Category Archives: Solemnity

29 June, Saturday – The Lord stands by us and gives us power

29 June – Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, apostles

Peter (c.1–64) was a professional fisherman. He was the brother of St. Andrew the Apostle, the man who led him to Christ. Given the name Simon, he was renamed ‘Peter’ (Rock) by Jesus to indicate that Peter would be the rock-like foundation on which the Church would be built. He later became a bishop and was the first pope. He was also a miracle worker.

Paul (c.3–c.65) was a Jewish Talmudic student and a Pharisee. He was a tent-maker by trade. Saul the Jew hated and persecuted the Christians as heretical, even assisting at the stoning of St. Stephen the Martyr. On his way to Damascus, Syria, to arrest another group of faithful, he was knocked to the ground, struck blind by a heavenly light, and given the message that in persecuting him, causing his conversion to Christianity.

He was baptized, changed his name to Paul to reflect his new persona, and began travelling, preaching, and teaching. His letters to the churches he help found form a large percentage of the New Testament. He knew and worked with many of the earliest saints and Fathers of the Church. He died a martyr for the faith.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 12:1-11

King Herod started persecuting certain members of the Church. He beheaded James the brother of John, and when he saw that this pleased the Jews he decided to arrest Peter as well. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread, and he put Peter in prison, assigning four squads of four soldiers each to guard him in turns. Herod meant to try Peter in public after the end of Passover week. All the time Peter was under guard the Church prayed to God for him unremittingly.

On the night before Herod was to try him, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, fastened with double chains, while guards kept watch at the main entrance to the prison. Then suddenly the angel of the Lord stood there, and the cell was filled with light. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him. ‘Get up!’ he said ‘Hurry!’ – and the chains fell from his hands. The angel then said, ‘Put on your belt and sandals.’ After he had done this, the angel next said, ‘Wrap your cloak round you and follow me.’ Peter followed him, but had no idea that what the angel did was all happening in reality; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed through two guard posts one after the other, and reached the iron gate leading to the city. This opened of its own accord; they went through it and had walked the whole length of one street when suddenly the angel left him. It was only then that Peter came to himself. ‘Now I know it is all true’ he said. ‘The Lord really did send his angel and has saved me from Herod and from all that the Jewish people were so certain would happen to me.’

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2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18

My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.

The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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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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The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom!

As I reflected on the fearlessness and courage of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, as well as the steadfastness of God’s love and protection over them, I am also reminded of the ways both saints failed Jesus – the first, in his cowardice renounced Jesus three times and the other, a zealous persecutor of Christians. In the eyes of the world, they would have been condemned for their betrayal, and yet, instead of writing them off, God touched their hearts and they became powerful instruments in His plans. This conversion of hearts drove them to proclaim the works of Jesus and proliferate Christianity throughout the world. From a place of love for God, they abandoned fully into the mission Christ had set forth for them, always trusting in His plans, and obedience unto death.

Recently, a member of the family was making some poor choices and the chosen behavior and actions really did not sit well with me. The person is someone I love very much, and it was difficult for me to reconcile her actions with our faith and values. However, speaking up might have caused a further rift in our relationship. This dilemma caused much heartache and many sleepless nights. It would have been easier for me to sweep it under the carpet and ignore the turbulence I felt in my heart. Instead, I sought solace in our Lord, turned to our Father in prayer and sought guidance from the Holy Spirit. Through the grace of God, I was prompted with a message and felt it was really God speaking through me. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the outcome was one of acceptance and respect on both sides. To be able to stand firm in my belief and faith while at the same time, conveying my feelings with clarity and in love, gave me peace. The courage and the power of conviction was so strong that I know only He could provide. Truth be told, I have never felt I had it in me to do something like that. Today, I am reminded of these words I once heard; God does not call the abled but enables those He calls. Despite our sinfulness, God calls us and uses us in ways unimaginable, all He asks of us, is to respond to Him in love!

For Jesus taught us and showed us that Love is the greatest commandment of all! The love of our Father though gentle and tender, is also powerful and strong. His love moves mountains and transforms hearts. And when we stand up in love for our faith, and for Christ, our Lord will in turn stand by us, protect us and bring us home safely to his heavenly kingdom!

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, enable us, your sinful children, to always turn to you for inspiration and direction in all that we say and do. May our efforts be pleasing to you and when our work is done here on earth, bring us home safely to you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for calling us to be your children, for choosing us to be your instruments. Even though we are broken, you make us whole again through the work we offer you. Thank you for your mercy, your grace and your love! 

