Tag Archives: debbie loo

14 October, Sunday – The Look of Love

14 October 2018

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Wisdom 7:7-11

I prayed, and understanding was given me;
I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me.
I esteemed her more than sceptres and thrones;
compared with her, I held riches as nothing.
I reckoned no priceless stone to be her peer,
for compared with her, all gold is a pinch of sand,
and beside her silver ranks as mud.
I loved her more than health or beauty,
preferred her to the light,
since her radiance never sleeps.
In her company all good things came to me,
at her hands riches not to be numbered.

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Hebrews 4:12-13

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

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Mark 10:17-30

Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’

Peter took this up. ‘What about us?’ he asked him. ‘We have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.’

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Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him

The young man of the gospel today is often a sharp reminder for me of my state in life, wherever I may be. As I reflected on the scriptures today, I contemplated the image of Jesus and me, encapsulated in a moment of true encounter. How does it feel to have Jesus’ eyes look steadily at me and love me? There is such a beautiful and tender feeling in that picture I hold in my mind. Right now, I am aware of the distance I feel from Jesus’ heart.

Jesus Christ is the Living Word of God, the logos (in Greek), the Infinite Wisdom. The Old Testament scriptures today point to the prophecy of encounter that the young man would experience when face to face with the person of Christ. ‘The word of God is something alive and active… it can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit’ (Heb 4:12); and it is this spirit of Wisdom that cut so finely through the secret emotions and thoughts of the young man to unveil such great sorrow within him.

When Jesus looked, it was an active, penetrating, and radiant look of perfect love. And the young man’s desires came undone when Jesus told him, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ (Mk 10:21) In the gospel account, we are not told that the young man beheld the loving gaze of Jesus, instead his face fell and he went away.

There are times when I have looked away from Jesus’ loving gaze, feeling either ashamed, unworthy, or angry and hardened with some kind of bitterness. I realise I have not allowed Jesus to love me, for his love to soften and change my heart. Because honestly, it can be scary – wondering what I will be called to do. Worrying over what I must next give up, whether my ‘riches’ be an assignment, a coveted project, a friendship, a burden. Anything that could stand between my life being united with Christ even more. I fear change and material poverty.

Some of us are not the young man but the apostles. We may have given up much already, yet we are now ‘counting our losses’ and mentally chalking up ‘spiritual credit’. With divine wisdom, Jesus slices through this self-righteous mentality too, and tells us, ‘For men, it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’ (Mk 10:27)

What else is Jesus calling you to relinquish today? Will you let his loving gaze meet yours?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Loving Father, we seek Your wisdom to enlighten our minds and change our hearts, so that we may understand the truths you reveal in our hearts.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for loving me despite my imperfections and unreadiness to receive your love.

3 September, Monday – The Frivolity of Being Favoured

3 September – Memorial for St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor   

St. Gregory (540-590) collected the melodies and plain chant so associated with him that they are now known as Gregorian Chants. He was elected by unanimous acclamation for pope. Incidentally, he was also the first monk to be pope. Before his papacy, he turned his home into a Benedictine monastery, and used his money to build six monasteries in Sicily and one in Rome. He became a missionary to England upon seeing English children being sold in the Roman Forum.

-Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 2:1-5

When I came to you, brothers, it was not with any show of oratory or philosophy, but simply to tell you what God had guaranteed. During my stay with you, the only knowledge I claimed to have was about Jesus, and only about him as the crucified Christ. Far from relying on any power of my own, I came among you in great ‘fear and trembling’ and in my speeches and the sermons that I gave, there were none of the arguments that belong to philosophy; only a demonstration of the power of the Spirit. And I did this so that your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.

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Luke 4:16-30

Jesus came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips. They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’

But he replied, ‘No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”’

And he went on, ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.’

 When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

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I did this so that your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God. 

I always wondered about the people around me who seemed to have it all put together. They have good jobs, they have happy families, they kept friendships from years before and have little trouble making new ones. All of those things seem to come easy for them. Most striking of all, they never seemed to have had a faith crisis. These friends seemed to also be unwavering in commitment to their faith. I admired this all.

For one, I used to feel like an emotional hurricane. I would go through seasons of feeling close to and then far from God. When things and relationships went south, I would read my life situation as a consequence of some bad thing I had done, that I had fallen from God’s favour. There would be a cycle of sorrow, guilt, fear, and then grit – to get back on track and ‘do the right things’. Truth be told, being a Christian sometimes felt like more of a burden than a salvation. I was always playing catch-up with my idea of being favoured by God.

As I read today’s Scripture, a few points came to my mind about living a life that is close to Christ.

  1. We will never be liked all the time. Friends and acquaintances will have different reasons for their attitude and perception of me. How well I am favoured this week or this season is no measure of my worth or likeability. Likewise, I am not perfect and I will likely sometimes piss someone off. But hey! That’s normal in human relationships.

