Tag Archives: benjamin mao

21 February, Friday – The Lost

21 Feb – Memorial for St. Peter Damian, bishop and doctor

Peter Damian (1007-1072) was the youngest child in a large family. When he was orphaned, he was sent to live with a brother where he was mistreated and forced to work as a swine-herd. He cared for another brother, a priest in Ravenna, Italy. He was well educated in Fienza and Parma and became a professor, but lived a life of strict austerity.

He gave up his teaching to become a Benedictine monk. His health suffered, especially when he tried to replace sleep with prayer. He founded a hermitage. He was occasionally called on by the Vatican to make peace between arguing monastic houses, clergymen, and government officials, etc. He was made Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia, and he fought simony.

He tried to restore primitive discipline among priests and religious who were becoming more and more of the world. He was a prolific correspondent, and he also wrote dozens of sermons, seven biographies (including one of St. Romuald), and poetry, including some of the best Latin of the time. He tried to retire being a monk, but was routinely recalled as a papal legate.

He died on Feb 22, 1072 of fever at Ravenna while surrounded by brother monks reciting the Divine Office. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1828.

  • Patron Saint Index

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James 2:14-24,26

Take the case, my brothers, of someone who has never done a single good act but claims that he has faith. Will that faith save him? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty’, without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead.

This is the way to talk to people of that kind: ‘You say you have faith and I have good deeds; I will prove to you that I have faith by showing you my good deeds – now you prove to me that you have faith without any good deeds to show. You believe in the one God – that is creditable enough, but the demons have the same belief, and they tremble with fear. Do realise, you senseless man, that faith without good deeds is useless. You surely know that Abraham our father was justified by his deed, because he offered his son Isaac on the altar? There you see it: faith and deeds were working together; his faith became perfect by what he did. This is what scripture really means when it says: Abraham put his faith in God, and this was counted as making him justified; and that is why he was called ‘the friend of God.’

You see now that it is by doing something good, and not only by believing, that a man is justified. A body dies when it is separated from the spirit, and in the same way faith is dead if it is separated from good deeds.

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Mark 8:34-9:1

Jesus called the people and his disciples to him and said:
‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to win the whole world and ruin his life? And indeed what can a man offer in exchange for his life? For if anyone in this adulterous and sinful generation is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’ And he said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.’

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“Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it”

As we approach the end of the week, the readings provide us with a timely reminder of the purpose of our lives, why we live and who are we living for.

In the readings today, we read of “as a body without a spirit is dead, so is faith without deeds” and also how “anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, will save it”.

We are invited to reflect upon our purpose and calling in this life. Especially facing such situations where there is panic and uncertainty, we are called to be witnesses, not to lose our lives or lose our opportunity for survival, but instead, to be a gift, to be an example to the lost.

Many have lost their purpose and are lost in terms of their direction, that self-preservation seems like the way to go. Instead, our lives are not about how long we live but how we have lived out this life.

For fear of missing out, most have been influenced by society and have failed to speak out and to take action — whether it’s speaking the truth, providing truthful information regarding the virus and its spreading, whether we have provided truthful information on our healthcare and its resources.

When there is a lack of voices and action, the people become lost, and we become controlled by our instincts instead of being able to think clearly and with empathy to respond to the situation.

Let the battle against the virus and be human versus the virus because at the moment, it seems to be that we are merely defending ourselves, leaving the minority to battle the viruses for us alone. Let us not just talk and pray behind the scenes, but truly take an active role in being a gift to the lost around us. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that many more will come to know you and your love, to know that our lives are so much more, that we are able to contribute, be a gift, make a difference, to start a ripple and see how it can transform a culture. Dear Lord, help us to rely on you especially when we seem to want to rely on our own strength. We pray for wisdom and courage especially during this difficult time.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we lift up our own personal intentions of thanks for _______________________________ (feel free to vocalise your thanks)

20 February, Thursday – The Poor

20 February

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James 2:1-9

My brothers, do not try to combine faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord, with the making of distinctions between classes of people. Now suppose a man comes into your synagogue, beautifully dressed and with a gold ring on, and at the same time a poor man comes in, in shabby clothes, and you take notice of the well-dressed man, and say, ‘Come this way to the best seats’; then you tell the poor man, ‘Stand over there’ or ‘You can sit on the floor by my foot-rest.’ Can’t you see that you have used two different standards in your mind, and turned yourselves into judges, and corrupt judges at that?

