25 December, Midnight Mass – Love and Sacrifice

Dec 25 – Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord

The name “Christmas” was derived from Old English: “Cristes Maesse”, Christ’s Mass. It is a celebration of the anniversary of the birth of our Lord. In the earliest days of the Church there was no such feast; the Saviour’s birth was commemorated with the Epiphany by the Greek and other Eastern Churches.

The first mention of the feast, then kept on May 20, was made by Clement of Alexandria in the year 200. The Latin Church began in the year 300 to observe it on Dec 25, though there is no certainty that our Lord was born on that day.

Priests have, on this day, the privilege of saying three Masses, at midnight; daybreak, and morning. This was originally reserved for the pope alone; beginning about the fourth century, he celebrated a midnight Mass in the Lateran Basilica (in which according to tradition, the manger of Bethlehem is preserved), a second in the church of St. Anastasia, whose feast comes on Dec 25, and a third at the Vatican Basilica.

Many peculiar customs of the day are the outcome of the pagan celebrations of the January calends. The Christmas tree, of which the first known mention was made in 1605 at Strasbourg, was introduced into France and England in 1840. The feast is a holy day of obligation, preceded by the preparatory season of Advent and by a special vigil; should it fall on a Friday it abrogates the law of abstinence.

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Isaiah 9:1-7

The people that walked in darkness
has seen a great light;
on those who live in a land of deep shadow
a light has shone.
You have made their gladness greater,
you have made their joy increase;
they rejoice in your presence
as men rejoice at harvest time,
as men are happy when they are dividing the spoils.

For the yoke that was weighing on him,
the barb across his shoulders,
the rod of his oppressor,
these you break as on the day of Midian.

For all the footgear of battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
is burnt,
and consumed by fire.

For there is a child born for us,
a son given to us
and dominion is laid on his shoulders;
and this is the name they give him:
Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God,
Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace.
Wide is his dominion
in a peace that has no end,
for the throne of David
and for his royal power,
which he establishes and makes secure
in justice and integrity.
From this time onwards and for ever,
the jealous love of the Lord of Hosts will do this.

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Titus 2:11-14

God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions; we must be self-restrained and live good and religious lives here in this present world, while we are waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the Appearing of the glory of our great God and saviour Christ Jesus. He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.

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Luke 2:1-14

Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a census of the whole world to be taken. This census – the first – took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and everyone went to his own town to be registered. So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee and travelled up to Judaea, to the town of David called Bethlehem, since he was of David’s House and line, in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn.

In the countryside close by there were shepherds who lived in the fields and took it in turns to watch their flocks during the night. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly with the angel there was a great throng of the heavenly host, praising God and singing:

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace to men who enjoy his favour.’

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The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.

Each holiday season, the people at my parish organize something called ‘Adopt A Family’ for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The program matches us with lower-income families, to help them with financing family dinners and gifts for their children. While the intentions of the program are noble, I often get discouraged by some of the requests I see on wishlists. This year, I was matched with a single mother and her spoiled 11-yr old son. She asked for warm blankets and a new iron. He wanted the latest Beats 2 headphones and a pair of fancy Jordan basketball shoes. What must the conversation be like in their household? It made me reflect on the meaning of Christmas. When parents struggle to make ends meet, yet children have unreasonable demands, the meaning of Christmas is overshadowed by the weight of unmet expectations and resentment on both sides. As a parent, how do you cope with that?

I think of Mary and the demands that were made of her as she travelled with Joseph to Bethlehem. It can’t be much fun being pregnant and stressed out from traveling. Behind the candlelit romance of the nativity scene, we forget that Jesus’ birth was nothing short of traumatic for his mother. The manger would have smelled. It would have been cold. She would have been exhausted, but she just kept going.

A parent’s love transcends all suffering. That’s a universal truth. We see that even in this dubious age of conspicuous consumption. A mother will work two jobs just to provide her child the luxuries she can’t afford. Why? Because the ultimate expression of love is sacrifice as Mary, and Christ, showed us. This season, as parents, there will be times when we will grit our teeth with frustration from the unreasonable demands that are made of us. Giving, like love requires sacrifice, but sometimes we give with doubt and resentment in our hearts. Let’s not let our anger stop us from experiencing the true meaning of Christmas. Like Mary, or the mother of that spoiled 11-yr old, God will find us where we are and give us the resources – financial, spiritual, emotional and physical – to see us through. Have faith that there will be deliverance into the light, even for those of us who are beleaguered parents.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all families who struggle with providing for their children this season.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the individuals who sacrificed to give us better lives, even when we were too spoiled and self-absorbed to fully appreciate their efforts.

24 December (Saturday), Vigil Mass – Inheritance

24 December 2016

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Isaiah 62:1-5

About Zion I will not be silent,
about Jerusalem I will not grow weary,
until her integrity shines out like the dawn
and her salvation flames like a torch.