 

  1. No prophet is ever accepted in his own country. Sometimes, our families function just the way they are. Other times, there is a whole lot of dysfunction. And every one hides more than a little bit of weirdness and lack and inadequacy about their families. We just never see it in their smiles. Families are imperfect – don’t try to change your parents, your siblings, and your ancestry. Some of us (and our desire for growth, change, and salvation) will just never sit well with the people we live with – and that is okay. We choose growth, we still try to love them, and we will move on.

 

  1. Your job, your intellect, your skills and talents – these are not the only gifts that God has given you. If these don’t work out, you may begin to see cracks in your self-image. Then you will realise that you have too many unhealthy associations of your self-worth with your social and financial standing. Celebrate your life! You are the only you in this world, and you are God’s greatest gift to your self. No one can take this away from you. Hence, ‘your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.’

 

  1. Everyone needs a personal faith crisis. Everyone will eventually experience one. This is not a consolation for those who feel like they always had the short end of stick. This is the only way you or I will ever experience the immense grace, mercy, and justice of God. We can only experience wholeness after confronting our deep brokenness. And we have the consolation of God that Christ is with us in every state of great need and tribulation. This is God’s mercy. This is also God’s love.

 

Many of these thoughts are both practical and spiritual. Our love for God and faith in Him is an iterative journey that will often see us going through cycles of doubts, comparisons with others, intimacy, enlightenment, guilt for our sins, sorrow for straying, but also a deep longing to return. May we continue to forge on this path and fix our gaze on Christ.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Help me Lord to remain steadfast in faith no matter how the winds of human favour and the world’s attractions may blow.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord for all my trials and tribulations through life and all its stations. They keep me real, they keep me humble, and they help me experience empathy for others.

1 Aug, Wednesday – This Valley of Tears

Aug 1 – Memorial for St. Alphonsus Liguori, bishop, religious founder, doctor

Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) vowed early to never to waste a moment of his life, and lived that way for over 90 years. As a lawyer, he had his own practice by age 21, and was a leading lawyer in Naples. He never attended court without having attended Mass first.

As he matured and learned more of the world, he liked it less, and finally felt a call to religious life. He was ordained at age 29. As preacher and home missioner around Naples, St. Alphonsus was noted for his simple, clear, direct style of preaching, and his gentle, understanding way in the confessional. He was often opposed by Church officials for a perceived laxity toward sinners, and by government officials who opposed anything religious. He founded the Redemptoristines women’s order and the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists).

As bishop, St. Alphonsus worked to reform the clergy and revitalise the faithful in a diocese with a bad reputation. The royal government threatened to disband his Redemptorists, claiming that they were covertly carrying on the work of the Jesuits, who had been suppressed. Calling on his knowledge of the Congregation, his background in theology, and his skills as a lawyer, St. Alphonsus defended the Redemptorists so well that they obtained the king‘s approval.

– Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 15:10,16-21

‘Woe is me, my mother, for you have borne me
to be a man of strife and of dissension for all the land.
I neither lend nor borrow,
yet all of them curse me.
‘When your words came, I devoured them:
your word was my delight
and the joy of my heart;
for I was called by your name,
the Lord, God of Hosts.
I never took pleasure in sitting in scoffers’ company;
with your hand on me I held myself aloof,
since you had filled me with indignation.
Why is my suffering continual,
my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?
Do you mean to be for me a deceptive stream
with inconstant waters?’

To which the Lord replied,
‘If you come back,
I will take you back into my service;
and if you utter noble, not despicable, thoughts,
you shall be as my own mouth.
They will come back to you,
but you must not go back to them.
I will make you
a bronze wall fortified against this people.
They will fight against you
but they will not overcome you,
because I am with you
to save you and to deliver you
– it is the Lord who speaks.
I mean to deliver you from the hands of the wicked
and redeem you from the clutches of the violent.’

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Matthew 13:44-46

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.’

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The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found

Since Sunday, we have read the lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah in our first readings… day after day, Jeremiah seems to be ceaseless in his cries out to God.

‘Woe is me, my mother, for you have borne me
to be a man of strife and of dissension for all the land.
I neither lend nor borrow,
yet all of them curse me.’ He wails in this valley of tears.

I am reminded of Job. I am reminded of the many times I have complained against the hand that I feel God has dealt me. Many of us have endured episodes, seasons and circumstances, leaving us utterly helpless and distressed. Where are you, Lord? Compared to others around us who seem to be in greater sorrow, we can sometimes feel lame and weak for our whines. We may not even dare to express our exasperation publicly. But privately, we do – we feel dragged through this valley of tears. So much like Jeremiah, we sometimes find life meaningless because we cannot grasp the purpose for our suffering.

