Saturday, 13 February – Faithful in His Calling

13 February – Saturday after Ash Wednesday


Isaiah 58:9-14

The Lord says this:

If you do away with the yoke,
the clenched fist, the wicked word,
if you give your bread to the hungry,
and relief to the oppressed,
your light will rise in the darkness,
and your shadows become like noon.
The Lord will always guide you,
giving you relief in desert places.

He will give strength to your bones
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water
whose waters never run dry.

You will rebuild the ancient ruins,
build up on the old foundations.
You will be called ‘Breach-mender’,
‘Restorer of ruined houses.’

If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,
and doing business on the holy day,
if you call the Sabbath ‘Delightful’,
and the day sacred to the Lord ‘Honourable’,
if you honour it by abstaining from travel,
from doing business and from gossip,
then shall you find your happiness in the Lord
and I will lead you triumphant over the heights of the land.
I will feed you on the heritage of Jacob your father.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.


Luke 5:27-32

Jesus noticed a tax collector, Levi by name, sitting by the customs house, and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And leaving everything he got up and followed him.

In his honour Levi held a great reception in his house, and with them at table was a large gathering of tax collectors and others. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples and said, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus said to them in reply, ‘It is not those who are well who need the doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the virtuous, but sinners to repentance.’


then shall you find your happiness in the Lord.

In my life, I often find myself stuck in certain problems and issues that I struggle to get out of. Sometimes the problems can get out of hand and balloon into something big. By the grace of God, someone or something will come along to remind me to let go and let God take over. That is when the Lord works His miracles and helps me to find a way out.

Like the lyrics of an old hymn, “All I have needed Thy hand hath provided, great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me”, God is truly faithful to each one of us. If only we are open to Him.

We are all sinners, and in our pilgrim journey on this earth, we often struggle to keep on the path. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak as we often read in scripture. But the Lord never fails to assure us of His faithfulness and mercy. All we have to do, as the first reading tells us, is to “do away with the yoke, the clenched fist, the wicked word”. We need to deny ourselves and decrease, so that the Lord can increase in our lives.

Like a good shepherd, the Lord guides us in the desert. Hence, when we find ourselves lost in our problems in life, He guides us and gives us the strength to persevere and press on till we find a solution.

And He is faithful to the end — all we have to do is to turn away from sin. Again the first reading tells us, “If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, and doing business on the holy day…then shall you find your happiness in the Lord and I will lead you triumphant over the heights of the land”.

But we are also called because we are sinners. The Lord said in today’s gospel that he came to call sinners, not the virtuous. As Archbishop William Goh often quips, only the sick need doctors, not the healthy.

So even if we falter and stumble in our lives, let us not give in to discouragement. But trust in His faithfulness and mercy which are new every morning.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Lee)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, may we in this season of Lent, recognise your faithfulness in our lives. Help us to rest assured of Your Spirit that is with us as You have promised. When we struggle, enable us to allow Your hand to take over and cooperate with Your grace. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank You for Your faithfulness and mercy, which are new every morning. Thank You for being with us in our struggles in life. Help us to be grateful for Your Holy Spirit who gives us peace.

Friday, 12 February – Fasting as our Sacrifice

12 February – Friday after Ash Wednesday


Isaiah 58:1-9

Thus says the Lord:

Shout for all you are worth,
  raise your voice like a trumpet.
Proclaim their faults to my people,
  their sins to the House of Jacob.

They seek me day after day,
  they long to know my ways,
like a nation that wants to act with integrity
  and not ignore the law of its God.

They ask me for laws that are just,
  they long for God to draw near:
‘Why should we fast if you never see it,
  why do penance if you never notice?’

Look, you do business on your fast-days,
  you oppress all your workmen;
look, you quarrel and squabble when you fast
  and strike the poor man with your fist.

Fasting like yours today
  will never make your voice heard on high.
Is that the sort of fast that pleases me,
  a truly penitential day for men?

Hanging your head like a reed,
  lying down on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call fasting,
  a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me
 – it is the Lord who speaks –
to break unjust fetters and
  undo the thongs of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,
  and break every yoke,
to share your bread with the hungry,
  and shelter the homeless poor,

to clothe the man you see to be naked
  and not turn from your own kin?
Then will your light shine like the dawn
  and your wound be quickly healed over.

Your integrity will go before you
  and the glory of the Lord behind you.
Cry, and the Lord will answer;
  call, and he will say, ‘I am here.’


Matthew 9:14-15

John’s disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?’ Jesus replied, ‘Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of mourning as long as the bridegroom is still with them? But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then they will fast.’


Then will your light shine like the dawn and your wound be quickly healed over. 

Lent is a season which I have a love-hate relationship with. I struggle with making sacrifices sometimes. But yet, it is necessary for our spiritual growth.

