15 January, Sunday – Christian Behaviour

15 January 2017

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Isaiah 49:3,5-6

The Lord said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel,
in whom I shall be glorified’;
I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord,
my God was my strength.

And now the Lord has spoken,
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
to gather Israel to him:

‘It is not enough for you to be my servant,
to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel;
I will make you the light of the nations
so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’

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1 Corinthians 1:1-3

I, Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle, together with brother Sosthenes, send greetings to the church of God in Corinth, to the holy people of Jesus Christ, who are called to take their place among all the saints everywhere who pray to our Lord Jesus Christ; for he is their Lord no less than ours. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace.

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John 1:29-34

Seeing Jesus coming towards him, John said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I spoke of when I said: A man is coming after me who ranks before me because he existed before me. I did not know him myself, and yet it was to reveal him to Israel that I came baptising with water.’ John also declared, ‘I saw the Spirit coming down on him from heaven like a dove and resting on him. I did not know him myself, but he who sent me to baptise with water had said to me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is going to baptise with the Holy Spirit.” Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God.’

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Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God

There are occasions where I witness the behaviour of Christians and their behaviour surprises me as their actions sometimes do not reflect the way of the Lord. The words they say and actions they do all seem to generate a lot of negative energy to the people around them. The readings of today remind us of the importance to avoid such behaviour and the importance for us to become agents of love.

Jesus is the Light of the World and we are supposed to proclaim Jesus’s kingdom to all around us. The Church is essentially missionary and all of us are called to play an important role in spreading Jesus’s message to all around us. The issue we have here is how then do we go about proclaiming this message if we do not have an intimate relationship with Jesus? This relationship with Jesus is for us to deepen and strengthen for Jesus requires us to give to him totally so that we can be his instruments in the world.

An intimate relationship is not built overnight but is one where much time and effort is spent in knowing the other party. Communication is important for a meaningful conversation to occur and this communication is done through prayer and reflection. We need to allow God to speak to us in the quiet and ask Him to show us what it means to be Christians. Only then can we be energised to spread the Word of God to those whom we are called to spread the Word to.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer Lord, we pray for all who continue to preach your message despite facing persecution.

 ThanksgivingWe give thanks for all who are catechists.

 

14 January, Saturday – Conquering our Pride

14 January 2017

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Hebrews 4:12-16

The word of God is something alive and active: it cuts like any double-edged sword but more finely: it can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit, or joints from the marrow; it can judge the secret emotions and thoughts. No created thing can hide from him; everything is uncovered and open to the eyes of the one to whom we must give account of ourselves.

Since in Jesus, the Son of God, we have the supreme high priest who has gone through to the highest heaven, we must never let go of the faith that we have professed. For it is not as if we had a high priest who was incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us; but we have one who has been tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin. Let us be confident, then, in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help.

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Mark 2:13-17

Jesus went out to the shore of the lake; and all the people came to him, and he taught them. As he was walking on he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus, sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

When Jesus was at dinner in his house, a number of tax collectors and sinners were also sitting at the table with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many of them among his followers. When the scribes of the Pharisee party saw him eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard this he said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’

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“The word of God is something alive and active: it cuts like any double-edged sword but more finely”

When my children were still toddlers, going to church for Mass was an amazingly stressful event.  Doing what children do, they tended to speak, scream or sing out loud at the most inappropriate times.

There were more than a few occasions when we got irate stares from those around us.  There was a time when a young lady tapped my wife on her shoulder and told us to “control our children”.  As if it wasn’t enough, she continued to say that the noise was disturbing her prayer time. It was especially difficult given that my kids were not exactly very loud, and we were, in fact, bringing them outside the church whenever we felt that they were disturbing those around us.

Another time this happened, a gentleman looked at us and smiled warmly. Speaking gently, he told us: “Don’t worry. That’s what children do”.  Edmund (we made a new friend that day!), in fact, was not the only one to comfort us. Others around us gave us similar smiles and approving nods. Their actions gave us an inordinate amount of comfort, and we felt safe in the celebration of the mass.