But we also find the repeated mention of Jesus’ parables of the treasure hidden in the fields, the rich man and his pearl of great price spread over these past few days. The consecutive alignment of these liturgical texts by our Church is no unnecessary detail. It is a keen reminder, a salient wake-up call, to us that the woes and weariness of this world is like the field that Jesus describes. Carved into the valley of sorrows is our daily battlefield. Beneath this battlefield that we live in, lies buried the greatest treasure we could ever hope to find – Jesus Christ our Saviour.

God has planted Christ in His plan for humanity’s salvation since the beginning of time. ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ (John 1:1) Long before there was sin and suffering, there was this Treasure God had bequeathed us. That is why all religions and spiritualities of the world talk of a Quest, a Search for Meaning.

The bright lights and distractions of this world have buried our greatest Treasure. Christ is this pearl of great price that we have found. Are we ready to embrace this Truth of our hidden Treasure right now like the happy man, turn around and relinquish our attachment to the materiality of our life, to claim Christ as our reason for joyful living?

The Scripture readings today challenge me to cling very tightly to this reality of my relationship with Christ – that even if I face trials and unfairness like Jeremiah, I have a Treasure beyond all measure. It is hidden with Christ and hidden in Eternity. I may not be able to ‘spend’ it now in today’s currency, but I know where my treasures lie – ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ (Luke 12:34) Today, I am reminded to water the soil of my heart and nurture my love for Christ. I can only be a truly happy man when I recognise that my joy is not dependent on the seasons of the earth but rooted in God’s infinite love and mercy for me.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord I desire a deeper relationship with you, to built my house on your foundations that will never change.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus for being the Treasure that keeps on giving to us in your Holy Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

3 July, Tuesday – In Place Of Human Sensation

Jul 3 – Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle

Thomas (d. 72) was ready to die with Jesus when Christ went to Jerusalem, but he is best remembered for doubting the Resurrection until allowed to touch Christ’s wounds. He preached in Parthia, Persia and India, though he was so reluctant to start the mission that he had to be taken into slavery by a merchant headed that way.

He eventually gave in to God’s will, was freed, and planted the new Church over a wide area. He formed many parishes and built many churches along the way. An old tradition says that Thomas baptised the wise men from the Nativity into Christianity.

His symbol is the builder’s square. There are several stories that explain it:

– he built a palace for King Guduphara in India

– he built the first church in India with his own hands

– it is representative of building a strong spiritual foundation as he had complete faith in Christ (though initially less in the Resurrection)

– he offered to build a palace for an Indian king that would last forever; the king gave him money, which Thomas promptly gave away to the poor; he explained that the palace he was building was in heaven, not on earth.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 2:19-22

You are no longer aliens or foreign visitors: you are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household. You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.

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John 20:24-29

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:

‘You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

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You are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household.

 What does it mean to be a part of God’s household? It means that we share in equal sonship and inheritance to God’s love. God gave His promise to the newly-baptised that, through Christ, all are one. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. (Eph 2:17-18)

This reality is important for all of us believers, no matter the length of time of confessing faith in Christ. Some Christians may boast of greater experience in biblical knowledge, or fellowship with a larger church, or denomination as evidence of being premium citizens in God’s house. However, the truth is clearly far from that. If anything, such pride has no place in God’s kingdom, and those who are now first may later find themselves the least and the last.

St Thomas was one of the first disciples, the inner circle of twelve who followed Christ closely and was party to his life in ministry. Despite this, we see that Thomas himself was not immune to moments of despair and unbelief in his beloved Master, when his faith was challenged, and sorrow obscured his vision.

You and I are probably not too far off too, when we find ourselves troubled in our life journey and relationships. How is it that we can fall from such great conversion experiences into the throes of doubt and questions? Perhaps this image is dramatic. Even so, for the most of us, the mildest of our unbelief can indeed manifest in cynicism and indifference. This may take the form of a blasé routinized life of weekly Mass and mindless mumbling of the Penitential Act and the Lord’s Prayer, etc… Ya-ya-ya… Yes, sometimes, that would be me. And sometimes, I would be jolted to sheepish attention by the deadest of such voices coming from the person next to or behind me in the pews.

The hope that springs from today’s biblical passages is that we are not all that different in our unbelief. Even though what causes us to drift and backslide from God may be uniquely difficult or painful, we certainly share in the ‘inheritance’ of doubt with the first apostles whom we now call saints!

Nevertheless, we can and will be able to re-encounter Christ if we desire to seek Him – to even own up to our doubt and say, “Unless I see this, so show me Lord.”

If God had not loved us so, he would not have sent us Jesus. He would have left us to the hellish perils of unbelief and despair – and that is a lonely geography.

Jesus reappearing to Thomas with the evidence he asked for is not for God’s vindication. It is most simply to save us from our flawed human nature that thrives on the senses. Touch me. Feel me. Hear me. See my works and miracles. Not for My sake, but yours.

