Monday, 4 January – Online with God

4 January – Monday after Epiphany Sunday

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1 John 3:22-4:6

Whatever we ask God,
we shall receive,
because we keep his commandments
and live the kind of life that he wants.
His commandments are these:
that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ
and that we love one another
as he told us to.
Whoever keeps his commandments
lives in God and God lives in him.
We know that he lives in us
by the Spirit that he has given us.

It is not every spirit, my dear people, that you can trust;
test them, to see if they come from God,
there are many false prophets, now, in the world.
You can tell the spirits that come from God by this:
every spirit which acknowledges that Jesus the Christ has come in the flesh
is from God;
but any spirit which will not say this of Jesus
is not from God,
but is the spirit of Antichrist,
whose coming you were warned about.
Well, now he is here, in the world.
Children,
you have already overcome these false prophets,
because you are from God and you have in you
one who is greater than anyone in this world;
as for them, they are of the world,
and so they speak the language of the world
and the world listens to them.
But we are children of God,
and those who know God listen to us;
those who are not of God refuse to listen to us.
This is how we can tell
the spirit of truth from the spirit of falsehood.

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Matthew 4:12-17,23-25

Hearing that John had been arrested, Jesus went back to Galilee, and leaving Nazareth he went and settled in Capernaum, a lakeside town on the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali. In this way the prophecy of Isaiah was to be fulfilled:

‘Land of Zebulun! Land of Naphtali!
Way of the sea on the far side of Jordan,
Galilee of the nations!
The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light;
on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death
a light has dawned.’

From that moment Jesus began his preaching with the message, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’
He went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness among the people. His fame spread throughout Syria, and those who were suffering from diseases and painful complaints of one kind or another, the possessed, epileptics, the paralysed, were all brought to him, and he cured them. Large crowds followed him, coming from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judaea and Transjordania.

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But we are children of God and those who know God listen to us

I often wondered how a fellow Catholic can recognise another Catholic in his surroundings? Is it the way he speaks or the way he behaves which gives some sort of clue? I believe that perhaps Catholics are recognised for their general lukewarm response to matters in the world which would often see other people holding different faiths respond more strongly in line with their faith. The readings of today remind us of the need to be the difference to those around us.

However, the main query is then to discover how can we go about doing so? The answer, I believe, lies in us first discovering what is the status of our relationship with God. To use common internet terminology, are we constantly “online” with God?  Are we constantly “updating” God on how we are doing throughout the day and asking him for help and advice? We must be ready to accept the message which God has for us which we might not necessarily agree with. When we stay in communication with God, we become closer to Him and allow Him to work through us. Gradually, we become closer to God and follow Him in his image and likeness.

When we have reached that level, I believe it will be the case that others will listen to us when we speak because they can see that we have the spirit of God within us which animates all of us. As we continue in the last week of the season of Christmas, let us ask God to help us acknowledge our failings and ask Him to help us in this aspect.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Father, we pray for the spirit of discernment to help us appreciate our weaknesses.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all those who help others in their faith journey.

 

 

Sunday, 3 January – A Happy Message

3 January – Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

Christ has appeared to us: come, let us adore him.

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Isaiah 60:1-6

Arise, shine out, Jerusalem, for your light has come,
the glory of the Lord is rising on you,
though night still covers the earth
and darkness the peoples.
Above you the Lord now rises
and above you his glory appears.
The nations come to your light
and kings to your dawning brightness.
Lift up your eyes and look round:
all are assembling and coming towards you,
your sons from far away
and your daughters being tenderly carried.
At this sight you will grow radiant,
your heart throbbing and full;
since the riches of the sea will flow to you,
the wealth of the nations come to you;
camels in throngs will cover you,
and dromedaries of Midian and Ephah;
everyone in Sheba will come,
bringing gold and incense
and singing the praise of the Lord.

 

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Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6

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

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Matthew 2:1-12

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

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

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

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At this sight you will grow radiant, your heart throbbing and full

The joy of Christmas lies not in the giving and exchange of gifts but that it provides the opportunity for us to share with others the joy of Christ whom we have encountered. Indeed the feast of today reminds us that we need to reach outwards towards people who do not know the faith but are open and willing to hear what we have to say. The Gospel of today reminds us that there are people like the Wise Men who are seeking the Lord and we have the duty to share it with them despite the threats posed by the world.

