Category Archives: Special days

2 November, Thursday – Finding Rest

2 Nov – All Souls Day

Today we celebrate a feast in commemoration of the faithful departed in purgatory, that is, the faithful departed who have not yet been purified and reached Heaven. After Abbot Odilo of Cluny instituted it in the monasteries of his congregation in 998, other religious orders took up the observance, and it was adopted by various dioceses and gradually by the whole Church. The Office of the Dead must be recited by the clergy on this day and Pope Benedict XV granted to all priests the privilege of saying three Masses of requiem: one for the souls in purgatory, one for the intention of the Holy Father, one for the priest’s.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 25:6-9 

On this mountain,
the Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples
a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines,
of food rich and juicy, of fine strained wines.
On this mountain he will remove
the mourning veil covering all peoples,
and the shroud enwrapping all nations,
he will destroy Death for ever.
The Lord will wipe away
the tears from every cheek;
he will take away his people’s shame
everywhere on earth,
for the Lord has said so.
That day, it will be said: See, this is our God
in whom we hoped for salvation;
the Lord is the one in whom we hoped.

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Romans 5:5-11

Hope is not deceptive, because 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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Matthew 11:25-30

Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

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The Lord will wipe away the tears from every cheek

A priest in my parish who once asked the congregation to raise their hands if they wanted to go to heaven. Naturally, many hands went up (those who did not raise their hands were probably either very reserved or suspicious about what was going to come next). The priest then asked how many of us wanted to die. Naturally, no hands went up (save for a couple of unfathomable exceptions). He then remarked how interesting that was, since everyone would need to first die before entering heaven.

Jesus brings with Him the promise of eternal life. For those who have gone before us, they have passed the ‘obstacle’ of death and with God’s grace, would be either in purgatory or already in heaven. How about the rest of us still living the life on earth, running the race and struggling with our own sins and of others? Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Just last Thursday, I felt emotionally spent after a very long phone conversation with a parent of a student in my school. I felt that I had failed in my attempts to reason with her as I dealt with her demand to have that one additional mark given to her child. I prayed before calling her a second time, but her offensive remarks got worse and I had a hard time containing my anger and frustration as she ranted at me. The conversation ended with the issue unresolved, but I was very surprised to hear the next day that she was apparently satisfied with my response to her. She visited the school and met with all the heads of department, except for mine. I can only thank the good Lord that my emotional pain was somehow ‘worth it’, and He had helped me tide through yet another potential crisis.

Jesus is always with us, loving and protecting us, and we only need to step forth in faith, be it in life or death.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the souls of our dearly departed, the souls in purgatory, that they may be loosed from their sins. May eternal rest be granted upon them, Amen.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the hope that Christ gives us.

8 September, Friday – Our Mother

Sep 8 – Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary announced joy and the approaching salvation of a lost world. Mary was brought into the world not like other children of Adam, infected with the contagion of sin, but pure, holy, beautiful, and glorious, adorned with all the most precious graces fitting for the one predestined to be the Mother of the Saviour. Never did she have the slightest inclination towards anything other than the absolute and immediate Will of God.

She appeared indeed in the weak condition of all mortals, but in the eyes of Heaven she already transcended the highest seraphim in purity, humility, charity, and the richest ornaments of grace. God had created her in the original grace, as in the beginning Adam and Eve had enjoyed that ineffable privilege; after original sin, it was lost for all Adam’s posterity, until the time of the Redemption dawned in Mary. (Cf. I Cor. 15:21-23)

The nations celebrate, often too noisily, the birthdays of the great ones of this earth… How then ought we, Christians, to rejoice in that of the Virgin Mary, Mother of our Salvation, and to present publicly to God the homage of our best praises and thanksgiving for the great mercies He has shown in her, imploring her mediation with her Divine Son!

