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12 December, Wednesday – Breathe Oxygen

12 December – Memorial for Our Lady of Guadalupe

Guadalupe is, strictly speaking, the name of a picture, but the name was extended to the church containing the picture and to the town which grew up around the church. It makes the shrine, it occasions the devotion, it illustrates Our Lady. It is taken as representing the Immaculate Conception, being the lone figure of a woman with the sun, moon, and star accompaniments of the great apocalyptic sign with a supporting angel under the crescent. The word is Spanish Arabic, but in Mexico it may represent certain Aztec sounds.

Its tradition is long-standing and constant, and in sources both oral and written, Indian and Spanish, the account is unwavering. The Blessed Virgin appeared on Saturday, 9 December 1531 to a 55-year-old neophyte named Juan Diego, who was hurrying down Tepeyac Hill to hear Mass in Mexico City. She sent him to Bishop Zumarraga to have a temple built where she stood. She was at the same place that evening and Sunday evening to get the bishop’s answer.

The bishop did not immediately believe the messenger, had him cross-examined and watched, and he finally told him to ask the lady who said she was the mother of the true God for a sign. The neophyte agreed readily to ask for the sign desired, and the bishop released him.

Juan was occupied all Monday with Bernardino, an uncle who was dying of fever. Indian medicine had failed and Bernardino seemed at death’s door. At daybreak on Tuesday 12 December 1531, Juan ran to nearby St. James’ convent to ask for a priest. To avoid the apparition and the untimely message to the bishop, he slipped round where the well chapel now stands. But the Blessed Virgin crossed down to meet him and said, “What road is this thou takest son?”

A tender dialogue ensued. She reassured Juan about his uncle, to whom she also briefly appeared and instantly cured. Calling herself “Holy Mary of Guadalupe”, she told Juan to return to the bishop. He asked for the sign he required. Mary told him to go to the rocks and gather roses. Juan knew it was neither the time nor the place for roses, but he went and found them. Gathering many into the lap of his tilma (a long cloak or wrapper used by Mexican Indians), he came back. The Holy Mother rearranged the roses, and told him to keep them untouched and unseen until he reached the bishop.

When Juan met with Zumarraga, Juan offered the sign to the bishop. As he unfolded his cloak, the roses, fresh and wet with dew, fell out. Juan was startled to see the bishop and his attendants kneeling before him. The life-size figure of the Virgin Mary, just as Juan had described her, was glowing on the tilma. The picture was venerated, guarded in the bishop’s chapel, and soon after, carried in procession to the preliminary shrine.

Painters have not understood the laying on of the colours. They have deposed that the “canvas” was not only unfit but unprepared, and they have marvelled at the apparent oil, water, distemper, etc. colouring in the same figure. They are left in equal admiration for the flower-like tints and the abundant gold. They and other artists find the proportions perfect for a maiden of fifteen. The figure and the attitude are of one advancing. There is flight and rest in the eager supporting angel. The chief colours are deep gold in the rays and stars, blue green in the mantle, and rose in the flowered tunic.

The clergy, secular and regular, has been remarkably faithful to the devotion towards Our Lady of Guadalupe, the bishops fostering it, even to the extent of making a protestation of faith in the miracle a matter of occasional obligation. Pope Benedict XIV decreed that Our Lady of Guadalupe should be the national patron, and made 12 December a holiday of obligation with an octave, and ordered a special Mass and Office.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 40:25-31

‘To whom could you liken me
and who could be my equal?’ says the Holy One.
Lift your eyes and look.
Who made these stars
if not he who drills them like an army,
calling each one by name?
So mighty is his power, so great his strength,
that not one fails to answer.

How can you say, Jacob,
how can you insist, Israel,
‘My destiny is hidden from the Lord,
my rights are ignored by my God’?
Did you not know?
Had you not heard?

The Lord is an everlasting God,
he created the boundaries of the earth.
He does not grow tired or weary,
his understanding is beyond fathoming.
He gives strength to the wearied,
he strengthens the powerless.
Young men may grow tired and weary,
youths may stumble,
but those who hope in the Lord renew their strength,
they put out wings like eagles.
They run and do not grow weary,
walk and never tire.