In today’s gospel, we hear about fasting, something that we are called to do during every season of Lent. But what should be our motive and intent for fasting? And what does it mean?

For me, fasting, as I have been taught, is to deny ourselves, and remind ourselves that without God we are nothing. Fasting reminds us of our total dependence on God. Of course, it also unites us with the suffering of Jesus when he hung on the cross.

Pope Francis, in his Ash Wednesday Mass homily in 2014, said: “Fasting should exercise the heart to recognise what is absolutely essential and to teach one how to share with others.”

What is absolutely essential in our lives? Is it money, house, car, status? Often, I have to ask myself what is necessary and what is not; what is a must-have and what is a good-to-have.

Fasting can also take on additional forms apart from food. Giving up something that we enjoy doing could be something else we can do during the season of Lent. At the suggestion of a priest a few years back, I gave up accessing Facebook throughout the Lenten season so that I could rid myself of the constant need to be plugged in to my friends’ lives, which could almost be seen as a form of addiction.

The disposition that we take when we fast, is as important as the need to fast. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus said: “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.” (Matt 6:16)

Yes, fasting may feel uncomfortable at times when we feel hungry. But let us make this sacrifice during the season of Lent with joy in our hearts. At the same time, let us give thanks to God for the things that we have and the food that we eat. Also, may we remember those who are not as fortunate to have food to eat.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Lee)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, may we in this season of Lent, grow closer to You through our acts of sacrifice and repentance. Grace us to make these sacrifices with joy in our hearts and help us to unite ourselves with the sufferings of Your son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank You for the opportunity to Fast, give Alms and Prayer in this Lenten season. You have given us much more than we could have ever ask for. Help us to be grateful for Your grace and gifts. Amen!

Thursday, 11 February – The Struggle To Follow Him

11 February – Thursday after Ash Wednesday; Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes

Hi everyone! Let us welcome Nicholas Lee, our new addition to OXYGEN’s miraculously growing team of writers! Honestly, the bulk of us who have been writing for a few years now were a little concerned of the renewal of our ministry – some of us have embarked on new ministries, gotten married, needed to take a sabbatical, etc. We have been seeking out interested contributors and praying for God to provide, and the Holy Spirit to inspire hearts to come on board. Lo and behold! The Lord watches over His field and provides the sun and rain for the crops to grow. We praise the Lord – for His eye is ever on the sparrow.

OXYGEN family


In 1858 the immaculate Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, near Lourdes in France, in the cavern called “de Massabielle.” Through this poor, fourteen-year-old girl, Mary calls on sinners to change their lives. She has inspired in the Church a great love of prayer and good works, especially in the service of the poor and the sick. See more articles at Our Lady of Lourdes (Wikipedia).


Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Moses said to the people: ‘See, today I set before you life and prosperity, death and disaster. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoin on you today, if you love the Lord your God and follow his ways, if you keep his commandments, his laws, his customs, you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to make your own. But if your heart strays, if you refuse to listen, if you let yourself be drawn into worshipping other gods and serving them, I tell you today, you will most certainly perish; you will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today: I set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live, in the love of the Lord your God, obeying his voice, clinging to him; for in this your life consists, and on this depends your long stay in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob he would give them.’


Luke 9:22-25

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The Son of Man is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’

Then to all he said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to have won the whole world and to have lost or ruined his very self?’


What gain, then, is it for a man to have won the whole world and to have lost or ruined his very self?

Death. The common thread that joins both readings of today. While we will pass on from this earthly life to our eternal rest one day, we are called in this life to die to ourselves.

But what exactly is this dying to oneself? St Luke in the gospel uses the word ‘renounce’ (“let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me.”). Quite simply, dying to oneself is the act of denying our own desires, needs and sins. If only it were that simple.

And we are called to renounce ourselves ‘every day”’ Imagine trying to renounce ourselves every day and making the decision to live for the Lord. What a struggle it will be to deny ourselves every day in an effort to be a follower of Christ.

Taking up our crosses is another part of Christian life that we also struggle with. What are the crosses in our lives that we struggle to take up? Our sins, the people we can’t see eye to eye with , the tasks that we are uncomfortable doing, and many others. Again, renouncing ourselves is the way to take up our cross. Making the effort to speak to someone whom we have issues with, spending more time in prayer to keep away from sin, etc.

Taking up our crosses is really an act that challenges us to go beyond what we are comfortable with.

I once did my confession with a regular confessor. I had to confess a sin which was recurrent in my life. He revealed something which I had failed to see. I had taken the Sacrament of Reconciliation for granted because each time I committed the same sin, I would rush to the confessional, but each time there was no change in my life.