Jesus of Nazareth will not reject the supplications of His most holy Mother, through whom He chose to descend from Heaven; she, the Spouse of the Canticle, is all beautiful and is the one He was pleased to obey while on earth. Her love, care, and tenderness for Him, the title and qualities which she bears, the charity and graces with which she is adorned, and the crown of glory with which she is honoured, incline Him readily to receive her recommendations and petitions.

  • http://www.magnificat.ca/cal/engl/09-08.htm

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Micah 5:1-4

The Lord says this:

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
the least of the clans of Judah,
out of you will be born for me
the one who is to rule over Israel;
his origin goes back to the distant past,
to the days of old.
The Lord is therefore going to abandon them
till the time when she who is to give birth gives birth.
Then the remnant of his brothers will come back
to the sons of Israel.
He will stand and feed his flock
with the power of the Lord,
with the majesty of the name of his God.
They will live secure, for from then on he will extend his power
to the ends of the land.
He himself will be peace.

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Matthew 1:1-16,18-23

A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, Tamar being their mother,
Perez was the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram was the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon was the father of Boaz, Rahab being his mother,
Boaz was the father of Obed, Ruth being his mother,
Obed was the father of Jesse;
and Jesse was the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Azariah,
Azariah was the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah;
and Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers.
Then the deportation to Babylon took place.

After the deportation to Babylon:
Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor was the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud was the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob;
and Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary;
of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.

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

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son
and they will call him Emmanuel,

a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’

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“She was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit”

It is worth noting that in Islamic tradition, it is said that, there are 2 people who were spared by the touch of satan, what we would call original sin, and they were Mary & Jesus. Of course we also believed that John the Baptist was sanctified before birthday, but Mary, was conceived immaculately. Not by a human act, but by the power of the Holy Spirit.

It was the same Spirit that overshadowed her at the annunciation. This spirit preserved her from the stain of original sin at the moment of her conception. In fancy talk, “by a singular privilege and grace granted in view of the merits of Jesus Christ.” This purity was indeed needed as a relatively short time thereafter, she would become the living tabernacle for Word made flesh.

This grace which she receive also prepared her to become the channel of grace she is now, as mediatrix of all grace. I think never before has a woman had so many superlative titles applied to her. I am moved greatly by the litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary whereby we honour her with so many names that reveal her essential role in the life of the church and of us individual Christians who call her mother.

I am in the midst of my third year of the 33 Days to Morning Glory consecration and recently I was told that many Catholics still don’t identify with the Blessed Mother. Its not that the church declares that as Catholics we must be of a Marian character or disposition, but I think once we acknowledge the beauty in Gods plan for our salvation and how God used Mary to bring about this salvation; it becomes impossible, personally, to fathom why we would not also want to involve Mary. God did it! In his omnipotence he could have done all this a thousand other ways. But he chose to come through a humble, young virgin. Who are we to ignore her, when God chose to enter the world through her. I think he will enter our lives more easily too, if he entered through her.

If you are unconvinced, I suggest seeing what St Maximilian Kolbe and St Louise de Montfort have to say on the matter. For the “un-Marian” Catholic, it borders on scandalous. But take it to prayer and allow grace to come upon you and you will receive the tender, loving embrace of a mother. I had a moment like that 3-4 years ago and I still remember that embrace, and the tears of joy that flowed down my cheeks at that moment.

If God is Our Father, i’m sure He intends for us to have a Mother. She’s not God and cant do anything if not for Him, but he chose to give her a share in His ministry of saving us. This was her vocation from her birth.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer: Father, source of light in every age, the virgin conceived and bore Your Son Who is called Wonderful God, Prince of Peace. May her prayer, the gift of a mother’s love, be Your people’s joy through all ages. May her response, born of a humble heart, draw Your Spirit to rest on Your people. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer is obtained from http://www.catholicdoors.com/prayers/english/p00298.htm

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving us a mother in the order of grace.

29 August, Tuesday – Our Mission in Life

Aug 29 – Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist (not used in 2010)

To endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather is was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward. Since death was ever at hand, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: “You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake.” He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that His chosen ones should suffer for Him: “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.”