28 June, Friday – He will bring the lost sheep home

28 June 2019 – The Sacred Heart of Jesus

The Heart of the Shepherd

We celebrate the love of Christ the Good Shepherd who gave his life for his sheep.

  • The Sunday Missal

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Ezekiel 34:11-16

The Lord God says this: I am going to look after my flock myself and keep all of it in view. As a shepherd keeps all his flock in view when he stands up in the middle of his scattered sheep, so shall I keep my sheep in view. I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered during the mist and darkness. I shall bring them out of the countries where they are; I shall gather them together from foreign countries and bring them back to their own land. I shall pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in every inhabited place in the land. I shall feed them in good pasturage; the high mountains of Israel will be their grazing ground. There they will rest in good grazing ground; they will browse in rich pastures on the mountains of Israel. I myself will pasture my sheep, I myself will show them where to rest – it is the Lord who speaks. I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong. I shall watch over the fat and healthy. I shall be a true shepherd to them.

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Romans 5:5-11

The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us. We were still helpless when at his appointed moment Christ died for sinful men. It is not easy to die even for a good man – though of course for someone really worthy, a man might be prepared to die – but what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Having died to make us righteous, is it likely that he would now fail to save us from God’s anger? When we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, we were still enemies; now that we have been reconciled, surely we may count on being saved by the life of his Son? Not merely because we have been reconciled but because we are filled with joyful trust in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have already gained our reconciliation.

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Luke 15:3-7

Jesus spoke this parable to the scribes and Pharisees:

‘What man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” he would say “I have found my sheep that was lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.’

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I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered during the mist and darkness

As parents these days, we find ourselves in constant tug of war with the influence of social media, what deem as norms in society today, prevalence of LGBTQ, the pro-choice movement, redefinition of what constitutes a family etc. How do we continue to instill our faith and beliefs with the insurgence of societal norms that goes against the core of Christianity? What is more heartbreaking is when our teenagers make choices in life that goes against the very grain of Christian values? How do we respond? As parents, we cling onto Jesus’ teachings that the greatest of all commandments is Love. We strive to love as Jesus did, tenderly and unconditionally but we stumble time and again due to our fallen nature. At times blaming ourselves for the choices our children make. At times, blaming them or the external influences, none of which solves the problem and we are left disheartened and broken.

Reflecting on today’s readings gives comfort and reminds  us of the mercy and love of our Abba Father. The reassurance that He watches over us and will never abandon us, no matter how far we stray, He will rescue us from darkness and despair! As long as, He is keeping watch; not a single one of us will be lost. The passage from Ezekiel paints such a vivid picture of how our Heavenly Father not only keeps watch but gives us the best and takes such good care of us like a good Shepherd does. Only the best will be given to His flock.

So today, we entrust ourselves and our children to our good good Shepherd, trusting in His ways and even though what may seem lost in our eyes, our Father in Heaven will bring the lost sheep home!

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer Heavenly Father, continue to strengthen the bonds of marriage and family, for the evil one is attacking the foundation of our home. This tug of war is so real and at times, we are at a lost of what to do. Arm us with your Holy Spirit to love, inspire, and transform, with our words and deeds, so that more may return to your fold.

ThanksgivingThank you Father for giving us Jesus so that we may be reconciled with you in His dying and be saved in His resurrection.

24 June, Monday – Our Role Model

24 June 2019 – The Birth of John the Baptist

You celebrate the birthday of John the Baptist, the main specially chosen by God to be the herald of the Saviour and to prepare the people for his coming.

  • Sunday MIssal

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Isaiah 49:1-6

Islands, listen to me,
pay attention, remotest peoples.
The Lord called me before I was born,
from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.
He made my mouth a sharp sword,
and hid me in the shadow of his hand.
He made me into a sharpened arrow,
and concealed me in his quiver.
He said to me, ‘You are my servant (Israel)
in whom I shall be glorified’;
while I was thinking, ‘I have toiled in vain,
I have exhausted myself for nothing’;
and all the while my cause was with the Lord,
my reward with my God.
I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord,
my God was my strength.
And now the Lord has spoken,
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
to gather Israel to him:
‘It is not enough for you to be my servant,
to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel;
I will make you the light of the nations
so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’

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Acts 13:22-26

Paul said: ‘God deposed Saul and made David their king, of whom he approved in these words, “I have selected David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will carry out my whole purpose.” To keep his promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour, whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel. Before John ended his career he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandal.”

‘My brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and all you who fear God, this message of salvation is meant for you.’