As a Christian, there are times when I have been judgmental. Seeing someone else doing something inappropriate, I inadvertently mouth the words “How can they….”, followed by the action/thought/attitude that the other person demonstrates.

Following these events, I often feel ashamed. I am like the sinner that has cast the first stone. How can I, a recipient of God’s infinite forgiveness, choose to levy judgment on my fellow brothers and sisters? I feel like the unforgiving servant who goes out to collect on a miniscule debt, despite myself having been forgiven a debt many many times more than that.

As we grow in our faith and travel along the path of life, let us always be mindful that we should not be judgmental of others.  We need, of course, to be able to (lovingly) correct the erroneous actions of our fellow brothers and sisters, but never judge them as children of God our Father.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – O Father, teach us to treat those around us lovingly. Help us not be judgmental, thinking that we are better than these brothers and sisters.

Thanksgiving – Thank You, Father God, for giving us the gift of forgiveness. Thank You for not thinking that we are unworthy of Your favour and love.

13 January, Friday – Keeping our Faith

13 Jan – Memorial for St. Hilary, bishop and doctor of the Church

St. Hilary of Poitiers (315-368) was known as Athanasius of the West. He was born to wealthy polytheistic, pagan nobility. His early life was uneventful as he married, had children (one of whom was St. Abra), and studied on his own. Through his studies, he came to believe in salvation through good works, and then monotheism. As he studied the Bible for the first time, he literally read himself into the faith, and was converted by the end of the New Testament.

Hilary lived the faith so well that he was made Bishop of Poitiers from 353-368. He opposed the emperor’s attempt to run Church matters and was exiled; he used the time to write works explaining the faith. His teaching and writings converted many and, in an attempt to reduce his notoriety, he was returned to the small town of Poitiers where his enemies hoped he would fade into obscurity. His writings nonetheless continued to convert pagans.

Hilary introduced Eastern theology to the Western Church, fought Arianism with the help of St. Viventius, and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1851.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Hebrews 4:1-5,11

Be careful: the promise of reaching the place of rest that God had for the Israelites still holds good, and none of you must think that he has come too late for it. We received the Good News exactly as they did; but hearing the message did them no good because they did not share the faith of those who listened. We, however, who have faith, shall reach a place of rest, as in the text: And so, in anger, I swore that not one would reach the place of rest I had for them. God’s work was undoubtedly all finished at the beginning of the world; as one text says, referring to the seventh day: After all his work God rested on the seventh day. The text we are considering says: They shall not reach the place of rest I had for them. We must therefore do everything we can to reach this place of rest, or some of you might copy this example of disobedience and be lost.

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Mark 2:1-12

When Jesus returned to Capernaum, word went round that he was back; and so many people collected that there was no room left, even in front of the door. He was preaching the word to them when some people came bringing him a paralytic carried by four men, but as the crowd made it impossible to get the man to him, they stripped the roof over the place where Jesus was; and when they had made an opening, they lowered the stretcher on which the paralytic lay. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, ‘My child, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some scribes were sitting there, and they thought to themselves, ‘How can this man talk like that? He is blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God?’

Jesus, inwardly aware that this was what they were thinking, said to them, ‘Why do you have these thoughts in your hearts? Which of these is easier: to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven” or to say, “Get up, pick up your stretcher and walk”? But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ – he turned to the paralytic – ‘I order you: get up, pick up your stretcher, and go off home.’ And the man got up, picked up his stretcher at once and walked out in front of everyone, so that they were all astounded and praised God saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this.’

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“We, however, who have faith, shall reach a place of rest.”

I was having dinner with a few colleagues of mine when the topic of health, or more specifically, illness, came up.

My friend shared that one of his parents was critically ill before she passed away. He thought that instead of going through numerous medical treatments, one should just enjoy the remaining time one had.

Another colleague shared that his friend’s child had suddenly become unwell at six months of age and his parents were told that he would not live past another six months. The parents fought on, choosing to put their child through numerous operations on the heart and lungs. The child is today eight years of age, living life fully, although he still has to contend with a few symptoms of his childhood affliction.