The nations then will see your integrity,
all the kings your glory,
and you will be called by a new name,
one which the mouth of the Lord will confer.
You are to be a crown of splendour in the hand of the Lord,
a princely diadem in the hand of your God;

no longer are you to be named ‘Forsaken’,
nor your land ‘Abandoned’,
but you shall be called ‘My Delight’
and your land ‘The Wedded’;
for the Lord takes delight in you
and your land will have its wedding.

Like a young man marrying a virgin,
so will the one who built you wed you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride,
so will your God rejoice in you.

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Acts 13:16-17,22-25

When Paul reached Antioch in Pisidia, he stood up in the synagogue, held up a hand for silence and began to speak:

‘Men of Israel, and fearers of God, listen! The God of our nation Israel chose our ancestors, and made our people great when they were living as foreigners in Egypt; then by divine power he led them out.

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

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Matthew 1:1-25

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.

The sum of generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to 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.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home and, though he had not had intercourse with her, she gave birth to a son; and he named him Jesus.

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Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

As Advent draws to a close and we enter Christmas, we are reminded that today is the day that we have long been waiting for. For four weeks, we have lit an advent candle each Sunday, waiting in hope and patience for our Lord to arrive. Yet, it is not simply in Advent that we wait. Indeed, we have waited generations for our Saviour, and He has finally arrived.

While the wait has been long, it had always been filled with hope. Indeed, Matthew recounts this wait for us, from Abraham to David, from David to Joseph. and finally from Joseph to Jesus. Of course, I over-simplify — we have waited 42 generations for our Lord to arrive. But the wait has been filled with sweet longing, for has Jesus’s coming not already been foretold in scripture?

So it is the same for us today. We are pilgrims awaiting the return of our Lord and Master. It is often easy to be lulled into a sense of ennui while waiting, perhaps to wile away the time with our little games and entertainment as we wait (Halo, anyone?). But when the Master arrives, will we be truly ready to welcome Him? How often have we been told in the Bible of what happens to those who are not ready when the Lord arrives?

Tonight as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, may we remember to always keep ourselves awake in prayer, ready to receive our Lord. Indeed, we have already been receiving Him in communion at mass. All we ever needed to do was to open our eyes to the reality of Christ in the Eucharist, then we will see that perhaps, just perhaps, we have been preparing ourselves for the coming of the Lord all through the year.

Finally, Matthew’s gospel reminds us of the awesome inheritance that Jesus brings with Him, an inheritance that He shares with us. Through Him, we are one with all the holy men and women who have pleased God throughout the ages. It also reminds me of one of my favourite hymns:

Thou mine inheritance, now and always

Thou and Thou only, first in my heart

High King of heaven my treasure Thou art

Let us cherish and reverence the true treasure that is our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray with joyful and faithful hearts for your saving grace in each and every one of our lives. May your birth at Christmas remind us of our own baptismal promises to You.

Thanksgiving: We are thankful tonight for our Lord Jesus Christ, who has come to save, redeem, and love us without end.

24 December, Friday – Giving up your Son

24 December 2016

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2 Samuel 7:1-5,8-12,14,16

Once David had settled into his house and the Lord had given him rest from all the enemies surrounding him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘Look, I am living in a house of cedar while the ark of God dwells in a tent.’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go and do all that is in your mind, for the Lord is with you.’

But that very night the word of the Lord came to Nathan:

‘Go and tell my servant David, “Thus the Lord speaks: Are you the man to build me a house to dwell in? I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be leader of my people Israel; I have been with you on all your expeditions; I have cut off all your enemies before you. I will give you fame as great as the fame of the greatest on earth. I will provide a place for my people Israel; I will plant them there and they shall dwell in that place and never be disturbed again; nor shall the wicked continue to oppress them as they did, in the days when I appointed judges over my people Israel; I will give them rest from all their enemies. The Lord will make you great; the Lord will make you a House. And when your days are ended and you are laid to rest with your ancestors, I will preserve the offspring of your body after you and make his sovereignty secure. I will be a father to him and he a son to me; if he does evil, I will punish him with the rod such as men use, with strokes such as mankind gives. Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me and your throne be established for ever.”’

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Luke 1:67-79

John’s father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:

‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel
for he has visited his people, he has come to their rescue
and he has raised up for us a power for salvation
in the House of his servant David,
even as he proclaimed,
by the mouth of his holy prophets from ancient times,
that he would save us from our enemies
and from the hands of all who hate us.
Thus he shows mercy to our ancestors,
thus he remembers his holy covenant
the oath he swore
to our father Abraham
that he would grant us, free from fear,
to be delivered from the hands of our enemies,
to serve him in holiness and virtue
in his presence, all our days.
And you, little child,
you shall be called Prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord
to prepare the way for him,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins;
this by the tender mercy of our God
who from on high will bring the rising Sun to visit us,
to give light to those who live
in darkness and the shadow of death
and to guide our feet
into the way of peace.’

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I have been with you on all your expeditions

‘And you, little child, you shall be called Prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare the way for him…’ Which father will give up his child for a good that he cannot see, may not live to see, and can only have faith that there be a purpose in the sacrifice?