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Luke 1:57-66,80

The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son; and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy.

Now on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up. ‘No,’ she said ‘he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘But no one in your family has that name’, and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they were all astonished. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.

Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit matured. And he lived out in the wilderness until the day he appeared openly to Israel.

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And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him

I recently read about Mr Thio Gim Hock, an 81-year-old evangelist, who is also the chief executive officer of a listed company. Mr Thio is a very successful businessman and heads multiple businesses. Yet, despite his wealth and material success, he travels to faraway places like Pakistan, Siberia and India to speak at evangelistic rallies. In many of these areas, he risks his personal safety while preaching and spreading God’s work.

To me, he’s kind of like a modern-day, Singaporean, John the Baptist.

Today, we celebrate the birth of St John the Baptist. He was born to the high priest Zechariah and Elizabeth, when they were both in their old age. And it was during Elizabeth’s pregnancy that our Mother Mary goes to stay and help. St John was born and, in time, grew to be the prophet who prepares the way for, and announces the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

I have always found St John to be an intriguing character. Given his successes, he could have chosen to bask in the glory and devotion of his followers. Instead, St John chose to redirect all this attention to Jesus.

Many of us enjoy successes, in our church, at our jobs and in life, often receiving platitudes and accolades. As Christians, we know that these successes ultimately come from God. Yet, our tendency is to claim these successes as our own, thinking that we deserve them on the basis that they are a result of our hard work. Let us learn from St John the Baptist and keep our eyes on our God and give credit where credit is truly due.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Help us Lord to always give credit where credit is due, to know that the reason behind all of our successes in our lives come from You.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for sending St John the Baptist to us, as an example of a true servant of God and of someone who understands the real reason behind his strength.

23 June, Sunday – God, Our Provider

23 June 2019 – The Body and Blood of Christ

The Priesthood of Melchizedek

Like Melchizedek of old we bring bread and wine to the altar and Christ transforms it into his own body and blood for the life of the multitude of the redeemed.

  • Sunday Missal

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Genesis 14:18-20

Melchizedek king of Salem brought bread and wine; he was a priest of God Most High. He pronounced this blessing:

‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, creator of heaven and earth,
and blessed be God Most High for handing over your enemies to you.’
And Abram gave him a tithe of everything.

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1 Corinthians 11:23-26

This is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.’ In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.’ Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death.

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Luke 9:11-17

Jesus made the crowds welcome and talked to them about the kingdom of God; and he cured those who were in need of healing.

It was late afternoon when the Twelve came to him and said, ‘Send the people away, and they can go to the villages and farms round about to find lodging and food; for we are in a lonely place here.’ He replied, ‘Give them something to eat yourselves.’ But they said, ‘We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we are to go ourselves and buy food for all these people.’ For there were about five thousand men. But he said to his disciples, ‘Get them to sit down in parties of about fifty.’ They did so and made them all sit down. Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven, and said the blessing over them; then he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute among the crowd. They all ate as much as they wanted, and when the scraps remaining were collected they filled twelve baskets.
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They all ate as much as they wanted

Growing up in Queenstown with my grandaunt, who was my guardian, she often stressed over what food to buy, and how we could afford it. She constantly looked at our finances, at when her daughter was going to pass her the monthly allowance. I remember our conversations about what to buy during her trips to the wet market, and how she could go about feeding us, at as low a cost as possible.

One of the earliest lessons I learnt in psychology class was about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The most basic of these needs are the Physiological Needs — including the need for food, clothing, air and shelter. These are the first needs that all humans will strive towards before they can even think of anything else.

With that perspective and the experience in my own life, I have always been intrigued by the feeding of the five thousand. I imagine being there in the crowd; hungry, thirsty and tired. Then I imagine being passed food that I can eat to my fill; without having to toil for it. God indeed does provide for me!

In the second reading of today, Jesus offers His life for us, in the form of bread and wine. Once again, God caters to our most basic of needs, and through this, our Lord Jesus Himself becomes a part of us. Over time, we literally become more and more like Him.

Brothers and sisters, let us always hunger for the food that our Heavenly Father provides — food that nourishes and feeds our souls so that we grow strong in faith. Let us all learn to be contented with what we are given by God. Only then can we avoid being greedy for all things material and keep us focused on the real prize – eternal life in paradise.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray that we remember that You are always there for us. We pray that no matter what happens, You are there for us.

Thanksgiving: We thank You Father, for sending Your only Son to bear the burdens of our sin. We thank You Jesus for being there to feed us.