God accepts our human nature, and therefore gifts us His Spirit to lift us out of our spiritual poverty. This grace and mercy is humbling and beautiful. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. (John 15:15-16)

No matter our previous states of unbelief, we can now be a part of God’s household just like St Thomas.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, help me not to rely on my senses in order to trust and believe in You. Help me in my moments of doubt and weakness.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Jesus for sustaining me with your grace and hope.

2 July, Monday – Follow Me With All Your Heart And Spirit

2 July

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Amos 2:6-10,13-16

The Lord says this:

For the three crimes, the four crimes, of Israel
I have made my decree and will not relent:
because they have sold the virtuous man for silver
and the poor man for a pair of sandals,
because they trample on the heads of ordinary people
and push the poor out of their path,
because father and son have both resorted to the same girl,
profaning my holy name,
because they stretch themselves out by the side of every altar
on clothes acquired as pledges,
and drink the wine of the people they have fined
in the house of their god…
Yet it was I who overthrew the Amorites when they attacked,
men tall as cedars and strong as oaks,
I who destroyed them,
both fruit above ground
and root below.
It was I who brought you out of the land of Egypt
and for forty years led you through the wilderness
to take possession of the Amorite’s country.
See then how I am going to crush you into the ground
as the threshing-sledge crushes when clogged by straw;
flight will not save even the swift,
the strong man will find his strength useless,
the mighty man will be powerless to save himself.
The bowman will not stand his ground,
the fast runner will not escape,
the horseman will not save himself,
the bravest warriors will run away naked that day.
It is the Lord who speaks.

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Matthew 8:18-22

When Jesus saw the great crowds all about him he gave orders to leave for the other side. One of the scribes then came up and said to him, ‘Master, I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’

Another man, one of his disciples, said to him, ‘Sir, let me go and bury my father first.’ But Jesus replied, ‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their dead.’

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Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head

Following Christ has always had its risks. This has been demonstrated throughout the Bible by the disciples. Each and every one of those who chose to follow Jesus had to weigh their decision and consequences, and I would like to think they did not find it easy to simply lay everything down for the road.

In the gospel passage today, two men had approached Jesus declaring their intentions to follow him. To each man, he had different replies –

“Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

“Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their dead.”

Jesus looks into our hearts and sees through our desires. Not so much as to judge us, but rather to direct our awareness to a deeper reality of what we mean and that we need to grow in our trust in him. These men point to our various requests of the path of faith — first, that it still provides physical and material comfort and security; and second, that we delay or postpone saying “Yes” to God until all other life’s responsibilities have been settled, or that we had enjoyed life enough on our own terms. In the words of St Augustine: “Lord, give me chastity and continence, but not yet.”

Indeed, being human, we would have many terms and conditions for God, demands of His covenant, requests for more leeway. However, the responsorial psalm’s refrain today says “Mark this, you who never think of God.” How have we chosen to follow Christ today? Is our ‘Yes’ filled with echoes of lousy excuses and caveats? Are we sincere and contrite? Our surrender will not be a one-time affair. May we continue to follow Christ with all our heart, body and spirit – and to keep choosing so even when the stakes are high.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, I pray for the grace and a strong will to follow you and love you wholeheartedly, despite the fear of losing out in the arms race of this world.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the courage of the first apostles, martyrs, missionaries, religious, and all who sacrificed their lives to spread God’s word and love – that others might partake in the promise of eternal life.

1 July, Sunday – All Through Life

1 July

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Wisdom 1:13-15,2:23-24

Death was not God’s doing,
he takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living.
To be – for this he created all;
the world’s created things have health in them,
in them no fatal poison can be found,
and Hades holds no power on earth;
for virtue is undying.
Yet God did make man imperishable,
he made him in the image of his own nature;
it was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world,
as those who are his partners will discover.

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2 Corinthians 8:7,9,13-15

You always have the most of everything – of faith, of eloquence, of understanding, of keenness for any cause, and the biggest share of our affection – so we expect you to put the most into this work of mercy too. Remember how generous the Lord Jesus was: he was rich, but he became poor for your sake, to make you rich out of his poverty. This does not mean that to give relief to others you ought to make things difficult for yourselves: it is a question of balancing what happens to be your surplus now against their present need, and one day they may have something to spare that will supply your own need. That is how we strike a balance: as scripture says: The man who gathered much had none too much, the man who gathered little did not go short.

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Mark 5:21-43

When Jesus had crossed in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered round him and he stayed by the lakeside. Then one of the synagogue officials came up, Jairus by name, and seeing him, fell at his feet and pleaded with him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is desperately sick. Do come and lay your hands on her to make her better and save her life.’ Jesus went with him and a large crowd followed him; they were pressing all round him.

