Category Archives: Ordinary Time

17 January, Thursday – We shall remain co-heirs with Christ

17 Jan – Memorial for St. Anthony, abbot

Following the death of his parents when he was about 20, St. Anthony (251-356) insured that his sister completed her education, then sold his house, furniture, and the land he owned, gave the proceeds to the poor, joined the anchorites who lived nearby, and moved into an empty sepulchre. At 35, he moved alone to the desert, living 20 years in an abandoned fort.

Anthony barricaded the place for solitude, but admirers broke in. He miraculously healed people, and agreed to be the spiritual counsellor of others. His recommendation was to base life on the gospel. Word spread, and so many disciples arrived that Anthony founded two monasteries on the Bile — one at Pispir, one at Arsinoe. Many of those who lived near him supported themselves by making baskets and brushes, and from that came his patronage of those trades.

Anthony briefly left his seclusion in 311, going to Alexandria to fight Arianism, and to comfort the victims of Maximinus’ persecution. At some point in his life, he met with his sister again. She, too, had withdrawn from the world, and directed a community of nuns. Anthony retired to the desert, living in a cave on Mount Colzim.

Descriptions paint him as uniformly modest and courteous. His example led many to take up the monastic life, and to follow his way. Friend late in life of St. Paul the Hermit, and buried the aged anchorite, leading to his patronage of gravediggers. His biography was written by his friend, St. Athanasius.

His relationship with pigs and patronage of swineheards is a little complicated. Skin diseases were sometimes treated with applications of pork fat, which reduced inflammation and itching. As Anthony’s intervention aided in the same conditions, he was shown in art accompanied by a pig. People who saw the art work, but did not have it explained, thought there was a direct connection between Anthony and pigs – and people who worked with swine took him as their patron.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Hebrews 3:7-14

The Holy Spirit says: If only you would listen to him today; do not harden your hearts, as happened in the Rebellion, on the Day of Temptation in the wilderness, when your ancestors challenged me and tested me, though they had seen what I could do for forty years. That was why I was angry with that generation and said: How unreliable these people who refuse to grasp my ways! And so, in anger, I swore that not one would reach the place of rest I had for them. Take care, brothers, that there is not in any one of your community a wicked mind, so unbelieving as to turn away from the living God. Every day, as long as this ‘today’ lasts, keep encouraging one another so that none of you is hardened by the lure of sin, because we shall remain co-heirs with Christ only if we keep a grasp on our first confidence right to the end.

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Mark 1:40-45

A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: ‘If you want to’ he said ‘you can cure me.’ Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to!’ he said. ‘Be cured!’ And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured. Jesus immediately sent him away and sternly ordered him, ‘Mind you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering for your healing prescribed by Moses as evidence of your recovery.’ The man went away, but then started talking about it freely and telling the story everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived. Even so, people from all around would come to him.

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“Of course I want to!”

“Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to.’ ”

Regardless of our condition, our Lord wants to heal us! Jesus does not reject anyone. Our God’s love is available to all who seek him, just like the leper in today’s Gospel, with sincerity of heart and with ferventness. Despite his leprosy, Jesus laid his hands on the leper and he is made clean immediately. Nothing is too unpleasing nor too insurmountable for our Lord!

The first reading reminds us not to harden our hearts but to grasp with confidence the promises given to us by God. Take heed not to harden our hearts by the lure of sin, the last thing we should do is to think that we are unworthy! That’s the devil’s deceptive ways to have us turn away from God. But Jesus, in his ministry, shows us time and time again His power and compassion. He WILL heal us of all our transgressions! That is why, it is important for us to “keep encouraging one another … because we shall remain co-heirs with Christ.”

Let us claim His victory with confidence and claim our birthright as co-heirs with Christ and admonish all fears. With this confidence, we march forth in our ministry on this earth with heads held high, his love as our breastplate to soldier on for His purpose and His mission as a community!

The importance of community cannot be downplayed, as we celebrate the feast day of St. Anthony, who was known as a recluse during his ministry; even his work on earth impacts many and was supported by many! We, too, need our brothers and sisters, our clergy to inspire, hearten and remind us of our mission on earth. That has always been God’s plan, we do not have to journey alone. And our way of being as Christians touches others as well.