In our own human weakness, we are bound to fall, and at times over and over again. In my own life, I often make a decision to be a better witness to Christ, but the will sometimes fizzles out and I give in to sin. It can really be a struggle to walk in His ways every day.

But let us not be discouraged! Even the apostle Peter denied Jesus three times out of fear.  As St Paul writes “…but he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). 

Indeed, if we make the conscious decision to follow Christ each day,  He gives us the grace to walk in His ways. His power is made visible in our weakness. I learnt that every time we want to do the will of God and walk in His ways, we have to let go of our will and allow God to take over. In other words, to surrender to Him and depend on His grace.

In this season of Lent, may we through prayer surrender more of our will to God. If we want to be a follower of Christ, let us die to ourselves and take up our crosses.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Lee)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I desire to follow you and walk in Your ways. But often, I am weak and I give in to sin. Grace me to be dependent on You and allow Your grace and wisdom to guide me in my walk with You. Help me to acknowledge that without You, I can do nothing. In all things Lord, may You increase and I decrease. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank You dear Lord, for Your call to walk in Your ways. Thank You for holding my hand to walk in this pilgrimage where my final resting place is in You. Help me Lord to always do Your will and not mine.

Wednesday, 10 February – Lent

10 February – Ash Wednesday

Christ the Lord was tempted and suffered for us. Come, let us adore him.


Joel 2:12-18

‘Now, now – it is the Lord who speaks –
come back to me with all your heart,
fasting, weeping, mourning.’
Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn,
turn to the Lord your God again,
for he is all tenderness and compassion,
slow to anger, rich in graciousness,
and ready to relent.
Who knows if he will not turn again, will not relent,
will not leave a blessing as he passes,
oblation and libation
for the Lord your God?

Sound the trumpet in Zion!
Order a fast,
proclaim a solemn assembly,
call the people together,
summon the community,
assemble the elders,
gather the children,
even the infants at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his bedroom
and the bride her alcove.
Between vestibule and altar let the priests,
the ministers of the Lord, lament.
Let them say,
‘Spare your people, Lord!
Do not make your heritage a thing of shame,
a byword for the nations.
Why should it be said among the nations,
“Where is their God?”’

Then the Lord, jealous on behalf of his land,
took pity on his people.


2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2

We are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God. For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God. As his fellow workers, we beg you once again not to neglect the grace of God that you have received. For he says: At the favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help. Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.


Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win men’s admiration. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

‘And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them; I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

‘When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.’


Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart… rend your hearts, not your garments.

Ash Wednesday marks the start of the forty days of Lent ahead of us. Each year, I commit myself to the same Lenten fast – a fast from Anger. And each year, I seem to find a way of failing about halfway through my commitment. It’s a humbling experience, one that I keep repeating in the hope that one day, I will be able to run this race till the end.

The fasting and abstinence that’s so integral to Lent is our way of remembering Christ’s forty days of hunger and wandering in the desert. And as Christ was tested by the Devil, in the next forty days, we too will find ourselves being tested. We will feel doubt, anger, sorrow, fatigue, confusion – the same emotions that Christ experienced. Because it is Lent, these feelings will seem magnified, more extreme than usual. Think of this as our soul’s awareness to sin and do not be afraid. We see with more clarity during Lent, as if our spiritual eyes are opened.

Lent is a powerful time for believers; a time of repentance, of reflection, of purification; a time of spiritual growth. Lent is a time for remembering old sins, in order that we may do better this year. A time for setting our inner compass to the rhythms of the Easter celebration that is to come. Lent is also a time where we make peace; with God, our families and with ourselves. “Rend your hearts, not your garments and return to the Lord, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.”

Go back to the Lord this Lent. Go back; let go; and let Him help you to move on. Lent is a time for giving up the old ways that no longer serve us, and embracing the love and grace of God – love that comforts, that gives hope and heals. Go back to the Lord this Lent and let Him help you to let go of that which is holding you back. 

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all those who are holding on to anger, to hurt, to resentment and regret. We pray that they embrace the Holy Spirit’s love and learn to let go, that they move forward.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the enduring love of our Savior, who loved us, was tested for us, who died for us and now is risen for us. Amen!


Tuesday, 9 February – In Remembrance of Dad

9 February


1 Kings 8:22-23,27-30

In the presence of the whole assembly of Israel, Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord and, stretching out his hands towards heaven, said, ‘O Lord, God of Israel, not in heaven above nor on earth beneath is there such a God as you, true to your covenant and your kindness towards your servants when they walk wholeheartedly in your way. Yet will God really live with men on the earth? Why, the heavens and their own heavens cannot contain you. How much less this house that I have built! Listen to the prayer and entreaty of your servant, O Lord my God; listen to the cry and to the prayer your servant makes to you today. Day and night let your eyes watch over this house, over this place of which you have said, “My name shall be there.” Listen to the prayer that your servant will offer in this place.