As I pondered the readings of the Gospel today, I dwelt in the scene of Zechariah bravely proclaiming by the power of the Holy Spirit, the awesome prophecy over not just the history and future of Jerusalem, but his very own son, John the Baptist. Zechariah and Elizabeth had yearned and prayed for a son until, finally, their prayers were answered in their old age. They had a great model couple before them, though they may not have expected to walk similar footsteps. The other aged father and son duo is Abraham and Issac from the Old Testament.

Abraham and Zechariah were both men of great and deep faith. Great, in the expanse and expense of how they were willing to offer up to God their lives and love. Deep, in the manner of certainty and substance with which they believed their hopes rested on. Even though Zechariah did not physically set up the altar and wood with which to sacrifice John on, his act of bringing John up in the way of the Lord and giving him up to that wilderness life to pave the way for Jesus was an extreme act of sacrifice and exercise in letting go. Both fathers and mothers had waited a long, long time for their dreams of progeny and continuity to be fulfilled, only to be told to offer up this beautiful gift.

It is in this vein that we begin to more fully comprehend the sacrifice of the Heavenly Father. Because it can be hard to imagine an abstract omnipotent and omniscient God actually sacrificing flesh and blood, we are given human examples to watch, walk with, and listen to.

Long before Jesus was born, a man and a woman gave up their versions and visions of married life for God’s greater purpose. Sometimes, we may take the ordinariness of their life before Jesus for granted. They did not know how or when, but they simply knew who they were doing it for. Mary and Joseph must have drawn from the lessons of their forebears to walk this challenging but life-giving road in to Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph may not have expected their story and choice to bring Jesus to birth in that dingy soggy manger, to bear God’s greatest gift and salvation plan for all of humanity.

Our Salvation came through a choice to sacrifice. God made a choice too. May we each, as parent and child, ponder the magnitude of Mary’s fiat, Joseph’s silent but steady servantship, and God’s great sacrifice, in this beatific vision of the Nativity scene, where an extraordinarily ordinary baby was born. Ordinary, because we all experience the mystery and magic of birth. Yet, extraordinary because this little helpless baby came vulnerable, to reveal in us our need for a great Love that would die for us.

To find the courage in our lives to do the great and little things for God and our loved ones, is to remember this line which God spoke to David in our first reading: I have been with you on all your expeditions. God is Faithfulness and Love. And the evidence of this is the gift of His Son Jesus Christ, Emmanuel – God-is-with-us (Isaiah 7:14).

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: May we take time this Christmastide to dwell in the true reason for this day – Jesus who is ever with us on all of life’s journeys.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus for entering my heart this Advent and gently preparing me to receive you.

23 December, Friday – A New Tribe is Here

Dec 23 – Memorial for St. John of Kanty, presbyter

John (1390-1473) was a Polish country lad. A brilliant student at the University of Krakow, Poland, he became a priest and professor of theology at the University of Krakow, where he was falsely accused and ousted by university rivals.

At the age of 41, he was assigned as parish priest at Olkusz, Bohemia. He took his position seriously, and was terrified of responsibility, but did his best. For a long time that wasn’t enough for his parishioners, but in the end he won their hearts. After several years in his parish, he returned to Krakow and taught Scripture for the rest of his life.

John was a serious, humble man, generous to a fault with the poor, sleeping little, eating no meat and little of anything else. He was a pilgrim to Jerusalem, hoping to be martyred by Turks. He made four pilgrimages to Rome, carrying his luggage on his back. When warned to look after his health, he pointed out that the early desert fathers lived long lives in conditions that had nothing to recommend them but the presence of God.

At the time of his death, John was so well loved that his veneration began immediately. For years his doctoral gown was worn by graduates receiving advanced degrees at the University of Krakow. He was declared patron of Poland and Lithuania in 1737 by Pope Clement XII, 30 years before his final canonization.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Malachi 3:1-4,23-24

The Lord God says this: Look, I am going to send my messenger to prepare a way before me. And the Lord you are seeking will suddenly enter his Temple; and the angel of the covenant whom you are longing for, yes, he is coming, says the Lord of Hosts. Who will be able to resist the day of his coming? Who will remain standing when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire and the fullers’ alkali. He will take his seat as refiner and purifier; he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and then they will make the offering to the Lord as it should be made. The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will then be welcomed by the Lord as in former days, as in the years of old.

Know that I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before my day comes, that great and terrible day. He shall turn the hearts of fathers towards their children and the hearts of children towards their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a curse.

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Luke 1:57-66

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

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

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‘But no one in your family has that name.’

In this day and age when we may stumble upon the most innovative and brow-raising kids’ names, the magnitude of choosing a name for one’s child might be lost on some parents. Some name their children to help them stand out with un-pronounceable monikers; some choose names after their favourite soccer players or movie stars; some use names of beloved family members who have passed as a way of remembrance, while others may seek out a name whose virtues they hope their children will grow into. For whatever reasons, we know plainly that names do matter.