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, the battle has been won by Jesus coming as our Lord and Savior, and by his death and resurrection. Nothing is too dire for you, let us never forget our inheritance and to journey on in life victoriously as winners already! Proud of your love, proud of our inheritance to do your will as you wish.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, words cannot express the profound gratefulness we have for you. Whatever we have to offer you seems so minute in the grand scheme of things, but we know you are our loving Father and will be pleased with our efforts. So we thank you Father, from the depths of our soul for all that you have done for us and for all that is to be unfold.

16 January, Wednesday – Fear Not

16 January 2019

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Hebrews 2:14-18

Since all the children share the same blood and flesh, Christ too shared equally in it, so that by his death he could take away all the power of the devil, who had power over death, and set free all those who had been held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. For it was not the angels that he took to himself; he took to himself descent from Abraham. It was essential that he should in this way become completely like his brothers so that he could be a compassionate and trustworthy high priest of God’s religion, able to atone for human sins. That is, because he has himself been through temptation he is able to help others who are tempted.

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Mark 1:29-39

On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went with James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew. Now Simon’s mother-in-law had gone to bed with fever, and they told him about her straightaway. He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up. And the fever left her and she began to wait on them.

That evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by devils. The whole town came crowding round the door, and he cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another; he also cast out many devils, but he would not allow them to speak, because they knew who he was.

In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, ‘Everybody is looking for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.’ And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devils.

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“Christ too shared equally in it”

There is a saying in Singapore — “Kia Si”, or “Afraid to die”. The joke is that Singaporeans are afraid of anything that will put them in jeopardy, be it their personal lives, or careers. It is for this reason, it is said, that many Singaporeans tend to be more reticent, preferring to keep their views to themselves in order to maintain their safety.

In today’s First Reading, it talks about how people have been kept in slavery through their fear of death. While there is a Jewish concept of the afterlife, there are differing views about how this would happen.

In the Christian faith however, physical death would only allow one to move on to the next stage of one’s life. Essentially, one’s soul never does die and physical death does only give rise to the death of the body and not anything else.

Jesus is our model, not because of the fact that He is our God. Instead, He is our model because He was man. He walked amongst us and truly understands what it means to be human. He does not lead and guide us from a position of power. Instead, He leads and guides us as a true brother. He knows.

Let us continue to seek Him. To live our lives fully and without fear. Let us not be “kia si” (“afraid to die”).

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray for strength to lead our lives fully, and without fear. We ask You Father, to always recognise that our lives is more than just our time on earth.

ThanksgivingThank you for being our model of faith, Lord Jesus. Help us to walk in Your steps every day!

15 January, Tuesday – Slow Faith

15 January 2019

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Hebrews 2:5-12

God did not appoint angels to be rulers of the world to come, and that world is what we are talking about. Somewhere there is a passage that shows us this. It runs: What is man that you should spare a thought for him, the son of man that you should care for him? For a short while you made him lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and splendour. You have put him in command of everything. Well then, if he has put him in command of everything, he has left nothing which is not under his command. At present, it is true, we are not able to see that everything has been put under his command, but we do see in Jesus one who was for a short while made lower than the angels and is now crowned with glory and splendour because he submitted to death; by God’s grace he had to experience death for all mankind.

As it was his purpose to bring a great many of his sons into glory, it was appropriate that God, for whom everything exists and through whom everything exists, should make perfect, through suffering, the leader who would take them to their salvation. For the one who sanctifies, and the ones who are sanctified, are of the same stock; that is why he openly calls them brothers in the text: I shall announce your name to my brothers, praise you in full assembly.

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Mark 1:21-28

Jesus and his disciples went as far as Capernaum, and as soon as the sabbath came he went to the synagogue and began to teach. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.

In their synagogue just then there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit and it shouted, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him. The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. ‘Here is a teaching that is new’ they said ‘and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’ And his reputation rapidly spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.

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“I know who You are: the Holy One of God!”

I have seen many videos and posts on social media, where the creators try hard to get as many people as possible to ‘like’ their posts. Once successful, these creators do get famous, often getting adulation from their fans and receiving substantial financial rewards.