I have witnessed a few of my friends and family go through similar health challenges in their lives, and they have faced similar dilemmas as well. The choice is never easy; does one give up or fight to live? The passages in the First Reading and Gospel today exhort everyone to keep their faith in God and not to give up.

The challenge is that with God’s gift of free will, we struggle to discern the path God desires us to take. Today’s readings tell me that the way to go is to continue to reach out and be connected to Jesus, and simply to live each day with faith. May we continue to do so until the time we are due to meet with God in heaven.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father, may we learn to live our lives in simple faith and to keep reaching out to You.  Help us to keep our eyes and spirits open to You.

ThanksgivingJesus, thank You for always encouraging us in the Holy Bible. We are grateful for the Holy Spirit, sent to affirm and strengthen us in our journey home.

12 January, Thursday – Being on constant guard

12 January 2017

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Hebrews 3:7-14

The Holy Spirit says: If only you would listen to him today; do not harden your hearts, as happened in the Rebellion, on the Day of Temptation in the wilderness, when your ancestors challenged me and tested me, though they had seen what I could do for forty years. That was why I was angry with that generation and said: How unreliable these people who refuse to grasp my ways! And so, in anger, I swore that not one would reach the place of rest I had for them. Take care, brothers, that there is not in any one of your community a wicked mind, so unbelieving as to turn away from the living God. Every day, as long as this ‘today’ lasts, keep encouraging one another so that none of you is hardened by the lure of sin, because we shall remain co-heirs with Christ only if we keep a grasp on our first confidence right to the end.

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Mark 1:40-45

A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: ‘If you want to’ he said ‘you can cure me.’ Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to!’ he said. ‘Be cured!’ And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured. Jesus immediately sent him away and sternly ordered him, ‘Mind you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering for your healing prescribed by Moses as evidence of your recovery.’ The man went away, but then started talking about it freely and telling the story everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived. Even so, people from all around would come to him.

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“Keep encouraging one another”

In an earlier reflection, I talked about not going to church for a few years.  This situation came about because I had been particularly distraught at the failure of a personal relationship. I had been angry with God for abandoning me; for leaving me in a position that I did not want to be in.

The first Sunday, there was a tinge of guilt as I stayed away from the mass and proceeded to push that thought out of my mind, telling myself that I would return once I had gotten over my anger.

The second Sunday, it felt easier for me to stay away from the church. I could do what I wanted; remain in bed and watch television, go out with my friends and enjoy myself!

Soon, the thoughts of God had all but faded from my mind; I no longer prayed, and before I knew it, my Christian values no longer felt that important to me. I began to spend time with friends who were worldly, and I too started acting like them. I had become unaware of God, and His love for me.

I figure this was what Paul was talking about in the first reading today. Once we turn away from God, our hearts begin to ‘harden’ and staying away from Him becomes easier.

Eventually, I returned to church and immediately experienced God’s love for me again. Through the mass, I found myself letting go of the anger and over time, changed for the better. I changed my ‘friends’ and found myself a community of loving, faithful brothers and sisters.

May we always be sensitive to the temptations to turn away from our God, to think that it was okay to miss that one mass. Let us find a faith community that will watch, guard and pray for each other, and be willing to correct each other to continue on the ‘straight and narrow path’.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father, help us to be on constant guard against the temptation to turn away and rebel against You. May You help us find strength in community and Your Word for guidance.

ThanksgivingThank You, Father, for never giving up on us. Thank You for being there and loving us.

11 January, Wednesday – He walked among us

11 January 2017

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Hebrews 2:14-18

Since all the children share the same blood and flesh, Christ too shared equally in it, so that by his death he could take away all the power of the devil, who had power over death, and set free all those who had been held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. For it was not the angels that he took to himself; he took to himself descent from Abraham. It was essential that he should in this way become completely like his brothers so that he could be a compassionate and trustworthy high priest of God’s religion, able to atone for human sins. That is, because he has himself been through temptation he is able to help others who are tempted.

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Mark 1:29-39

On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went with James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew. Now Simon’s mother-in-law had gone to bed with fever, and they told him about her straightaway. He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up. And the fever left her and she began to wait on them.

That evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by devils. The whole town came crowding round the door, and he cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another; he also cast out many devils, but he would not allow them to speak, because they knew who he was.

In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, ‘Everybody is looking for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.’ And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devils.

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“Christ too shared equally in it”

While I have known the Catholic tradition for more than 40 years, I only got baptised some 30 odd years ago. I had also been to the church of another Christian denomination for quite a few years, and this situation caused me to be aware of how different these two worlds were.

One of the ‘oddities’ I was uncomfortable with was the Veneration of the Cross, which takes place on Good Friday. For many years, I quietly and quickly left the church when this began. My feeling was that everyone was worshipping a piece of wood! Why would anyone bow and genuflect in front of this obviously man-made object?

My answer came when I watched Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion’. I remember the scene when Jesus died on the cross; Mother Mary had her eyes on her Son, and lovingly she kissed His feet. That was when it hit me; when we venerate the cross, we do not venerate the actual cross itself. Our eyes are fixed on Jesus, and we are worshipping our Lord. What an incredible revelation and gift it was for me to realise that!

Another bigger realisation was the fact that our God had physically been on Earth with us! I know that because of this, our God REALLY understands what it is like to be in our shoes. He would have felt the things I felt and experienced the things I experienced.

I am thankful for the tremendous love that my God has for me. Because of this love, and the fact of our mutual human experience, I know that I can always turn to Him in all the challenges I face.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Dear Lord Jesus, I ask that You may always walk with us as we journey through life. I pray that You may give us the fortitude to be faithful.

ThanksgivingThank You Father, for sending Your Son Jesus to not only die for our sins, but also to show us the way to live; with faith, hope, joy and love.

10 January, Tuesday – A Genuine Faith Relationship with God

10 January 2017

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Hebrews 2:5-12

God did not appoint angels to be rulers of the world to come, and that world is what we are talking about. Somewhere there is a passage that shows us this. It runs: What is man that you should spare a thought for him, the son of man that you should care for him? For a short while you made him lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and splendour. You have put him in command of everything. Well then, if he has put him in command of everything, he has left nothing which is not under his command. At present, it is true, we are not able to see that everything has been put under his command, but we do see in Jesus one who was for a short while made lower than the angels and is now crowned with glory and splendour because he submitted to death; by God’s grace he had to experience death for all mankind.

As it was his purpose to bring a great many of his sons into glory, it was appropriate that God, for whom everything exists and through whom everything exists, should make perfect, through suffering, the leader who would take them to their salvation. For the one who sanctifies, and the ones who are sanctified, are of the same stock; that is why he openly calls them brothers in the text: I shall announce your name to my brothers, praise you in full assembly.

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Mark 1:21-28

Jesus and his followers went as far as Capernaum, and as soon as the sabbath came he went to the synagogue and began to teach. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.

In their synagogue just then there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit and it shouted, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him. The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. ‘Here is a teaching that is new’ they said ‘and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’ And his reputation rapidly spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.

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“And with authority behind it.”

For many years, I had been working hard to better myself, buying a lot of books and learning about how to become a better speaker, motivator, boss, time-manager, or any other area that I could improve myself.

One of the books that influenced me was the book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ written by the late Stephen Covey.  He once noted that the modern world of self-development focused too much on the ‘Personality Ethic’ versus the ‘Character Ethic’ approach, which was the default approach in the early years of personal development.

The ‘Character Ethic’ focuses on developing a person from the inside. One worked on improving his attributes or qualities that he felt was lacking.  In essence, one worked on becoming a better person.  Over time, however, the ‘Personality Ethic’ began taking over. Instead of improving oneself from within, people had become more concerned about learning tricks and techniques of impressing so that others would think the best of them.

The gospel passage today talks about Jesus teaching with authority. Clearly, our Lord had a very close relationship with His Father and hence was able to instruct with such knowledge and power.  Like the ‘Character Ethic’ approach, Jesus worked from within, spending much time developing this relationship.

In Matthew 6: 5-6, Jesus describes the difference between the two methods — one focuses on the external aspects of the relationship with God, while the other talks about approaching God privately.