– from a homily by Saint Bede the Venerable on the death of John the Baptist

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Jeremiah 1:17-19

The word of the Lord was addressed to me, saying:

‘Brace yourself for action.
Stand up and tell them
all I command you.
Do not be dismayed at their presence,
or in their presence I will make you dismayed.

‘I, for my part, today will make you
into a fortified city,
a pillar of iron,
and a wall of bronze
to confront all this land:
the kings of Judah, its princes,
its priests and the country people.
They will fight against you
but shall not overcome you,
for I am with you to deliver you –
it is the Lord who speaks.’

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Mark 6:17-29

Herod sent to have John arrested, and had him chained up in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife whom he had married. For John had told Herod, ‘It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife.’ As for Herodias, she was furious with him and wanted to kill him; but she was not able to, because Herod was afraid of John, knowing him to be a good and holy man, and gave him his protection. When he had heard him speak he was greatly perplexed, and yet he liked to listen to him.

An opportunity came on Herod’s birthday when he gave a banquet for the nobles of his court, for his army officers and for the leading figures in Galilee. When the daughter of this same Herodias came in and danced, she delighted Herod and his guests; so the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me anything you like and I will give it you.’ And he swore her an oath, ‘I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.’ She went out and said to her mother, ‘What shall I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the Baptist.’ The girl hurried straight back to the king and made her request, ‘I want you to give me John the Baptist’s head, here and now, on a dish.’ The king was deeply distressed but, thinking of the oaths he had sworn and of his guests, he was reluctant to break his word to her. So the king at once sent one of the bodyguard with orders to bring John’s head. The man went off and beheaded him in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard about this, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

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“They will not defeat you, for I will be with you to protect you. I, the LORD, have spoken.”

Today we celebrate the Passion of St John the Baptist. More remembered as the voice that cries out in the wilderness to make the way for the Lord, the baby in womb who leapt for joy when Mary visited, the one who baptised many, including Jesus. One who was steadfast in his faith, bold in reaching out to countless with his preaching.

In St John the Baptist, we have a role model that defines our mission in life too. When we say we evangelise, it’s not just to our friends, people who would listen, people whom we are comfortable with, but it’s to the exact opposite of the above.

The consequences or how his future was going to turn out like didn’t matter to St John for what was most important, was the encounter of Jesus. The relationship St John had was so strong that nothing could hold him back from sharing the beautiful gift with all. Do we have that conviction or that relationship with God? Why not?

We read in the Gospel that Herod was protecting St John, loved listening to him even though he felt uncomfortable. And I believe it’s because St John spoke the truth, though sometimes very uncomfortable, it’s something we cannot avoid forever but better if we can confront it, grudges, regrets, misunderstandings, unresolved hurts. Herod knew John was a holy man but eventually still succumb to a vow and took his life in such a cruel way.

Again, as from the past 2 reflections, what is really important to us, keeping to a vow that could have been made rashly, protecting one’s image, or like St John, speaking the truth, to know our mission in life. Our Lord has already given us His life and His love, it’s time for us to do the same for all. Let us stay true to our faith, to the creed we profess, to live a life of love. May we learn from St John the Baptist. St John the Baptist, pray for us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we will continue to grow our relationship with you. To grow in conviction as we live out our mission. Empower us in our struggles, in our efforts to step out of our comfort zones. May we be beacons of hope, examples of love by our lives.

Thanksgiving:  Thank you Lord for the gift of St John the Baptist. Thank you for helping us see that it is possible to love you as much in all our imperfect capacity. Thank you Lord for always being there.