The angel Gabriel foretold two pregnancies – Mary’s and Elizabeth’s. To Mary he proclaimed: “For nothing will be impossible with God” when he shared that Elizabeth would bear a child in her old age. At the same time, it was the angel of the Lord who declared the names of these two special children to their fathers. The name John was revealed to Zechariah the priest; the name Jesus was revealed to Joseph the carpenter. What struck me in the readings today was the line ‘But no one in your family has that name.’

Tribes were the way ancient peoples sought protection, community, and identity. Although Elizabeth’s relatives and neighbours shared in her joy, they hesitated when she (as a mother) chose the name ‘John’ that came from neither hers nor Zechariah’s heritage – such that they had to summon Zechariah to verify. Only after Zechariah confirmed this as correct did he regain his speech. This account teaches us a few lessons.

The first — God can start a new tribe in you, right this very moment, at this very place. So trust in His promise and seek His will in your life. I recently had a conversation with some friends on our conversion and ‘reversion’ stories. Each of us were baptized either at birth, as a teen, or in adulthood. Although we had different cultural and faith backgrounds, we shared one important moment in common – the desire to receive God into our lives and the conscious decision to follow Him. As the Heavenly Father of all, God not only chose Jesus’ name, but also John’s, because he was anointed to pave the way for a new eternal tribe for Jesus. This is echoed in our first reading of Malachi.

Secondly — Do we believe that God can do the impossible for us, in us, and through us? Much of today’s self-help literature tells us “do not sell yourself short” when we put limitations on our abilities or potential to succeed. Perhaps. And yet that is still quite a self-centred view. As Christians, we might be guilty of ultimately selling God short. Do we draw Venn diagrams around the areas of our lives where we designate where God may work His wonders? As a priest, Zechariah should have known better than to question whether God could grant him and Elizabeth their longed-for child. Mary had her questions too, but her disposition of spirit was in complete surrender that she could say, ‘Be it unto me according to your word.’

Last, but not least — our souls were created to glorify God. We look to Mary who praises ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my savior… Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me.’ (Luke 1:46-47) May we never shy of allowing our souls to be like a clear piece of magnifying glass, that through our earnest seeking and listening, we reveal God’s glory to those among us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Grant us O Lord, a heart humble and trusting, brave and willing, to seek and do Your will.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Jesus, for calling me by name and for never letting me wander too far.

22 December, Thursday – Proclaiming the greatness of God

22 December

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1 Samuel 1:24-28

When Hannah had weaned the infant Samuel, she took him up with her together with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the temple of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was with them. They slaughtered the bull and the child’s mother came to Eli. She said, ‘If you please, my lord. As you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you, praying to the Lord. This is the child I prayed for, and the Lord granted me what I asked him. Now I make him over to the Lord for the whole of his life. He is made over to the Lord.’
There she left him, for the Lord.

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Luke 1:46-56

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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My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.

The Magnificat is a beautiful prayer familiar to many Catholics. It is an integral part of the Visitation, where Mary responds to Elizabeth’s exclamation that “blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45).

The Magnificat has always been particularly memorable for me, because of a series of weekly talks that I once attended, during which a priest would explain the Magnificat. On the first week, the priest asked us a question that has stuck with me since: “Do you know what it means when your soul is proclaiming the greatness of God?”

It is one thing to proclaim something with your mouth, but to proclaim something with your soul is to believe in that thing wholeheartedly and unreservedly, with every fibre of your being. I would take it one step further to suggest that the soul could only truly proclaim the goodness of God, for if we are made in the image and likeness of God, and our souls were made out of His very goodness, then it could not be possible for the soul (having made the acquaintance of God before we were even born!) to proclaim anything else but His goodness.

But here’s the catch — we are often so caught up in our lives (or worse yet, in ourselves) that we do not listen closely enough to our souls’ deepest longings for God and His goodness. That is when the soul’s proclamations slowly die down to a whisper and finally, having found its voice fallen on deaf ears, wind down to a deafening silence. We must not let that happen.

We learn from scripture that Mary has often pondered many events (such as the words of the angel Gabriel during the Annunciation) in the silence of her heart. We also learn that Mary was extraordinarily obedient to God’s call. Perhaps all these are signs of a soul enraptured by God and deeply in love with Him. If your soul is already proclaiming the greatness of God, constantly saying yes to Him and praising Him at the same time, what need would there be for spoken words?

It is a well-worn cliche to say that we often speak but do not listen. But the problem is not simply speaking and not listening: it is speaking with the wrong part of ourselves. As we await the coming of our Lord in this advent season, let us focus on speaking to, and of, God through our souls. Let us proclaim His glory and goodness not just through spoken words or song, but through actions animated by a soul in love with God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, we praise you and we adore you from the depths of our souls. May our souls not fall into silence and despair, but in memory of Your loving providence, sing your praises forever.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for His patience and love. For even in our waywardness, He continues to await the return of His beloved children.

