Tag Archives: debbie

27 September, Wednesday – Only by God

Sep 27 – Memorial for St. Vincent de Paul, Priest

Vincent (1581-1660) spent four years with the Franciscan friars getting an education. He was taken captive by Turkish pirates and sold into slavery, then freed when he converted one of his owners to Christianity. He started organisations to help the poor, nursed the sick, found jobs for the unemployed, etc. With Louise de Marillac, he founded the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity. He also instituted the Congregation of Priests of the Mission (Lazarists).

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Ezra 9:5-9

At the evening sacrifice I, Ezra, came out of my stupor and falling on my knees, with my garment and cloak torn, I stretched out my hands to the Lord my God, and said:

‘My God, I am ashamed, I blush to lift my face to you, my God. For our crimes have increased, until they are higher than our heads, and our sin has piled up to heaven. From the days of our ancestors until now our guilt has been great; on account of our crimes we, our kings and our priests, were given into the power of the kings of other countries, given to the sword, to captivity, to pillage and to shame, as is the case today. But now, suddenly, the Lord our God by his favour has left us a remnant and granted us a refuge in his holy place; this is how our God has cheered our eyes and given us a little respite in our slavery. For we are slaves; but God has not forgotten us in our slavery; he has shown us kindness in the eyes of the kings of Persia, obtaining permission for us to rebuild the Temple of our God and restore its ruins, and he has found us safety and shelter in Judah and in Jerusalem.’

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Luke 9:1-6

Jesus called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for the journey: neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there; and when you leave, let it be from there. As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave their town shake the dust from your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and healing everywhere.

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Take nothing for the journey: neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic.

Every now and then, I slip into a false notion of self-sufficiency. The illusion of self-sufficiency comes surreptitiously, like a thief in the night; it veils my eyes with the cloak of control, bolsters my pride, and steals my peace. My family’s recent move into a rented apartment has been fraught with several problems – one of them is a water-damaged and mouldy row of kitchen cabinets. How I wish things could be solved quickly and at my convenience. Yet I am at the ‘mercy’ of a landlord who is biding time with and shrugging off the delays as the contractor’s fault. We can make no headway on the rectification works, and God knows… I am due to deliver our first child in less than two months!

I have lost sleep and my temper over the incompetence of the landlord and workers. I have fretted about whether the carpenter schedule will clash with the sudden early delivery of our baby. A dozen ‘what ifs’ about the lack of preparedness of our new home has wrecked havoc on my peace and patience. I have lost count of the number of times I have wanted to pick up hammer, screw-driver, or drill, in order to help get things moving along!

Meanwhile, at the back of my mind, I cannot help but be constantly reminded of an image of a pregnant Mother Mary calmly stroking her swollen belly and praying, “Let Your will be done O Lord.” It feels like such a sting to my state of being – making me uncomfortable with how vexed I truly feel. I know I can do better at this point in trusting God.

This is the situation that the disciples probably found themselves in as they moved from town to town, proclaiming the Good News and healing people across villages. Jesus had instructed them to take nothing for their nomadic journey. They were to focus solely on doing the work of God and relying exclusively on the mercy and hospitality of the townsfolk they came to serve. Obviously, the help and hospitality they would receive was by the grace of God.

Frankly, I find it hard to be at the ‘mercy’ of anyone’s choice to help me. Whatever I can do, I’ll do it myself. That has been my life’s motto – and for me, this independence makes me feel good, capable, and in control. But this is not to be in my current state and season in life.

Being heavily pregnant, I no longer can lift a heavy mattress to change the sheets. I can barely complete vacuuming or mopping the floor at home without panting and feeling faint. I have to rely on my husband for some household chores which I quite enjoy doing. And I have to wait upon the tardy lack of urgency of an unsympathetic landlord to repair the kitchen cabinets!

I have been humbled to wait for others to help me, to be patient with another’s timeline, and to also trust and rely on God to pull my family through this difficult housing situation. We have indeed done all we can within our ability – and the rest is truly up to God.

I am learning this age-old truth in new ways these days. I take heart that I am not alone in this journey of rediscovering my persistent weaknesses. It is at this juncture that I realize I am in need of God’s grace and help – because I have neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money, nor tunic.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, please help me to remain patient and humble as I wait upon the resolution of this difficult situation that I face now.