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Matthew 11:28-30

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

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Grow tired and weary

When you are reading Oxygen, I am assuming you are taking a break form all the busyness around you. You are probably on the train, or the bus, or lying in bed on an annual leave looking out the window, chilling in a coffee joint catching up on overdue reflections, or simply taking a ten minutes break just for God. Whichever it is, I must commend you on taking a time off just for God. Perhaps today’s reflection is not so much about what the reading and gospel is trying to remind us, or a teaching of the Church that has to be emphasized again. Perhaps, you do not want to read about what you already know. Or maybe you are hoping I will tell you a story?

Today is very much about you, giving yourself that very short moment just to think back on the busy month or week and just to slow down with a short reflection telling you that you are just as important as anyone else. Do not tire yourself and be weary of problems unsolved, there is always a solution to it. Relationships can be renewed, can be mended. Work will be done at the end of it all. Jesus did not tell us to be a sloth and not work hard or be lazy, in this real world. He did not ask us to abandon the yoke, but instead to carry His yoke. I do recommend a retreat, getting away from the bustle to rid of all tiredness and weariness.

Do not be afraid just to stop all that is weighing you down. Take them off from your schedule, take charge of your priorities. Being tired and weary gets you no where. It is mid-week in the first week of December, perhaps you can think of something outside of work this weekend? Do something that is about you, we are children of God, and our Father will always love to see us as a happy child, not a stressed up kid. Get messy in the kitchen perhaps, baking a cake or figuring out an interesting recipe you just received, do anything which does not remind you of work at all. Take your kids, nephews, and nieces out on an eating spree maybe? Which means, catching up with an old friend is not an option because; you will have to relate your office woes to your friend. It will mean a lot at the end of it all, to pick up the yoke God has readied for us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer:  I am tired of many things O Lord. Build my spirit back up so that I may have the drive to move along with You, for You and not stumble.

Thanksgiving:  Thank you for Today.

3 November, Saturday – Live Humbly Fully

3 November – St Martin de Porres

Martin (1579-1639) was the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman, Juan, and a young freed black slave, Anna Velasquez. He grew up in poverty and spent part of his youth with a surgeon-barber from whom he learned some medicine and care of the sick.

At the age of 11, he became a servant in the Holy Rosary Dominican priory in Lima, Peru. He was promoted to almoner and begged more than $2,000 a week from the rich to support the poor and sick in Lima. He was placed in charge of the Dominican’s infirmary, and was known for his tender care of the sick and for his spectacular cures. His superiors dropped the stipulation that “no black person may be received to the holy habit or profession of our order” and Martin took vows as a Dominican brother in 1603.

He established an orphanage and children’s hospital for the poor children of the slums. He set up a shelter for the stray cats and dogs and nursed them back to health. He lived in self-imposed austerity, never eating meat, fasting continuously, and spent much time in prayer and meditation with a great devotion to the Holy Eucharist. He was a friend of St. John de Massias.

He was venerated from the day of his death. Many miraculous cures, including raising the dead, have been attributed to Brother Martin, the first black saint from the Americas.

– Patron Saint Index

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Philippians 1:18-26

Christ is proclaimed; and that makes me happy; and I shall continue being happy, because I know this will help to save me, thanks to your prayers and to the help which will be given to me by the Spirit of Jesus. My one hope and trust is that I shall never have to admit defeat, but that now as always I shall have the courage for Christ to be glorified in my body, whether by my life or by my death. Life to me, of course, is Christ, but then death would bring me something more; but then again, if living in this body means doing work which is having good results-I do not know what I should choose. I am caught in this dilemma: I want to be gone and be with Christ, which would be very much the better, but for me to stay alive in this body is a more urgent need for your sake. This weighs with me so much that I feel sure I shall survive and stay with you all, and help you to progress in the faith and even increase your joy in it; and so you will have another reason to give praise to Christ Jesus on my account when I am with you again.