21 December, Wednesday – Wooed by God

Dec 21 – Memorial for St. Peter Canisius, priest, doctor of the Church

Peter (1521–1597) was the son of Jacob Canisius, a wealthy burgomeister, and Ægidia van Houweningen, who died shortly after Peter’s birth. He was educated in Cologne, Germany, where he studied art, civil law, and theology. He received a master’s degree by age 19. His closest friends at university were monks and clerics.

He joined the Jesuits on May 8, 1543 after attending a retreat conducted by Bl. Peter Faber. He taught at the University of Cologne, and helped found the first Jesuit house in the city. He was ordained in 1546. He was theologian of Cardinal Otto Truchsess von Waldburg, Bishop of Augsburg in 1547.

He travelled and worked with St. Ignatius of Loyola who was his spiritual director in Rome, Italy. He taught rhetoric in Messina, Sicily in 1548, preaching in Italian and Latin. He was doctor of theology in 1549. He began teaching theology and preaching at Ingolstadt, Germany in 1549, and was rector of the university the following year.

In 1552 he began teaching theology, and preaching in the Cathedral of St. Stephen in Vienna, Austria. He was the royal court confessor even as he continued to work in hospitals and prisons. During Lent in 1553 he travelled to preach in abandoned parishes in Lower Austria.

During Mass one day, he received a vision of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and ever after offered his work to the Sacred Heart. He led the Counter-Reformation in Germany, Austria, Bohemia, and Switzerland, and his work led to the return of Catholicism to Germany. His catechism went through 200 editions during his lifetime, and was translated into 12 languages. In some places catechisms were referred to as “Canisi”.

He attended the Diets of Augsburg (1555), Ratisbon (1556, 1557), and founded Jesuit colleges in Ingolstadt, Prague, Dilingen, and Fribourg. Everywhere he worked he became a noted preacher, and often worked with children, teaching them and hearing their confessions.

He represented Pope Paul IV at the imperial Diet of Pieternow. He addressed the Council of Trent on the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. He recommended St. Stanislaus Kostka for reception as a Jesuit. He was court preacher to Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria.

While in Fribourg, Switzerland, he received a message from the city’s patron saint, Nicholas of Myra, that he should stop travelling. Canisius spent the rest of his life there. He taught, preached, edited books, and worked to support the Catholic press and printers in many cities. His advice was sought by St. Francis de Sales, and by his friend St. Charles Borromeo. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1925 by Pope Pius XI.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Song of Songs 2:8-14

I hear my Beloved.
See how he comes
leaping on the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My Beloved is like a gazelle,
like a young stag.

See where he stands
behind our wall.
He looks in at the window,
he peers through the lattice.

My Beloved lifts up his voice,
he says to me,
‘Come then, my love,
my lovely one, come.
For see, winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth.
The season of glad songs has come,
the cooing of the turtledove is heard
in our land.
The fig tree is forming its first figs
and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance.
Come then, my love,
my lovely one, come.
My dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock,
in the coverts of the cliff,
show me your face,
let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet
and your face is beautiful.’

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Luke 1:39-45

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.’

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‘Come then, my love, my lovely one, come… for your voice is sweet and your face is beautiful.’

How many of us have been spoken to so gently before? Close your eyes for a moment as this writer asks us to picture:

See where he stands

Behind our wall.

He looks in at the window,

He peers through the lattice.

My initial response was to question: why this detail? But as I rested my gaze, not on ‘Why’ but ‘Who’, that I began to appreciate the tenderness of this moment. Some of us think of God as all-powerful, strong, and fearsome. Yet here is an image of a lover ‘like a young stag’, bounding over mountains with an unbridled joyful natural force – who pauses just before your house and does not barge in. Despite all that energy, the young stag chooses to wait with gentle invitation. Not too close that you would feel overwhelmed. Not too far that his gaze is uncertain. It is you whom He longingly and lovingly peers at through the window lattice.

Our Advent season of waiting promises us that this dream of love will come. The flutter-hope in our hearts will be answered. And the voice with which our Beloved calls to us will speak infinitely deeper to our souls than the passing pleasures of life’s material things.

I had the opportunity to witness to joy over Gaudate Sunday in this freezing Boston winter. My husband and I attended a Christmas concert put up by the Daughters of St Paul. It was a beautiful evening with their sweet voices and actions animating classic Christmas carols. I teared several times as I was moved deeply by their joy, unique talents, and beautiful personalities.

One sister was goofy; another had heaps of dancing grooves in her; some were gifted soloists or musicians, and others who completed the music with the fullness of their harmonies. God’s love flowed from these amazing women who had given their lives to Him and their mission of evangelizing Christ through books and media.

The night spoke to me at a far deeper level that I have only slowly come to unpack. I once considered if religious life was a path God was calling me to. I had recognized His voice from the window. I was filled with a mix of courage and confusion then. It took time and prayer to discern His loving words to me.

