Category Archives: Feastdays

22 February, Friday – Unqualified yet Called

22 February 2019

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 at Rome, on Feb 22. At each place, a chair (cathedra) which the Apostle had used while presiding at Mass was venerated.

  • Patron Saint Index

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

  • The Weekday Missal

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1 Peter 5: 1-4

Now I have something to tell you 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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Be the shepherds of the flock of God that is entrusted to you… not simply as a duty but gladly

As we celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St Peter today, we remember how St Peter was chosen to be the shepherd of Jesus’ flock. Hailing from humble beginnings, Simon Peter was a simple fisherman when he was called to follow Jesus in His ministry. Peter certainly had his strengths – he loved Jesus and was loyal, enthusiastic and outspoken. At the same time, the gospels also relate many episodes of Peter’s failings and faithlessness.

While most apostles remained largely silent in the gospels, Peter was always ready to jump in to make a statement, regardless of whether the occasion called for it. Peter was the first to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. He also tried to stop Jesus from talking about his upcoming death, earning a rebuke from Jesus. Peter asked Jesus to command him to walk on water, but Peter’s fear and lack of faith led him to sink and cry for help. Peter proclaimed that he would not desert Jesus even if the others did, only to deny Jesus publicly three times out of fear for his own life. By these accounts, Peter’s behaviour was far from rock-like, not at all dependable as a Christian leader should be. Yet, St Peter is regarded as the model of Christian behaviour. What gives?

I find the contradictions in St Peter’s life highly relatable as I reflect on my faith journey – the many times I resolved to follow Christ more closely after a God encounter, only to relapse shortly after. Leaning on our own abilities, we are limited by our human weaknesses. The process of spiritual conversion is not complete after our baptism but rather, an ongoing journey of growth. In spite of the missteps in St Peter’s journey, he stayed true to his calling and eventually grew into a steadfast servant leader, the first Pope of the Catholic Church. As we celebrate the feast of the Chair of St Peter, let us also remember our calling.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Dear Father, you have called us in spite of our flaws, fears and fallen moments. Grant us the grace to be open to Your calling, and put our gifts to serve You.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you for calling us into a personal relationship with You. May we grow closer to You, trusting that You will shape us to be more like You.

2 February, Saturday – Being Present

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.

  • Wikipedia

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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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“My eyes have seen the salvation… a light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of your people”

Buoyed by a resolve to courageously follow His calling, I approached 2019 with a sense of hope and expectancy. The year started off with promise – everything was going swimmingly well and new windows of opportunity had opened up. Suddenly, a series of unexpected setbacks threatened to jeopardise my plans. Well-meaning friends and relatives expressed concerns about my future, asking questions which I had no answers to. I felt confused and alienated, not unlike the people of Israel who may have questioned God’s plans for them.

My natural instinct was to jump into problem-solving mode, leaning on my willpower and abilities to set things right. It took considerable effort to pull back and recognise that any decision I made under those circumstances would be from a place of pride and self-sufficiency. By relegating God to a supporting role, whatever interventions I made in my brokenness would run counter to God’s plans.

Today’s readings remind us that Jesus, the Light of the world, is with us. There is no reason for us to doubt in His plans, nor lead our lives shrouded in unfounded fear or anxiety. He will keep us safe and show us the way in the darkness. All God asks for is our cooperation to surrender our wills to Him, trusting that He will guide us where He wills. And perhaps, witnessing to God is about embracing our brokenness and living our lives aligned with the will of God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Dear Father, grant us the grace to see Your presence and surrender to Your will amidst trials and tribulations. Use our gifts and brokenness to be testimonies of Your grace.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you for sending us Jesus to show us the way.

25 January, Friday – Honesty is Humility

25 January – Feast of The Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle

Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In an instant, he saw that all the zeal of his dynamic personality was being wasted, like the strength of a boxer swinging wildly. Perhaps he had never seen Jesus, who was only a few years older. But he had acquired a zealot’s hatred of all Jesus stood for, as he began to harass the Church: “…entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment” (Acts 8:3b). Now he himself was “entered,” possessed, all his energy harnessed to one goal—being a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation, an instrument to help others experience the one Savior.

One sentence determined his theology: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5b). Jesus was mysteriously identified with people—the loving group of people Saul had been running down like criminals. Jesus, he saw, was the mysterious fulfilment of all he had been blindly pursuing.