There are two areas which we need to develop ourselves to be ready to handle this wonderful task. The first is for us to deepen our own prayer life. God’s treasury of love and prayers is inexhaustible and there is a variety available for each one of us to discover which is suitable for us. Prayer is communication with God and we need to engage in this in a more conscious manner and allow us to realise our own failings. When we surrender to God our failings, we allow Him to work through us to share with us what it means to be a child of God. The second part is for us to then find the opportunities to evangelise to others. Evangelisation involves us sharing our faith in the context we are familiar in. This is an area in which we can specialise as we are most familiar with the environment we are in and know the way we can speak to others about our faith. Faith needs to be invitational and shared using the ways we are most familiar with. Perhaps it is through doing work together and finding an opportunity to share what we have done over the weekend or even sending a message to others to ask what they can give thanks to God for?

The wise men gave Baby Jesus gifts and we should also offer Jesus a gift, the gift of our time. By giving God our time, we discover what it means to be a child of God and to share that experience with others.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please grant me the courage to spread your message to the people whom I meet.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the great love God has shown upon us.

Saturday, 2 January – Being God’s Beloved

2 January – Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazanzian, Bishops, Doctors

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, bishops and doctors. This is the ninth day of the Christmas season.

St. Basil was a brilliant student born of a Christian family in Caesarea, Cappadocia (Turkey). For some years, he followed the monastic way of life. He vigorously fought the Arian heresy. He became Bishop of Caesarea in 370. The monks of the Eastern Church today still follow the monastic rules which he set down.

St. Gregory was also from Cappadocia. A friend of Basil, he too followed the monastic way of life for some years. He was ordained priest and in 381 became Bishop of Constantinople. It was during this period when the Arian heresy was at its height. He was called “The Theologian” because of his great learning and talent for oratory.

According to the 1962 Missal of Bl. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite St. Basil is celebrated on June 14 and St. Gregory on May 9. Today is the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus which is celebrated on January 3 in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

– Catholic Culture.org

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1 John 2:22-28

The man who denies that Jesus is the Christ –
he is the liar,
he is Antichrist;
and he is denying the Father as well as the Son,
because no one who has the Father can deny the Son,
and to acknowledge the Son is to have the Father as well.
Keep alive in yourselves what you were taught in the beginning:
as long as what you were taught in the beginning is alive in you,
you will live in the Son
and in the Father;
and what is promised to you by his own promise
is eternal life.
This is all that I am writing to you about the people who are trying to lead you astray.
But you have not lost the anointing that he gave you,
and you do not need anyone to teach you;
the anointing he gave teaches you everything;
you are anointed with truth, not with a lie,
and as it has taught you, so you must stay in him.
Live in Christ, then, my children,
so that if he appears, we may have full confidence,
and not turn from him in shame
at his coming.

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John 1:19-28

This is how John appeared as a witness. When the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ he not only declared, but he declared quite openly, ‘I am not the Christ.’ ‘Well then,’ they asked ‘are you Elijah?’ ‘I am not’ he said. ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you? We must take back an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself?’ So John said, ‘I am, as Isaiah prophesied:

a voice that cries in the wilderness:
Make a straight way for the Lord.’

Now these men had been sent by the Pharisees, and they put this further question to him, ‘Why are you baptising if you are not the Christ, and not Elijah, and not the prophet?’ John replied, ‘I baptise with water; but there stands among you – unknown to you – the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal-strap.’ This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan, where John was baptising.

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Who are you?

In my recent job, I was the marketing director for a global payment technology company. My job saw me working insane hours. Most times, I would be juggling several projects at a time. Even before one project concluded, I would be on to the next project. At the same time, I would meet bank partners and merchants on strategic alliances. I was also my own finance director/manager/executive all rolled in one. I juggled budgets. Nothing unusual about this? Only I spent close to 50% of my time juggling the numbers. For a marketing person, that’s a lot. The organisation had a crazy system – we had to spend every single cent as projected for the month, planned at the beginning of the financial year. I would be fretting and angsty over any unspent budgets, making up projects – just so the numbers reported at the end of the month ‘tallied’. Yup it was crazy, and frankly a waste of money, in my opinion.