16 June, Sunday – Why the Trinity Matters

16 June 2019 – Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday is the first Sunday after Pentecost in the Western Christian liturgical calendar, and the Sunday of Pentecost in Eastern Christianity. Trinity Sunday celebrates the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, the three Persons of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

  • Wikipedia

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Proverbs 8:22-31

The Wisdom of God cries aloud:

The Lord created me when his purpose first unfolded,
  before the oldest of his works.
From everlasting I was firmly set,
  from the beginning, before earth came into being.
The deep was not, when I was born,
  there were no springs to gush with water.
Before the mountains were settled,
  before the hills, I came to birth;
before he made the earth, the countryside,
  or the first grains of the world’s dust.
When he fixed the heavens firm, I was there,
  when he drew a ring on the surface of the deep,
when he thickened the clouds above,
  when he fixed fast the springs of the deep,
when he assigned the sea its boundaries
 – and the waters will not invade the shore –
  when he laid down the foundations of the earth,
I was by his side, a master craftsman,
  delighting him day after day,
  ever at play in his presence,
at play everywhere in his world,
  delighting to be with the sons of men.

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Romans 5:1-5

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith we are judged righteous and at peace with God, since it is by faith and through Jesus that we have entered this state of grace in which we can boast about looking forward to God’s glory. But that is not all we can boast about; we can boast about our sufferings. These sufferings bring patience, as we know, and patience brings perseverance, and perseverance brings hope, and this hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us.

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John 16:12-15

Jesus said to his disciples:
‘I still have many things to say to you
but they would be too much for you now.
But when the Spirit of truth comes
he will lead you to the complete truth,
since he will not be speaking as from himself
but will say only what he has learnt;
and he will tell you of the things to come.
He will glorify me,
since all he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.
Everything the Father has is mine;
that is why I said:
All he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.
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But when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth

Ah, the Holy Trinity. Eggs, shamrocks, fruits, states of matter (liquid, solid & gas), mathematical diagrams, and even the sun itself have been recruited through the centuries by theologians and catechists to illustrate the puzzling concept of a Triune God. How can one God be three persons and how can three persons be still…one God?

Christianity’s insistence on basing its concept of God’s nature on this mathematical impossibility (1+1+1=1?) in the face of puzzled intellectuals and bewildered nine-year olds alike, is often answered with slightly embarrassed, if not empathic nods followed by the use of one, if not all of the above available analogies in an attempt to shed some light. This popular catechism of the Trinity almost always concludes with the phrase, “but God is mystery” said in piously hushed tones and a sagely wrap-up that “we are simply not meant to know such things.”

Thus, most of us grow up accepting the Trinity as a weird curiosity, a particular quirk of our faith best less spoken of to avoid embarrassment, awkward contradictions and of course, the ever-looming specter of heresy. We treat the Trinity in the same way we treat quantum mechanics, probably true but best left to the experts. You can probably imagine my trepidation when I found out I was being assigned this Oxygen entry.

What is my approach? Rather than talk about how one God can be three persons, I want to contemplate on why a God who is three Persons matters. What difference does it make to our faith and, even more fundamentally, of reality itself, since we believe that everything was created by this God.

To do this, it is necessary to briefly consider the alternative monotheistic option, namely: the single-person God. This concept of a single-person deity is at the heart of all of the major monotheistic world religions, except one — Christianity. However, it is not difficult to conceive that a single-person God would function in a completely different way from the Father, Son and Spirit. The reason why I make this contrast is because while we Christians profess a God of a triune nature, much of our assumptions of how this God acts largely remains single-personed. But if God were a single-person god then God will look and act exactly like the single-person gods of the other faiths. In other words, not being as God is, God will not act as God does.

Let us consider creation. If God is a singular person being and for eternity has been that way, we can infer that that is clearly the preferable state of affairs. Why would a God who is entirely satisfied by himself and has neither known any relationship, or what it is like to love another, find it in his nature to cause anything else to exist? (If the answer is that God was lonely or bored than it would imply that God created out of a sense of lack in Godself. If God needed to create in order to feel complete then God will cease to be god since such a god will not be self-sufficient.)

A Triune God on the other hand, would create the world and would do so not out of any sense of lack of love but as an overflow of love from within his very nature. In John 17:24, Jesus said, “Father, you loved me before the foundation of the world.” Before the universe was created, God for unimaginable eternity had existed as a divine community of one undivided essence but in three distinct Persons. The Father loves and delights in the Son infinitely. The Son loved by the Father reciprocates with the same love of the Father. Their mutual love meets and breathes forth an uncreated subsistence who is the third person of the Trinity.