Like Jesus, we should strive to know God intimately, rather than make a ‘big show’ of a relationship with Him. May we be able to know the difference.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Jesus, we ask You to help us to grow closer to both You and Our Father. Teach us to develop a relationship with You that is authentic, intimate and not superficial.

ThanksgivingJesus, we offer You our thanks for showing us the correct way to relate to Our Father. Thank You for showing us how to live as Your followers.

9 January, Monday – Complete Humility

9 January 2017

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Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7

Thus says the Lord:

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom my soul delights.
I have endowed him with my spirit
that he may bring true justice to the nations.

He does not cry out or shout aloud,
or make his voice heard in the streets.
He does not break the crushed reed,
nor quench the wavering flame.

Faithfully he brings true justice;
he will neither waver, nor be crushed
until true justice is established on earth,
for the islands are awaiting his law.

I, the Lord, have called you to serve the cause of right;
I have taken you by the hand and formed you;
I have appointed you as covenant of the people and light of the nations,

to open the eyes of the blind,
to free captives from prison,
and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.

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Acts 10:34-38

Peter addressed Cornelius and his household: ‘The truth I have now come to realise’ he said ‘is that God does not have favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him.

‘It is true, God sent his word to the people of Israel, and it was to them that the good news of peace was brought by Jesus Christ – but Jesus Christ is Lord of all men. You must have heard about the recent happenings in Judaea; about Jesus of Nazareth and how he began in Galilee, after John had been preaching baptism. God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil.’

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Matthew 3:13-17

Jesus appeared: he came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John. John tried to dissuade him. ‘It is I who need baptism from you’ he said ‘and yet you come to me!’ But Jesus replied, ‘Leave it like this for the time being; it is fitting that we should, in this way, do all that righteousness demands.’ At this, John gave in to him.

As soon as Jesus was baptised he came up from the water, and suddenly the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. And a voice spoke from heaven, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on him.’

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“Do all that righteousness demands.”

In my previous career, I worked as a banker. Since I left this job in 2014, I have gone into, amongst other businesses, internet marketing. In this world, it is particularly interesting that many make themselves out to be experts in their respective fields. I remember a course I once took with such an ‘expert’, only to realise that his level of knowledge was nowhere near the level he claimed he had.

Similarly, in my previous corporate life, I would try my hardest to appear to be the smartest person in the room. In meetings and other interactions, I would often say things to make myself sound more important than I was.

We need to learn humility from our Lord and God. Despite being the Son of God and being sent to Earth as our Saviour, Jesus had the humility to ask John the Baptist to baptise Him. From the gospel, we know that this was not ‘for show’, but was something He felt was necessary and right to do.

Like Jesus, we should learn to have a humble heart and learn to focus on what is truly important.  We should not be caught up in the trivial and the less important aspects of our lives.  Instead, we should focus on what matters — our ‘insides’.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Lord, help us always to recognise the important and to sieve out the trivial. We ask for the gift of Your wisdom to discern and to always have the humility to do what is right.

ThanksgivingJesus, we thank You for teaching us the importance of being humble. We are grateful that we have You as a model to learn from and aspire to be like.

8 January, Sunday – God reaches out to us

8 January 2017

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Isaiah 60:1-6

Arise, shine out, Jerusalem, for your light has come,
the glory of the Lord is rising on you,
though night still covers the earth
and darkness the peoples.

Above you the Lord now rises
and above you his glory appears.
The nations come to your light
and kings to your dawning brightness.

Lift up your eyes and look round:
all are assembling and coming towards you,
your sons from far away
and your daughters being tenderly carried.

At this sight you will grow radiant,
your heart throbbing and full;
since the riches of the sea will flow to you,
the wealth of the nations come to you;

camels in throngs will cover you,
and dromedaries of Midian and Ephah;
everyone in Sheba will come,
bringing gold and incense
and singing the praise of the Lord.

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Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6

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

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Matthew 2:1-12

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

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

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

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“Where is the infant king of the Jews?”