At the same time, the job had its perks. We got invited to all sorts of events, concerts, shows and movies. We had great deals on travel and entertainment. And we spent several evenings, late into the night, entertaining. If we chose to, we would work hard and party just as much. For me, I just worked hard. I hated the entertainment. I am just not the social butterfly I was expected to be.

Anyway, after some time, I felt that the work and the environment did not suit me. So I left the job and just…. as they say, became a lady of leisure. I took a sabbatical which has been almost 2 years now.

While, I’ve enjoyed my ‘me’ time over this period, boredom does set in. I sometimes feel like I am losing myself, identity and self-worth, despite how busy I keep myself. I feel guilty for not being out there and being ‘economically viable’.  I had let my job title and work define who I was, that now, being out of the corporate world, I had no identity. Who am I?

As we begin a brand new year. Let us not forget who we are. We are not defined by our titles, status, and our positions in the life. All that will go away in a blink of an eye. Let us not be sucked in by how this world defines us. Let us remember that we are wonderfully and beautifully created in the image of God.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:31.

Today, I choose not to let the world define who I am. As the child of my Father, I am precious, loved and so wonderful in the eyes of my Beloved. Called out of darkness into His marvellous light.

I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. 1 Chronicles 17:13

So the next time someone asks ‘Who are you?’ What will be your answer?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Abba Father, help us to focus on the truth, and not on trials and falsehood. Help us not give into fear and anxiety. We struggle to accept who we are at times, and for that we are sorry. Help us to find our confidence in You. Let us be confident in Your love for us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father for moulding us to who we are today, from what we used to be. Thank you for creating us each unique in our own way. Thank you for reminding us every day that we are God’s Beloved.

 

Friday, 1 January – Princes and Princesses

1 January – Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

Let us celebrate the Virgin Mary’s motherhood. Let us adore her Son, Christ the Lord.

January 1 is a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics not because it is New Years, but because it is the octave (8th day) of Christmas, the feast of Mary the Mother of God.  This feast helps bring home the reality of the incarnation, that God did not simply briefly appear in human form, but actually inseparably and eternally united himself to a human nature.  In Jesus, God truly became man . . . and that man had, and still has, a mother.  So affirmed the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in confirming the title of Mary as Mother of God.

— Source: www.crossroadsinitiative.com, ‘Mary Mother of God’

“Mary, the all-holy ever-virgin Mother of God, is the masterwork of the mission of the Son and the Spirit in the fullness of time. For the first time in the plan of salvation and because his Spirit had prepared her, the Father found the dwelling place where his Son and his Spirit could dwell among men. In this sense the Church’s Tradition has often read the most beautiful texts on wisdom in relation to Mary. Mary is acclaimed and represented in the liturgy as the “Seat of Wisdom.”

— Source: Catechism of the Catholic Church 721

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Numbers 6:22-27

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

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace.”
This is how they are to call down my name on the sons of Israel, and I will bless them.’

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Galatians 4:4-7

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

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Luke 2:16-21

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

When the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before his conception.

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You are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

Today we celebrate the beginning of a brand New Year. The Church also celebrates the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary – a celebration of Mary’s motherhood of Jesus. A Solemnity is the highest rank in liturgical celebrations, higher than feast days or memorials.

By celebrating this day dedicated to Mary’s motherhood, the Church highlights the significance of Mary’s part in Jesus’ life.

New Year’s Day for many of us will be a continuation of festivities, some of us will probably be at home nursing a huge hangover from too much bubbly the night before. But for us Catholics, there is a beautiful significance of celebrating Mother in the heart of the Christmas season.

I admit that I am one of those people who find it very hard to pray to our Mother. It is not that I do not respect or revere her. It’s just that I haven’t had an encounter with her. Try as I might, my prayers inadvertently gets directed to God or Jesus. Our Mother becomes the bystander.

Recently a group of us got consecrated to Mother Mary on 8th December. Today, one of us shared in our group chat that she had been praying very hard that she comes to know our Mother. And finally Mother Mary revealed herself to my friend and she had a wonderful comforting conversation with her. How happy I am for my friend. How envious I am of her too. For I too long to have that encounter with Mother – to feel her maternal love and comfort.     To seek her guidance and advice – like a mother to her daughter. I should pray a little harder!