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Luke 14:1,7-11

On a sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely. He then told the guests a parable, because he had noticed how they picked the places of honour. He said this, ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, and the person who invited you both may come and say, “Give up your place to this man.” And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place. No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher.” In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

 

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I shall survive and stay with you all

Has it ever crossed your mind that sometimes you are so contented about your believe in the Father, and that life on Earth is rather meaningless and you are just ready to live a faithful life in the Kingdom of God. Perhaps you felt that you have repented and been through reconciliation with our Father, thinking that the earthly life and responsibilities are not meaningful to you as living in the Kingdom of God. We began to complain about the life here, about the awful people we meet around us and that we cannot wait to die and actually live in the presence of our fellow brothers and sisters in Heaven. Does that really make us ready to die from this world and be in the arms of our creator?

Like in today’s Gospel, St. Paul felt exactly like that, ready to die and be with God. However, he felt that he had to continue living to guide people to building their faith in the Father. How are we going to live this life then? Do you think you are really so ready to meet your creator our Lord? Just because He had created you, and now you want a simpler life by actually leaving it to be with Him is not His game plan for us. We have a worth being on Earth. We are to live a faithful and be a Christian to others.

What do you plan to do in this life on Earth to please our Father? Do we humble ourselves so that others see the goodness in us? Have we been good Christians that others look up to? Looking back at the lives of our great saints, their motivation is in the love for the people and in God for guiding through their way of life on Earth. As for us, the lay people, all we need is to be guided by our Father through our everyday actions. Let us not get into the dilemma thinking we are good enough to enter the Kingdom of God, but to live an optimistic and responsible life on Earth.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We cannot take our own lives for it is a sin, so we have to live the life which our Father has given us, give me the courage to enrich others in the Christian living and that I may be a humble example.

Thanksgiving: We cannot take our own lives for it is a sin, so we have to live the life which our Father has given us, give me the courage to enrich others in the Christian living and that I may be a humble example.

5 September, Wednesday – Spiritual Worth

5 September

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1 Corinthians 3:1-9

Brothers, I myself was unable to speak to you as people of the Spirit: I treated you as sensual men, still infants in Christ. What I fed you with was milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it; and indeed, you are still not ready for it since you are still unspiritual. Isn’t that obvious from all the jealousy and wrangling that there is among you, from the way that you go on behaving like ordinary people? What could be more unspiritual than your slogans, ‘I am for Paul’ and ‘I am for Apollos’?

After all, what is Apollos and what is Paul? They are servants who brought the faith to you. Even the different ways in which they brought it were assigned to them by the Lord. I did the planting, Apollos did the watering, but God made things grow. Neither the planter nor the waterer matters: only God, who makes things grow. It is all one who does the planting and who does the watering, and each will duly be paid according to his share in the work. We are fellow workers with God; you are God’s farm, God’s building.

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Luke 4:38-44

Leaving the synagogue Jesus went to Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever and they asked him to do something for her. Leaning over her he rebuked the fever and it left her. And she immediately got up and began to wait on them.

At sunset all those who had friends suffering from diseases of one kind or another brought them to him, and laying his hands on each he cured them. Devils too came out of many people, howling, ‘You are the Son of God.’ But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak because they knew that he was the Christ.

When daylight came he left the house and made his way to a lonely place. The crowds went to look for him, and when they had caught up with him they wanted to prevent him leaving them, but he answered, ‘I must proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God to the other towns too, because that is what I was sent to do.’ And he continued his preaching in the synagogues of Judaea.

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Each will duly be paid

Few years ago, a fun application on Facebook kept popping up from my friends’ updates. It was about how much you are worth and should be paid every month by your employer. I did not try the application myself but it was fun to see that most of them (if not all) were worth much more than their monthly paycheque. It will either be really depressing that you are under paid or you just laugh it off for the fun. So how much are we really worth? We are probably not going to talk much about material worth because you can just check the salaries guide wherever you are at, and most would feel that you are being overworked and underpaid. What is our spiritual worth?

Each and every one of us has different skills and interest. We may have taken the same exam papers during our studies but the work environment and work skills developed over the years will change our perspectives and behaviours. As mentioned in today’s reading, we have been planted with textbook knowledge, our teachers and parents have nurtured us to become leaders, then who makes us grow as a person, one who is able to judge right and wrong, what is valuable and what is not? The spirit in us sometimes seems so abstract even for us to believe that it is He who is working in us. We lost track of who watches over us. We so often think that successes came from our good decisions making, and negative effects are tests from our Father.