The story of the three wise men in the Epiphany had always intrigued me, even before I became a Christian. I often wondered how God reached out and spoke with these three kings, and more importantly, how they were led to find Jesus.

These three men get only a brief mention in the gospel of Matthew, but what is evident to me was that they were seeking the stars — seeking God. It was because they were looking out for Him that they saw the Star in the first place. I had often wondered if I did not seek God, would I have been able to see Him at all.

For three to four years, in my late twenties, I stopped going to church. Facing challenges in a personal relationship, I was angry and felt abandoned by God. And yet, on hindsight, I recognized that God had been reaching out to me throughout this period. Even while I was not seeking Him, I now recognise so many occasions when He was there for me.

After I reconciled with God and as I developed a deeper relationship with Him, I grew to realise that many of the things I did in my secular life did not sit well with my faith. Over time, I had to ‘take a different route,’ as the three wise men did, after their encounter with Jesus.

This journey after my Jesus encounter has not ended and continues even today.  Let us remember that our Epiphany should not be a destination, but should be a journey.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Lord, help us always to seek You and to bow before You. Help us Lord to recognize You, help us to have the desire always to reach out to You. Help us to have the courage to be converted by our relationship with You.

ThanksgivingThank You Father, for reaching out to us, whatever our disposition is. Thank you for always loving us, in spite of our personal circumstances.

7 January, Saturday – Devoted in Prayer

7 Jan – Memorial for St. Raymond of Penyafort, priest

St. Raymond (1175-1275) was of Aragonian nobility. He was educated at the cathedral school in Barcelona, and became a philosophy teacher at the age of 20. He was a priest. He graduated from law school in Bologna, Italy, and joined the Dominicans in 1218. He was summoned to Rome in 1230 by Pope Gregory IX, and assigned to collect all official letters of the popes since 1150. Raymond gathered and published five volumes, and helped write Church law.

He was made Master General of the Dominicans in 1238. He reviewed the Order’s Rule, made sure everything was legally correct, then resigned his position in 1240 to dedicate himself to parish work. The pope wanted to make Raymond an archbishop, but he declined, instead returning to Spain and the parish work he loved. His compassion helped many people return to God through Reconciliation.

During his years in Rome, Raymond heard of the difficulties missionaries faced trying to reach non-Christians of Northern Africa and Spain. Raymond started a school to teach the language and culture of the people to be evangelized. With St. Thomas Aquinas, he wrote a booklet to explain the truths of faith in a way non-believers could understand. His great influence on Church law led to his patronage of lawyers.

  • Patron Saint Index

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1 John 5:14-21

We are quite confident that if we ask the Son of God for anything,
and it is in accordance with his will,
he will hear us;
and, knowing that whatever we may ask, he hears us,
we know that we have already been granted what we asked of him.
If anybody sees his brother commit a sin
that is not a deadly sin,
he has only to pray, and God will give life to the sinner
– not those who commit a deadly sin;
for there is a sin that is death,
and I will not say that you must pray about that.
Every kind of wrong-doing is sin,
but not all sin is deadly.

We know that anyone who has been begotten by God
does not sin,
because the begotten Son of God protects him,
and the Evil One does not touch him.
We know that we belong to God,
but the whole world lies in the power of the Evil One.
We know, too, that the Son of God has come,
and has given us the power
to know the true God.
We are in the true God,
as we are in his Son, Jesus Christ.
This is the true God,
this is eternal life.
Children, be on your guard against false gods.

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John 2:1-11

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited. When they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the wedding was all finished, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ Jesus said ‘Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not come yet.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ There were six stone water jars standing there, meant for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews: each could hold twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’, and they filled them to the brim. ‘Draw some out now’ he told them ‘and take it to the steward.’ They did this; the steward tasted the water, and it had turned into wine.

Having no idea where it came from – only the servants who had drawn the water knew – the steward called the bridegroom and said; ‘People generally serve the best wine first, and keep the cheaper sort till the guests have had plenty to drink; but you have kept the best wine till now.’

This was the first of the signs given by Jesus: it was given at Cana in Galilee. He let his glory be seen, and his disciples believed in him.