‘Hear the entreaty of your servant and of Israel your people as they pray in this place. From heaven where your dwelling is, hear; and, as you hear, forgive.’


Mark 7:1-13

The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus, and they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and the Jews in general, follow the tradition of the elders and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow; and on returning from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves. There are also many other observances which have been handed down to them concerning the washing of cups and pots and bronze dishes. So these Pharisees and scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?’ He answered, ‘It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture:

This people honours me only with lip-service,
while their hearts are far from me.
The worship they offer me is worthless,
the doctrines they teach are only human regulations.

You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.’ And he said to them, ‘How ingeniously you get round the commandment of God in order to preserve your own tradition! For Moses said: Do your duty to your father and your mother, and, Anyone who curses father or mother must be put to death. But you say, “If a man says to his father or mother: Anything I have that I might have used to help you is Corban (that is, dedicated to God), then he is forbidden from that moment to do anything for his father or mother.” In this way you make God’s word null and void for the sake of your tradition which you have handed down. And you do many other things like this.’


You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition

My father passed away on January 3rd this year. He had been battling cancer for a while, so it wasn’t as if we were mentally unprepared. It still came as a shock though. Dad had always pulled through before. I thought I had another month with him, maybe another year even. He had just become a grandfather. I thought he would hold on to see his grandson grow a little older. So when I left Dad last, there were things still unresolved between us. My last words to him could have been kinder. They were not loving ones; they were words of resignation, of weariness. I will always regret that I grew tired and impatient and frustrated with our situation, and that I showed it.

I am not the only one to feel this remorse. Dad and his brothers rarely spoke, the result of years of unresolved hurts and wounds. Just before he died, Dad was broken-hearted that there was still not enough forgiveness amongst them to embrace him as part of the family again. Dad is not a man of many words, but when we argued about it over Christmas, my father cried and told me that there were traditions and practices in his family that I did not understand. Dad hardly ever cried.

It’s surreal when someone you love passes on. Your perspective of time is turned on its head. You struggle to catch your breath because you realize that things are finite, that you are finite. Every relationship that you have with anyone else becomes tainted by the fear that your time with them might start to run out too. You become very aware of those whom you have yet to forgive, and those whose forgiveness you have yet to seek. At Dad’s wake, his ‘estranged’ brothers filed up to his open casket, barely coherent, wracked with grief. I watched them and it made me wonder, ‘Where were you all the years he tried to reach out to you? You hid behind tradition, behind foolish practices that meant nothing and signified nothing. What is the point of your tears now?’. And then I wondered, what is the point of my own tears now? Dad is already dead. What is the point of regret if the person whose forgiveness you never sought is no longer there to offer it now that you seek it?

God commanded us: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might”. He also told us to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. I could have loved Dad better. I read that the dead never truly leave us. Their bodies lose their earthly form, but they are still with us, in our thoughts, in the pain of remembrance, in the lack of closure we feel when issues remain forever unresolved. Dad’s brothers were at his funeral the day we committed him to the Lord. I would like to think that Dad, in his spiritual form, was there to witness this and be a part of the family reunion that he craved. My priest tells me that when a person dies, his soul goes back to the Lord and the way he loves the Lord and the people he connected with on earth changes to a perfect and ideal love. I like the idea of that. That somehow in death, all our old wounds, physical and spiritual, fall away. And in that new and perfect state, my father has found his peace.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all our loved ones who have passed on and are now with The Lord. We pray that the passage of time does not dull our memory of them, that they remain alive in our thoughts and in our hearts.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gift of faith and the grace of God that allows us to carry on despite the failures and imperfections of our earthly relationships.


Monday, 8 February – Effort

8 February – Memorial for St. Jerome Emiliani; Memorial for St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin

Jerome (1481–1537) was born wealthy, the son of Angelo and Eleanor Mauroceni Emiliani. His father died when Jerome was a teenager, and he ran away from home at age 15. After a dissolute youth, he became a soldier in Venice in 1506. He commanded the League of Cambrai forces at the fortress of Castelnuovo near Trevso. He was captured by Venetian forces on Aug 27, 1511, and was chained in a dungeon. Here, he prayed to Our Lady for help and was miraculously freed by an apparition. He hung his chains on a church wall as an offering. He became Mayor of Treviso while studying for the priesthood, and was ordained in the spotted-fever plague year of 1518.

He cared for the sick, and housed orphans in his own home. At night he roamed the streets, burying those who had collapsed and died unattended. He contracted the fever himself, but survived. He founded six orphanages, a shelter for penitent prostitutes, and a hospital.