Listen, my dear brothers: it was those who are poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom which he promised to those who love him. In spite of this, you have no respect for anybody who is poor. Isn’t it always the rich who are against you? Isn’t it always their doing when you are dragged before the court? Aren’t they the ones who insult the honourable name to which you have been dedicated? Well, the right thing to do is to keep the supreme law of scripture: you must love your neighbour as yourself; but as soon as you make distinctions between classes of people, you are committing sin, and under condemnation for breaking the Law.

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Mark 8:27-33

Jesus and his disciples left for the villages round Caesarea Philippi. On the way he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say I am?’ And they told him. ‘John the Baptist,’ they said ‘others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he asked ‘who do you say I am?’ Peter spoke up and said to him, ‘You are the Christ.’ And he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him.

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again; and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. But, turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to him, ‘Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

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“Whoever acts without mercy will be judged without mercy but mercy can afford to laugh at judgement.”

In today’s readings we read of a familiar sight, the difference between the rich and the poor. Today I will share about rich and poor in terms of pride and humility.

It is important to be proud of who you are but desiring others to be proud of you is where sin and condemnation enters.

When we want to become ‘rich’, we make distinctions and have more expectations of situations and of people. When we desire recognition, power, wealth or fame, that’s when we want something in return and we measure what we receive based on the effort we have put in. This will then result in frustrations and sin when we do not get what we want.

Christ, on the other hand, is  the model of humility and love. Like the ‘poor’, it is not about what we can receive but what we can give. We focus on the mission, om the purpose of our lives. We focus on the people around us, we focus on family, friends and loved ones and not want them to focus on us. It is that selfless giving for we can only give because we have already received.

Our judgements will become that of compassion, where we are grateful for all that happens to us for even in bad, there is good, in suffering, joy, in death, life.

As we continue to battle this virus, may we open our eyes to see all the good that is being done, to support others who truly need our support, even in the midst of risk. To risk our lives just as others are risking theirs. To be responsible, having good hygiene, to trust in our leaders, to take care of ourselves and others. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to be compassionate, kind and caring brothers and sisters during this period of uncertainty. May we learn to look out for each other instead of looking out for masks and sanitizers. May we learn to touch the lives of those around us despite us not exactly being in contact with others. May we not be influenced by fake news but be inspired by Your Word. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for showing us the way. Thank you Lord for leading by example. Thank you Lord for being with the ‘poor’, for it is in our ‘poorness’ that we are rich in you.

19 February, Wednesday – The Cure

19 February

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James 1:19-27

Remember this, my dear brothers: be quick to listen but slow to speak and slow to rouse your temper; God’s righteousness is never served by man’s anger; so do away with all the impurities and bad habits that are still left in you – accept and submit to the word which has been planted in you and can save your souls. But you must do what the word tells you, and not just listen to it and deceive yourselves. To listen to the word and not obey is like looking at your own features in a mirror and then, after a quick look, going off and immediately forgetting what you looked like. But the man who looks steadily at the perfect law of freedom and makes that his habit – not listening and then forgetting, but actively putting it into practice – will be happy in all that he does.

Nobody must imagine that he is religious while he still goes on deceiving himself and not keeping control over his tongue; anyone who does this has the wrong idea of religion. Pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this: coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.