As I ponder on today’s readings, I am brought to the moment when the Angel Gabriel, in all his angelic splendour appeared to Mary to tell her the news of her impending pregnancy. Imagine what a magnificent imagery it must have been for her! When an angel tells you that you are about to be the Mother of God, how would you react? I know I would say “Right…..!” in disbelief. But it was Mary’s ‘fiat’; her trust in God -“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” that Christ’s birth is made possible. Calling Mary the Mother of God is the highest honour we can give her.

God gave us His son Jesus, born of a woman. Through Jesus sent to our hearts; our belief and trust in God makes us spiritual sons and daughters of the Kingdom of God. Today, as we are still in the octave of Christmas, remember that it’s our Mother’s ‘Yes’ that makes it possible for us to exist as a family, not dictated by bloodline but by the gracious adoption of God, where those who believed in his name are given the right to become children of God.

We are no longer slaves, my brothers and sisters. We are heirs to God’s kingdom. We are God’s princes and princesses. How will we conduct ourselves as members of such a wonderful family?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, may we grow in faith, hope and love for your Son. Through Mother may we come know Jesus intimately and may we be worthy sons and daughters; heirs to the God’s Heavenly Kingdom.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for all you have done for us in Christ. Please help us to live up to this high calling, as children of God, heirs to the Kingdom. Thank you Mother for your maternal love and protection. That through you, we might come to know your Son and His will for us. Pray with us and for us, Mother. Amen.

 

Thursday, 31 December – Grace and Truth

31 December – Seventh Day within Octave of Christmas

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1 John 2:18-21

Children, these are the last days;
you were told that an Antichrist must come,
and now several antichrists have already appeared;
we know from this that these are the last days.
Those rivals of Christ came out of our own number, but they had never really belonged;
if they had belonged, they would have stayed with us;
but they left us, to prove that not one of them
ever belonged to us.
But you have been anointed by the Holy One,
and have all received the knowledge.
It is not because you do not know the truth that I am writing to you
but rather because you know it already
and know that no lie can come from the truth.

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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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You know it already, and know that no lie can come from the truth.

Today, we are in the last few hours of 2015. Many of us will be out this evening at parties and gatherings to welcome in the New Year. New Year’s Eve will be a time where we look back at the year and start to take stock of what was good and was wasn’t that great. Some of us will begin the New Year with resolutions and plans to make 2016 a better year.

I look back on the past year with mixed feelings. A part of me am thankful for this time that the Lord has given me. The year has allowed me to continue to serve in our music ministry and retreats; let my creative side blossom which got me started on a project; which led to a small business. Through this, I met some very nice people. I had time to travel at a whim; experimented new recipes. I got reacquainted with some good friends – getting together for weekday lunches while everyone was hard at work. Yes, what a luxury.

At the same time, this past year has been downright frustrating. It has been a test of my patience. I have been impatient with myself, impatient with the people closest to me, and yes, I am impatient with God. Many days, I grappled to find some silver lining to this year. I became to myself a wet blanket, it’s depressing and downright embarrassing. All these emotions, I kept mainly to myself. In public, I am the picture of sheer bubbliness and exuberance. I keep myself so busy, it’s exhausting.  I actually cannot keep still. In private, my head is filled with all sorts of noisy thoughts. My heart was equally boisterous. In prayer, I could not be still; I could not hear Him. I felt abandoned.

In today’s first reading, St John speaks of the Antichrist. This terminology includes all false teachers and enemies to the truth; whatever doctrines (or men) that are contrary to Christ. This also includes all negativity and thoughts opposed to God and what He promises us as His children. The word of God is God himself. The word of God is the life giving and brings forth light. Light that illuminates the recesses of our hearts.

Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6:47-49

I am like the man who hears, and yet does not believe. How weak my faith is. But God is good and grace and truth comes through Jesus Christ. So as the year comes to an end, I go back to the His word. And I thank God for enlightening me. I have been blessed abundantly indeed.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: With grateful hearts, we offer the year that is ending and the year to come to you. May the New Year bring us new opportunities to know You, to walk in faith, to grown by Your grace.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father for your Word. The Word that brings light and life into our tormented hearts. Thank you for your presence in our lives; a presence that is so assuring and comforting. Thank you for being with us every single day of every year.