The knowledge that God calls us to life-giving choices in order to bring us to the fullness of life only melted into the sea of understanding in my heart this Christmas concert, when I saw the joy reflecting from the sisters’ radiant faces. One sister in particular, seemed to be the mirror to my soul. I recognised my own laughter in her eyes.

I understood, and I rested in peace and trust in my Beloved who continues to woo me from behind the windows; the mountains, valleys, and depths of trenches. He calls to my soul from everywhere and all the time. And every moment that His gaze rests upon me, He is filled with joy.

Perhaps, this is the sheer joy in the meeting between Jesus in Mary and John in Elizabeth. Our souls are made for so much love that only God can meet. In every station or vocation of our lives, we can experience a consummation of deep joy when our souls respond to the call of our Beloved. It is His Love that genuinely desires and pursues, patiently waits, honours, and dignifies us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you sent a vulnerable baby Jesus to earth to woo us from our hiding places. Help us to draw back our curtains and unlatch the door to receive You who has loved us with an everlasting love. 

Thanksgiving: I thank God for the gift of recognition. By this grace, we are able to perceive what our souls already know.

20 December, Tuesday – Angels

20 December 2016

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Isaiah 7:10-14

The Lord spoke to Ahaz and said, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign for yourself coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above.’ ‘No,’ Ahaz answered ‘I will not put the Lord to the test.’

Then Isaiah said:

‘Listen now, House of David:
are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men
without trying the patience of my God, too?
The Lord himself, therefore,
will give you a sign.
It is this: the maiden is with child
and will soon give birth to a son
whom she will call Immanuel,
a name which means “God-is-with-us.”’

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Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’

She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’

Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’

‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

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The angel….sent by God

In the readings over these past 3 days, an angel appeared to Joseph, Zechariah and in today’s gospel reading, to Mary. Although the angel that appeared to Joseph was not named, it could well have been the Angel Gabriel – he was the chief messenger of the Lord. On several occasions, he is given the job of giving important announcements and tells of special events.

Isn’t it just so wonderful that God sent these angels to earth? That people in biblical times actually experienced angelic appearances? Sometimes, I wish that God would also send angels my way, so that I know for a fact that a message is from God and not some mumbo jumbo I made up in my own head. But God is still active in today’s world, just has He has been in the past. And His angels are certainly still at work. We may not come face to face with one, but they are certainly all around us.

At a retreat some time ago, someone shared that during one of the praying over sessions, she sighted very large and tall angels surrounding the entire room. And next to each retreatant, there were other smaller angels standing right next to them. She said she knew instinctively that these angels were family members of each retreatant who have passed on. I am not sure if our loved ones become angels when they pass on. Though I didn’t see these angelic beings myself (being in that same room), I choose to believe that it is true. That God sends angels to watch over us, and sing and praise with us.

Is it possible that you have met an angel face-to-face without realising it? “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2.

Angels do not necessarily appear as beautiful winged blazing-white beings. They can appear in the most ordinary form as humans. I do believe, with all of my heart, that although I may not immediately know or see someone as an angel, they are there at God’s direction.

A few months ago, I was on a Camino walk, hopelessly lost a few times. I would mutter under my breath “Jesus, ok…. I am hopelessly lost, show me where I should go?” And the Lord never failed to send angels to show us the way, more than a few times. Out of nowhere, they would appear, and then disappear – the lone pilgrim, the cyclists, two old men standing in front of the church, and a little old lady who suddenly appeared out of a window and directed us on a less travelled but shorter route to a pilgrim’s cafe. All angels indeed!

God loves us so much that He would send angels to answer our prayers. As we approach Christmas, can we be God’s earth angels? When God sends us to bring cheer and happiness to someone who may be alone this season or feeling a bit down, can we be like Mary and respond with a heartfelt ‘Yes!”?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, just as you have so often sent people our way to help us and comfort us in times of need, give us merciful and loving hearts to be your angels, sent to our fellow brothers and sisters who need a little encouragement this season.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for loving us so much that you would send your multitudes of angels to watch over us, fight for us, encourage and protect us.

19 December, Monday – Fearless

19 December 2016

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Judges 13:2-7,24-25

There was a man of Zorah of the tribe of Dan, called Manoah. His wife was barren, she had borne no children. The angel of the Lord appeared to this woman and said to her, ‘You are barren and have had no child. But from now on take great care. Take no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean. For you will conceive and bear a son. No razor is to touch his head, for the boy shall be God’s nazirite from his mother’s womb. It is he who will begin to rescue Israel from the power of the Philistines.’ Then the woman went and told her husband, ‘A man of God has just come to me; his presence was like the presence of the angel of God, he was so majestic. I did not ask him where he came from, and he did not reveal his name to me. But he said to me, “You will conceive and bear a son. From now on, take no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean. For the boy shall be God’s nazirite from his mother’s womb to his dying day.”’

The woman gave birth to a son and called him Samson. The child grew, and the Lord blessed him; and the spirit of the Lord began to move him.