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Mark 8:22-26

Jesus and his disciples came to Bethsaida, and some people brought to him a blind man whom they begged him to touch. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Then putting spittle on his eyes and laying his hands on him, he asked, ‘Can you see anything?’ The man, who was beginning to see, replied, ‘I can see people; they look like trees to me, but they are walking about.’ Then he laid his hands on the man’s eyes again and he saw clearly; he was cured, and he could see everything plainly and distinctly. And Jesus sent him home, saying, ‘Do not even go into the village.’

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“You must do what the Word tells you and not just listen to it and deceive yourselves.”

A Blessed New Year to one and all.

This is my first reflection for OXYGEN for the year. As I was reflecting on today’s readings, it made me think about my journey with OXYGEN — from a place of passion, spirit and conviction, to many times, a place of struggle and maybe even burden to submit my reflections in the midst of my ‘busy’ life.

I realised that the journey in my reflections seems so long because in writing this, I always had to make that seeming detour back to Christ, who I guess I’ve been not prioritising, compared to the seemingly more ‘urgent’ things in my life. Despite reducing the number of reflections I write in a year, I chose not to give up because I knew how important it is not just to write, but also to reflect and connect with God through His Word. If I gave up on this, Christ would probably seem much further away and the effort I will need to ‘return’ would seem all that much greater.

I must admit that these reflections have helped me so much in the various situations and the most stressful periods of my life, indeed, how God can speak to me through His Word.

I hope, He will speak to you today and for the many days to come.

In today’s first reading, we read of how knowing and listening to the Word isn’t enough; but how we are called to live out the Word, through our lives and through action. We also see in the Gospel how Christ gave sight to the blind man.

Especially in the circumstances we are facing today, the coronavirus, we see how uncertainty and due to all sorts of information spreading with or without credibility, has blinded us to focus on protecting ourselves instead of others. We then see how this particular culture or response ends up spreading much faster than the virus itself, causing panic and instability amongst the public.

I’ve also become blind when my reflections became more of a duty versus a sharing of life and breaking of the Word. Both situations are similar because they both didn’t have the cure. The cure being Christ — not just to remove our blindness, but to see as how He sees, to live as how He lives and to love as how He loves.

Because in the darkest of situations and no matter how seemingly ‘far’ we are from Him, He is actually right there with us and we just have to allow Him into our lives once again. It is in that allowing that we can say we are living out His Word, for it is not I but Christ who lives in me. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for everyone who is infected, suffering, who has gone before us, we pray that we may not lose humanity and what it means to be human. We pray that we will learn how to trust, that leaders will look after their people, that we will create a culture that protects and provides and not one that competes and condemns. Dear Lord, we ask that your light may shine ever so brightly in our darkness, that we may see and realise our selfishness, to allow your Word to take place in our hearts and that we may proclaim it by our actions. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the many people who are working behind the scenes and doing whatever they can to protect and provide. Thank you for always reaching out to us in so many different ways. Thank you for always being there.

24 December, Vigil Mass – Rejoice

24 December – Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord (Vigil Mass)

Jesus, Son of David

God prepared the people of Israel to receive his Son. May we too be ready to welcome him. 

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Isaiah 62:1-5

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

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

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

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

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Acts 13:16-17,22-25

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

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

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

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Matthew 1:1-25

A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, Tamar being their mother,
Perez was the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram was the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon was the father of Boaz, Rahab being his mother,
Boaz was the father of Obed, Ruth being his mother,
Obed was the father of Jesse;
and Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Azariah,
Azariah was the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah;
and Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers.
Then the deportation to Babylon took place.
After the deportation to Babylon:
Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor was the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud was the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob;
and Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary;
of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.

The sum of generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.
This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son 
and they will call him Emmanuel,

a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home and, though he had not had intercourse with her, she gave birth to a son; and he named him Jesus.

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

A Blessed Christmas to one and all! May the hope, peace, joy and love of Christ ever fill your heart and your homes! May you always rejoice in the Lord as He is rejoicing in you!

The beginning of our salvation, just a time of glorious rejoicing. A celebration of this hope that how ‘forsaken’, ‘abandoned’, ‘alone’, ‘unaccepted’ we seem to be, it all will pass because God is rejoicing in you.