Thus, the Holy Spirit is described in the Nicene creed as the One “who proceeds from the Father and the Son,” as their bond of union. It is not a coincidence that at the Baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, in the appearance of a dove, appears at the exact moment the Father proclaims, “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11) At the Father’s affirmation of His love for Jesus, the Holy Spirit as the personification of that love comes upon him. We see a snapshot of the inner life of the Trinity that has been going on for all eternity expressed in that single moment in time and space.

Why does it matter that God is Trinity? There are at least three implications of this to our lives.

  1. God is love. The Trinity tells us that being loving is not something that God does; it is who God is. The Doctrine of the Trinity destroys any unworthy ideas of God’s love. God is not lonely or bored. The Trinity tells us that God’s very nature is a love relationship of mutual delight, a reality that existed eternally even before creation came to be. Love is the beginning and end of all God’s actions.
  2. Creation is an outflow of God’s love. Creation is not something necessary for God to do, but it is very characteristic for a Triune God. We almost hear the delight of God in the act of creation in the first reading (Pro 8:22-31). The Father delights so much in the Son that He desires to have that love overflow to many other sons and daughters – that the Son “might be the firstborn of many brothers” (Romans 8:29) True love always desires to love people more and to love more people. Therefore, the God who is eternally loving creates, so that God may have many others that He might love. People like you and me. 
  1. The Love of God is poured into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit — Rm 5:5 Interestingly, nowhere in scripture is mentioned the love of the Son for the Spirit, the Spirit’s love for the Father or the love of the Spirit for mankind. Instead, the bible only speaks of the Father’s love for the Son, the Son’s love for the Father as well as the Father’s and Son’s love for humanity. The implication is that the Holy Spirit is not just the agent who ‘applies’ God’s love to believers but that the Spirit Himself is the very love of the Father and the Son poured into our hearts! That is why when we receive the Holy Spirit, we experience a greater love for Jesus because we love with the love of His Father, and we love our Heavenly Father more because the same love Jesus has for His Father is in us. Thus, our communion with God (and with each other) consists of partaking in the Holy Spirit, or God’s love.

I could go on. In truth, I have barely scratched the surface of why the Trinity matters. The place of relationships in our lives, the form our redemption takes and the outworking of our sanctification all take the contours of the Trinity. My hope is that this reflection would inspire you to set aside your shamrocks and eggs to seek and contemplate deeper into this divine mystery. (What else is a mystery for if not to draw us deeper?)

On Trinity Sunday, we celebrate not a curious quirk of our faith, but a supremely wondrous truth that undergirds all of reality. Nothing is more foundational, nothing exceeds the height of its importance. But at the end of the day, our goal is not merely to understand the Trinity intellectually, but to know God experientially. To know the Trinity is to know the living God. Our pursuit – when properly done – is an invitation to experience God’s overflowing love and to share in the delight of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit forever. This is why we were created.

But when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth. John 16:13

(Today’s Oxygen by Leonard Koh)

Prayer: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Thanksgiving: That You, Triune God are both the goal of our journey and the means by which we find you. Thank you for choosing to reveal your love to us through the sacrifice of the Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit into our hearts. 

9 June, Sunday – Among Friends

9 June 2019

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Acts 2:1-11

When Pentecost day came round, they had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.

Now there were devout men living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, and at this sound they all assembled, each one bewildered to hear these men speaking his own language. They were amazed and astonished. ‘Surely’ they said ‘all these men speaking are Galileans? How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; people from Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya round Cyrene; as well as visitors from Rome – Jews and proselytes alike – Cretans and Arabs; we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.’
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1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13
No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose.
Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.
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John 20:19-23
In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’
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All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them

Our Muslim brothers and sisters recently celebrated Hari Raya Puasa, after observing the fasting month of Ramadan. Fasting is one of the 5 pillars of Islam, which also includes the expression of faith, Salat (praying 5 times a day), Zakat (the right of the poor on the wealth of the financially able), and Haj (once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca).

I try to be sensitive to my Muslim friends’ routine by scheduling dinners around their Iftar, and by not overtly eating and drinking in front of them during the day. Getting them to share their reflections and experiences during the fasting month helps me to get an insight into Islam. By journeying with them during this special time, we build bonds across race and religion that draw us closer as a multi-cultural community. I also really appreciate how my Muslim friends explain the religious and personal significance of fasting to them, and this segues into a lively conversation about our faiths.