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Do whatever he tells you

Obedience to God’s message is something which is very important for all of us to adhere to. However, it seems quite remarkable that there are folks who really believe that their way of doing things is the correct way. Perhaps it comes from being in a society where everything is planned and that everything must follow a plan or else one will be looked down upon by others. The Gospel of today is a familiar passage but this time, I would like to turn our attention towards the steward.

The steward tastes and acknowledges that the wine he drinks is far superior compared to the wine served earlier. To him, some aberration to the norm has occurred. Whilst not life-threatening and not a major issue which will disrupt the wedding banquet, perhaps it would have done him well to ask the servants what happened that resulted in a disruption of the dinner plans. Indeed,  we sometimes grumble and question God about why things happen in a way which is not according to plan; but perhaps we need to ask God the Holy Spirit to show us why is it that such a disruption was allowed to happen? Instead of asking why this happened to me, perhaps we could ask God how we could make the best of this scenario before us?

Mother Mary is the best example we can follow. She had to put up with great hardship, from having to risk being stoned because she was bearing a child before marriage, to being a refugee as Herod was out to kill her child, to seeing her Son falsely accused. These incidents would have caused some others to lose hope in God and in life, but Mary continued to hold on to her Faith and not waver. This is an example we can follow through a devoted and dedicated prayer life, which allows us to be in communion with God; so that we can face all the challenges in our life with a prayer-like attitude, always trusting that God will be with us, if we let Him take control of our lives.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer Heavenly Father, we pray for us to remain faithful to you in our prayer life.

ThanksgivingWe give thanks for all who engage in humanitarian work.

6 January, Friday – Unshakable Faith

6 January 2016

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1 John 5:5-13

Who can overcome the world?
Only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God:
Jesus Christ who came by water and blood,
not with water only,
but with water and blood;
with the Spirit as another witness –
since the Spirit is the truth –
so that there are three witnesses,
the Spirit, the water and the blood,
and all three of them agree.
We accept the testimony of human witnesses,
but God’s testimony is much greater,
and this is God’s testimony,
given as evidence for his Son.
Everybody who believes in the Son of God
has this testimony inside him;
and anyone who will not believe God
is making God out to be a liar,
because he has not trusted
the testimony God has given about his Son.
This is the testimony:
God has given us eternal life
and this life is in his Son;
anyone who has the Son has life,
anyone who does not have the Son does not have life.

I have written all this to you
so that you who believe in the name of the Son of God
may be sure that you have eternal life.

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Mark 1:6-11

In the course of his preaching John said, ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’
It was at this time that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised in the Jordan by John. No sooner had he come up out of the water than he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’

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I have written all this to you so that you who believe in the name of the son of God may be sure that you have eternal life

Beliefs can be a very powerful tool for people. There are those who are willing to die for their beliefs in the face of opposition, and the Catholic Church is filled with the examples and stories of martyrs which encourage us to hold onto our faith. Whilst these martyrs have certainly given up their lives for their beliefs, martyrdom is also suffered in a different form in this modern day and age.

We will be constantly attacked for our beliefs in the office e.g. engaging in acts which border on being illegal or immoral. It is in such times like these that we have to re-examine what we stand for. It is easy to go with the flow and say that because everyone is doing it, it is ok to engage in such actions. I pray for each one of us that we will not be placed in such a position where we have to make such difficult decisions; but if we do, that we turn to God the Holy Spirit within us to guide us on what we need to do. The readings of today remind us that God the Holy Spirit is given to us in this present day and age to help us make decisions in an uncertain world.

As Christians, we need to be in constant contact with God the Holy Spirit to enlighten us on our actions and not take things for granted. To take a decision which is God-filled requires us to sometimes, or even most of the time, go against the flow of the world. This is something we can do as long as we are firm in our Faith. The issue here is not the recognition which the world offers us but that we make a decision based on the principles which God has given us. As we do so, we will be able to let others see that we are Christians who believe in the Son of God and are unwavering in our beliefs.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to hold onto our Faith despite persecutions.

ThanksgivingWe give thanks for all who hold onto their Faith despite persecution.