So Paul’s great message to the world was: You are saved entirely by God, not by anything you can do. Saving faith is the gift of total, free, personal and loving commitment to Christ, a commitment that then bears fruit in more “works” than the Law could ever contemplate.

(Source:http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1271)

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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 said: What am I to do, Lord? The Lord answered, “Stand up and go into Damascus…

Being in relationship with others is so tough. I am not only referring to the romantic kind. There are all kinds – friendship, professional relationships, and kinship. There are various difficulties in keeping good relations with the people around us. However, one of the simplest and commonest obstacles is honesty.

For some, the closer and more intimate the relationship, the harder it is to be vulnerable and honest. For others, it is hardest to be honest with their bosses and colleagues. Depending on the depth and intimacy of understanding we desire to cultivate with each person, we will decide how much of ourselves to reveal. Because honesty involves taking a huge risk.

We risk being rejected, ridiculed, and wounded. We can risk much more, trying to be honest – losing the relationships we cherish, or losing a job.

Before Saul became Paul, he was a religious zealot who not only knew the Law, but saw it as his true calling to persecute and imprison the ‘blaspheming’ followers of Christ. “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…” But Saul was struck down from his high horse on the way to Damascus, by a bright light – and the stunning voice of Jesus. In that brief conversation with Jesus (whom he could not see), a deep convicted conversion took place within Saul’s being.

Let’s not romanticise his conversion though. It took Saul time to reach Ananias who helped him regain his sight. He had to go through a baptism in the name of Jesus, to wash away his sins. He had to be taught the Law of Love (and not just the Law). This change of heart was not wrought by a stroke of lightning as his initial encounter suggests. Saul the Zealot became Paul the converted, who later became the Apostle over his entire lifetime. He is now a Saint for us because of his very virtue of honesty and humility.

By his honesty, we now have his account and admission of his past sins of bringing death to many innocent Christians, his struggles with his fleshly nature, his iniquities against God, the sensitive dynamics of Christian communities, the hardship of growing old, and numerous letters to the Corinthians, Philippians, Ephesians, etc. However for me, the most significant example of his honesty and humility was when he first confessed confusion and ignorance – I said: What am I to do, Lord?

These six words completely changed his life from a know-it-all faithful and law-abiding Jew to a humbled sinner. At that point, Saul became Paul in spirit. He surrendered his plans, will and intellect to Jesus and sought direction.

Christianity is not a club. Our faith is not membership, and the length of our faith journey does not count necessarily for seniority, maturity, wisdom, nor evangelising skill. None of these appearances matter when Christ calls out to us. I am reminded today that the mark of a true follower of Jesus, is the willingness with which we respond to Him “What am I to do, Lord?” instead of insisting to do things our way, our time, our vision. Honesty about our own abilities, helplessness and brokenness is the stepping stone to humility and deeper intimacy with Jesus and others. Only then will we be like Saint Paul, a most humble but fervent evangeliser.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Pray for us Saint Paul, that we will be more like you, willing to lay down our will and intellect if God so calls us to in each situation. Help us be honest and humble with ourselves.

Thanksgiving: I am grateful to all my friends and loved ones who have taken risks to be honest and vulnerable with me, even when we all fear being hurt or rejected.

13 January, Sunday – I am the Beloved

13 Jan – Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord

The Baptism Of The Lord

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

– The Sunday Missal

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Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Luke 3:15-16,21-22

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

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

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

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

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

For Presence (John O’Donohue)

Awaken to the mystery of being here

and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.

Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.

Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.

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

Let the flame of anger free you of all falsity.

May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.

May anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror on inner dignity of soul.

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

Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

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

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

6 January, Sunday – Our Unlimited Potential

7 January 2019

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Isaiah 60:1-6

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

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

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

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

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

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Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6

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

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Matthew 2:1-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

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

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

1 January, Tuesday – O Happy Day

01 Jan – Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

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

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

– Wikipedia
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Numbers 6:22-27

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

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

This is how they are to call down my name on the sons of Israel, and I will bless them.’
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Galatians 4:4-7

When the appointed time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law and to enable us to be adopted as sons. The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’, and it is this that makes you a son, you are not a slave any more; and if God has made you son, then he has made you heir.
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Luke 2:16-21

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

When the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before his conception.
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They are to call down my name on the sons of Israel, and I will bless them.