22 August, Tuesday – Our Unconditional ‘Yes’

Aug 22 – Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Whoever, therefore, reverences the Queen of heaven and earth – and let no one consider himself exempt from this tribute of a grateful and loving soul – let him invoke the most effective of Queens, the Mediatrix of peace; let him respect and preserve peace, which is not wickedness unpunished nor freedom without restraint, but a well-ordered harmony under the rule of the will of God; to its safeguarding and growth the gentle urgings and commands of the Virgin Mary impel us. – Pope Pius XII

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Judges 6:11-24

The angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah which belonged to Joash of Abiezer. Gideon his son was threshing wheat inside the winepress to keep it hidden from Midian, when the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘The Lord is with you, valiant warrior!’ Gideon answered him, ‘Forgive me, my lord, but if the Lord is with us, then why is it that all this is happening to us now? And where are all the wonders our ancestors tell us of when they say, “Did not the Lord bring us out of Egypt?” But now the Lord has deserted us; he has abandoned us to Midian.’

At this the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength now upholding you, and you will rescue Israel from the power of Midian. Do I not send you myself?’ Gideon answered him, ‘Forgive me, my lord, but how can I deliver Israel? My clan, you must know, is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least important in my family.’ the Lord answered him, ‘I will be with you and you shall crush Midian as though it were a single man.’ Gideon said to him, ‘If I have found favour in your sight, give me a sign that it is you who speak to me. I beg you, do not go away until I come back. I will bring you my offering and set it down before you.’ And he answered, ‘I will stay until you return.’

Gideon went away and prepared a young goat and made unleavened cakes with an ephah of flour. He put the meat into a basket and the broth into a pot, then brought it all to him under the terebinth. As he came near, the angel of the Lord said to him, ‘Take the meat and unleavened cakes, put them on this rock and pour the broth over them.’ Gideon did so. Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff in his hand and touched the meat and unleavened cakes. Fire sprang from the rock and consumed the meat and unleavened cakes, and the angel of the Lord vanished before his eyes. Then Gideon knew this was the angel of the Lord, and he said, ‘Alas, my Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!’ the Lord answered him, ‘Peace be with you; have no fear; you will not die.’ Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it The-Lord-is-Peace.

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Matthew 19:23-30

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you solemnly, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.’ When the disciples heard this they were astonished. ‘Who can be saved, then?’ they said. Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he told them ‘this is impossible; for God everything is possible.’

Then Peter spoke. ‘What about us?’ he said to him ‘We have left everything and followed you. What are we to have, then?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I tell you solemnly, when all is made new and the Son of Man sits on his throne of glory, you will yourselves sit on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or land for the sake of my name will be repaid a hundred times over, and also inherit eternal life.

‘Many who are first will be last, and the last, first.’

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…for God everything is possible

Over at the Catholic Spirituality Centre (CSC), we are preparing to welcome the International Centennial Pilgrim Image of our Lady of Fatima in September. As part of the preparation, we have begun a devotion – 33 Days to Morning Glory – which will culminate in a celebration on 15 September. Last Friday, Fr Erbin, our Spiritual Director, prayed the Rosary with us as we reflected on the life of St Maximilian Kolbe, one of the saints who is known for his devotion to our Mother.

As Fr Erbin led us through the joyful mysteries, he exhorted for us to surrender our lives to Mother Mary and encouraged us to lift up all our worries, fers and anxieties to her. Never had I experienced (nor heard) such a fervent call during the Rosary, I fell to my knees as he asked those of us in the congregation who were willing to give up their lives in service to kneel. It was truly an anointed moment as we fervently sang ‘Ave Maria Gratia Plena’ in one voice.

Brothers and sisters, it is not easy at all to surrender in humility to the Lord, especially when he calls us. That is why Jesus told his disciples that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom. Simply because our pride, whatever degree of it we harbour, prevents us from submitting fully to Him. Unlike Mary, our mother, who gave herself totally and unconditionally when the angel Gabriel visited her and proclaimed her vocation – that she would bear Jesus.