He founded the Order of Somaschi (Company of Servants of the Poor, or Samascan Fathers) in 1532. It is a congregation of clerks regular vowed to the care of orphans, and named after the town of Somasca where they started, and where they founded a seminary. The society was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540 and it continues its work today in a dozen countries. Jerome is believed to have developed the question-and-answer catechism technique for teaching children religion.

In 1928, Pope Pius XI declared him the patron saint of orphans and abandoned children.

– Patron Saint Index

Josephine (1868–1947) was born to a wealthy Sudanese family. At age 9, she was kidnapped by slave-traders who gave her the name Bakhita. She was sold and resold in the markets at El Obeid and Khartoum, finally purchased in 1883 by Callisto Legnani, an Italian consul who planned to free her. She accompanied Legnani to Italy in 1885, and worked for the family of Augusto Michieli as nanny. She was treated well in Italy and grew to love the country. She joined the Church as an adult convert on Jan 9, 1890, taking the name Josephine as a symbol of her new life.

She entered the Institute of Canossian Daughters of Charity in Venice, Italy, in 1893, taking her vows on Dec 8, 1896 in Verona, and served as a Canossian Sister for the next 50 years. Her gentle presence, her warm, amiable voice, and her willingness to help with any menial task were a comfort to the poor and suffering people who came to the door of the Institute. After a biography of her was published in 1930, she became a noted and sought-after speaker, raising funds to support missions.

She was canonized on Oct 1, 2000 by Pope John Paul II, and is thought to be the only saint originally from Sudan.

– Patron Saint Index


1 Kings 8:1-7,9-13

Solomon called the elders of Israel together in Jerusalem to bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord up from the Citadel of David, which is Zion. All the men of Israel assembled round King Solomon in the month of Ethanim, at the time of the feast (that is, the seventh month), and the priests took up the ark and the Tent of Meeting with all the sacred vessels that were in it. In the presence of the ark, King Solomon and all Israel sacrificed sheep and oxen, countless, innumerable. The priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the Debir of the Temple, that is, in the Holy of Holies, under the cherubs’ wings. For there where the ark was placed the cherubs spread out their wings and sheltered the ark and its shafts. There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets Moses had placed in it at Horeb, the tablets of the covenant which the Lord had made with the Israelites when they came out of the land of Egypt; they are still there today.

Now when the priests came out of the sanctuary, the cloud filled the Temple of the Lord, and because of the cloud the priests could no longer perform their duties: the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s Temple.

Then Solomon said:
‘The Lord has chosen to dwell in the thick cloud.
Yes, I have built you a dwelling,
a place for you to live in for ever.’


Mark 6:53-56

Having made the crossing, Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret and tied up. No sooner had they stepped out of the boat than people recognised him, and started hurrying all through the countryside and brought the sick on stretchers to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, to village, or town, or farm, they laid down the sick in the open spaces, begging him to let them touch even the fringe of his cloak. And all those who touched him were cured.


They scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was

When I first became a Catholic, some of my non-Catholic friends would ask me, “ How do you justify being part of a faith that condones the building of palatial places of worship while its faithful in some parts of the world starve from their hunger and poverty?” I used to get tripped up by that all the time. It would make me angry and defensive. Yes, why DID we condone that? Why wasn’t every dime spent alleviating pain, healing the sick and comforting the poor? As I grew older though, I began to understand that the glory of God is manifest not just in acts of charity. He inspires art, music, literature, architecture. He moves the body and mind to create things of transcendental beauty. We look upon something like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and it fills us with wonder. What motivates a man to create art that is so breathtaking? What is the root of inspiration? Is it a gift that is given to everyone, but only those who would struggle and expend the effort, can reap its glorious fruit?

Effort, by definition, is ‘a vigorous or determined attempt, a strenuous physical or mental exertion’. Solomon’s purpose was to build the Temple of The Lord, and he gave his life and the vast resources of his country’s coffers over to achieving that end. Today’s reading shows him celebrating all the years of planning and hard work, his reward being the Lord’s glory filling the temple of the Lord. In the gospel reading of Mark, the people tirelessly bring their sick to wherever Jesus might be, in the hope that they might be healed by his touch. “They scurried about the surrounding countryside”, searching the market places, villages and towns. There was no telling where Jesus would be, but the people never gave up.

Man’s struggle in life has always been to seek a higher purpose, to reach for something greater than himself. For those of us called to the faith, that struggle is evident in our daily walk of faith. We do not do this alone though. If we will expend the effort, God gives us the grace to stay true to the path; not stray nor be distracted, nor tire from the strain required to walk the path, nor become angry and disillusioned by failure. He gives us grace enough for the journey. All He asks is that we make the effort.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for His grace to help us to persevere when we grow weary and discouraged on our faith journeys. Let not disillusion, anger and resentment take root in our hearts and keep us from doing our work in His ministry.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gift of faith and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that moves us to create beautiful things for His glory.