The Catholic Church marks the New Year by celebrating Mary as our Mother. It is indeed fitting that we consider how we start the year under the protection of Our Lady. The New Year is a blessing upon all of us as we are given an opportunity by God to start upon activities that will seek to glorify His name, amidst all the past failures and lost opportunities we may have encountered in the previous year.

The readings of today are one of great rejoicing and blessing because that is what the New Year should be. The Church has chosen this day for us to remember the importance of Mary in salvation history. Mary’s agreement to do the will of God enabled Man to be saved from sin. Mothers often suffer patiently and put in a tremendous amount of sacrifice for their children without the latter’s knowledge. Perhaps it will be good if there is an opportunity for us to recall what God has asked us to do.

We can follow the example of Our Lady, who surrendered her will and let the will of God flow through her entire being. As we go about today recovering from the enjoyment of New Year’s Eve, let us remember to dedicate the first day of 2019 to Our Lady and ask her to take us under her mantle and protect us from all harm and evil.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Mother Mary, let us always follow your example of obedience as we begin the New Year.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gift of life.

28 December, Friday – Rebooted

28 December – Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs

The Holy Innocents are the children slaughtered by Herod the Great when he tried to kill the infant Christ.

– Patron Saint Index

The children died for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourned for the death of martyrs. The Christ child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to Himself.

To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.

– From a sermon by bishop St. Quodvultdeus about the Holy Innocents

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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.

_____________________

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

December marks the eighteenth month of my tennis journey. The path has been a challenging one, as I struggle to master a new sport. This has been made all the more difficult by the negative transfer of footwork and strokes from two prior decades of playing badminton.

The tennis movements are so disparate; instead of taking long leaps across the court and planting myself in position to hit the shuttlecock, I now have to shuffle across the court, making miniscule adjustments along the way to ensure an optimum ball contact position. Rather than using my wrist to flick the ball across the net, I now need to use my legs, hips and arms to drive the tennis ball with as much topspin as possible.

Slices are taken on the move, and volleys require considerable follow-through; markedly different from the jabbing, staccato style of badminton. I was stunned as to how ingrained the strokes had been etched into my muscle memory.

It is always more difficult to undo past mistakes, and to right previous wrongs. Old habits are hard to break; hard, but never impossible. With encouragement from my coach, friends, and family, I celebrate my little wins and the improvements that I notch up with each passing day.

I believe that God will fortify my hunger to succeed, and grant me the patience to persevere. Brothers and sisters, what changes in your life are you struggling to make, and do you believe that God will see you through?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dearest God, may we always be able to reinvent ourselves in accordance to your will. Keep us malleable and open to your guiding hand.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the determination and grit to keep on striving in the face of endless uncertainties.

27 December, Thursday – Spreading the Joy

27 December – Feast of St. John, Apostle, Evangelist

St. John, also known as the “beloved disciple” of Jesus’ was the son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of St. James the Great, and was called one of the Sons of Thunder. Before becoming Jesus’ disciple, he was already a disciple of St. John the Baptist, and a friend of St. Peter the Apostle. He was called by Jesus during the first year of Christ’s ministry, and travelled everywhere with him. He took part in the Last Supper, and was the only one of the Twelve not to forsake the Saviour in the hour of his Passion, standing at the foot of the cross.

He was made guardian of Our Lady by Jesus, and he took her into his home. Upon hearing of the Resurrection, he was the first to reach the tomb; when he met the risen Lord at the Lake of Tiberius, he was the first to recognise him.

During the era of the new Church, he worked in Jerusalem and at Ephesus. During Jesus’ ministry, he tried to block a Samaritan from their group, but Jesus explained the open nature of the new Way, and he worked on that principle to found churches in Asia Minor and baptising converts in Samaria. He was imprisoned with Peter for preaching after Pentecost. He wrote the fourth Gospel, three Epistles, and possibly the Book of Revelation.

– Patron Saint Index

_____________________

1 John 1:1-4

Something which has existed since the beginning,
that we have heard,
and we have seen with our own eyes;
that we have watched
and touched with our hands:
the Word, who is life –
this is our subject.
That life was made visible:
we saw it and we are giving our testimony,
telling you of the eternal life
which was with the Father and has been made visible to us.
What we have seen and heard
we are telling you
so that you too may be in union with us,
as we are in union
with the Father
and with his Son Jesus Christ.
We are writing this to you to make our own joy complete.