Unlike Gideon, who asked for a sign from the angel, Mary simply said ‘Yes’ and endured everything that was ordained; right up to the Passion and remaining at the foot of the Cross. Such devotion and trust in the Lord’s plan is unfathomable these days, for how many times have we wavered and faltered when called up on to serve the Lord, whether at work, at home or in ministry? How many times do we grumble and gripe when we are asked to attend meetings, practices or to a ‘problem’?

Do we give our ‘Yes’ to the Lord with certain conditions attached? Or do we gladly give Him an unconditional ‘Yes’, fully prepared to sacrifice all our pride, ego and self-importance?

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the our of our death. Amen.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord, for calling us by name and choosing us to serve.

15 August, Tuesday – Fulfilment

Aug 15 – Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mary is taken up body and soul into the glory of Heaven, and with God and in God she is Queen of Heaven and earth. And is she really so remote from us? The contrary is true. Precisely because she is with God and in God, she is very close to each one of us. While she lived on this earth she could only be close to a few people. Being in God, who is close to us, actually, “within” all of us, Mary shares in this closeness of God. Being in God and with God, she is close to each one of us, knows our hearts, can hear our prayers, can help us with her motherly kindness and has been given to us, as the Lord said, precisely as a “mother” to whom we can turn at every moment. – Pope Benedict XVI

  • http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2005/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20050815_assunzione-maria_en.html

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Apocalypse 11:19,12:1-6,10

The sanctuary of God in heaven opened and the ark of the covenant could be seen inside it. Then came flashes of lightning, peals of thunder and an earthquake, and violent hail.

Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown. She was pregnant, and in labour, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth. Then a second sign appeared in the sky, a huge red dragon which had seven heads and ten horns, and each of the seven heads crowned with a coronet. Its tail dragged a third of the stars from the sky and dropped them to the earth, and the dragon stopped in front of the woman as she was having the child, so that he could eat it as soon as it was born from its mother. The woman brought a male child into the world, the son who was to rule all the nations with an iron sceptre, and the child was taken straight up to God and to his throne, while the woman escaped into the desert, where God had made a place of safety ready, for her to be looked after in the twelve hundred and sixty days.

Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, ‘Victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now that the persecutor, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down.’

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1 Corinthians 15:20-26

Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him. After that will come the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, having done away with every sovereignty, authority and power. For he must be king until he has put all his enemies under his feet and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death, for everything is to be put under his feet.

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Luke 1:39-56

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’
And Mary said:

‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.

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“All generations shall call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me.”

There is so much to be said about Mary, her life, prophesies about her, her death (or lack of a bodily death as some scholars propose), her assumption and her queenship now.

In my reversion to the Catholic faith, initially I did not have any inclination to Mary, now I have a four foot tall painting of her in my living room. So as my reversion was taking place, the rosary found a place in my heart during a 54 day novena that Pope Francis called for early in his pontificate. When you pray 53 Hail Mary’s for 54 consecutive days, you start to contemplate on the mysteries from every angle.

I started to realise that Mary fulfilled so much of what was written in scripture. What I would like to focus on for today, is the Magnificat, this prayer inspired by the Holy Spirit when she met with her cousin Elizabeth. “ Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty  has done great things for me.”

I see that line being fulfilled in her Assumption and Coronation, the 4th and 5th glorious mysteries of the rosary. We adopted the first half of the Hail Mary from Luke chapter 1, but really it finds it fulfilment after she passed from this world. Whether she was assumed into heaven, or died then was taken up, the point is that we now call her Blessed and full of grace, for she had become Queen of heaven and just like Solomons mother in 1 Kings, where King Solomon had a throne on his right for his mother and when he said to her “make your request my mother for I will not refuse you” (1 Kings 2:20), sounds a little like the wedding at Cana.

The mother of the King, all throughout history has had a prominent place in the kingdom. Rightly so, Our Blessed Mother has that place too and all her life she sought to do the will of God, The King. We have been called heirs to the Kingdom, and our job is simple, to do the will of the Father, as Jesus said. And in The Queen of Heaven we have an example to follow, humility, obedience & submission will get us there.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Luke 1: 46-55)

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for providing a human example of grace and humility and obedience. In your mother we have roadmap to help us join you in heaven.