Now there was a woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years; after long and painful treatment under various doctors, she spent all she had without being any the better for it, in fact, she was getting worse. She had heard about Jesus, and she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his cloak. ‘If I can touch even his clothes,’ she had told herself ‘I shall be well again.’ And the source of the bleeding dried up instantly, and she felt in herself that she was cured of her complaint. Immediately aware that power had gone out from him, Jesus turned round in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ His disciples said to him, ‘You see how the crowd is pressing round you and yet you say, “Who touched me?”’ But he continued to look all round to see who had done it. Then the woman came forward, frightened and trembling because she knew what had happened to her, and she fell at his feet and told him the whole truth. ‘My daughter,’ he said ‘your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free from your complaint.’

While he was still speaking some people arrived from the house of the synagogue official to say, ‘Your daughter is dead: why put the Master to any further trouble?’ But Jesus had overheard this remark of theirs and he said to the official, ‘Do not be afraid; only have faith.’ And he allowed no one to go with him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. So they came to the official’s house and Jesus noticed all the commotion, with people weeping and wailing unrestrainedly. He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and crying? The child is not dead, but asleep.’ But they laughed at him. So he turned them all out and, taking with him the child’s father and mother and his own companions, he went into the place where the child lay. And taking the child by the hand he said to her, ‘Talitha, kum!’ which means, ‘Little girl, I tell you to get up.’ The little girl got up at once and began to walk about, for she was twelve years old. At this they were overcome with astonishment, and he ordered them strictly not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give her something to eat.

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His anger lasts a moment; his favour all through life. At night there are tears, but joy comes with dawn.

The gift of retrospect is precious but often fleeting and easily brushed aside, if we do not consider that God has answered our prayers at only the most propitious time.

As I prepared my reflections for today’s readings, I was surprised by the fact that the Responsorial Psalm is exactly the same as the one I had been assigned for six months ago in March. Most importantly, this verse struck me: ‘His anger lasts a moment; his favour all through life. At night there are tears, but joy comes with dawn.’ I cannot help but see this as God’s message for me at this very point of my life, of my day, in my heart. It can only mean one thing – that God is real, He listens, He speaks, He loves me.

The gospel today tells of two girls in need of healing – Jairus’ twelve-year-old daughter, who was thought to be terminally ill, and a woman in the crowd, who was suffering from a twelve-year long bleeding in her womb. Is this any coincidence?

To me, these two characters represented a ‘life-course’ of faith. Metaphorically-speaking, the little girl points to the start of my Christian journey and the older lady of the desire to continue seeking and holding onto my faith in God all through my life.

We have all had that moment of encounter in the beginning of our new-found faith that might have changed the course of our life. Yet, faith is not one moment in time, but an undulating path through all kinds of terrain as we try to follow and cling to Christ. How have I embraced and reflected on the successes and disappointments in my life along the way? I have definitely suffered moments of unbelief and despair. I have certainly contemplated giving up on trusting God after facing repetitive setbacks. Nonetheless, I have also experienced a renewal and revival of my faltering faith. He never leaves me. He waits for me. He pursues me.

What matters most is not how dramatically my faith life begins, but that I choose to keep on walking with Christ until the end. It matters more that I, like the older woman, am steadfast and persistent in entrusting my life and its uncertainties into the Father’s hands. It matters that I surrender my pride and stubbornness to respond to Him.

This is just like love in marriage. It matters less how we first fell in love, but most that we strive to keep dying to ourselves at the altar of mutual selfless love. That we persist in loving and honouring each other, in spite of the tribulations and differences, all through life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, help me to remain steadfast in my love for you and faithful in love for my husband/wife.

Thanksgiving: I give thanks for the love from God that I receive in and through my husband/wife.

25 December, Mass in the Day – The Revelation Of A Child

25 December

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Isaiah 52:7-10

How beautiful on the mountains,
are the feet of one who brings good news,
who heralds peace, brings happiness,
proclaims salvation,
and tells Zion,
‘Your God is king!’

Listen! Your watchmen raise their voices,
they shout for joy together,
for they see the Lord face to face,
as he returns to Zion.

Break into shouts of joy together,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord is consoling his people,
redeeming Jerusalem.

The Lord bares his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.

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Hebrews 1:1-6

At various times in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our own time, the last days, he has spoken to us through his Son, the Son that he has appointed to inherit everything and through whom he made everything there is. He is the radiant light of God’s glory and the perfect copy of his nature, sustaining the universe by his powerful command; and now that he has destroyed the defilement of sin, he has gone to take his place in heaven at the right hand of divine Majesty. So he is now as far above the angels as the title which he has inherited is higher than their own name.

God has never said to any angel: You are my Son, today I have become your father; or: I will be a father to him and he a son to me. Again, when he brings the First-Born into the world, he says: Let all the angels of God worship him.

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John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word:
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things came to be,
not one thing had its being but through him.
All that came to be had life in him
and that life was the light of men,
a light that shines in the dark,
a light that darkness could not overpower.