The reminder we are given today is, we are nothing without God. The world and man have no idea our worth. The attractiveness of someone is not his car or her diamonds, but the heart in us. The spiritual beauty of purity and humility, and exemplifies the love of Christ through us. We can find comfort that God pays us what we are worth, not a penny less, not a penny more. We do not submit to the big bosses behind the head office desks, but give reverence to the Eucharist at the tabernacle. What is truly in us gives us so much more power than what is being presented out there in the visible world. We have to trust in God to rid the devils in us, and yet we continue to make the mistake of taking what is visible to us out in the world as the ‘Gospel Truth and Worth’. Yes, our jobs can overwhelm us and problems in the family can make us weary, but perhaps take every Sunday Eucharistic celebration to another level and dig deep into ourselves. Be comforted with the Body of Christ and begin each week recharged and renewed, we are priceless in the eyes of our Father.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Little do we know the worth of ourselves, may the Holy Spirit reveals itself in its mysterious ways and bring us back to the path of everlasting life.

Thanksgiving: Thank you O Lord for the great friendship among my brothers and sisters in Christ, surrounded with Your love, all in the same mind in attaining a strong spiritual worth.

4 September, Tuesday – God’s Spirit Please

4 September

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1 Corinthians 2:10-16

The Spirit reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God. After all, the depths of a man can only be known by his own spirit, not by any other man, and in the same way the depths of God can only be known by the Spirit of God. Now instead of the spirit of the world, we have received the Spirit that comes from God, to teach us to understand the gifts that he has given us. Therefore we teach, not in the way in which philosophy is taught, but in the way that the Spirit teaches us: we teach spiritual things spiritually. An unspiritual person is one who does not accept anything of the Spirit of God: he sees it all as nonsense; it is beyond his understanding because it can only be understood by means of the Spirit. A spiritual man, on the other hand, is able to judge the value of everything, and his own value is not to be judged by other men. As scripture says: Who can know the mind of the Lord, so who can teach him? But we are those who have the mind of Christ.

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Luke 4:31-37

Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because he spoke with authority.

In the synagogue there was a man who was possessed by the spirit of an unclean devil, and it shouted at the top of its voice, ‘Ha! 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 devil, throwing the man down in front of everyone, went out of him without hurting him at all. Astonishment seized them and they were all saying to one another, ‘What teaching! He gives orders to unclean spirits with authority and power and they come out.’ And reports of him went all through the surrounding countryside.

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A spiritual man

A spiritual man is able to judge the value of everything and his own value is not to be judged by other men, except by the Spirit of God that is already in him. I thought by going to church every Sunday, attend a couple of retreats a year, go for weekday masses, tune my moral compass towards God would pretty much make me a spiritual man. Being a spiritual man seems like someone with great wisdom and no one else can put you down because the Spirit of God lives in you which make you kind of like being above everyone else. According to the first reading, I would have the gift to judge on the value of things, not just between right and wrong, but the value, the worthiness of everything. After this, I shall not consider myself a spiritual man really.

A couple of times, people ask me how pious I am in my Catholic spirituality. Most times, I say I do go to Church on Sundays, every week without fail. I believe I could elaborate more like how much I value and always searching to understand my faith more deeply, about how I believe in the Eucharist and all that but I usually just brush all that away. Today’s first reading is like a confirmation to tell us that if we are active in activating the “Spiritual Yeast” in us, the things we teach unto others, the decisions and judgement we make in life is all guided by the Spirit of God. One who does not understand the mentality of a Christian, and thinks that the Christian way of life is all a lie and hoax into positivity and hope, is regarded as unspiritual and will never understand the Spirit.

Today’s Gospel exhibits Jesus’ power from His Father above and His authority over, not only by men and women who receives His teachings but also the unclean spirits that defies Him. Who would you rather have in you? A weak unclean spirit of this world that has no power of love and hope, being labelled as dead? Or the Spirit that presents to us gifts of eternal joys and salvation, and the judgement of value on all things in our life? When we feel lost and helpless, we bring ourselves closer to God by reading the bible, going for a Eucharistic celebration, praying the rosary or perhaps, give yourself to someone in need. Our believe in Christ comforts the heart of our Father, and that flame in us will just keep burning as long as we do not extinguish it for good.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: The Spirit of God is the most powerful weapon we have against the evil of this world. May non-believers see the goodness it brings and change of heart.