Jesus could have chosen to build His ministry via a ‘social media’ route as well. Rather than silencing the unclean spirits, Jesus could have allowed them to publicise who He actually was. Imagine how easy it would have been for Him; even more people would have flocked to and followed Him.

We have two children, an eighteen-year-old girl and a thirteen-year-old boy. Because of his height, build and mature appearance, I often forget that he is, after all, only thirteen (his looks often fool people into thinking he is about eighteen). Despite his physical attributes, both my wife and I have learned that he needs to continue to be allowed to makes mistakes, and to grow emotionally and spiritually from these. When he does reach eighteen, I would be able to interact with him being an eighteen-year-old. This process simply cannot be hurried along.

It is for this reason that perhaps Jesus did not take the instant route in His mission. He had to allow us to exercise our spiritual muscles and for us to grow to a point when we are ready for Him, and for God’s message.

Let us pray that we will continue to maintain a close relationship with our Lord, and to develop even more intimacy with Him!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we may always have a desire to seek You Father; to continue to grow in our faith and love for You.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful, Jesus, for Your wisdom. For allowing us to grow and be ready for Your teachings.

14 January, Monday – Nothing Better than the Real Thing

14 January 2019

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Hebrews 1:1-6

At various times in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our own time, the last days, he has spoken to us through his Son, the Son that he has appointed to inherit everything and through whom he made everything there is. He is the radiant light of God’s glory and the perfect copy of his nature, sustaining the universe by his powerful command; and now that he has destroyed the defilement of sin, he has gone to take his place in heaven at the right hand of divine Majesty. So he is now as far above the angels as the title which he has inherited is higher than their own name.
God has never said to any angel: You are my Son, today I have become your father; or: I will be a father to him and he a son to me. Again, when he brings the First-Born into the world, he says: Let all the angels of God worship him.

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Mark 1:14-20

After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.’

As he was walking along by the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net in the lake – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men.’ And at once they left their nets and followed him.

Going on a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they too were in their boat, mending their nets. He called them at once and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him.

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“He has spoken to us through His Son…”

Anyone who knows me will know that I have been a foodie for the longest time. For those who don’t, you would just have to take one look at me and realise that.

One of the foods which I love is the Vietnamese pho. I first tried it on our honeymoon in Australia when we got married some 22 years ago. I remember my then fiancee telling me, from the time we first met, about the flavourful broth, the freshness of the beef and the freshly cooked bean sprouts and mint leaves.

I began to look forward to the first time we got to eat this phenomenal food. I imagined how it would be like, but nothing really compares to the first time the noodles were put in front of me. No amount of words nor the most descriptive language could ever do it justice.

The Jews had only experienced God through the prophets, all of whom cajoled, warned, taught and spoke of the goodness of God. Yet, they were totally unprepared for the experience of Jesus. It was only by interacting with Him, in the daily encounters and conversations that people built a relationship with Jesus. In spite of all the collective knowledge, the learning (of our faith, and what it means to be Christian, of who God is) is actually through having a relationship with Him.

Ever since I was baptised about 30 odd years ago, I have tried hard to connect with God, through my readings and in my intellectualisation, all of which left me with the feeling that there was something still lacking.

And just like the actual act of eating the Vietnamese pho, I only began to experience what knowing Jesus was like when I set aside all my previous learnings and head knowledge and actually started to have a relationship with Him.

Nothing helps us know God like having a real encounter and relationship with Jesus. Brothers and sisters, let us continue to seek Him; to REALLY encounter Jesus.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray that we will reach out and accept Your love for us; to truly experience the richness and depth of this love.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for sending us Your Son, Jesus Christ, to show us how to live and how to truly love those around us.

1 December, Satursday – Putting in Effort

1 December

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Apocalypse 22:1-7

The angel showed me, John, the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing crystal-clear down the middle of the city street. On either side of the river were the trees of life, which bear twelve crops of fruit in a year, one in each month, and the leaves of which are the cure for the pagans.