When the Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles during Pentecost, it was a manifestation of God’s uniting power that fuels our Christian mission. With the Holy Spirit, we can do great things knowing that God is with us and in us, through all our trials and difficulties. This is helpful when many of us are reluctant to publicly proclaim our faith, fearing judgment or questions that we may not be able to answer.

Just as the Apostles were energized during Pentecost, we too can take comfort in the immense love and dynamism that a strong Christian faith provides. Brothers and sisters, I urge you to follow in the Apostles’ footsteps by proudly living your vocation in the face of scrutiny and questions. May we inspire others to do the same by our actions.

(Today’s Oxygen by Anonymous)

Prayer:  Help us dear Lord, to show respect and tolerance for all faiths and beliefs in your world.

Thanksgiving:  We thank you Father, for the gift of the Holy Spirit. It fills us with fervour to serve and glorify you.

30 May, Thursday – Waiting

30 May 2019

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Acts 1:1-11

In my earlier work, Theophilus, I dealt with everything Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until the day he gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. He had shown himself alive to them after his Passion by many demonstrations: for forty days he had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God. When he had been at table with them, he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised. ‘It is’ he had said ‘what you have heard me speak about: John baptised with water but you, not many days from now, will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’

Now having met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth.’

As he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were still staring into the sky when suddenly two men in white were standing near them and they said, ‘Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there.’

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Hebrews 9:24-28,10:19-23

It is not as though Christ had entered a man-made sanctuary which was only modelled on the real one; but it was heaven itself, so that he could appear in the actual presence of God on our behalf. And he does not have to offer himself again and again, like the high priest going into the sanctuary year after year with the blood that is not his own, or else he would have had to suffer over and over again since the world began. Instead of that, he has made his appearance once and for all, now at the end of the last age, to do away with sin by sacrificing himself. Since men only die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, too, offers himself only once to take the faults of many on himself, and when he appears a second time, it will not be to deal with sin but to reward with salvation those who are waiting for him.

In other words, brothers, through the blood of Jesus we have the right to enter the sanctuary, by a new way which he has opened for us, a living opening through the curtain, that is to say, his body. And we have the supreme high priest over all the house of God. So as we go in, let us be sincere in heart and filled with faith, our minds sprinkled and free from any trace of bad conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us keep firm in the hope we profess, because the one who made the promise is faithful.

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Luke 24:46-53

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘You see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.

‘And now I am sending down to you what the Father has promised. Stay in the city then, until you are clothed with the power from on high.’

Then he took them out as far as the outskirts of Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. Now as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven. They worshipped him and then went back to Jerusalem full of joy; and they were continually in the Temple praising God.
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It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority

We have all been there – waiting to hear back after a job interview, an examination or even a date. Some people are better at weathering the uncertainty, going about their daily lives while occasionally dwelling on what might happen. Some people are crippled by the suspense, ruminating over every possible outcome and expecting the worst. Yet some others try to take control of the situation and their emotions to make the wait more bearable, perhaps by sending polite follow-up emails or text messages or distracting themselves with unrelated tasks or thoughts. Regardless of the coping response, one thing is clear – there is nothing we can do to affect the outcome.

We can imagine the emotional rollercoaster the apostles went through after Jesus’ crucifixion – first, sorrow and despair when their Messiah had fallen, followed by initial disbelief and elation over Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus had appeared to them several times after that, telling them about the kingdom of God. The apostles must have felt like they were on the cusp of something phenomenal and eagerly sought answers as to what lay ahead. Instead, Jesus commanded them to stay in Jerusalem and wait. In light of the recent events, Jesus’ instruction must have been anti-climactic and unsatisfying. True enough, the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles ten days later. Receiving gifts and powers beyond their human abilities, the apostles went on to baptise and make disciples of all nations.

If we associate God’s presence with dramatic acts of conversion or transformation, we may feel discouraged when our prayers go seemingly unanswered. This lull may be in fact be an invitation to stillness, to prepare ourselves to receive the Holy Spirit. Let us take heart that just as Jesus walked with his disciples, he continues to journey with, and mould us in our journey of life. In closing, may we remember that “God has perfect timing; never early, never late. It takes a little patience and a whole lot of faith…But it’s worth the wait.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for patience and perseverance to live out our calling as children of God. As we entrust ourselves to You, may we surrender our need for control, trusting that You will provide the graces we need for the journey ahead.   

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, that we may bear witness to Your word.

