains as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify, since they even sent me with letters to their brothers in Damascus. When I set off it was with the intention of bringing prisoners back from there to Jerusalem for punishment.

‘I was on that journey and nearly at Damascus when about midday a bright light from heaven suddenly shone round me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” I answered: Who are you, Lord? and he said to me, “I am Jesus the Nazarene, and you are persecuting me.” The people with me saw the light but did not hear his voice as he spoke to me. I said: What am I to do, Lord? The Lord answered, “Stand up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told what you have been appointed to do.” The light had been so dazzling that I was blind and my companions had to take me by the hand; and so I came to Damascus.

‘Someone called Ananias, a devout follower of the Law and highly thought of by all the Jews living there, came to see me; he stood beside me and said, “Brother Saul, receive your sight.” Instantly my sight came back and I was able to see him. Then he said, “The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Just One and hear his own voice speaking, because you are to be his witness before all mankind, testifying to what you have seen and heard. And now why delay? It is time you were baptised and had your sins washed away while invoking his name.”’

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Mark 16:15-18

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.’

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“I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.”

The circumstances around Paul’s conversion are anything but usual, but this story gives us confidence in God’s divine plans for all of us. Paul was a zealous Pharisee who intensely persecuted Christians prior to his conversion. In his account of his conversion, a white light from heaven flashed around him, and he heard the voice of God instructing him to be God’s witness to all people. Paul then went on to be a powerful missionary of Christ, spreading the Gospel both near and far.

It struck me as beautiful that God would choose to call someone such as Paul to become one of the Church’s saints. I’ve encountered people in my life whom I felt would never change their ways, yet Paul’s story reminds me that our God can work to soften the hardest hearts and to instill in anyone the fervor to do His will. Usually, it is the most broken, and long-suffering people who become the greatest advocates of transformed ways of existence. Think of ex-smokers who suffered health scares, the Yellow Ribbon Project, and people with failed relationships. Their past experiences, as awful as they may have been, give them a reference against which to compare their new lives in Christ. While those testimonies are beautiful, I wonder if our transformations always have to be this way? Just as a journey of a thousand miles has to begin with one step, oftentimes, God does not call us to do immense things at every turn. Rather, our ‘conversion’ can be an evolving process of doing things slightly differently, and incrementally better every day, with our eyes firmly set on God’s guiding light and heightening our awareness to God’s call.

Paul was lucky. God’s call to him was not easy to ignore and I struggle to think of anyone who could avoid listening to such a call to action. Yet, I wonder how many of us are missing the more subtle ways God tries to nudge us into action in our lives. Be it through Whatsapp messages from caring friends, the nagging of our families, the strangers that come into our lives, or the situations we face that require our intervention, God may be reaching out to us, but we are often too numb (or prone to denial) to notice. I have tried very hard in recent times to be more sensitive to the stirrings of God in my life and have found the Ignatian idea of ‘finding God in all things’ very helpful. It is only after truly acknowledging that God’s hand touches everything, everybody, and every circumstance around us that I began to see my world through His lens and realize that He is with us always as we soldier on for Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how are you persecuting Jesus in your daily lives, and in spite of that, how is God touching your heart?

Prayer: Dearest Lord, soften our hearts and open our minds to hear your calls to us over the rowdiness in our lives.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father for the chances you give us in our lives for new beginnings. We are so very grateful for your tireless persistence in drawing us ever closer to you.

30 December, Friday – Challenges of the Call

Dec 30 – Feast of the Holy Family

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

  • The Sunday Missal

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Ecclesiasticus 3:3-7,14-17

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

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Matthew 2:13-15,19-23

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

I called my son out of Egypt.

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

‘He will be called a Nazarene.’

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So Joseph got up

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

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

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

29 December, Thursday – The Wait is Over

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

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

  • Patron Saint Index

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1 John 2:3-11

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

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Luke 2:22-35

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

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

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

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Your word has been fulfilled

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

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

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

28 December, Wednesday – Incarnation

Dec 28 – Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs

During this octave of Christmas, the Church celebrates the memory of the small children of the neighborhood of Bethlehem put to death by Herod. Sacrificed by a wicked monarch, these innocent lives bear witness to Christ who was persecuted from the time of His birth by a world which would not receive Him. It is Christ Himself who is at stake in this mass-murder of the children; already the choice, for or against Him, is put clearly before men. But the persecutors are powerless, for Christ came to perform a work of salvation that nothing can prevent; when He fell into the hands of His enemies at the time chosen by God it was to redeem the world by His own Blood.

Our Christmas joy is tempered today by a feeling of sadness. But the Church looks principally to the glory of the children, of these innocent victims, whom she shows us in heaven following the Lamb wherever He goes.

– CatholicCulture.org

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1 John 1:5-2:2

This is what we have heard from Jesus Christ,
and the message that we are announcing to you:
God is light; there is no darkness in him at all.
If we say that we are in union with God
while we are living in darkness,
we are lying because we are not living the truth.
But if we live our lives in the light,
as he is in the light,
we are in union with one another,
and the blood of Jesus, his Son,
purifies us from all sin.

If we say we have no sin in us,
we are deceiving ourselves
and refusing to admit the truth;
but if we acknowledge our sins,
then God who is faithful and just
will forgive our sins and purify us
from everything that is wrong.
To say that we have never sinned
is to call God a liar
and to show that his word is not in us.

I am writing this, my children,
to stop you sinning;
but if anyone should sin,
we have our advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ, who is just;
he is the sacrifice that takes our sins away,
and not only ours,
but the whole world’s.

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Matthew 2:13-18

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.

Herod was furious when he realised that he had been outwitted by the wise men, and in Bethlehem and its surrounding district he had all the male children killed who were two years old or under, reckoning by the date he had been careful to ask the wise men. It was then that the words spoken through the prophet Jeremiah were fulfilled:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loudly lamenting:
it was Rachel weeping for her children,
refusing to be comforted because they were no more.

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He is the sacrifice that takes our sins away

The Jewish people had been hoping for a messiah for a long time. And a Messiah God did send, just not one who quite fulfilled their expectations of overthrowing their present rulers and becoming a worldly king. The Messiah came to be born into a poor family and the events surrounding his birth were difficult for his parents and disastrous for many innocent families who lost their sons to Herod’s decree. So much for a messianic grand entrance.

Jesus did not come to rid the world of suffering, He joined us in it. The point of this is something that is quite beyond human understanding. Whenever we find ourselves in mental or physical suffering, our natural bodily desire is to remove that suffering so that we feel better and can move on with our lives. But Jesus did not promise to simply end suffering. What He did promise is to give us rest amidst our labour and burdens.

I think that the incarnation, ultimately, is about trusting in the Lord. It is not a passive kind of trusting or a vague kind of hope, but a conscious decision to live a life in Christ. It is about forming new habits and getting rid of old ones that lead one away from God. It is about trusting that all that we do as believers will lead us to the eternal life that Christ promised.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we will be able to have a child-like trust in the Lord.

Thanksgiving: We look back on the year and give thanks for the many opportunities that we had to grow closer to God.