The ‘worries’, ‘anxieties’, ‘insecurities’, ‘stresses’ we seem to be filling our hearts with, God is transforming them to this everlasting peace, His peace. A peace that the world can’t give. A Saviour has been born to us, He is Christ the Lord and He rejoices when He sees you. Why do you need to worry when victory has been won by our God?

I don’t know how heaven is like, but this is like heaven on earth, just a touch of heaven. The immense glory and power and my body is too small to contain any of it. I want to cry for there is so much joy. A joy that is not about how pictures I’m taking this season, it’s not about how many outings or how busy or how entertaining my life is at the moment, or how I’m seemingly enjoying my life and my friends, but whether or not I can say that this is who I am and I know my Lord rejoices in me.

I don’t know about you but to me, this feels a lot like the love that I yearn for. That no matter what I chase or what I have from this world, nothing will be able to give me this love that only you can give Jesus. For in your love, you gave the love which is yourself, not a part of you but all of you to me when you came into this world, already knowing the journey you have to take.

You did all of this because you love me, like a young man marrying a virgin, and as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so will you rejoice in me.

This Christmas, I’m putting Christ back into Christmas, Christ back into my heart, my family, my actions and my words, my thoughts. You are the reason for my faith, the reason I’m alive, the reason I live, the reason I can love. And it’s all cause you loved me first.

Happy Birthday Jesus! Thank you for being the greatest gift the world can give!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: (do say 1 Our Father, 1 Hail Mary)

Thanksgiving: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

23 December, Monday – God’s Promise

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

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

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

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

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

  • Patron Saint Index

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Malachi 3:1-4,23-24

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

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

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Luke 1:57-66

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

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

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All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts…And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.

Today we read of God keeping to His faithful promises throughout the generations. We see how Elizabeth, even in her old age. was able to bear a child — the child being named John and how the power of speech returned to his father.

God continues to work in our present lives, even in our busyness and neglect of Him, He is still with us –Emmanuel.

God has a plan and it is that of salvation, of each and every one of us returning to Him in paradise, for eternity.

As we approach Christmas, Christ is once again calling out to us to open the door of our hearts for it is there that He desires to dwell, even if it is dark, cold and doesn’t seem to have any proper space. Christ still chooses, just as He chose the manger, to be born again into our lives. He desires to keep His promise of forgiveness, mercy and grace and this eternal victory and salvation that He has won for us. We, however, need to make the first step to choose to receive Him and allow Him to transform our lives, just as He did towards the wise men, leading them off in another direction.

It is already so hard to trust man nowadays, and now we are called to trust a spirit? Or even ‘something’ that’s seemingly not tangible? That I don’t even know if what the scriptures say is true? Indeed, this is why we proclaim that this is our faith — we will never fully understand until we see Him face to face, but we are called to be like St John the Baptist, or like the wise men; to trust in God’s Promise, whether to make a way for the Lord or to follow the star.

It is indeed a journey that cannot be qualified nor quantified. A journey that may take us to many places and through many various trials and joys in life; but, it is the destination that we need to be sure of.

The question we usually ask is, “Lord, where do you want me to go? Where do I need to go?” Brothers and sisters maybe, just for today, we can say Lord come, let me adore.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to listen to your voice, to know that you have been, that you are and that you always will be with me. Help me to trust in Your promise. Come Lord Jesus, I want to adore you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the many signs and people that you have blessed me with. Thank you for helping me understand the true gift of Christmas is in giving you to all. Amen.

22 December, Sunday – Love

22 Dec 2019 – 4th Sunday of Advent

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Isaiah 7:10-14

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

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

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Romans 1:1-7

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

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

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

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

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Matthew 1:18-24

This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son
and they will call him Emmanuel,

a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home.

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Look! The virgin is with child and will give birth to a son whom they will call Immanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us’.