25 March, Monday – True Obedience

25 Mar – Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

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

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

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

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

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

  • Patron Saint Index, Wikipedia

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Isaiah 7:10-14,8:10

The Lord spoke to Ahaz and said, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign for yourself coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above.’ ‘No,’ Ahaz answered ‘I will not put the Lord to the test.’
Then he said:
Listen now, House of David:
are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men
without trying the patience of my God, too?
The Lord himself, therefore,
will give you a sign.
It is this: the maiden is with child
and will soon give birth to a son
whom she will call Immanuel,
a name which means ‘God is with us.’

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Hebrews 10:4-10

Bulls’ blood and goats’ blood are useless for taking away sins, and this is what Christ said, on coming into the world:

You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation,
prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin;
then I said,
just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book,
‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’

Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin,and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.

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Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

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Let what you have said be done to me

How many times have we said ‘Yes’ to our parents or to our superiors and then acted against their orders, thinking either that we know better or that those who have instructed us have lost touch with reality? Many of us face that dilemma at work, especially those of us in middle management who have teams reporting to us or groups of colleagues working on a particular project, which we just want to complete without too much ‘interference’ from our superiors.

I cannot imagine the turmoil within Mother Mary when she first heard the words of the archangel Gabriel. And while she posed a fair question, I for one would have been thinking to myself, “Alright, how can I get out of this? There is no way I will be able to do this no matter what this strange figure with wings says. What are my exit strategies going to be?” Unlike Mary, we lack absolute faith in God and the humility to trust in His hand within our lives.

So how can we reconcile this tension within us to live a life that is dedicated to God yet having to deal with the various challenges that seem to surface just when we think we’ve struck a balance? It is something that I have not been able to put my finger on until a recent testimony given by a retreatant who attended CER61. He testified that after not stepping into a church since he was 12 years old, he now found solace in reciting the rosary after his conversion. He said that he had always been skeptical about having to repeatedly say the prayers but now, he found comfort in saying the rosary each day. He began to understand humility required in order to bow down and accede to God’s call each day, and as a result, he is a much calmer, more loving individual who now cares for his family.

Brothers and sisters, let us embrace the humble rosary and make a pledge to say it every day. Because it is the one thing the devil fears – this devotion to our heavenly Mother. When our hearts are focused on Mother Mary, the Lord will mould us to become humble of heart and teach us true obedience to Him so that we can live the lives that He intended for each and every one of us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for giving us Mary as our loving Mother.

19 March, Tuesday – ‘Silent’ Fatherhood

19 March 2019

Solemnity of St Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

St Joseph – Nothing is known of St Joseph except what is said of him in the Gospels. He was a carpenter; he accepted the will of God; and he supported Mary and brought up Jesus. From the human character of his son we can see that he was a good and responsible father. Although he is not officially a patron saint of anything in particular (though he is a patron of the Church as a whole), he is widely venerated as a patron of artisans who honourably do good work with the gifts God has given them, and of workers in general.

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

The word of the Lord came to Nathan:

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

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Romans 4:13,16-18,22

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

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

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Luke 2:41-51a

Every year the parents of Jesus used to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up for the feast as usual. When they were on their way home after the feast, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it. They assumed he was with the caravan, and it was only after a day’s journey that they went to look for him among their relations and acquaintances. When they failed to find him they went back to Jerusalem looking for him everywhere.

  Three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions; and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies. They were overcome when they saw him, and his mother said to him, ‘My child, why have, you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.’

  ‘Why were you looking for me?’ he replied. ‘Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’ But they did not understand what he meant.

  He then went down with them and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority.

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See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you. 

Silence and quietness is often seen as an unfavourable character trait. Introverts are often misunderstood as having few opinions, little personality, or just plain ‘hard to get a sense of them’. We often think of Mary being a quiet, docile handmaid of the Lord. But if I were to pick the quietest, most passive and silent biblical person, it would be Joseph, husband of Mary, earthly father to Jesus.

Everything that we know about Joseph is through description. We are only told things about Joseph, but never hear a word in scripture from the man himself. How bewildering that God would write the life of a man in to His story, without writing a word to be spoken by him. We know he and Mary were betrothed; that she bore child out of wedlock that was not his flesh and blood; that he received his mission in a dream and obeyed; that he probably stood up for and defended Mary and their union from the naysayers amongst their kinsman; that he protected mother and child as they fled the deserts; that he raised his family on his humble woodworking craft. What a man!