 

 

Wednesday, 30 December – Values that Contradict the World

30 December – Sixth Day within Octave of Christmas

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1 John 2:12-17

I am writing to you, my own children,
whose sins have already been forgiven through his name;
I am writing to you, fathers,
who have come to know the one
who has existed since the beginning;
I am writing to you, young men,
who have already overcome the Evil One;
I have written to you, children,
because you already know the Father;
I have written to you, fathers,
because you have come to know the one
who has existed since the beginning;
I have written to you, young men,
because you are strong and God’s word has made its home in you,
and you have overcome the Evil One.
You must not love this passing world
or anything that is in the world.
The love of the Father cannot be
in any man who loves the world,
because nothing the world has to offer
– the sensual body,
the lustful eye,
pride in possessions –
could ever come from the Father
but only from the world;
and the world, with all it craves for,
is coming to an end;
but anyone who does the will of God
remains for ever.

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Luke 2:36-40

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

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

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Do not love the world or the things in the world.

When I was in my 20s, I had great plans. I would establish my career and get to a certain level by a certain time frame – get to managerial level by 25, get to director level by 28, get married by 26, have children 2 years later …. etc. etc. All of this I planned to achieve. I just had to dig my heels in, draw up a plan and just get on with it. I do not come from a family background where things were just handed to me on a silver platter. I learnt very early on in life that to get the things I wanted – I just had to go out and do it!

I achieved a lot of my career goals and more. I bought myself a home by the time I turned 30. I drove a nice-ish car. I bought handbags and shoes of brand names I could not pronounce. I had all the trappings of a seemingly upwardly mobile corporate executive. But my relationship goals were – let’s just say a complete fiasco.

By ‘the world’s’ standards, the person I was in my 20s and 30s would be one the world would nod and approve of. The ‘go-getter’ – the person who has a clear history of setting out to do something, giving it their all, and accomplishing it. The person who had everything and wanted more. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. Whatever ‘floats your boat’! Sure, today I too have things I long to accomplish. It’s just not what the world sees as significant.

Recently, I met someone who asked me “So what are your aspirations in 5 – 10 years’ time?” Give me a break! My eyes rolled over more than a few times over in my head. But I kept a straight face. I know the answer this person was looking for would be the typical corporate type answer. But my goals in life have changed. The answers I would give would not be the ones they will be impressed with. It would be too ‘altruistic’ for them.

Today, I live my life a little less rigidly. I did not become that way overnight. God is painstakingly molding, sculpturing and preening me and He continues to do so. It’s OK that I may not have a huge bank account.  It’s OK if I don’t become CEO. I offer myself to our Lord – unpolished, inadequate, slightly defective, and unqualified. Let’s see where the Lord take me. Because nothing the world has to offer… could ever come from the Father. But anyone who does the will of God remains forever.

Today, I have reached a maturity in life where these things don’t matter. Or maybe I am just maturing in Christ!  One of the blessings of maturity is that it sometimes brings one greater courage to be truthful, regardless of what those who do not understand may think or say. – Napoleon Hill. My answer to the young lady that afternoon. “I don’t have any plans or huge ambitions. I just want to do something meaningful and be passionate about life.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, make us humble. Let us be poor in spirit, impoverish in our hearts so that we will be open and available to the workings of the Holy Spirit.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for teaching us your values that contradict the goals of the world. May we open the hearts to be passionately in love with what is of You, and be courageous enough to let go of what holds us back in this life.

 

Tuesday, 29 December – Thank you for your ‘yes’, dear Father

29 December – Fifth Day within Octave of Christmas

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1 John 2:3-11

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

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Luke 2:22-35

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

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

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

________________

Every firstborn male must be consecrated to the Lord. 

To be consecrated means giving our lives as a living sacrifice to God. To set ourselves apart from the defilement of the world and be prepared to be used by God. Each day, we are called to live out our lives as a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, for He called us out of darkness into His light, and we are now God’s people (1 Peter 2:9-10).