The ban will be lifted. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in its place in the city; his servants will worship him, they will see him face to face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. It will never be night again and they will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will be shining on them. They will reign for ever and ever.

The angel said to me, ‘All that you have written is sure and will come true: the Lord God who gives the spirit to the prophets has sent his angel to reveal to his servants what is soon to take place. Very soon now, I shall be with you again.’ Happy are those who treasure the prophetic message of this book.

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Luke 21:34-36

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap. For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.’

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Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with dabauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life.

Some of us don’t really enjoy having a nagging mother, or mother-in-law. Well, many of us basically just don’t want to be nagged, or maybe even reminded of what we should do. I realize that really, many of us need someone to nag at us.

Think about it. Very few of us can draw a straight line without the use of a ruler. And even if some of us could, I doubt many could draw a long straight line. It seems as if it is in our nature to swerve, or to veer away from what is straight. I really believe that nagging is our mother’s way of making sure that we always keep to the straight line. Because if we don’t watch out, or if somebody doesn’t watch out for us, very soon we will be off the right path.

Unfortunately, this need for someone to constantly remind us does not go away even in our adulthood. True, we may have better control of ourselves and there are many things we would do right even if there is no one reminding us, but there are still some things we need to be reminded of. And if there is no one to remind us, we need to ask God to give us the grace to watch ourselves.

I’ve heard of how in some religious groups, they cover some unsightly images in newspapers just to protect chastity. This is what they would call not putting themselves in situations where they can be tempted. Because it’s really better to be safe than sorry.

I pray that we all have the humility to accept the fact that no matter how close we are to God, or how faithful we are with our prayers, we are always susceptible to committing sins. Let us continue to ask God, and our guardian angels to nag at us, to remind us to follow a straight line. Even the Saints knew how much of a sinner they were, and how much they were in need of God’s grace not to give in to temptation. So they watched out for themselves, because they knew they could fall any time.

Let’s put in as much effort as we can.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please give us the grace to flee from occasions of sin. Please feel free to always nag at us, even if we sometimes don’t like it.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for making sure we are surrounded with opportunities to refresh ourselves in our battle against sin and to be always reminded of the good we must do.

30 November, Friday – Full Speed Ahead

30 November – Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle

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

– Patron Saint Index

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Romans 10:9-18

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

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

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Matthew 4:18-22

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

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Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.

I recently changed cars, having decided that I would purchase a livelier yet more affordable one than my outgoing ride. I settled on a ten-year old Japanese car with a manual transmission. God really blessed the entire process; the car was in good condition, accident-free, and had just undergone a full engine overhaul. It feels brand new!

Interestingly, it isn’t a pleasant car to drive in traffic or at very slow speeds. There is little sound insulation, and the suspension is very firm. The engine has very little torque in the lower RPM bands and really needs to be worked hard to get the car moving. However, on stretches of winding roads or on the highways, the car comes alive.

The suspension and handling tighten up, the increased aerodynamic forces plant the car firmly on the tarmac, and the engine sonorously and eagerly revs to right up to its limit. It truly is transformed once it is worked hard and pushed aggressively. The car reaches its full potential.

And this is the message that God has been trying to bring across to me. Opting for an easy life, or one where we merely cruise along is not the most satisfying way to live. We shortchange ourselves, and the beneficiaries of our gifts, when we do not fully evolve into the creations that God wants us to be. The process can be arduous and long, with stress and pain along the way. But when we function at our limits, when our bodies, hearts, minds, and consciousness are joyfully aligned, we begin to discover just how unfathomably vast the possibilities of life are.

Dear friends, I invite you to dig a little deeper, push a little harder, and grow a little faster in the days to come. Life is certainly more fun in sixth gear.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dearest Lord, may we become fully alive in the days ahead. Grant us the courage to constantly push our limits.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Jesus, for making us just the way we should be.

29 November, Thursday – Faithful Always

29 November

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Apocalypse 18:1-2,21-23,19:1-3,9

I, John, saw an angel come down from heaven, with great authority given to him; the earth was lit up with his glory. At the top of his voice he shouted, ‘Babylon has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen, and has become the haunt of devils and a lodging for every foul spirit and dirty, loathsome bird. Then a powerful angel picked up a boulder like a great millstone, and as he hurled it into the sea, he said, ‘That is how the great city of Babylon is going to be hurled down, never to be seen again.