A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.

The Word was the true light
that enlightens all men;
and he was coming into the world.
He was in the world
that had its being through him,
and the world did not know him.
He came to his own domain
and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to all who believe in the name of him
who was born not out of human stock
or urge of the flesh
or will of man
but of God himself.

The Word was made flesh,
he lived among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father,
full of grace and truth.

John appears as his witness. He proclaims:
‘This is the one of whom I said:
He who comes after me ranks before me
because he existed before me.’

Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received –
yes, grace in return for grace,
since, though the Law was given through Moses,
grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God;
it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart,
who has made him known.

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But to all who did accept him he gave power to become children of God

This Advent has been a memorable one. My husband and I recently welcomed the birth of our first born child – a precious little boy. Awaiting the birth of our son has naturally placed us in a state of waiting. True enough, our world has completely changed in a mere month!

There are countless things I have learnt about my child, my husband, and myself during this time – and it has been a challenging and humbling journey so far.

Ever since I have become a mother to my son, I have had an ongoing ‘conversation’ with Mother Mary. These happen throughout our endless days and nights, when feeding sessions merge with naps, that merge with feeding sessions yet again, in one infinite two or three hour loop! There have been tough nights when we are kept up trying to soothe a crying colicky baby to no avail, with no way to communicate our desire to help take away his pain. Watching your tiny baby’s suffering cries, as he fights the discomfort and tries to sleep, is one of the most heart-wrenching experiences.

In these and many other trying moments, I wonder how Mother Mary experienced taking care of an inconsolable colicky Jesus. How frustrated and exhausted she must have felt trying to understand and decode what each cry meant, worrying over every little whimper or breath or silence from the baby. She must have felt discouraged when baby Jesus could not be soothed. How did she get through those nights of an endlessly needy and suckling infant? How did St Joseph help Mother Mary with the home and caring of Jesus? Did they let the sleep deprivation take over patience and tenderness with each other? I often pray for sufficient grace just to make it through to the next feed or nap!

At the same time, I marvel at the great sacrifice and heartbreak of our Heavenly Father who sent His only begotten son into our world, to walk in our midst, and to endure the suffering of being human though he is faultless. How often have we taken for granted the necessary stages of life that Jesus had to pass through from infancy to childhood into adulthood.

God has given us the greatest gift of a very vulnerable Jesus who humbly had to rely and trust completely in His mother’s ability to care for him.

As we celebrate Christmas, let us contemplate the humbling of our Lord and Saviour in order that we might more readily receive Him into our hearts and home. Christ came to mankind as a needy and humble infant to rescue us from our self-absorbed gazes of self-reliance and self-preservation.

May we extend our gazes beyond our needs this season, and reach out to friends, family, or strangers who need to know that they are a beloved child of God. May we bring the infant Jesus with us everywhere we go — to empathise with, to touch, and to comfort them. Blessed Christmas!

(Today’s Oxygen by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for ‘redeemed’ eyes to experience the world anew with the innocence of a child’s gaze, the reliance and surrender of a baby to his parents. May this image humble us to love more tenderly.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father for giving us the parents we have, who have tirelessly loved and cared for us, even in their moments of exasperation, self-doubt, ignorance and discouragement.

20 December, Wednesday – Preparing The Nativity Of Our Hearts

20 Dec

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Isaiah 7:10-14

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

Then Isaiah said:

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

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Luke 1:26-38

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

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I am the handmaid of the Lord.

It is so hard to recover the lost art of being a handmaiden in our day and age. These days, we have a thousand and one ‘hacks’ and ‘tips’ and ‘lists’ and ‘secrets revealed’ online about just any problematic topic. These lists are concise and quick reads, telling us in just 10 or 20 points how to resolve or overcome difficult marriages/relationships; run a household/company; understand ourselves/others better… and the list goes on! While some could be useful, I have found my recent fixation with these quick-fixes detrimental to my spiritual life.

I am tempted to think I can solve every problem I, or my loved ones, face; that a solution is just out there waiting to pop up on my daily newsfeed; that I can be the harbinger of answers to the people around me. The folly!

Likewise, elsewhere in Scripture, we hear of another Mary, and her sister Martha who received Jesus into their home. In the passage where Jesus visits the sisters, we see two ways of being – the ‘Mary’ way, and the ‘Martha’ way.

‘Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her”.’ (Matthew 10:38-42)

Mary understood what it was to be the handmaid of the Lord. She was not over-zealous to prove her worthiness in the doing-of-things like Martha was. She was aware of the transcendental presence of the Christ in their home. If Christ was the Lord that Martha called Him to be, then certainly He didn’t need the 1001 things to be done for Him. Jesus is the Lord of the Heavens and Earth, not the Lord of the world. There is nothing we can give to Him or add unto Him to illuminate His Holiness further.