Today’s gospel reading brings to mind a book I have been reading. A book that is a message of love to priests. Jesus Christ is indeed our first priest. He was set aside by His Father for a holy purpose.  What is a priest? The book quotes – A priest is a lover of God. A priest understands all things, forgives all things. The heart of a priest is open like Christ’s for the whole world to walk through; a chalice of love. A priest is a man in love with God. A priest is the gift from God to man.

How beautiful is this?

Every firstborn male must be consecrated to the Lord. Yet how many parents pray and desire for their sons to be priests? I have heard stories of the difficulties these young men faced when they made the decision to become priests.

I remember listening to a homily during Good Shepherd Sunday last year. The one question the priest posed to the congregation that Sunday moved me tremendously. ‘Your priest is someone else’s son, can your son be someone else’s priest?’  The call to priesthood is not just a ‘sacrifice’ to the priest alone, but that of their parents. We take our priests for granted. To serve us, to pray for us, to tend to our sick and our spiritual needs at the snap of our fingers. After all, they chose this vocation right? So they know exactly what they are in for. But for a moment, put ourselves in their shoes. See things from their parents’ perspective.

In our traditional Asian society, our children are like their parents’ life insurance. Yet these parents gave up their sons despite their own desires to have them be by their side, to have them carry on the family name, they gave their sons to the Church.

A young seminarian also shared how painful it was for him to make that final decision. To give up a life that he could see tangibly, especially so when he had to give up those nuggets and love in his life.

Co-incidence that the priest and seminarian who shared were indeed the first born sons in their families.

So what does it mean to be called a priest? It is to be indeed called by God. It means that a young man’s life will be all His and no longer his. His life will be the loneliest, walking in the midst of multitudes. He will have to give up all. He will be poor in worldly good, poor in spirit and will – as he would have surrendered all to his Bishop and God. He will be crucified too, just like Christ, by the very people he serves – by our indifference and our hurtful words. He will also know darkness, but he will have to continue to walk in his vocation, by the light of his faith. He will experience being dead, like clay. Being molded by The Master Sculpture to be the likeness of his Son. He will experience doubts, fears, temptations, unworthiness, hurts, and yes he too will sin. He will live a life of being ready at a moments’ notice, to lay down his life for God and his flock.

And knowing this, and in obedience to God and his deep and immense love for Him, our young men and priests gave in to His calling…gave it all to Him. I can only image the faith, trust and love they have to say ‘Yes Lord, here I am’. I am not sure that I am courageous enough. Thank you, dear priests for everything.

God’s love comes to perfection in him.

As for me? Well, I cannot become a priest. But I got consecrated to Mary on 8 Dec this year. The beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy! And I just happen to be first born too!

“Yes, if we want to become more fully Christ, then we need to belong more fully to Mary. By going to her and remaining with her, we allow her to accomplish her mission in us. We allow her to form us into other Christs, into great saints.  But how do we do this? …Simple. We say yes, just like she did.”  (Father Michael Gaitley).

So here I am. Let it be done according to your will. Through Mother, to your son.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, may God’s love come to perfection is us. May we hunger to know what it means to walk in the light of Christ. To love just as He loved us. To forgive just as He forgave us. To be compassion just as You are compassion. May we be open and obedient to what You are calling us to be. May we be another Christ to those around us.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, we thank for the gift of your priest sons. Who were courageous enough, who loved You so much, who loved us so much, they gave their lives to us.  They came from amongst us to serve us. We are grateful for the many gifts they bring us – loving us, consoling us, showing us compassion, for blessing our marriage, for baptising our children, for confirming us in our calling, for supporting us in bereavement, for helping us to grow in our faith, for helping us see God’s presence among us. May we as the laity be attentive to their needs. To love them, pray for them and support them in return. May God continue to anoint these chosen sons and give them wisdom, knowledge, and fortitude.

 

Monday, 28 December – Walking in the Light

28 December – Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs

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

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

– CatholicCulture.org

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1 John 1:5-2:2

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

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

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

________________

Matthew 2:13-18

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

I called my son out of Egypt.

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

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

________________

But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another 

Fear leads us to lie. Lies leads us to sin. And sin leads us to more sins. And hence that is why we live a life of constant fear. And until we bring things to light, we will always walk in the overhanging cloud of darkness. Till our hearts are so hardened, that we no longer have any conscience of what we are doing that hurt others.