_____________________

John 20:2-8

On the first day of the week Mary of Magdala came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed.

_____________________

We are writing this to you to make our own joy complete.

I have been part of this writing ministry for a good 10 years, starting first as a contributor in 2007 when I was based in Dubai. Back then, I needed to focus myself on getting through a week without a ‘meltdown’ at work and Oxygen helped me to centre my attention back on my faith.

Then, as I took on other duties, including editing and uploading, I got a better sense of how we were impacting the loves of others, especially when I read the comments that we were receiving on our WordPress platform. This humble little ministry that will soon reach 20 years, actually spreads His word around the world, as far as Canada and Africa. The core team met recently and we will be making efforts to help make Oxygen even more ‘palatable’ and shareable come 2019 because we felt that we needed to spread the joy that others were getting from some of the reflections. Thanks, in huge part, to the team of dedicated contributors who have diligently reflected on their own lives throughout the year and never fail to touch me with their honest and open sharings.

I cannot deny that I have often questioned my purpose in being in this unusual ministry where the members ‘meet’ online (though I do know some of the contributors personally). I figure that amidst the challenges we each face in our daily lives, we find joy in being able to use our God-given talents as writers and craftspeople to share about what the Lord has done for us. At times, we have struggled to find our voice. But I have found that trusting in the Lord’s providence and wisdom often leads to a small awakening in my heart, whether it is a topic I am passionate about, or if I feel down and need to express my feelings.

On behalf of the entire team, I would like to thank all of you who receive and read Oxygen faithfully. And a special thanks to the motley crew of contributors who have helped shape this ministry since 2000, when the original founder started his musings while in university. There is no doubt in my mind that the Holy Spirit has been guiding and shaping us in sharing our joys, our disappointments, our fears, our sorrows and, most of all, our hope – that in touching your lives, we not only fulfil a promise within our heart to make the most of our talents, but that we bring some hope to those who are searching.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for all those who have contributed to this ministry and ask for your continued blessings upon us as we share our hope and faith with others around us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for sustaining us throughout our struggles and for always helping us to remain steadfast and courageous as we spread your Word.

26 December, Wednesday – Standing Firm

26 December – Feast of St. Stephen, Protomartyr

St. Stephen was the first Christian martyr. A deacon and a preacher, all we know of him is related in the Acts of the Apostles. While preaching the gospel in the streets, angry Jews who believed his message to be blasphemy dragged him outside the city, and stoned him to death. In the crowd, on the side of the mob, was a man who would later be known as St. Paul.

– Patron Saint Index

_____________________

Acts 6:8-10;7:54-59

Stephen was filled with grace and power and began to work miracles and great signs among the people. But then certain people came forward to debate with Stephen, some from Cyrene and Alexandria who were members of the synagogue called the Synagogue of Freedmen, and others from Cilicia and Asia. They found they could not get the better of him because of his wisdom, and because it was the Spirit that prompted what he said. They were infuriated when they heard this, and ground their teeth at him.

But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. ‘I can see heaven thrown open’ he said ‘and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this all the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they all rushed at him, sent him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man called Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’

_____________________

Matthew 10:17-22

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you.

‘Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved.’

_____________________

[B]ut the man who stands firm will be saved

The world today is plagued with many versions of how events in the world can be interpreted. The introduction of many forms of news media has left us to become more confused and sometimes leads to a distrust of the people around us. The Gospel of today reminds us of the need to stay firm in the Lord Jesus despite the contrasting view presented to us.

St Stephen was the first martyr of the Catholic Church. He firmly believed in the Lord Jesus and was prepared to give up his life for his belief. The crowd was not willing to be open to reason, to see his point of view when they realised that his point was much stronger than the points they could offer. Perhaps this is already indicative of the situation we see in our lives today – where when the truth hurts, people will attack the person.

Whilst today’s feast may be a historical event to some, it is a reminder that to be Christian means to suffer. In the season of Christmas, Christians are reminded that the birth of Christ marks the beginning of a lifetime of adhering to the faith of God come what may. As we wish each other Blessed Christmas in this season of Christmas, let us remember to stay firm in our faith and not let the secular world diminish the value of Christmas to another civic holiday.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to stay firm in spite of all persecution.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who hold on to the faith despite persecution.