As we welcome the 4th week of Advent, we are ever much closer to welcoming the birth of Christ once again in our lives and in our hearts. Today’s readings give us the insight of who Christ is and how he came to be, but especially in our lives today, what are we truly celebrating this Christmas? Who is this Christ that we are welcoming?

Recently, I had to do some research about a mental disorder. I had the opportunity to reflect on how we would type in our Google searches along the lines of how to cure/cope/overcome this mental disorder. We want to quickly see if there’s any chance that we can get rid of the thorn in one’s flesh that is becoming a thorn in our own. But before I could complete typing out the search, the suggested searches appeared and I was quick enough to see the notion of how it was more towards how I could love that person with this mental disorder.

For me, this is what this welcoming is all about, what the preparation of the coming of Christ is all about. Christ was born to us, not to lead the smoothest and happiest life that He could, but He had a mission — a calling, a purpose. Paying the highest price and his life, the sacrifice, He did it with love.

As we celebrate this week, dedicated to the theme of love, we want to realign our focus of Christmas and put Christ back into Christmas, that His love will reign in our hearts and families and that He will always be the symbol and definition of the love that we should share with one another.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that our hardened hearts may be opened, our eyes of judgment become that of love and understanding, our actions of hurt and pain be that of support and encouragement, and our minds of lust and fear become that of truth and wisdom. As we prepare to welcome You, help us to prepare the many aspects of our lives and our families that haven’t been reconciled, help those who may not know the true meaning of love encounter you. Make our hearts like yours.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for helping us to see as you see. Thank you for your constant assurances of your presence among us. Thank you for giving us our Saviour, your Son, Jesus Christ.

23 August, Friday – The Greatest Commandment

Aug 23 – Memorial for St. Rose of Lima, virgin

A beautiful girl and devoted daughter, Rose (1586-1617) was so devoted to her vow of chastity, she used pepper and lye to ruin her complexion so she would not be attractive. She lived and meditated in a garden, raising vegetables and making embroidered items to sell to support her family and help the other poor. She was the founder of social work in Peru.

“Our Lord and Savior lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: ‘Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.’”

from the writings of St. Rose of Lima

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Ruth 1:1, 3-6, 14-16, 22

In the days of the Judges famine came to the land and a certain man from Bethlehem of Judah went – he, his wife and his two sons – to live in the country of Moab. Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died, and she and her two sons were left. These married Moabite women: one was named Orpah and the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years. Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died and the woman was bereft of her two sons and her husband. So she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law and went back to her people. But Ruth clung to her.

Naomi said to her, ‘Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her god. You must return too; follow your sister-in-law.’

But Ruth said, ‘Do not press me to leave you and to turn back from your company, for ‘wherever you go, I will go, wherever you live, I will live.

Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.’

This was how Naomi, she who returned from the country of Moab, came back with Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

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Matthew 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’

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“wherever you go, I shall go, wherever you live, I shall live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”

Today, there is an acronym, GOAT, that means, the Greatest Of All Time. We use it for athletes, celebrities, people who shock and surprise us with their skills/knowledge/talents/intelligence, and even for our friends. What does it mean to be great? We seem to always be debating on who’s the greatest, yet, every 5-10 years, it seems that newer names are coming up and some who were mentioned previously, not being heard of anymore. Why do we have such discussions and debates? How does the answer affect us?

Today let us reflect on what is the greatest value to us of all time, we refer to value as a principle or virtue. Which is ours and why? For me, it is a dying to myself, a lowering of my pride, because of love, that I look at the bigger picture rather than who’s at fault. This is something I find extremely hard for me — conflict with my loved ones, conflict at the workplace. Yes, I may be at fault, but why do I need to only be the one accepting responsibility, don’t others know and understand they have a part to play too? A controlling of emotions versus being controlled by your emotions, an understanding of what do you want to achieve. It’s about that greater goal, whether to resolve the conflict or avoid it, whether to forgive, communicate, and be at peace or harbour resentment and hurts?