Sunday, 7 February – Fishers of Men

7 February

Hi! Today we welcome Benjamin Mao, a new contributor to OXYGEN. We are really happy to have Ben on board and hope he grows in this journey of writing reflections and sharing the glory of our Lord with all of our readers. Here is a little about Benjamin:

It is a blessing to be invited to write for OXYGEN. I was invited through a friend, Geraldine Nah. Perhaps, God felt there could be more people I may be able to reach out to through this writing ministry.
My name is Benjamin Mao and I have always dreamt of writing and publishing a book in the future. Writing is a way for me to gather my thoughts, go deeper into reflection, and just allow the words to inspire me. To know that life can be so simple and yet not as simple. I hope I am able to relate to the readers here, to inspire more to step forward and use their talents for the greater good of society. I pray that God may lead me to share – more than how He is like OXYGEN, but also how we can be OXYGEN for others too.


Isaiah 6:1-2,3-8

In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord of Hosts seated on a high throne; his train filled the sanctuary; above him stood seraphs, each one with six wings.

And they cried out to one another in this way,

‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts.
His glory fills the whole earth.’

The foundations of the threshold shook with the voice of the one who cried out, and the Temple was filled with smoke. I said:

‘What a wretched state I am in! I am lost,
for I am a man of unclean lips
and I live among a people of unclean lips,
and my eyes have looked at the King, the Lord of Hosts.’

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding in his hand a live coal which he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. With this he touched my mouth and said:

‘See now, this has touched your lips,
your sin is taken away,
your iniquity is purged.’

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying:

‘Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?’

I answered, ‘Here I am, send me.’


1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you – believing anything else will not lead to anything.

Well then, in the first place, I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared first to Cephas and secondly to the Twelve. Next he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died; then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles; and last of all he appeared to me too; it was as though I was born when no one expected it.

I am the least of the apostles; in fact, since I persecuted the Church of God, I hardly deserve the name apostle; but by God’s grace that is what I am, and the grace that he gave me has not been fruitless. On the contrary, I, or rather the grace of God that is with me, have worked harder than any of the others; but what matters is that I preach what they preach, and this is what you all believed.


Luke 5:1-11

Jesus was standing one day by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the crowd pressing round him listening to the word of God, when he caught sight of two boats close to the bank. The fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats – it was Simon’s – and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

When he had finished speaking he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.’ ‘Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.’ And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, so they signalled to their companions in the other boat to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.

When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying, ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.’ For he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners. But Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.’ Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.


‘Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?’ I answered, ‘Here I am, send me.’

In today’s gospel, we find ourselves reading a very familiar miracle. But yet, what is the message that God has for us?

‘Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you – believing anything else will not lead to anything.’ (1 Cor 15:1-2)

We have been reading the gospel weekly for years but have we believed? Sometimes, I find we get trapped in the routine of going to church each week in order that we may be saved, an insurance just in case there’s an afterlife. There is hardly any belief, hardly any relationship with God.

For the longest time, I’ve wondered how God is able to communicate with me through the gospel. There’s a saying that ‘many will like to understand before they believe, but maybe it’s time we believe first in order that we may understand’. Believing anything else will not lead to anything.

When Simon, James and John, saw the catch they had made after bringing their boats back, they left everything and followed Jesus.

Isn’t it amazing and yet confusing? Being fishermen was their job. However, having not caught anything prior to encountering Jesus, they should have been overwhelmed and thinking about the amount of money they would be making from the catch, as well as a time off from fishing that they would have. Instead, they gave up their whole lives, even their catch, and followed Christ.

For me, it was precisely such an encounter which has made giving everything I have worth the while; for it is God who has given me everything in the first place. It’s about trusting that God understands and He knows. That He provides, that He is sufficient. That we will not be trapped in routines but understand the very purpose of why we started it in the first place, what made us fall in love and to continuously fall in love every single day.

For now that Christ has begun the ‘fishing’ of men, let us too be grateful for all the ‘catches’ He has given us, for us to continue His work to be ‘fishers’ of men. For when the Lord asks, ‘Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?’ My answer is, ‘Here I am, send me.’

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we pray for courage to trust you. More so when things do not go as planned or go our way. Help us to rekindle this joy and passion of why we have chosen our relationships and this path of life. Help us to find our identity again, help us to find it in You.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your abundant blessings and your patience with our reluctance in surrendering to you. Thank you for your understanding and never-faltering love. Amen.

Saturday, 6 February – Wisdom and Knowledge

6 Feb – Memorial for Sts. Paul Miki and Companions, martyrs (in Japan)

Paul Miki (1562-1597) was one of the Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan. He was born into a rich family and educated by Jesuits in Azuchi and Takatsuki. He joined the Society of Jesus and preached the gospel for his fellow citizens. The Japanese government feared Jesuit influences and persecuted them. He was jailed among others.