Thanksgiving: Jesus is my friend, brother and most of all, my saviour. I thank you for gracing me with faith O Lord.

14 April, Saturday – Word

14 April
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Acts 6:1-7

About this time, when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenists made a complaint against the Hebrews: in the daily distribution their own widows were being overlooked. So the Twelve called a full meeting of the disciples and addressed them, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the word of God so as to give out food; you, brothers, must select from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, filled with the Spirit and with wisdom; we will hand over this duty to them, and continue to devote ourselves to prayer and to the service of the word.’ The whole assembly approved of this proposal and elected Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

The word of the Lord continued to spread: the number of disciples in Jerusalem was greatly increased, and a large group of priests made their submission to the faith.

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John 6:16-21

In the evening the disciples went down to the shore of the lake and got into a boat to make for Capernaum on the other side of the lake. It was getting dark by now and Jesus had still not rejoined them. The wind was strong, and the sea was getting rough. They had rowed three or four miles when they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming towards the boat. This frightened them, but he said, ‘It is I. Do not be afraid.’ They were for taking him into the boat, but in no time it reached the shore at the place they were making for.

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Word of the Lord began to spread

This year’s holy week has been just a little busy for me. I belong to a parish that has a decent congregation but somehow, there aren’t many of us lectors. Therefore, I was tasked to read on Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil. There were thoughts of going away for a road trip over the long weekend, but I find myself feeling spiritually filled, being led to focus on the purpose of Easter this year. I believe some take this period for granted, that ‘I can do it again next year’. We will never know what happens next. To be able to spread the word of the Lord is indeed a privilege.

Today, let us take the conscious effort to immerse into the word of the Lord, to increase our faith so that no matter how rocky our lives may be, we know the strength of our faith through Jesus is the strongest. Do not be afraid, Jesus has come back to us. Go forth and preach. Read His word aloud, be clear in the message of the Lord. Spread the Good News.

Let us not underestimate what we are capable of with the Holy Spirit. When we are down, it lifts us up. When we are energetic, it fires us up and enables us to spread the Good News in many ways. Take chances to share your enthusiasm with the other, not to convert them, but to show with sincerity where our motivation truly comes from. We have been chosen by the Father, and He has given us the gifts. Do we believe like the disciples; that we do it all for our Lord Jesus Christ.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: O Lord, pray for those who have doubts in joining a Church ministry. We also pray for the various parishes around the world who have little enthusiasm, that they may relive the Word of God and build a warm and inviting community.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord Jesus, for coming back to us, for appearing in all our difficulties and guiding us through them.

13 April, Friday – The Faith Others Love To Hate

13 April – Memorial for St. Martin I, pope & martyr

Martin (d. 655) was chosen the 74th pope in 649 without imperial approval. He conducted the Lateran Council which condemned the Patriach of Constantinople for Monothelitism, which claimed that Christ had no human will. This put him in opposition to the emperor who had him arrested and tortured. Paul, Patriach of Constantinople, repented of his stance which saved Martin from execution, but the pope died soon after from damage received during his imprisonment, and is considered a martyr, the last martyred pope.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 5:34-42

One member of the Sanhedrin, a Pharisee called Gamaliel, who was a doctor of the Law and respected by the whole people, stood up and asked to have the apostles taken outside for a time. Then he addressed the Sanhedrin, ‘Men of Israel, be careful how you deal with these people. There was Theudas who became notorious not so long ago. He claimed to be someone important, and he even collected about four hundred followers; but when he was killed, all his followers scattered and that was the end of them. And then there was Judas the Galilean, at the time of the census, who attracted crowds of supporters; but he got killed too, and all his followers dispersed. What I suggest, therefore, is that you leave these men alone and let them go. If this enterprise, this movement of theirs, is of human origin it will break up of its own accord; but if it does in fact come from God you will not only be unable to destroy them, but you might find yourselves fighting against God.’

His advice was accepted; and they had the apostles called in, gave orders for them to be flogged, warned them not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them. And so they left the presence of the Sanhedrin glad to have had the honour of suffering humiliation for the sake of the name.

They preached every day both in the Temple and in private houses, and their proclamation of the Good News of Christ Jesus was never interrupted.