The only desire He had in the house of Mary and Martha, was that they be present to Him. Their posture of a handmaid, waiting in watchful silence, ever-alert, ever-listening, surrendering our preoccupations with things to submit to His will. That was Mary’s way. Just as we would find it hard to find an appropriate gift for a very important person if we were invited to the house of say, the President of our country – he would have everything already. The most treasured and one-of-a-kind gift we could offer, would be the dedicated attention of our individual presence in his company. It is most simple, and yet our agendas can often be so obtuse!

Mary, Mother of our God, fashions for us the precise qualities of what it means to be a ‘Handmaid of the Lord’. It is her watchfulness, her humility, her openness and surrendered spiritual posture, that receives the Holy Spirit. It is this diminishment of her Self, and the desire to magnify the Lord, that allows the Holy Spirit to permeate and impregnate this graced moment, and bring us our Christ Jesus, Saviour of the world.

It is no easy feat for me. And I realise I constantly need this reminder to model my spiritual life after Mary our Mother. Being the Type A ‘fixer’ personality that I am, the tendency I have to solving problems (my way), stubbornness, impatience, and pride, has brought much friction to the relationships around me – demanding of others, ‘haven’t you seen what I have been doing?’ It is hard to truly be still and deeply ponder as Mother Mary does.

Indeed, as Jesus reminds me today: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her”. It is of far more eternal value to our Father, that we be-with-Him, than to be buzzing around Him. After all, isn’t He called Emmanuel, God-is-with-us?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving us Mary our Mother, who is our model of faith, humility, and surrender to Your Holy Will. Teach us to love and honour her the way You have specially chosen her for us.

Prayer: We pray for each other: That in this Christmas season, we lose our obsession to plan and over-plan around the festivities and parties, where the misguided focus is on ourselves to be charitable and hospitable to others in our homes and churches – but instead, we neglect to prepare our own souls to be hospitable to the Infant Jesus who is waiting to enter into the Nativity of our hearts. May we be more self-aware and humble like Mother Mary.

19 December, Tuesday – Prayer, A Mirror Into Our Souls

19 Dec

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Judges 13:2-7,24-25

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

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

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Luke 1:5-25

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

Now it was the turn of Zechariah’s section to serve, and he was exercising his priestly office before God when it fell to him by lot, as the ritual custom was, to enter the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense there. And at the hour of incense the whole congregation was outside, praying.

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

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

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

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‘…it has pleased him to take away the humiliation I suffered among men.’

We read two stories of women who endured a long season of barrenness. In the Bible, as is the case of many agrarian civilisations, fertility is regarded as anointing from God. It is a blessing from the Heavens if a woman bears many children and her husband is also deemed a righteous man for fathering many. Likewise, if a woman remains barren, it is seen as a curse from God and she is frowned upon by her kinfolk. If her husband is a good man, he would still love and protect her. If he was a strong man of faith, he would still honour and cherish her as God did Israel, he would defend her from their tribespeople. A woman was therefore largely dependent on the spiritual, mental, and emotional strength and resilience of her husband – to withstand these humiliations himself, and therefore protect her and uphold her dignity.

These two women – the mother of Samson; and Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist – were women of great faith. They were also blessed by good and righteous men of God who stayed with them and honoured them. However, were their husbands impervious or immune to the humiliations their wives faced because they were childless? I doubt it. Were the husbands themselves troubled, humiliated, discouraged? I am sure. As Elizabeth said, ‘The Lord has done this for me’ she said ‘now that it has pleased him to take away the humiliation I suffered among men.’ She suffered when her husband suffered, but she had to remain strong for the both of them.

Zechariah was a priest and, as Scripture tells us, he and Elizabeth scrupulously observed the commandments and were worthy in God’s sight. For this fact alone, I am sure many of their prayers in the dark of the night consisted of lamentations that their faithfulness had not resulted in fruitfulness – they were only human. Even I can feel their yearnings on my lips! Zechariah must have been worn down by years of unanswered prayers and the ridicule of his fellow priests that his first response to the angel of God (unlike Elizabeth’s) was ‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is getting on in years.’ Hence he was struck dumb – it was a lesson from God.

None of us are immune to seasons of doubt. And especially for husbands and wives who may pray specifically for answers to ‘why isn’t my husband a more loving and gentle man?’ to ‘why isn’t my wife more understanding to my needs?’ to ‘why are our children so rebellious?’ it can get very exhausting and despairing. Prayers for our loved ones are always riddled with seasons of barrenness as what we pray for about them, are actually things that God is teaching us about ourselves. That is, prayers for a more understanding and pliant wife, could be God’s invitation to the man to grow more noble and generous in himself.; while prayers for a more loving and tender husband, could be God’s invitation to the woman to soften in patience and gentleness. Many of these prayers we make are often mirrors for ourselves illuminating blind-spots that we need to grow more aware of in ourselves, to experience a conversion of our mentality and approach.