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Luke 1:5-25

In the days of King Herod of Judaea there lived a priest called Zechariah who belonged to the Abijah section of the priesthood, and he had a wife, Elizabeth by name, who was a descendant of Aaron. Both were worthy in the sight of God, and scrupulously observed all the commandments and observances of the Lord. But they were childless: Elizabeth was barren and they were both getting on in years.

Now it was the turn of Zechariah’s section to serve, and he was exercising his priestly office before God when it fell to him by lot, as the ritual custom was, to enter the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense there. And at the hour of incense the whole congregation was outside, praying.
Then there appeared to him the angel of the Lord, standing on the right of the altar of incense. The sight disturbed Zechariah and he was overcome with fear.

But the angel said to him, ‘Zechariah, do not be afraid, your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth is to bear you a son and you must name him John. He will be your joy and delight and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord; he must drink no wine, no strong drink. Even from his mother’s womb he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, and he will bring back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah, he will go before him to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children and the disobedient back to the wisdom that the virtuous have, preparing for the Lord a people fit for him.’

Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is getting on in years.’ The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel who stand in God’s presence, and I have been sent to speak to you and bring you this good news. Listen! Since you have not believed my words, which will come true at their appointed time, you will be silenced and have no power of speech until this has happened.’ Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were surprised that he stayed in the sanctuary so long. When he came out he could not speak to them, and they realised that he had received a vision in the sanctuary. But he could only make signs to them, and remained dumb.

When his time of service came to an end he returned home. Some time later his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept to herself. ‘The Lord has done this for me’ she said ‘now that it has pleased him to take away the humiliation I suffered among men.’

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Do not be afraid

Today’s readings shows us how God made the seemingly impossible, possible. Barren women were gifted with child. The wife of Manoah (who remained nameless), Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth in today’s scripture, Sarah who was Isaac’s mother, and also his wife Rebekah were all seemingly barren women. I often wonder how it is scientifically possible given that most of these women were in their twilight years. But with God, these miracles cannot be explained scientifically. It’s faith that helps us know in our hearts that everything is possible with God.

Imagine what it must have been like when the angel of God appeared to Zechariah telling him his wife was about to be pregnant. If I had been him, I would probably have said “Ya, right! Are you out of your mind?”

In today’s modern world, with advancement of science and technology, we are able to do things that weren’t possible before. So much so, we have become nonchalant, almost blasé about some of the amazing new discoveries. How is it so then when God prompts us to do something or reveals a situation in our lives – we find it so hard to believe? Is it because it cannot be explained to our intellectual minds? Or is it out of fear that we refuse to believe.

“Do not be afraid” are words we need to hear today. A quick Google search reveals that these words appear 365 times in the bible. How awesome is that – a daily reminder from God that we should live our lives fearlessly!

Recently, a family situation called for some changes to our lives. Some, more than others. For some, our lives will be irrevocably changed. I personally felt that God was pushing me to do something that I am uncomfortable with, something I absolutely didn’t want a part of. I was angry and feared that immense responsibility. And as I reflected on why I was feeling so strongly about it, I realised that it is simply because it didn’t fit my own plans. I am then reminded of our Mother when she said ‘do unto me according to thy word.’ She had deep faith and trust in God and His plans, despite the fact that being a young, unmarried pregnant woman was terribly ‘inconvenient’. While I still fight against what God is calling me to do, I am slowly learning to let go and let God take me along this journey. And the words ‘Do not be afraid’ are the words that carry me though each day.

Can you let go of fears in your own life situation and let God lead you today? Can you get past your own notion of what your life should look like and let God’s miracle reveal itself?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, often we feel the need to be in control of our lives. When in fact, you have the blueprint to our life stories. Grant us deeper faith to trust that your plan for us is perfect, your timing perfect. Unconventional your ways may be, teach us to always remember that you know what is best for our lives today.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your daily reminder that you are with us. And that there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of.

18 December, Sunday – Are you there?

18 December 2016

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Isaiah 7:10-14

The Lord spoke to Ahaz and said, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign for yourself coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above.’ ‘No,’ Ahaz answered ‘I will not put the Lord to the test.’
Then Isaiah said:

‘Listen now, House of David:
are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men
without trying the patience of my God, too?
The Lord himself, therefore,
will give you a sign.
It is this: the maiden is with child
and will soon give birth to a son
whom she will call Immanuel,
a name which means “God-is-with-us.”’

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Romans 1:1-7

From Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus who has been called to be an apostle, and specially chosen to preach the Good News that God promised long ago through his prophets in the scriptures.

This news is about the Son of God who, according to the human nature he took was a descendant of David: it is about Jesus Christ our Lord who, in the order of the spirit, the spirit of holiness that was in him, was proclaimed Son of God in all his power through his resurrection from the dead.

Through him we received grace and our apostolic mission to preach the obedience of faith to all pagan nations in honour of his name. You are one of these nations, and by his call belong to Jesus Christ.

To you all, then, who are God’s beloved in Rome, called to be saints, may God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send grace and peace.