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John 6:1-15

Jesus went off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee – or of Tiberias – and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he gave by curing the sick. Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples. It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover.

Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?’ He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, ‘There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Make the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted. When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, ‘Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.’ So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves. The people, seeing this sign that he had given, said, ‘This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, escaped back to the hills by himself.

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You will not be able to destroy them

Take a moment and look back at violence around the world that involved the bombing of a church, kidnapping of priests, or any other acts that have hurt the Christian community. With each such instance, we always come back with a stronger belief that God is always there looking after us. Even till this day, there are some communities who are threatened by the Christian faith. No matter how much the Church has done for the needy through charities and schools, or even feeding the homeless, our faith is still under watch.

In today’s reading, the message from our Lord Jesus through His disciples was never interrupted. The mission of God in making Himself known to the world began since Christ rose from the dead, and has not stopped. Today, Christian communities in some regions may have dwindled with fewer members and are less active due to an ageing population. However, this is being more than compensated by the ranks of ever-growing young believers around the world. The annual World Youth Day brings young people together on a week’s retreat to renew their faith and to unite with the large Catholic community, bonding with fellow young Christians from other parts of the world.

Today’s Gospel reflects on the charity and generosity of Christ. That has always been the mission of the apostles given by Christ. Through acts of love, Christ preached God’s word and intentions to His children, and by believing in the works of the Lord, the community grew stronger; even inviting non-believers to experience the beautiful works from Him. Sadly, we seem to have become a community that some people love to hate. Despite the many good works that are going on in our faith, these are also threats to our fellow brothers and sisters. But we should never fear because just as God created us, the only one who is able to destroy His works is God himself.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We pray for all the communities and charities that are under threat. That they may be protected by authorities and not be target of violence.

Thanksgiving: Thank you our Lord Jesus Christ, who built and provided us with so much faith support over the years.

12 April, Thursday – Be That Good Apostle

12 April
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Acts 5:27-33

When the officials had brought the apostles in to face the Sanhedrin, the high priest demanded an explanation. ‘We gave you a formal warning’ he said ‘not to preach in this name, and what have you done? You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and seem determined to fix the guilt of this man’s death on us.’ In reply Peter and the apostles said, ‘Obedience to God comes before obedience to men; it was the God of our ancestors who raised up Jesus, but it was you who had him executed by hanging on a tree. By his own right hand God has now raised him up to be leader and saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins through him to Israel. We are witnesses to all this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’

This so infuriated them that they wanted to put them to death.
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John 3:31-36

John the Baptist said to his disciples:

‘He who comes from above is above all others;
he who is born of the earth is earthly himself
and speaks in an earthly way.
He who comes from heaven
bears witness to the things he has seen and heard,
even if his testimony is not accepted;
though all who do accept his testimony
are attesting the truthfulness of God,
since he whom God has sent
speaks God’s own words:
God gives him the Spirit without reserve.
The Father loves the Son
and has entrusted everything to him.
Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life,
but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life:
the anger of God stays on him.’

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Obedience to God comes before obedience to men

Have you ever felt frustrated with the people at your workplace, to the extent where you have somehow felt mistreated and misunderstood? Have you ever felt oppressed by that someone who is probably not a team player and has some power over you at work? Where do our allegiance lie? These are tough, draining situations, where most of our focus and energy is channelled towards thinking about what went wrong and how not only do you only have yourself to blame for not being able to explain yourself, but that the blame should not besolely on you. Do we allow ourselves to be cornered and depressed over such incidents in toxic work environments? Because it is obedience to such people that brings no peace to our own life.

In today’s reading and Gospel, we turn to the passion that Christ Jesus had acted on, freeing us from sin and empowering us with the truth that God is everything we need to live for. Just like Jesus, until the very last moment of His life on earth, He was obedient to God the Father. And just like Jesus, we should have the same obedience to God as well. Let us not allow secular worries to weigh us down with such heavy yokes, but with the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus, let us learn to move away and to be that bigger person who continuously seeks, preaches and lives the Gospel truth. Let not our decisions and actions betray the teachings of God.