8 December, Saturday – Yes

8 December – Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

On this and the following eight days, the Church celebrates, with particular solemnity, the immaculate conception of the ever-blessed Virgin Mary who, from all eternity, was chosen to be the daughter of the heavenly Father, the spouse of the Holy Ghost, the Mother of the Divine Redeemer, and, by consequence, the queen of angels and of men.

The consideration of these prerogatives convinced the most enlightened fathers and teachers of the Catholic Church that she was conceived immaculate, that is, without original sin. It is very remarkable that among the shining hosts of saints who have, in every century, adorned the Church, no one wrote against this belief, while we find it confirmed by the decisions of the holy fathers from the earliest times.

Pope Piux IX forced, as it were, by the faith and devotion of the faithful throughout the world, finally on 8 December 1854, sanctioned, as a dogma of faith falling within the infallible rule of Catholic traditions, this admirable prerogative of the Blessed Virgin.

It is, therefore, now no longer, as formerly, a pious belief, but an article of the faith that Mary, like the purest morning light which precedes the rising of the most brilliant sun, was, from the first instant of her conception, free from original sin.

– Patron Saint Index

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Genesis 3:9-15,20

After Adam had eaten of the tree the Lord God called to him. ‘Where are you?’ he asked. ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden;’ he replied ‘I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.’ ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ he asked ‘Have you been eating of the tree I forbade you to eat?’ The man replied, ‘It was the woman you put with me; she gave me the fruit, and I ate it.’ Then the Lord God asked the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman replied, ‘The serpent tempted me and I ate.’

Then the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this,

‘Be accursed beyond all cattle,
all wild beasts.
You shall crawl on your belly and eat dust
every day of your life.
I will make you enemies of each other:
you and the woman,
your offspring and her offspring.
It will crush your head
and you will strike its heel.’

The man named his wife ‘Eve’ because she was the mother of all those who live.

_____________________

Ephesians 1:3-6,11-12

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ.
Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ,
to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence,
determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ
for his own kind purposes,
to make us praise the glory of his grace,
his free gift to us in the Beloved,
And it is in him that we were claimed as God’s own,
chosen from the beginning,
under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things
as he decides by his own will;
chosen to be,
for his greater glory,
the people who would put their hopes in Christ before he came.

_____________________

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.

_____________________

“let what you have said be done to me.”

Last weekend, I was blessed to have attended a cosy, intimate concert in a small church at the invitation of my vocal coach. He had helped put together an 11-piece choir to celebrate the 1st Sunday of Advent and their concert was themed ‘Ordinary Baby’. While there were a few familiar favourites sung, 2 new songs resonated deeply with me – ‘Ordinary Baby’ and ‘My Heart, Your Bethlehem’.

I couldn’t help but be amazed at how a ‘Yes’ at the beginning of this year led me on a journey of discovering my voice (I had taken my vocal exams the day before) and also to this wonderful moment where I witnessed God’s hand at work through the energy and sincerity of the small Christian community. The message that resonated deep within me was whether or not our hearts were prepared to welcome Jesus this Christmas and to let Him be born within us.

Too often, we let allow sin to harden our hearts. We get so used to habitual transgressions that our hearts develop calluses and a hard exterior. And when we don’t go for regular confession, that wall gets thicker and thicker, so much so that God’s word cannot penetrate into our hearts. Consequently, we lose all connection to God and our ‘wifi signal’ (as our spiritual director likes to put it) becomes weak. How then are we going to be able to provide rest and a soft place to sleep for the newborn infant Jesus on Christmas Eve?

Many of us are more than willing to say ‘Yes’ whenever there is a call for volunteers to serve in church or to give of our time for a particular church project. But many of us put conditions on our ‘Yes’. We ask question after question, or place restrictions on our time and how much we are willing to give. Sure, we all have our crosses to bear and families to take care of. However, remember Mother Mary’s fiat when she said ‘Yes’ to the Lord. It was spoken out of true love for God and fully from her heart. There were no ‘buts’ nor ‘what ifs’. Her ‘Yes’ was the ultimate sign of humility and obedience.

Brothers and sisters, when we say our own fiat with our words and our deeds, that is when a conversion of heart takes place. And that is when we begin to reconnect with our heavenly Father. How many of us are willing to open our hearts and say to God that He can do what he wills to us so that His ultimate plans for each and every one of us can be fulfilled?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, give us the courage and the strength to say ‘Yes’ unconditionally to you each and every day.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for all that you have done for us, O heavenly Father, and for all that you are going to do for us despite our fears and our doubts.