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Matthew 1:18-24

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.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home.

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Emmanuel…..God is with us.

December is the most magical time of the year. It was for me as well. The one time in the year I really looked forward to. But in the last few years, somehow things changed. I look upon December with much apprehension. It’s the time of year when people start to take stock of what they have accomplished. If the goals set out in the beginning of the year have been met. I keep asking myself – so what huge accomplishments have I achieved this year? I struggle to find something.

The year has been extremely busy for me – I have been co-chairing several parish projects, in addition to my music ministry responsibilities. I said ‘Yes’, when Jesus called for us to be involved in parish work, having absolutely no previous experience in what we were called to do. It was very fulfilling at the onset, and we could really see His hand in our work, every step of the way. The results were nothing short of amazing. And I remember telling our committee (especially when we hit roadblocks), that Jesus would take care of it all. After all, it was His project. And He did.

However, by end October, the ‘work’ was beginning to take its toll. And I was getting frustrated. One project had barely completed, and the next committee was already setting up meetings for the next project in 2017. To add to this, our music ministry had a restructure and we were expected to ‘serve’ more. Everyone wanted a piece of me and I just wanted to just get to the end of our term as co-chairperson, complete the task, KPIs met.

Just last week, I had one of those ‘low’ days. I was feeling sorry for myself and a bit frustrated with a situation that had been bugging me for a while. I struggled to find reasons to thank Jesus.

I was suffering ‘the glass is half empty’ syndrome. I found myself asking Jesus, “So I have done all these things for you, what am I getting in return??” I was getting impatient and frustrated with Him.

Recently, I was at a weekday mass. And the priest said “Emmanuel, God is with us!” That day, these words suddenly hit me. God is indeed with me. Except that, having been caught up in the goind, I have failed to see Him present in my daily life. I have closed my heart to being loved by Jesus. How quickly I have forgotten to see how He had been with me every single day of the year. How He had taken me out of my comfort zone and taught me that I could do things I’d never imagined or cared to do. How He has sustained me through very trying periods this year. And today, in mid-December, I am still in one piece!

During this season of Advent, are we filled with hope, peace, love and joy? Can we recognize God’s presence in our lives and His hands in everything that happens to us today? Like Joseph, can we open ourselves to where the Lord is taking us? Or are we too caught up in our own ‘doing’?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: During this time of Advent, help us to be open to the actions of God in our daily lives. God is indeed with us. Help us to be available to Him.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for being with us, even during the times when we stray far away from you. For the times when we insist on doing things our own way and seeing situations with or own eyes, that we fail to see that you are right there with us. Thank you for being loving and patient with us.

17 December, Saturday – Family Heritage

17 December 2016

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Genesis 49:2,8-10

Jacob called his sons and said:

‘Gather round, sons of Jacob, and listen;
listen to Israel your father.
Judah, your brothers shall praise you:
you grip your enemies by the neck,
your father’s sons shall do you homage,
Judah is a lion cub,
you climb back, my son, from your kill;
like a lion he crouches and lies down,
or a lioness: who dare rouse him?
The sceptre shall not pass from Judah,
nor the mace from between his feet,
until he come to whom it belongs,
to whom the peoples shall render obedience.’

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Matthew 1:1-17

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.

The sum of generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.

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The sum of genearations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.

During my recent visit to my grandmother, I cheekily asked her about her love story with my grandfather who, sad to say, I never met. I was hoping to hear a romantic courtship story, because the dating that we know now was not the norm then. Before, the courtshp included serenades from outside the maiden’s house and longing to be alone together since unmarried couples had to have a chaperone when they went out. She shared a story that I had not imagined but was much better. She shared that it was her brothers who arranged for them to get married but she was blessed with a good husband who was a doting father. He was also very patient as he was able to put up with a strong-willed and strong-minded woman like my grandmother. Though they did not go through a long courtship stage, my grandmother was showered with affection.

I know today’s Gospel must be one of those we tend to skip to the last line but having that conversation with my grandmother made me look through all these names. I know we learned a lot from Jesus, but I’m pretty sure there is something to learn from all those names in Jesus’s genealogy. Even though some of them have done horrible actions, they still mattered in Jesus’s family tree. They still had a part to play. I may not have met my grandfather but he was instrumental to forming my mother’s, uncle’s and aunt’s characters. Also, I had a clear and personal example how love may not be present at first sight, but it can flourish. So even though I have not met him, he has already given me a lesson.

All of us have family members we can’t stand, but they still matter. Perhaps God is calling us for a deeper appreciation of our family members today, be they alive or not. Maybe we can ask our parents about our grandparents, we can learn a thing or two. Or maybe we are just asked to stay still for a moment and be aware of how connected we are to many people. We are not alone. Our family heritage speaks of our community. We belong to God’s community.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, sometimes I may forget and under-appreciate the gift of family. Help me become an instrument of your love to my family.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for my family heritage, for every single one before me. Without any of them, I’m not sure what I would be.