Never again in you, Babylon,
will be heard the song of harpists and minstrels,
the music of flute and trumpet;
never again will craftsmen of every skill be found
or the sound of the mill be heard;
never again will shine the light of the lamp,
never again will be heard
the voices of bridegroom and bride.
Your traders were the princes of the earth,
all the nations were under your spell.

After this I seemed to hear the great sound of a huge crowd in heaven, singing, ‘Alleluia! Victory and glory and power to our God! He judges fairly, he punishes justly, and he has condemned the famous prostitute who corrupted the earth with her fornication; he has avenged his servants that she killed.’ They sang again, ‘Alleluia! The smoke of her will go up for ever and ever.’ The angel said, ‘Write this: Happy are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb’, and he added, ‘All the things you have written are true messages from God.’

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Luke 21:20-28

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you must realise that she will soon be laid desolate. Then those in Judaea must escape to the mountains, those inside the city must leave it, and those in country districts must not take refuge in it. For this is the time of vengeance when all that scripture says must be fulfilled. Alas for those with child, or with babies at the breast, when those days come!

They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive to every pagan country; and Jerusalem will be trampled down by the pagans until the age of the pagans is completely over.

‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.’

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He is faithful from age to age.

This is one of the verses that gives me so much comfort during my morning prayer. With one phrase, I am reminded of how God has been so good and loving to me ever since I was young.

Around July this year, I started going for counselling in the hope of unloading myself of the baggages I had since I was a child. You see, I didn’t realize how affected I was after my parents separated when I was seven. The counsellor told me that I was traumatized and I didn’t even know it. During those times, all I could see was how sad it had been for me.

I was blessed that my counsellor was also a Catholic. God was always included in our discussions. She helped me rediscover how God has been so faithful to me even through the brokenness of my childhood. I shared with her how one day, while I was on my bed staring at the ceiling, a beautiful thought crossed my mind. Though many people will abandon me, God will always stay by my side. I think I was 10 then. That one thought really helped me through the many emotional moments in my life.

Recently, I have been fighting a lot with God, too. I guess it’s because I am not getting everything I want, so I just allowed myself to be like a kid and throw tantrums to God. Anyway, at the end of the conversations I have with God, I always felt myself telling God that no matter how frustrated I am with His timing and plans, ‘…where else can I go? You have the message of eternal life.’

I have this confidence in God that he can take my anger and frustration, and I can vent as much as I want to him, because he is always faithful. He will always be beside me, and if I go away, he will always be the father waiting for his prodigal daughter to come back.

We are all in different stages of our lives, but let us always remember that there is nothing that we can do to make God love us less, to make God less faithful to us.

“We may be unfaithful, but he is always faithful, for he cannot disown his own self.”

– 2 Timothy 2:13

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please give us the grace we need to be always faithful to you, to always run to you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for your love and patience. And for always being there for us.

28 November, Wednesday – Justice — Because We Deserve Something Better

28 November

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Apocalypse 15:1-4

What I, John, saw in heaven was a great and wonderful sign: seven angels were bringing the seven plagues that are the last of all, because they exhaust the anger of God. I seemed to see a glass lake suffused with fire, and standing by the lake of glass, those who had fought against the beast and won, and against his statue and the number which is his name. They all had harps from God, and they were singing the hymn of Moses, the servant of God, and of the Lamb:

‘How great and wonderful are all your works,
Lord God Almighty;
just and true are all your ways,
King of nations.
Who would not revere and praise your name, O Lord?
You alone are holy,
and all the pagans will come and adore you
for the many acts of justice you have shown.’

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Luke 21:12-19

Jesus said: Men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives.’

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All the pagans will come and adore you for the many acts of justice you have shown.

I grew up in a family where many of my relatives are in adulterous or out of wedlock relationships. One of the phrases I usually heard from adults is how God ‘will understand’ why they had to be in such situations. That was their excuse for their choices. And I have wondered for a long time if God really understood as they have claimed.