He and his Christian peers were forced to walk 600 miles from Kyoto while singing Te Deum as a punishment for the community. Finally they arrived at Nagasaki, the city which had the most conversions to Christianity, and he was crucified on 5 February 1597. He preached his last sermon from the cross, and it is maintained that he forgave his executioners stating that he himself was Japanese. Alongside him died Joan Soan (de Goto) and Santiago Kisai, of the Society of Jesus, in addition to 23 clergy and laity, all of whom were canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1862.

On 15 August 1549, St. Francis Xavier, Father Cosme de Torres, SJ, and Father John Fernandez arrived in Kagoshima, Japan, from Spain with hopes of bringing Catholicism to Japan. On Sep 29, St. Francis Xavier visit Shimazu Takahisa, the daimyo of Kagoshima, asking for permission to build the first Catholic mission in Japan. The daimyo agreed in hopes of creating a trade relationship with Europe.

A promising beginning to those missions – perhaps as many as 300,000 Christians by the end of the 16th century – met complications from competition between the missionary groups, political difficulty between Spain and Portugal, and factions within the government of Japan. Christianity was suppressed. By 1630, Christianity was driven underground.

The first Martyrs of Japan are commemorated on Feb 5 when, on that date in 1597, 26 missionaries and converts were killed by crucifixion. 250 years later, when Christian missionaries returned to Japan, they found a community of Japanese Christians that had survived underground.



1 Kings 3:4-13

King Solomon went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, since that was the greatest of the high places – Solomon offered a thousand holocausts on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared in a dream to Solomon during the night. God said, ‘Ask what you would like me to give you.’ Solomon replied, ‘You showed great kindness to your servant David, my father, when he lived his life before you in faithfulness and justice and integrity of heart; you have continued this great kindness to him by allowing a son of his to sit on his throne today. Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in succession to David my father. But I am a very young man, unskilled in leadership. Your servant finds himself in the midst of this people of yours that you have chosen, a people so many its number cannot be counted or reckoned. Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil, for who could govern this people of yours that is so great?’ It pleased the Lord that Solomon should have asked for this. ‘Since you have asked for this’ the Lord said ‘and not asked for long life for yourself or riches or the lives of your enemies, but have asked for a discerning judgement for yourself, here and now I do what you ask. I give you a heart wise and shrewd as none before you has had and none will have after you. What you have not asked I shall give you too: such riches and glory as no other king ever had.’


Mark 6:30-34

The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.


Lord, teach me your statutes

Two of the spiritual works of mercy are to counsel the doubtful and to instruct the ignorant. Sometimes we are shy to share about our faith because we do not know the contents within the faith. I do find it interesting that we can probably unlock never ending levels of achievements in the games in our mobile devices but remain at a very basic level of understanding of what our Catholic Faith stands for and the actions it requires of us. The readings of today are great examples for us to take the two steps needed to achieve the two spiritual works of mercy; to pray to God for wisdom and to be bold enough to ask for wisdom and use.

Wisdom and knowledge are two very different aspects. Knowledge is a body of facts and points on a particular subject and area in which we specialize. However, wisdom is the constant practice of using this knowledge within us to navigate the ambiguities and uncertainties of the world we live in. King Solomon prayed to God for wisdom to be a wise king and his wish was granted. However, King Solomon forgot the injunctions of his father David and strayed away from God later on in his life. Jesus shows us that our actions do matter and that when grounded in the wisdom of doing what is right, we will always have a heart for the people of God, especially for those who thirst for God’s love. This wisdom is not suddenly thrusted down upon us by is cultivated and deepened through prayer with God.

The ability for each one of us to discover how we are to carry out His plan is something which we need to spend time on in a period of discernment which occurs at regular intervals in our lives. We could speak to the people around us who are in a position to know how things are in our spiritual life and also to listen to the Lord speak to us spiritually in prayer. We have to make the decision at the end as to how we can carry out the task but it can be one grounded in reasons of faith and joy.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer – Dear Father, we pray for all the people who love us.

Thanksgiving – We give thanks for all Spiritual Directors.

Friday, 5 February – God’s Might, Our Hands

5 February – Memorial of Saint Agatha, Virgin and Martyr

We have little reliable information about this martyr who has been honoured since ancient times, and whose name is included in the canon of the Mass. Young, beautiful and rich, Agatha (d.250) lived a life consecrated to God. When Decius announced the edicts against Christians, the magistrate Quinctianus tried to profit by Agatha’s sanctity; he planned to blackmail her into sex in exchange for not charging her. Handed over to a brothel, she refused to accept customers.