In today’s gospel reading, we learn of Herod who was disturbed and insecure when he heard about the birth of a King. His insecurity of his own kingship and fear of losing control led him to order the killing of many innocent children. How could he have lived with that hanging on his conscience throughout his lifetime? Fear destroyed his heart. And the very thing he desired, which was Life itself, he destroyed.

Like Herod, how many of us are paralysed by our own fears such that we ‘kill’ others to preserve ourselves. We see that every day in the secular world. We are so caught up in being ahead of the pack that we will do anything to fend off the ‘competition’. Even to the point of hurting the very people who we are closest to. The people who loved us and we loved in return. Human nature and selfishness leads us to behave this way.

In my own corporate career, I have been a victim. I ‘lost’ a friend who had been my good friend since our youth. This friend had been there for me through one of my darkest times. A time when a relationship broke down irrevocably and I felt like death. This friend was one of those who sat with me, came at unearthly hours to ‘rescue’ me when I could no longer pull myself together. This friend knew everything about me and yet did not judge me. Years on, when as friends we became colleagues, perhaps we both saw a side of each other that we hadn’t known before. The secular world is indeed a dog eat dog world. We out do and outwit each other to stay alive and ahead. And nice guys (or girls) just do not win. Many times I have seen the nice person not climb the corporate ladder and edged out. There is a saying that most successful business people don’t get there by being nice.

Not that I am an angel by any stretch of the imagination. I too struggled with my own insecurities and many a time I plotted in my mind how I would be a step ahead of my work ‘enemies’. But God is light. And in scripture, light is depicted to be what is good, righteous, and true. Instead of living a life that is shrouded in darkness – unrighteous and unjust. We should live a life in harmony with God’s goodness, righteousness, and truth. Only then will we experience fellowship with one another.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, grant that as your children, we may always walk in the light of truth and what is good. Help us seek what is righteous and just. That we may be an example of Your light that shines in all of us as Christians. 

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for the gift of your son Jesus. The children that died for Christ and the parents that mourn for the death of these innocent children – the death of martyrs. May our lives be a worthy of their sacrifice and may we bear witness to Christ.

Sunday, 27 December – A Family is God’s Gift to Us

27 December – The Holy Family 

Today the Church marks the feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. It is a liturgical celebration in honour of Jesus of Nazareth, his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his foster father, Saint Joseph, as a family. The Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on the Sunday following Christmas, unless that Sunday is January 1, in which case it is celebrated on December 30.

Scripture tells us practically nothing about the first years and the boyhood of the Child Jesus. All we know are the facts of the sojourn in Egypt, the return to Nazareth, and the incidents that occurred when the twelve-year-old boy accompanied his parents to Jerusalem. In her liturgy the Church hurries over this period of Christ’s life with equal brevity. The general breakdown of the family, however, at the end of the past century and at the beginning of our own, prompted the popes, especially the far-sighted Leo XIII, to promote the observance of this feast with the hope that it might instil into Christian families something of the faithful love and the devoted attachment that characterize the family of Nazareth. The primary purpose of the Church in instituting and promoting this feast is to present the Holy Family as the model and exemplar of all Christian families.

– CatholicCulture.org

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Ecclesiasticus 3:3-7,14-17

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

________________ 

Colossians 3:12-21

You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful.

Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you. Teach each other, and advise each other, in all wisdom. With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God; and never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Wives, give way to your husbands, as you should in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and treat them with gentleness. Children, be obedient to your parents always, because that is what will please the Lord. Parents, never drive your children to resentment or you will make them feel frustrated.

________________ 

Luke 2:41-52

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. His mother stored up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and men.

________________

Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year……the old Christmas song goes. Yes, it’s that time of year when we gather with our families to celebrate the birth of our Saviour and to welcome in a brand new year. Parties and gatherings abound. Indeed a time where we come home, no matter where we are, to spend time with our loved ones. The family that we have is God’s gift to us. They are there to support us, to share our joys and sorrows, to celebrate our achievements and victories, to comfort us when we are down. Many of us take this gift for granted. But for some of us who live away from home, or for some reason cannot be with our families, this can be the loneliest time of year.