26 December, Monday – Dying to Self

Dec 26 – Feast of St. Stephen, protomartyr

Stephen is the first martyr. He was one of the deacons appointed by the Apostles to organize the distribution of food to the poor. He performed many miracles and confounded the Jews in disputation. They fabricated false charges against him. At his trial he preached the risen Christ to them, so they stoned him to death. He prayed for his persecutors as he was dying. One of them, Saul of Tarsus, who was looking after the cloaks of the stone-throwers, was later converted and became the great missionary St Paul.

– Universalis

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

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

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

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Matthew 10:17-22

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

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

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The man who stands firm to the end will be saved

 Today’s first reading reminds me of a soon-to-be-released film by Martin Scorsese, entitled ‘Silence’. It is a movie that is supposedly 28 years in the making, about two Jesuit priests who travel to Japan to meet their mentor whom they heard had committed apostasy. The film is based on a novel written by Japanese author Sh?saku End?. During the climax of the story, the lead character Sebastião Rodrigues, one of the Jesuits, decides to renounce his faith by stepping on a fumie (a carved image of Christ) in order to free local Christians from further torture.

Although the story is a work of fiction, it seems plausible that such methods were indeed used to threaten and torture priests during the persecution of Japanese Catholics. I have tried, but failed to imagine myself in the shoes of the priest made to renounce his faith in order to save his fellow Christians from torment. What is the right thing to do? To step on the fumie, or not renounce the faith but let the torment of others continue?

Something that I am sort of figuring out, and which is perhaps more related to the circumstances of my life, is the dying to self for the purpose of honouring God. There are certain actions that I like to do without feeling much guilt, although I know that they are technically contrary to the teachings of the church and of the Bible. At some point recently, I realised that I need to make a conscious decision to constantly die to myself and reject those sinful actions, so that I can truly stand and say that I am a follower of Christ. During the Advent Penitential Service this year, I confessed sins that had long been buried in my heart and which I had not even realised were there. I just somehow decided that there was no need to be a slave to fear or shame, and to make a decisive move to love Christ rather than waver and fret and make half-hearted attempts.

In this Christmas season, let us be open to renewing our hearts for Christ.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the courage to die to ourselves constantly so as to give glory to our God.

Thanksgiving:  We give thanks for the martyrs of the faith whom we know are praying for us and our salvation.

30 November, Wednesday – The Messenger

Nov 30 – Feast of St. Andrew, apostle

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

Patron Saint Index

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Romans 10:9-18

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

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

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Matthew 4:18-22

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, 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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How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!

I think I have been truly fortunate to live in a lifetime before the advent of email. As convenient and speedy as it may be, email has ironically made me appreciate snail mail more; and by snail mail, I do not mean the monthly bills and statements that we receive (sadly), but letters or greetings where someone has actually taken the time to sit down and write, in their own script, a personal message to you. The thought of that and the enclosed warm greeting would be enough to bring cheer to my heart and a smile to my face, and I’m certain it would be the same for you too.

Imagine then, in Jesus’ time, when the only way for news to arrive was if it were to be communicated in person, by word of mouth. The apostles were sent out to do just that, to spread the Good News of the Messiah, and this they had done via long journeys on foot, over land and sea. One such apostle was St Andrew, brother of St Peter. In the Gospel of John, St Andrew is depicted as one of Jesus’ first followers. In John 1:35-42, St Andrew, who was a disciple of John the Baptist, immediately followed Jesus, along with another disciple after John the Baptist pointed Jesus out to them. St Andrew subsequently brought his brother to Jesus after telling him that they had found the Messiah.