After rejecting Quinctianus’ advances, she was beaten, imprisoned, tortured, her breasts were crushed and cut off. She told the judge, “Cruel man, have you forgotten your mother and the breast that nourished you, that you dare to mutilate me this way?” One version has it that St. Peter healed her. She was then imprisoned again, then rolled on live coals; when she was near death, an earthquake struck. In the destruction that followed, a friend of the magistrate was crushed, and the magistrate fled. Agatha thanked God for an end to her pain, and died.

Legend says that carrying her veil, taken from her tomb in Catania, in procession has averted erupts of Mount Etna. Her intercession is reported to have saved Malta from Turkish invasion in 1551.

– Patron Saint Index


1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Take yourselves for instance, brothers, at the time when you were called: how many of you were wise in the ordinary sense of the word, how many were influential people, or came from noble families? No, it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame what is strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything. The human race has nothing to boast about to God, but you, God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom. As scripture says: if anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord.


Luke 9:23-26

Jesus said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to have won the whole world and to have lost or ruined his very self? For if anyone is ashamed of me and of my words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his own glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.’


For he called on the Lord Most High, who gave strength to his right arm

Church volunteers sometimes can lose sight of the reason why they started to help out in a parish ministry. This can be found in the discussion of the ways the ministry is currently run and the caliber of the leaders of the ministry. Indeed, perhaps sometimes there may even be unhappiness and rival factions within a particular group. Such divisions represent the work of man and the pursuit of glory and power for the sake of achieving a desired aim. The first reading of today reminds us on the source of King David’s victory and power.

God had called him from the care of sheep and lambs to become the leader of Israel. At every step of his life, God was guiding him in battle and making decisions. In the face of great enemies and difficulties, God was by his side. Even when King David sinned, God forgave him for his guilt and allowed King David’s lineage to last forever. Sometimes we forget that God is all-powerful and is always with us to guide our actions. We need to be able to remember that he is here with us and this happens through prayer. Prayer allows us to encounter with God in the most intimate way. To achieve this method, we need to go beyond routines to approach prayer with sincerity and honesty. Prayer should never become mechanical way of expression but one of heartfelt emotion.

God wants to work through us to allow us to grow in faith and love with Him and all the people around us. The issue here is whether we allow God into our lives and whether we can allow Him to enter into the deepest recesses of our hearts. Let us pray for the grace to become receptive to the word of God in our life and let it enter into the areas of darkness

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer – Dear Father, let us discover the original joy we had in our lives when we first encountered you.

Thanksgiving – We give thanks for all who forgive their enemies.

Thursday, 4 February – Job Description of a Christian

4 February


1 Kings 2:1-4,10-12

As David’s life drew to its close he laid this charge on his son Solomon, ‘I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong and show yourself a man. Observe the injunctions of the Lord your God, following his ways and keeping his laws, his commandments, his customs and his decrees, as it stands written in the Law of Moses, that so you may be successful in all you do and undertake, so that the Lord may fulfil the promise he made me, “If your sons are careful how they behave, and walk loyally before me with all their heart and soul, you shall never lack for a man on the throne of Israel.”’

So David slept with his ancestors and was buried in the Citadel of David. David’s reign over Israel lasted forty years: he reigned in Hebron for seven years, and in Jerusalem for thirty-three.

Solomon was seated upon the throne of David, and his sovereignty was securely established.


Mark 6:7-13

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses. They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Do not take a spare tunic.’ And he said to them, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set off to preach repentance; and they cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.


… [H]e began to send them out

My parish priest one shared with me that the entire Christian journey is one of mission. We are to continually to discover what it means to be in a relationship with God and then to continue to serve Him in this capacity as we are. The readings of today remind us of what we need to do in order for us to be worthy enough for this call of mission.

David instructed Solomon to always keep the commandments of the Lord and not to deviate away from the Law of Moses. Such an injunction is probably easy for us to remember at the beginning of our Christian journey but it may become difficult as we go along in our lives because sometimes such things become out of mind once they are out of sight. Commandments may seem like rules and regulations but we need to understand the spirit behind it. In order for us to do so, we must enter into that encounter with God who will accept us for who we are, just as we are so that we can hear his Word and make sense of it in this broken world. This encounter must happen in prayer and the reading of Sacred Scripture to deepen our hearts and lives in knowing what God desires of us.

Indeed, I believe that this is how we must equip ourselves to handle the needs and challenges of the world. We need to discover what it means to be a child of God and in that process of discovery, share that with the people around us whom we meet along in life. With that focus in mind, material things like glory, prestige and power will fade away but instead the simple joy of being with God is there to help us in our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer – Dear Father, let us be open to your word in our lives so that we can discover how we can best serve you.

Thanksgiving – We give thanks for all who love us just as we are.