Today, spare a thought for those who do not have love ones around them. People who have broken away from their loved ones because of a long family feud. People whose families have just abandoned them…. Or it’s them who chose to leave. As humans, we are prone to making mistakes in our lives. And the most painful thing that can happen is when a family breaks up. Innocent members get hurt in the process. Being in a family has its fair share of love and heartaches, but being in a family is also where we begin to learn how to love and be loved.

Today, our Church celebrates the feast of Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The church gives us this Family to emulate. Let’s not romanticize the idea of this family being ‘perfect’. They are no different from us. Holy yes, but they were human too. Like us, they too had their crosses to carry. They too went through all sorts of trials and difficulties.

Yes, their son may be The Son of God, but the journey of the Holy Family was far from perfect. It is a story of life not always turning out the way you expect. It is a story of a young woman being pregnant before she was married. A young man who faced possible gossip and scandal and contemplated calling off the wedding. How when the time came for the birth of their son, there was no state of the art hospital, let alone a comfortable bed. How a mother watched with helplessness and almost unimaginable sorrow, as her son was being tortured, and ultimately died a horrific death.

And what kept this Family together when living out their virtues seemed impossible?  Their faith and trust in God; they knew profound hope. They gave themselves fully to God. They had an unwavering love and support for one another.

There is hope for us today. We live in a time where the concept of families are far from traditional. The Holy Family stands beside us, to comfort, to console, to support and pray for and with us. Those of us who are lonely, worried, afraid, broken. Those of us struggling in non-traditional relationships. The Holy Family shares our burdens. But they also uplift us by their example. Jesus, Mary and Joseph were never alone. They endured through the grace of God. They prayed. They hoped. They trusted in God’s will.

And as the Universal Church; One family in Christ. Can we also be the message of love, hope and joy to our fellow brothers and sisters who are going through a bit of a bumpy road today? Spend some time with your elderly parent whom you haven’t seen in a while. Bring some festive cheer to the family who has no roof over their heads.

Let us be an example of love that binds people together.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: May His Spirit help us to love our family more each day – as we encourage, pray and love one another with His love. Make us an instrument of love and compassion for those who need love the most today.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for blessing us with family relationships where we can learn to love and be loved. For parents, we pray that you will teach us to be patient with our children and that we might bring them up with discipline and careful instruction. For those hurt by things happening in our families, may You always be a source of healing and comfort. May You take us into your loving care. In your name I pray, Amen.

 

Saturday, 26 December – Letting Go as His Instrument

26 December – St Stephen

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.’

________________

The Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you

When was the last time you did or experienced something that you knew could not have come from your own effort alone? That God must have had a hand in it? For me, that would be the year-end mass we celebrated in school with the Catholic students. We just carried out our mass duties as per normal, but somehow, that turned out to be the most moving and heartfelt Eucharistic celebration of the year. That is a big deal especially when one is dealing with hyper-fidgety and inattentive teenagers who can easily disrupt the solemn atmosphere of the mass. It was a comforting end to a tough year in school, and I am really grateful for that.

Right before the events in the first reading, Stephen had given a long and rousing speech, a wonderfully concise summary of the stories of Exodus, Joseph and Moses. I do not know if Stephen was oratorically gifted, but it was evident that the Holy Spirit was at work in giving Stephen what to speak when the time came. His words cut really deeply into the hearts of his audience, as he chided them for their over-devotion to the temple, instead of to God. Unfortunately, they reacted in rage and violence, meting out a most cruel punishment on him. Although Stephen exited his ministry rather early, he did so by cementing his status as the first martyr for Christianity. He had followed Jesus till the very end, emulating Him in forgiving his killers.

During this season, the readings have centred on the characters of Mary, Elizabeth, and now Stephen. Like many others in the bible, these are people who willingly and humbly submitted themselves to the Lord for Him to do His work in them. For Mary, it involved the agony of watching her own child die. For Stephen, it meant His own expiration from the world. Their complete faith and trust in God kept them focused on Him, instead of themselves. “…the man who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Are you able to do the same?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the grace and courage to let go, so that we can let God in.

Thanksgiving: We thank God for making Himself known to us.