The choice is ours. Ultimately, we struggle to choose because many times, we do not know yet where we are heading, and we simply prioritise what we need presently as opposed to where we hope to be in the future. The greatest commandment that Christ gives us in the Gospel today is “You must love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind.”. Will this ever be considered as the GOAT? Why or why not? What if we knew that for whatever reason we provide, as the answer, God still actually loves us with all His heart, with all His soul and with all His mind?

Many times, we find ourselves asking the word ‘why’. Maybe God has also asked Himself, why should he still continue to love us? Why doesn’t He just severely punish us for all the sins we are committing, the blasphemy, the lack of respect, obedience, reverence and countless others? Why are we still able to make the same mistakes, the same sins over and over again? Then maybe we think that God only says those to scare us, actually He won’t do anything. But just maybe, that’s how much He loves us. The truth is, He doesn’t need our love but He still asks us to love Him because when we do, we will receive much more.

So why not start loving Him today?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: (say your own prayer today, let us receive Him and His love into our hearts)

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your Word, your Commandments and putting us first. Thank you for being patient with us. Thank you for always welcoming us home. Amen.

22 August, Thursday – The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Aug 22 – Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Whoever, therefore, reverences the Queen of heaven and earth – and let no one consider himself exempt from this tribute of a grateful and loving soul – let him invoke the most effective of Queens, the Mediatrix of peace; let him respect and preserve peace, which is not wickedness unpunished nor freedom without restraint, but a well-ordered harmony under the rule of the will of God; to its safeguarding and growth the gentle urgings and commands of the Virgin Mary impel us. – Pope Pius XII

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Isaiah 9:1-7

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

as men are happy when they are dividing the spoils.

For the yoke that was weighing on him,
the bar across his shoulders,
the rod of his oppressor,

these you break as on the day of Midian.

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

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Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

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You see before you the Lord’s servant, let it happen to me as you have said

For some reason, I’ve always found it harder to relate, connect, pray to our Mother. I just have this inclination to pray to God directly. I find it hard to pray the rosary too. I believe I understand Mary’s important role in our faith and I know she will always be praying and interceding for all of us. I’m always amazed at the number of people attending the Novena devotion at Novena Church in Singapore, every Saturday. The amount of people, even non-Catholics, attend in flocks with fervent hearts to ask our Mother to intercede for them. For some reason, I’m not sure why I do not seem to have that desire; or maybe it’s because I haven’t really asked or haven’t reached a stage of desperation or despair.

What really resounds with me when it comes to our Mother, is the Magnificat. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour…”. This reminder of the beauty of her surrender to God is shown in her glorification of God in all things and through all things. Especially, in the impossible where she will bear a son, and not just an ordinary child but the Son of God. Not by any recognisable medical way but through the grace of the Holy Spirit. All this and still her reply was “let it be done unto me according to your will”. Indeed, the definition of obedience exemplified.

This is also the prayer I hold close to my heart. A prayer when I learn not to seek or ask of what I need, but what God needs of me. To know that as long as I live my life in faith, love, a life in the spirit, then it’s one that will be as close as His plan for me. To know that He will provide not just what I need, but what’s best for me.

Today, as we celebrate your queenship, we celebrate our faith and surrender all the uncertainties in life, all the worries and the impossible to God and we ask for your intercession. “Let not my will but Yours be done.” Amen!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour; Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid; for behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; Because He who is mighty has done great things for me, and Holy is His Name; And His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him. He has shown might with His arm, He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has given help to Israel, His servant, mindful of His mercy – Even as He spoke to our father – to Abraham and to his posterity forever.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for our Mother. Thank you for showing us the perfect example of obedience. Thank you, Mother, for your constant intercession for all of us. Amen.

21 August, Wednesday – An Agreement

Aug 21 – Memorial for St. Pius X, pope

Pius X (1835-1914) encouraged frequent Holy Communion. He reformed the liturgy, promoted clear and simple homilies, and brought Gregorian chant back to services. He also reorganised the Roman curia, the administrative elements of the Church, and worked against the modern antagonism of the state against the Church. His other contributions to the Church included: initiating the codification of canon law, promoting Bible reading by all the faithful, and supporting foreign missions. His will read: “I was born poor; I lived poor; I wish to die poor.”