When my brother, who was then legally married, got another woman pregnant, my grandmother laughed it off much to my disgust. I wished with all my heart that they would have stood up and told him that what he did was wrong. At that time, I wished someone stood up for what was right, rather than telling us that it was ‘ok’. I could not explain why I felt repulsed. Reading today’s first reading helped me understand a bit more.

One priest shared during one of his talks that because God is first just, that’s why he is merciful. You cannot separate the two. We need to understand how just God is first, before we can understand his mercy.

I feel that mercy is God’s way of meeting us where we are. Yes, he understands that we are weak creatures and that we fall short of what is expected of us. I think mercy is God’s way of telling us that he loves us where we are right now, where we were yesterday, and where we will be tomorrow.

Justice is God’s way of reminding us that we could be greater, that we were made for so much more, and that God has so much more he wanted to give us, if only we would do what we were meant to do. Justice is God’s way of making us feel how far we are from the goodness we’re meant to enjoy, and an invitation for us to walk towards that goodness and never settle.

Some of us might think that justice is punishment when it is really a display of tough love. Maybe it is God’s way of making the situation so uncomfortable that we are forced to journey towards the real comfort.

I have recently seen articles which encouraged the Catholic Church to remain faithful to the teachings of Christ, despite the cultural pressure. A lot of converts said that because the Church stood firm, they were attracted to convert and join the Catholic Church. Indeed, it was the proclammation of God’s justice that attracted people.

Let us learn to love God’s justice as much as we love his mercy.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, sometimes, we hate it when we are corrected and when we receive your justice. Help us see it as an invitation for us to become better versions of ourselves. And give us the strength and courage we need to move forward.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for giving your tough love. It’s probably tough for you to do so, too.

27 November, Tuesday – Sorry We Are Out Of Seats

27 November

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Apocalypse 14:14-19

In my vision I, John, saw a white cloud and, sitting on it, one like a son of man with a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the sanctuary, and shouted aloud to the one sitting on the cloud, ‘Put your sickle in and reap: harvest time has come and the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ Then the one sitting on the cloud set his sickle to work on the earth, and the earth’s harvest was reaped.

Another angel, who also carried a sharp sickle, came out of the temple in heaven, and the angel in charge of the fire left the altar and shouted aloud to the one with the sharp sickle, ‘Put your sickle in and cut all the bunches off the vine of the earth; all its grapes are ripe.’ So the angel set his sickle to work on the earth and harvested the whole vintage of the earth and put it into a huge winepress, the winepress of God’s anger.

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Luke 21:5-11

When some were talking about the Temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings, Jesus said, ‘All these things you are staring at now – the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.’ And they put to him this question: ‘Master,’ they said ‘when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that this is about to take place?’

‘Take care not to be deceived,’ he said ‘because many will come using my name and saying, “I am he” and, “The time is near at hand.” Refuse to join them. And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen but the end is not so soon.’ Then he said to them, ‘Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines here and there; there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.’

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Take care not to be deceived, because many will come using my name

Many years ago, my friend invited me to accompany her on a short weekend trip to Malaysia. The plan was to take a coach from Singapore and meet up with a local friend who would show us around. We were told of the departure point and time of the coach and so arranged to meet up there to catch our ride. However we arrived at the waiting coach (albeit on the dot and not ten minutes early as advised) both frantic and panting, to the nonchalant announcement by the guide, “Sorry we are out of seats.”

I recall feelings of disappointment and dejection pour down on us, and we were literally left stranded at the driveway as the coach pulled away from us. After settling down somewhere to chat, we both discovered that there was some misinformation between us both, and with the tour organizer. We had each interpreted the ‘Reservation’ of coach seats wrongly and the tour organizer thought that we were not turning up that morning. Even though we finally arrived, it was just too late to sort out the administrative details. It was a good lesson learnt for us and we were more careful next time to make sure we had a common and clear understanding of the terms, conditions, and information needed before we embark on any trip. Check, double-check, triple-confirm. Our next trip turned out with no such glitch!