When the things we pray for do not get answered immediately, or things do not work out the way we envision or prescribe to God, we need to re-examine our prayer life and our own relationship with our Lord Jesus. Have we tried to conform God’s love and mercy into our own mould and image? Have we tried to specify to God how we want Him to help and bless us?

In the light of our Scriptures today too, it is an invitation for husbands to reflect if they have continued to protect their wives needs, to cherish and honour them, as the Bride whom they took at the altar. It is an invitation for wives to reflect if they have been loving, respectful, and tender to their husbands needs, to build them up and encourage them to grow in imitation of Christ.

It is so tough – and it is tougher when we are called to love as God first loved us, in moments when it seems the other party is wringing us dry… And so we look to our Lamb of God, and we draw on His strength and mercy.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord, for the love of our family members who, by their patience and endurance in loving us in our difficult moments – help to change us from within.

Prayer: We ask you Jesus, for the strength to keep on loving even when it hurts, when it gets tiring, when it becomes senseless to do so. Teach us Your ways O Lord.

18 December, Monday – Where Are You, God?

18 Dec

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Jeremiah 23:5-8

See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks –
when I will raise a virtuous Branch for David,
who will reign as true king and be wise,
practising honesty and integrity in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel dwell in confidence.
And this is the name he will be called:
The-Lord-our-integrity.

So, then, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when people will no longer say, “As the Lord lives who brought the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt!” but, “As the Lord lives who led back and brought home the descendants of the House of Israel out of the land of the North and from all the countries to which he had dispersed them, to live on their own soil.”

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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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God-is-with-us

Whenever we hear of the terrible and tragic news around the world, such as the hostage situation and deaths striking the Lindt Cafe in Sydney; the massacre of students in the Peshawar military-run school by the Pakistani Taliban; the Sewol ferry tragedy in Seoul; the victims of Super Typhoon Hagupit in Philippines, it is hard to believe that God truly is with us. Recently, a very dear friend of mine lost her beloved husband to an unexpected sudden death, and I could not help but share in her grief and tears, myself asking, “God, are you there?” In times like these, I ask God: did you show your glorious face to them in their final moments? Do they know You are real, did they know You as Love as they passed through this life?

On this side of life, we struggle to understand, give, receive, experience love. What is love to those of us who have experienced heartbreak, growing pains, mental-, emotional-, sexual-abuse, loss and grief? How can we make sense of this constant falling short of true joy and fulfilment in life… this almost-but-not-there-yet-ness of many endeavours we put ourselves through? God seems so far from us in these desperate moments. It is cold, dark, lonely, and terrifying to find ourselves trapped in this valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23) – living in this moment of the absence of God. But God is with us even in this very valley.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows. (Psalm 23)

How do we see God in this pitch-black night of sorrow and fear? The reality of our understanding of darkness is testament to our existent experience and knowledge of light. As darkness is not a level of brightness, but the absence of light, we need to trust that we have once seen and experienced Pure Light. This is the prior knowing of our soul. We have been kissed and visited by the Light of God when God had knitted us in our mother’s womb – and this imprint of Love and Light is carried deep inside of our soul throughout this life. Our constant realisation of the falling-short-of joy and fulfilment in this life, the frustrating incompleteness of life’s endeavours, serves to point us to the light of Eternal Truth, Way and Life.

The secret is to ‘walk through’ this valley of the shadow of death as Psalm 23 tells us. It is not enough to stand at the mouth of the valley staring into darkness and fearing the worst. As consuming as whatever darkness we experience can be, there is always an imperceptible glimmer of brightness by which our eyes eventually acclimatise to see. We can still discern the edges of this shadowed valley and fumble through. And God-is-with-us in each present moment.

The Word proclaims His promises of rescue and shelter for us. His Promises are the rod and staff by which we steady our gait. This is what we need to cling onto whenever we feel shattered by fear and grief, hatred and injustice.

Baby Jesus was himself pushed through the darkness of Mary’s birth canal. Our Lord was born unto us after much human struggle. His first sounds were cries of fear and confusion, turned to the relief and comfort of Mary’s breast. The God Almighty allowed Himself to experience the necessary human passage through time and shadow in order to be one with us and share in our human passions and sufferings and ultimately, death.

May we realise that this is how God-is-with-us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Thanksgiving: Jesus, you have gone through everything we will ever go through in our lives. Your first infant cries; your playground scuffles; the frustration of learning the ropes of carpentry; the betrayal of friendships; the humiliation of slander; injustice for innocence; and cruel death on Calvary. For Your companionship in all that I fear and suffer in, I thank You Lord.

Prayer: We pray for the innocent departed souls of all we hear in the news and of our loved ones. May our Lord shine His Divine Mercy and Love upon them and grant to them Eternal Peace and Rest.