Brothers and sisters, let us learn to live a life that leaves us gracious and beautiful, not worried and depressed. The positivity and hope in the apostles are great example of how they dealt with the difficulties and outlook of non-believers. Similarly, with the people we meet today who remain thorns in our lives, those who are not able to be a ‘good person’ but only make others around them feel uneasy and difficult; let us deal with them in the same way as the apostles did with their detractors. Let us be walking testimonies of Christ, to be as faithful and loyal as the apostles, spreading the Good News that hope is here, Christ is risen!

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We continue to pray for all non-believers, that they do not turn away from the word of God, but re able to see the light and hope during this Easter season.

Thanksgiving: We are thankful for those who work with us, giving us the stability and peace in our workplaces; that we forge close relationships with others, and that they may see the goodness in us.

13 February, Tuesday – Know What Is Enough

13 February 

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James 1:12-18

Happy the man who stands firm when trials come. He has proved himself, and will win the prize of life, the crown that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

Never, when you have been tempted, say, ‘God sent the temptation’; God cannot be tempted to do anything wrong, and he does not tempt anybody. Everyone who is tempted is attracted and seduced by his own wrong desire. Then the desire conceives and gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it too has a child, and the child is death.

Make no mistake about this, my dear brothers: it is all that is good, everything that is perfect, which is given us from above; it comes down from the Father of all light; with him there is no such thing as alteration, no shadow of a change. By his own choice he made us his children by the message of the truth so that we should be a sort of first-fruits of all that he had created.

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Mark 8:14-21

The disciples had forgotten to take any food and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. Then he gave them this warning, ‘Keep your eyes open; be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.’ And they said to one another, ‘It is because we have no bread.’ And Jesus knew it, and he said to them, ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you not yet understand? Have you no perception? Are your minds closed? Have you eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear? Or do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?’ They answered, ‘Twelve.’ And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?’ And they answered, ‘Seven.’ Then he said to them, ‘Are you still without perception?’

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Are your minds closed?

To act on temptation is to entertain the thought of wrong desires, which when acted upon will cause oneself to sin. With the accumulation of sins, death will take place in us. As tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, we begin the season of Lent, in preparation for Good Friday. We close our hearts to the temptations around us. We embrace the Lenten season looking back at all the faults and temptations that have caused us to sin and hurt those around us. The love of God, sending his Son Jesus to die for our sins, to wipe away all those wrong desires we have made, how great is that?

Are our minds closed to what Our Father in heaven has done for us? Are we like the disciples of Jesus who just could not trust what was in front of them, but had fear when Jesus worked miracles in front of them? What is considered to be enough? We are weak, and it takes prayers to build that faith and be strong in it to turn away temptation.

I do not deny the amount of temptation in more ways than one, which leads to selfishness and certainly does not build a better community. Look away from temptation, be among the righteous people. May our thoughts be all about building a strong person to stand up to trials, because we truly know Jesus provides and we should live that life that is deserving of all that is from Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: I may have belittled the power of you Lord Jesus, overwhelmed by things that are mere wrong desires. Make me turn away from them so I can be focused on being that person with a good and faithful heart.

Thanksgiving: Alleluia Alleluia, Praise the Lord for he is good. Praise the Lord who provides. Praise the Lord who forgives.

12 February, Monday – Christ Ignores Impatience

12 February 

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James 1:1-11

From James, servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Greetings to the twelve tribes of the Dispersion.

My brothers, you will always have your trials but, when they come, try to treat them as a happy privilege; you understand that your faith is only put to the test to make you patient, but patience too is to have its practical results so that you will become fully-developed, complete, with nothing missing.

If there is any one of you who needs wisdom, he must ask God, who gives to all freely and ungrudgingly; it will be given to him. But he must ask with faith, and no trace of doubt, because a person who has doubts is like the waves thrown up in the sea when the wind drives. That sort of person, in two minds, wavering between going different ways, must not expect that the Lord will give him anything.

It is right for the poor brother to be proud of his high rank, and the rich one to be thankful that he has been humbled, because riches last no longer than the flowers in the grass; the scorching sun comes up, and the grass withers, the flower falls; what looked so beautiful now disappears. It is the same with the rich man: his business goes on; he himself perishes.