While in his lifetime, St Andrew preached as far as modern-day Ukraine and Greece, imagine if you would for a second, what it might have been for Simon his brother (later St Peter), to be out fishing, only to come home and be greeted in person by probably a rather excited and breathless Andrew, gushing that he had found the Messiah! Wouldn’t you, in Simon’s shoes, be terribly excited as well? Personally, I might have hugged him in delight and excitement! With such wondrous news, would you not also have done the same?

With the same level of enthusiasm, I believe this would have been how Andrew might have approached his mission. Yes, as the first reading indicated, not all heeded the good news, and not everyone who heard it, believed. However, for those who like him, had been waiting for news of our Saviour, his coming to preach would have been welcome tidings, and for them, this was their salvation.

In our modern day, our good tidings may come in an electronic form, but let us look beyond the form and see the substance that lies within, for what lies within may just be the good news that we are waiting for.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we hear all kinds of news these days over the media, some of which may be true, while others may be exaggerated. Help us to filter out the news that attempts to confuse us, and give us the wisdom to recognize the message of God.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the messengers whom you have sent out to spread your Word and carry out your works in your holy name. We pray that we too will be able to emulate them and spread the Good News to others too.

22 November, Tuesday – Time to Pray

Nov 22 – Memorial for St. Cecilia, virgin, martyr

Cecilia (d. 117) was a cultivated young patrician woman whose ancestors loomed large in Rome’s history. She vowed her virginity to God, but her parents married her to Valerian of Trastevere. She told her new husband that she was accompanied by an angel, but in order to see it, he must be purified. He agreed to the purification and was baptized. Returning from the ceremony, he found her in prayer accompanied by a praying angel. The angel placed a crown on each of their heads, and offered Valerian a favour; the new convert asked that his brother be baptized.

The two brothers developed a ministry of giving proper burial to martyred Christians. In their turn they were arrested and martyred for their faith. Cecilia buried them at their villa on the Apprian Way, and was arrested for the action. She was ordered to sacrifice to false gods, and when she refused, she was martyred in her turn.

She was suffocated for a while and when that didn’t kill her, she was beheaded. Her grave was discovered in 817, and her body removed to the Church of St. Cecilia in Rome. The tomb was opened in 1599 and her body was found to be incorrupt.

The Acts of Cecilia includes the following: “While the profane music of her wedding was heard, Cecilia was singing in her heart a hymn of love for Jesus, her true spouse.” It was this phrase that led to her association with music, singers, musicians, etc.

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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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When you hear of wars and troubled times, do not be frightened; for this is something that must happen but the end is not so soon.

I came across an article once about Nostradamus, a French apothecary in the 16th century, who became well-known for his published works in which he was purported to have prophesied several major world events. One of his predictions was about the end of the world. It scared me for days, and I worried and mulled about it in my head. Some nights I couldn’t sleep just thinking about it. Understand though, that I was a young, impressionable, school-going child at the time. I believed almost anything then.

Fear is a gripping emotion. It can take hold of a strong person and paralyze him; it can reduce us to emotional wrecks. We fear what we don’t know. We don’t know what the future holds, so we worry about it. We don’t understand why certain things happen to us, so we are afraid to try. When we fear, it is when we are most vulnerable. We are like leaves, scattered and blown by the wind in all directions. If not checked, the core of our faith could be easily shaken and we would believe anything without a doubt, even if it wasn’t true.

We have been reading a lot of the wars and conflicts going on in the world today. The mindless murders and killings, of plagues and virus outbreaks, natural disasters which seem quite unnatural, it is all quite distressing to read about and watch. Some politicians and people with power have used these events to their advantage as propaganda to discredit their opponents and to incite popular unrest. In their fear, people are more inclined to hear out what these people are saying. Our heads want to believe, but what do our hearts tell us?