 – Patron Saint Index

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Judges 9:6-15

All the leading men of Shechem and all Beth-millo gathered, and proclaimed Abimelech king by the terebinth of the pillar at Shechem.

News of this was brought to Jotham. He came and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted aloud for them to hear:

‘Hear me, leaders of Shechem, that God may also hear you!

‘One day the trees went out to anoint a king to rule over them. They said to the olive tree, “Be our king!”

‘The olive tree answered them, “Must I forego my oil which gives honour to gods and men, to stand swaying above the trees?”

‘Then the trees said to the fig tree, “Come now, you be our king!”

‘The fig tree answered them, “Must I forego my sweetness, forego my excellent fruit, to stand swaying above the trees?”

‘Then the trees said to the vine, “Come now, you be our king!”

‘The vine answered them, “Must I forego my wine which cheers the heart of gods and men, to stand swaying above the trees?”

‘Then all the trees said to the thorn bush, “Come now, you be our king!”

‘And the thorn bush answered the trees, “If in all good faith you anoint me king to reign over you, then come and shelter in my shade. If not, fire will come from the thorn bush and devour the cedars of Lebanon.”’

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Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day, and sent them to his vineyard. Going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them, “You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage.” So they went. At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went out and did the same. Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more men standing round, and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” “Because no one has hired us” they answered. He said to them, “You go into my vineyard too.” In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his bailiff, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first.” So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. They took it, but grumbled at the landowner. “The men who came last” they said “have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” He answered one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?” Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.’

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I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius?

At this point in my life, I am struggling with this constant comparison of my own valuation of my work and salary with that of others. I have always felt that I’ve deserved much more than the salary I’m getting now, based on my skillset and my attitude towards my work. It’s always going to be unmotivating whenever such thoughts come to my mind. The reality is, however, that I agreed to it, whether it’s the lack of negotiation skills or the need for the job, I accepted that offer, whether willingly or unwillingly. This is the agreement I have with regards to my current job and the required job scope that I am to fulfil and it is an agreement that I should uphold, in order not to be unjust to my employer.

Everything comes with a price and everyone wants more. In the first reading, we read of how the trees are afraid to give of themselves for the greater good of others. And how, if we are to make the thorn bush king, then not only do we solely enjoy its benefits, we also accept the consequences and outcomes that come along with the decision. Our failure is that many times we fail to see, or face, the consequences of our actions; we merely do what we want to do, follow who we want to follow, buy what we want to buy and yet solely expect our current responsibilities not to be affected in any way. We also see how others are unjust to us, but fail to recognise how we have been unjust to others. We determine our own value and the value that we should receive.

Our God, however, sees us all as equals as the landowner in the Gospel today. He loves us all equally despite the different lives that we live, because we are worth it. Our God is one who is committed to us, who accepts and believes in us, who died for us, that we will be saved. And that is truly God’s desire for us as in the Gospel, where it isn’t about how much you are paid, but the response that we have toward God’s calling in our lives. Heaven isn’t for the rich nor has a minimum salary earning to enter. Heaven is for all who respond and serve in God’s vineyard, NO MATTER HOW LATE, for He is waiting to share this eternal reward with all who keep their agreement, keep this hope, keep this faith.

May we be reminded that our worth isn’t in what we do or how much we earn, but by who we are, what we stand for, who we live for, who we serve. We are not just meant to realise or be wise but to have the conviction to respond to His plan for us, not to work for the one denarius, but to know that we are in His vineyard and that’s all that matters. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the awareness to see beyond material goods and the ways of the world, to be able to see your hand in our lives. That you will provide us with good bosses and colleagues to help us on our journey as we continue to lead lives that are just first, before looking at the other. Help us to know that we will only be contented when we choose to be contented. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the opportunity to read this reflection today. Thank you for speaking to us in your own special way. Thank you for my current job, family, friends, my current financial position and everything that I’ve been ungrateful for. Thank you for also providing me with the opportunity to respond. Amen.