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Mark 8:11-13

The Pharisees came up and started a discussion with Jesus; they demanded of him a sign from heaven, to test him. And with a sigh that came straight from the heart he said, ‘Why does this generation demand a sign? I tell you solemnly, no sign shall be given to this generation.’ And leaving them again and re-embarking, he went away to the opposite shore.

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His business goes on, he himself perishes

When I drive to work in the heavy morning traffic, stuck in a jam with the news on the radio, I happen to observe a lot of things through my rear view mirror. You actually see the impatience and grumpy faces of some drivers. If you can imagine, every time we come to a red light, you allow more cars into the line and I see the drivers behind waving their hands in big gestures. I would always laugh to myself and think to myself, those few cars would not have made a difference. What is point of getting all worked up?

This leads to James’ reminder to us in today’s reading. We all have our bad days, our frustrating moments that get us all worked up, inadvertently affecting those around us as well. We could vent our anger on an innocent party, whose feelings you would have hurt for the day. We are reminded to be patient and control our feelings that could hurt, and around situations that we have difficulty with. It teaches us that putting our faith and patience ahead of ourselves would make us become fully developed and complete, with nothing missing. This sort of wisdom gets forgotten in our fast-paced, impatient world.

Wisdom that we receive through faith enables us to differentiate between right and wrong, and only to know how to approach the people around us. Like Jesus, He does not entertain the signs that are being requested by the Pharisees. This is because He is not an entertainer, He does not show signs to prove His power. He reveals Himself to those with genuine faith. To those who carry on this faith through a long period of time, through hardships and deep trust in God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: O Jesus, always be there to remind me how selfless I have to be, to be patient with the miracles you promised for my own good. That I only deserve You when my faith has been tested.

Thanksgiving: Be grateful for the gifts, for the riches, for things that last, for things that matter.

11 February, Sunday – Ask Without Attitude

11 February
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Leviticus 13:1-2,44-46

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘If a swelling or scab or shiny spot appears on a man’s skin, a case of leprosy of the skin is to be suspected. The man must be taken to Aaron, the priest, or to one of the priests who are his sons.

‘The man is leprous: he is unclean. The priest must declare him unclean; he is suffering from leprosy of the head. A man infected with leprosy must wear his clothing torn and his hair disordered; he must shield his upper lip and cry, “Unclean, unclean.” As long as the disease lasts he must be unclean; and therefore he must live apart: he must live outside the camp.’

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1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1

Whatever you eat, whatever you drink, whatever you do at all, do it for the glory of God. Never do anything offensive to anyone – to Jews or Greeks or to the Church of God; just as I try to be helpful to everyone at all times, not anxious for my own advantage but for the advantage of everybody else, so that they may be saved. Take me for your model, as I take Christ.

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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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If you want to

How often do we require the help of someone but are afraid to impose on them? Then we humbly say, ‘Only if you want to’ so the other person does not have to feel obligated nor to agree if it isn’t inconvenient for them as well. I think that this is a very respectful approach to asking for help, to not think of oneself, but to also be considerate of the other’s feelings.

Today’s readings lead us to look at both sides of the exchange; being the sick and unclean who humbly seeks help and acceptance, and the ever generous love of Christ. The leper represents anyone of us who is bearing the difficulties and humiliation from the world, one who is not accepted and categorized as not ‘normal’. Have you come across someone who is in need and yet is arrogant about it? Like they deserve to be served, or they think they actually have the privilege to get the service or help they require. I have experienced this so many times and it puts me off when I am being approached with such an attitude. These are just like the unclean persons whom you want to be outside of the community. However, the Lord, whose Heart is so generous and giving, teaches us to give and not to return a service offensively. I must admit, that is a very difficult thing to do.

 I often say this to my wife when she has had a terrible day, or even when she anticipates the ungrateful patients that she is about to see at her workplace. I tell her to do it for God. We may not like the attitude of the people, but perhaps helping them out could somehow relieve those around them as well. Some may say, easy to say but very hard to do. Therefore, the next time we require the help of another, ask with humility, only if you want to.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

 Prayer: O Lord Almighty, grace us with the generosity that your Son, Jesus has shown to His children, that we may just be filled with a Christ-like attitude.

Thanksgiving: We never forget the days and days of joy when we felt at peace in the deep presence of Jesus. May you always be there for us the week ahead.