Thanksgiving: We thank God for the gift of hospitality, love, and kindness that we receive from the people we meet. May we not take these instances for granted.

26 September, Tuesday – On behalf of us sinners

Sep 26 – Memorial for Sts. Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs (not used in 2010)

Cosmas and Damian were twin brothers, physicians who accepted no payment. Their charity brought many to Christ. Although they were tortured during the persecutions of Diocletian, the two suffered no injury.

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Ezra 6:7-8,12,14-20

King Darius wrote to the satrap of Transeuphrates and his colleagues: ‘Leave the high commissioner of Judah and the elders of the Jews to work on this Temple of God; they are to rebuild this Temple of God on its ancient site. This, I decree, is how you must assist the elders of the Jews in the reconstruction of this Temple of God: the expenses of these people are to be paid, promptly and without fail, from the royal revenue – that is, from the tribute of Transeuphrates. May the God who causes his name to live there overthrow any king or people who dares to defy this and destroy the Temple of God in Jerusalem! I, Darius, have issued this decree. Let it be obeyed to the letter!’

The elders of the Jews prospered with their building, inspired by Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of Iddo. They finished the building in accordance with the order of the God of Israel and the order of Cyrus and of Darius. This Temple was finished on the twenty-third day of the month of Adar; it was the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. The Israelites – the priests, the Levites and the remainder of the exiles – joyfully dedicated this Temple of God; for the dedication of this Temple of God they offered one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs and, as a sacrifice for sin for the whole of Israel, twelve he-goats, corresponding to the number of the tribes of Israel. Then they installed the priests according to their orders in the service of the Temple of God in Jerusalem, as is written in the Book of Moses.

The exiles celebrated the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. The Levites, as one man, had purified themselves; all were pure, so they sacrificed the passover for all the exiles, for their brothers the priests and for themselves.

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Luke 8:19-21

The mother and the brothers of Jesus came looking for him, but they could not get to him because of the crowd. He was told, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to see you.’ But he said in answer, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.’

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‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.’

 How is it that one man should die for the sins of many in order that they may be saved? How is it that one man could atone for the failures and the iniquities of all of humanity, past and present? Who is capable of representing every man, woman, child? If you or I were guilty of a crime, dare we consider scapegoating one person for the crime or travesty?

Frankly, the first reading today stumbled me. And the gospel passage always makes me wonder why Jesus would sound so distant and disrespectful of Mary his mother. At the same time, it is often this passage that some Protestants use to argue that Jesus had disowned his mother and hints that he had other siblings (brothers). Hence Mary had children other than Jesus, thus it diminishing the importance she plays in Jesus’ life and questions her honored place in the Catholic faith. However, we know that the word ‘brothers’ could mean kinsmen or cousins in its proper historical context. At the same time, we have another account in the Gospel of Mark that relates his family had thought Jesus’ ministry was out of hand and had arrived to take him home (Mk 3:28-35)

As I pondered deeper on these scriptures, I realized that I was challenged by the concept of claiming my brethren, a community, fellow Christians, and my fellow kinsfolk. The point is not that Jesus had disowned his flesh and blood family. Taken together, the first reading and gospel passage reveals that Christ came to unite all of us humanity into a large family of God’s people. It is a truly difficult concept. Because no matter how we slice the pie, we still cannot help but see ourselves as belonging to one particular group of society or church community.

Very naturally, we want to protect our own kind, we desire loyalty, we want to identify with someone or some group. But these are ultimately superficial divisions, and amorphous structures that our life experiences, culture, race, society, and upbringing place upon us. These are not set in stone and the reality is, we are truly one under the love of God.

In the first reading of Ezra, we are told: The Levites, as one man, had purified themselves; all were pure, so they sacrificed the passover for all the exiles, for their brothers the priests and for themselves.

This image prefigures God’s plan for the whole of humanity. That He, Creator of all the world and human race, should fashion from perfect love, one Man, His Only Begotten Son, as a sacrificial lamb to be condemned to death on cruel cross for all of humanity’s sins. No sin too small or great that Christ’s blood could not cleanse and purify. No wound so hidden that God’s love and mercy could not heal and restore. Jesus did not come to serve only his kinsmen, not only the ones who love him or love God and put His Word into practice. He came for all of us, even the ones we deem unworthy of redemption.