Yet, nay a word he spoke! Not even when Jesus went missing on a family trip. Instead he let Mary speak and discipline their son. One can only wonder what kind of man Joseph was. Let us pause for a moment and consider the mettle of a man who would do all of those things and more – and yet have little need for words. I know that some of us have grown up in families with absent or silent fathers. They did not say much – good or bad – and so we knew little of them and there was hardly any relationship. Some others lived in homes with all-too-imposing father figures – overbearing, opinionated, harsh – we knew too much of what they thought and felt insignificant. These two are extremes. Perhaps most of us have fathers, if at all, who fall somewhere in the spectrum.

As I pondered the role of St Joseph in God’s story, it came to be clear as day the reason for his silence – both as a narrative device, as well as a character trait. Joseph’s silence is the humble place-holder to allow God’s presence and voice in his family’s life to be heard clearly! For sure Joseph spoke. He would have talked with Mary, taught Jesus to pray, disciplined him, instructed him in woodworking, dealt and traded his craft and wares…

Through all of his life, he was ultimately a quiet, obedient, and faithful man! Faithful to his betrothal vows to Mary, to their marriage, to his heavenly Father, to his son, to the message that God sent him about fathering Jesus. We never hear Joseph speak – but his silence carries humility, wisdom, maturity, gravitas, and obedience. In the absence of speech, we as Christian disciples, are made to see beneath the surface of words to decipher fidelity in action.

May we look to St Joseph as our model Christian. He can teach us to trust, obey, love; to be faithful, hopeful, peace-loving, dependable; to lead our families to faith by example.

(for some reflections on St Joseph, explore https://augustinianvocations.org/blog-archive/2016/3/18/lwkee9qlvsxjwo8vnhqlc3oefnohca and https://devotionsbychris.com/tag/does-joseph-speak-in-the-bible/)

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: We humbly seek your intercession St Joseph to help us love and follow God as you did. We ask that you inspire the fathers among us to be faithful and strong defenders of their wives and families.

Thanksgiving: We thank God for the fathers in our lives who have been given to us: whether by blood or adoption or baptism, through loving instruction from fatherly teachers, coaches, bosses, colleagues.

25 December, Mass in the Day – The Reason for the Season

25 December – Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord (Mass in the Day)

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Isaiah 52:7-10

How beautiful on the mountains,
are the feet of one who brings good news,
who heralds peace, brings happiness,
proclaims salvation,
and tells Zion,
‘Your God is king!’

Listen! Your watchmen raise their voices,
they shout for joy together,
for they see the Lord face to face,
as he returns to Zion.

Break into shouts of joy together,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord is consoling his people,
redeeming Jerusalem.

The Lord bares his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.

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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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John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word:
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things came to be,
not one thing had its being but through him.
All that came to be had life in him
and that life was the light of men,
a light that shines in the dark,
a light that darkness could not overpower.

A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.

The Word was the true light
that enlightens all men;
and he was coming into the world.
He was in the world
that had its being through him,
and the world did not know him.
He came to his own domain
and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to all who believe in the name of him
who was born not out of human stock
or urge of the flesh
or will of man
but of God himself.

The Word was made flesh,
he lived among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father,
full of grace and truth.

John appears as his witness. He proclaims:
‘This is the one of whom I said:
He who comes after me ranks before me
because he existed before me.’

Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received –
yes, grace in return for grace,
since, though the Law was given through Moses,
grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God;
it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart,
who has made him known.

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The Word was made flesh, and lived among us

Advent is the season of waiting and preparation in anticipation of the Lord’s coming.  Yet many of us find ourselves caught up with worldly activities – family vacations, company parties, Christmas shopping, feasting and general festivities. Not that we should be cutting these out from our calendars, but it is timely to consider whether these may have overtaken the significance of Jesus’ coming in our lives.

Christmas is not a historical event that took place in a distant land centuries ago, nor a time for merry-making. For us Christians, it is a time to not only relive the gift of Jesus’ birth but also a time to receive Jesus the gift, given anew once more.

Even as we go about our festivities, let us bear in mind that the nativity of our Lord is God becoming man to dwell among us, so that all of us may have everlasting life in God’s love.A love that is freely given through His grace, one not earned by our merits.

This Christmas, let us celebrate the fulfilment of God’s promise of love by giving us the greatest gift of all – His Son, Jesus Christ, to show us the way.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, may we always remember the birth of Your Son as the fulfilment of Your promise and perfect love.  Just as Jesus has come to do Your will, may we learn to always seek and do Your will.

Thanksgiving: Thank you God for revealing the gift of Your Son to us.  Help us to always seek You the giver, the Reason for this Season.