In these times of distress, do not fear; instead, lift up your hands in prayer to God to deliver us from our afflictions and distress. Now, more than ever, prayer is our most powerful defense. Now, more than ever, our spirit of brotherly and sisterly love is never more essential. Now is not the time to fear, but a time to pray. “Do not be frightened,” says the Lord. “The end is not so soon”. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters caught in the conflicts and disasters of the world today, and for peace and love. “For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for peace to prevail and wars and conflicts in the world today to end. Lord, we pray for those who are afflicted. Lighten their suffering, and we pray that they may find comfort and peace in Your love.

Thanksgiving: We give You thanks Lord, for never abandoning us in our times of trouble. You said that where two or three are gathered in Your name, You would be in our midst. Thank you for hearing our prayers Lord.

20 November, Sunday – Leader by Example

Nov 20 – Solemnity of Christ The King

Christ the King is a title of Jesus based on several passages of scripture and used by all Christians. The name is found in various forms in scripture: King Eternal (1 Timothy 1:17), King of Israel (John 1:49), King of the Jews (Matthew 27:11), King of kings (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16), King of the Ages (Revelation 15:3), and Ruler of the Kings of the Earth (Revelation 1:5).

Many denominations including Catholics, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and some Lutherans and Methodists celebrate the Feast of Christ the King on the last Sunday of the liturgical year.

The ideological movement of Christ’s Kingship was addressed in Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quas Primas (“In The First”). In it, he quotes with approval St. Cyril of Alexandria, noting that Jesus’ Kingship is not obtained by violence: “Christ has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but his by essence and by nature.”

Pope Benedict XVI has remarked that Christ’s Kingship is not based on “human power” but on loving and serving others. The perfect exemplar of that acceptance is the Virgin Mary, he pointed out. Her humble and unconditional acceptance of God’s will in her life, the Pope noted, was the reason that “God exalted her over all other creatures, and Christ crowned her Queen of heaven and earth”.

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2 Samuel 5:1-3

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

So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a pact with them at Hebron in the presence of the Lord, and they anointed David king of Israel.

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Colossians 1:12-20

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

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

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

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Luke 23:35-43

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

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

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Indeed I promise you today you will be with me in paradise.

People often think of kings as monarchs who are of royal blood and who are responsible for the lives of many people. The same image was expected of Jesus which resulted in him being mocked at the Cross as they were expecting a king like David in the first reading. However, if we reflect into the first reading, it is not what it seems.

The tribes of Israel acknowledged the kingship of David because God had appointed Him. They were clearly aware of the anointing David had received from Samuel and this was borne in the many military exploits which David had won. It was not the military exploits that legitimized David as a rule but the fact that he had been anointed by God. Jesus did not need any anointing because He was already the anointed one; in fact Christ is Greek for “anointed”. Jesus had received the anointing from God the Father himself.

When we make the decision to be a Christian, we choose to accept Jesus as the Head of our lives. This means we have to acknowledge His teachings and direction in our lives. Whilst it may seem futile for us at the moment, we need to remember that not all of us can have the same fortune as the repentant thief to acknowledge our sins to Jesus. Jesus is not a military commander who will dictate and force us to behave in a particular manner. Instead, He gently leads us towards Him and reminds us of the great love He has shown us by dying on the Cross for us. That act is the ultimate act a King can do i.e. to lay down his life for his friends. Let us take time to acknowledge Jesus as our King who leads us by example and not by command.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for obedience to listen to you.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who struggle to lead a good Christian life.

Call for Contributors to write for Christmas

Dear reader of Oxygen,

The Oxygen team gives thanks to God for allowing us to see through the year of 2016 with grace and blessing.

As we approach the Christmas season, we would like to invite readers to consider a one-off contribution for Christmas Day.

Reflections for contribution

  1. Vigil Mass for Christmas
  2. Midnight Mass – Christmas
  3. Mass at Dawn – Christmas
  4. Mass in the Day – Christmas

If you have benefitted from our past reflections, this could be a small but meaningful gesture to give back to the community.

Please leave a comment at the end of this post indicating your interest and your email address for us to follow-up with you.

God bless you

Oxygen Core Team