But we don’t have this luxury for Life itself, to say “Next time I will know better to do this.” Jesus warned those who marvelled at the grandeur of the temple, of this physical world, that “the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another; everything will be destroyed.” Being human, we have this instinctive need to gather information, to find out exactly the details of such a time hoping we can cleverly prepare ourselves for the time. Yet we lose focus on what is truly important – that Jesus is standing before us this very moment. We are like the temple-goers who stand face to face, speaking with the true Messiah without realising it, but instead rather look to a future event thinking we can successfully plan ahead by recognising the signs and symbols. Not now for me, we think. And so presently, we only want to know those forecast clues.

If today you stand before a decision to choose Christ over something else of this world, would you choose to recognise Him and fall at His feet proclaiming that He is indeed the Lord of your life? Our daily decisions do present to us either the choice to marvel at the fine stonework and gleaming treasures of the present world, or the choice to turn to our Lord and God as the most important relationship we must nurture and depend on in this life.

We do often kid ourselves with this phrase, “but for now…” the part and parcel of surviving in this world, of making a living, or of achieving the physical or material goals I have set for myself, is of paramount importance. And we comfort ourselves that we are sure God would understand. We constantly fear that we would lose out on the chance and opportune time to be set for life, in this world – forgetting that there is nothing more terrifying than to arrive suddenly at the end of our lives frantically clutching a fistful of misinterpretations or wrong priorities – indeed many others and many misplaced goals would have you deceived! Then we are told at the departure gates to our eternal journey that, “I’m sorry you have got the details all wrong. You read the signs wrong.” You thought all these other things were your God. You should have focused on the Lord Jesus Christ, and not foolishly asked Him for the time and signs so you could get ready to be ‘just in time’.

Choose Christ now; choose now His body which is the Church. Receive the salvation which is offered up at every Eucharistic celebration for you. Choose Jesus as your present guide in life, and abandon the need for superfluous signs. With Jesus as our constant travel companion, the seat will always be saved for us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: I pray that I can be brutally honest with myself to examine the heart of my intentions. When I should choose Jesus, let me not bury my intention with layers of excuses that there is still time to spare, when really, I do not know.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, I thank you for the assurance of second chances that I can return to you like the Prodigal Son. May I not be complacent, but approach you with true gratitude and repentance.

26 November, Monday – Real Generosity

26 November

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Apocalypse 14:1-5

In my vision I, John, saw Mount Zion, and standing on it a Lamb who had with him a hundred and forty-four thousand people, all with his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. I heard a sound coming out of the sky like the sound of the ocean or the roar of thunder; it seemed to be the sound of harpists playing their harps. There in front of the throne they were singing a new hymn in the presence of the four animals and the elders, a hymn that could only be learnt by the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the world; they follow the Lamb wherever he goes; they have been redeemed from amongst men to be the first-fruits for God and for the Lamb. They never allowed a lie to pass their lips and no fault can be found in them.

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Luke 21:1-4

As Jesus looked up, he saw rich people putting their offerings into the treasury; then he happened to notice a poverty-stricken widow putting in two small coins, and he said, ‘I tell you truly, this poor widow has put in more than any of them; for these have all contributed money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in all she had to live on.’

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She has put in all she has

Some time back, a TV programme featured the life of an old man in Singapore who spends his days doing charitable work. There might not be anything very remarkable about that, but in this particular case, the man had given all his savings to charity, and leads an unusually frugal life. His daily routine includes visiting the nearby coffeeshop at night, where he collects buckets of water gathered from ice used to chill beer bottles. That amount serves as his water supply for the day as he does not turn on any tap at home. The money saved from utility bills goes into charity.

The gospel today has Jesus observing a poor woman giving away all that she has, and contrasting her action with that of the rich people. Like the old man in the previous paragraph, the monetary value of her action is small, but the generosity associated with it is large. For the rich who maintain their affluent status, giving away ‘excess’ money is hardly something that can be considered generous.

There are many ways that one can give of oneself to others. I find that the giving of time and effort is often more reflective of sincerity than the gift itself. As the season of Christmas approaches, we could perhaps give more thought to the preparation of gifts for loved ones or for strangers in need.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that as the season of Advent approaches, we may prepare by opening our hearts to the love of Christ.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the kindness we have received from others.