17 April, Wednesday – The Betrayal

17 April 2019

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Isaiah 50:4-9

The Lord has given me
a disciple’s tongue.
So that I may know how to reply to the wearied
he provides me with speech.
Each morning he wakes me to hear,
to listen like a disciple.
The Lord has opened my ear.

For my part, I made no resistance,
neither did I turn away.
I offered my back to those who struck me,
my cheeks to those who tore at my beard;
I did not cover my face
against insult and spittle.

The Lord comes to my help,
so that I am untouched by the insults.
So, too, I set my face like flint;
I know I shall not be shamed.

My vindicator is here at hand. Does anyone start proceedings against me?
Then let us go to court together.
Who thinks he has a case against me?
Let him approach me.

The Lord is coming to my help,
who will dare to condemn me?

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Matthew 26:14-25

One of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?’ They paid him thirty silver pieces, and from that moment he looked for an opportunity to betray him.

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus to say, ‘Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the passover?’ ‘Go to so-and-so in the city’ he replied ‘and say to him, “The Master says: My time is near. It is at your house that I am keeping Passover with my disciples.”’ The disciples did what Jesus told them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came he was at table with the twelve disciples. And while they were eating he said ‘I tell you solemnly, one of you is about to betray me.’ They were greatly distressed and started asking him in turn, ‘Not I, Lord, surely?’ He answered, ‘Someone who has dipped his hand into the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of Man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!’ Judas, who was to betray him; asked in his turn, ‘Not I, Rabbi, surely?’ ‘They are your own words’ answered Jesus.

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Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

I wonder how Judas must have been feeling when he said “Surely not I, Rabbi?”, and to think that Jesus wouldn’t already know?

I think the many times that I’ve sinned, sometimes maybe I’m more willing to sin because I haven’t faced the consequences or may have forgotten what it means to go against Christ. Such times are filled with guilt, remorse, regret, where I can’t be myself, where I’m not at peace with myself, where I’m not free. I add on to my burdens and it weighs down on my shoulders to know that I’m such a person and, deep down in my heart, I know that I’ve turned away from the person that Christ desires for me to be. It affects me and, in turn, affects the people around me.

I wonder whether Judas, Peter or anyone who has turned their backs against Christ may and probably would have experienced these feelings as well. We are not able to change what we have done but what we are able to do is to repent and return to Christ. This is usually the season where the church is packed, suddenly there is no space to sit or even to stand on services like Good Friday or Easter Vigil.

The challenge is for us not to make it an adhoc experience but a call to conversion. A betrayal would occur because we choose one thing over another, in this case, Judas chose the thirty pieces of silver over Jesus. And like the many times that we sin, it’s because we also choose something over Jesus, whether pleasure, work, friends, parties, money or fame. This conversion requires us to realign our mission and purpose to make Jesus the centre of our lives, to allow all that we do and say to flow from and through Him.

Just as the betrayal, though led to the death of Christ, it also led to His resurrection and hence our salvation. The betrayal isn’t the end — we do not need to condemn ourselves or always live in shame, for Christ is ever ready to forgive us, as long as we first learn to forgive ourselves and others, to embrace all that we’ve done wrong to ensure we do not repeat our mistakes. There is hope and light at the end of the tunnel. We just need to look ahead instead of behind, we need to move towards the light instead of remaining in darkness, we need to reclaim our identity instead of allowing the world to decide for us. We need courage and faith instead of money and freedom. We need to live instead of survive.

We need Jesus. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we may have your strength to resist and fight temptations. Help us to always turn and look to you. Help us not be distracted by what is seemingly good and pleasurable. Help us to not just focus on the worldly but the eternal. Help us in our conversion, that our hearts may be like yours.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for this hope that you give, to know that there is salvation. Thank you for your love. Amen.