Grace is freely given. However, it is true that there are some amongst us who may continue to choose to spurn God’s grace and love. Yet, you and I are challenged today to still think of them as our brethren and our larger family, whom God loves unconditionally.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: We pray for a heart of mercy for our brothers and sisters who have yet to come to know God.

Thanksgiving: I thank God for the many prayers that must have been said for me while I was still a wandering prodigal daughter.

25 September, Monday – Entitlement

25 September 2017

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Ezra 1:1-6

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, to fulfil the word of the Lord that was spoken through Jeremiah, the Lord roused the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue a proclamation and to have it publicly displayed throughout his kingdom: ‘Thus speaks Cyrus king of Persia, “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth; he has ordered me to build him a Temple in Jerusalem, in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah to build the Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel – he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, wherever he lives, be helped by the people of that place with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, as well as voluntary offerings for the Temple of God which is in Jerusalem.”’

Then the heads of families of Judah and of Benjamin, the priests and the Levites, in fact all whose spirit had been roused by God, prepared to go and rebuild the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem; and all their neighbours gave them every assistance with silver, gold, goods, cattle, quantities of costly gifts and with voluntary offerings of every kind.

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Luke 8:16-18

Jesus said to the crowds:

‘No one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or to put it under a bed. No, he puts it on a lamp-stand so that people may see the light when they come in. For nothing is hidden but it will be made clear, nothing secret but it will be known and brought to light. So take care how you hear; for anyone who has will be given more; from anyone who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.’

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… for anyone who has will be given more; from anyone who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.

God’s many gifts are given to each of us and meant for us to share with the world. This is the crux of the readings today. How often do we think about our gifts and talents as something that should be put to use for the good of others first, before we ourselves reap the benefits? I guess I’m guilty of often thinking: me first, then when I have time and the chance, I will share or contribute.

I know it isn’t easy to constantly think beyond myself or even to encompass the concerns of a larger community above my own needs. Jesus tells the crowds that when one possesses a coveted lit lamp in the midst of a deep darkness, the most important thing is to put it on a lamp-stand for all to see the light when they come in.

Have you have known someone who would probably snuff out the lamp once they are done with their use of it? I can think of some people I have met in life who might actually do so! Or even keep the lamp solely for their personal use.

Therein lies the question of ‘how entitled do I think I am to the gifts and talents I have?’ The reality today is that we are often told ‘to each his own’, ‘you’ve earned it!’, ‘some are just more equal than others’, and  ‘you can have control over your destiny/path/identity/dreams.’ In each of these overwhelmingly common refrains lurks a sense of selfishness and entitlement of the individual. Self-help books today abound with similar themes of ‘me, myself, and I’.

Likewise, the first reading today shows us the strength and resilience of community, of sharing in resources, skills, and talents amongst the different families of Judah and Benjamin, the priests and Levites. Everyone of them were roused by the Holy Spirit to come together, bringing the light of their strongest skill sets and valuables, to help rebuild the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem – ‘all their neighbours gave them every assistance with silver, gold, goods, cattle, quantities of costly gifts and with voluntary offerings of every kind.’

This light of God could be manifest in our worship, our churches, our work, our families, our time and resources, etc. The important thing for us to remember is that we are only stewards of these manifold gifts from God, and how we use them for the good of others, is what pleases God more than how well we enrich and entrench ourselves in the system of power, benefits, rewards.

God alone knows, and sees into the hearts of all He created. May He find in us clean and pure hearts desiring to serve and share His gifts of which we are guardians and stewards.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, help me to see beyond my immediate comfort and benefit to consider serving your people humbly and generously.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people who have made it their life’s call to serve others and bring God’s light to the world.

24 September, Sunday – The Upside-down World of a Generous God

24 September 2017

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Isaiah 55:6-9

Seek the Lord while he is still to be found,
call to him while he is still near.
Let the wicked man abandon his way,
the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn back to the Lord who will take pity on him,
to our God who is rich in forgiving;
for my thoughts are not your thoughts,
my ways not your ways – it is the Lord who speaks.
Yes, the heavens are as high above earth
as my ways are above your ways,
my thoughts above your thoughts.

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Philippians 1:20-24,27

Christ will be glorified in my body, whether by my life or by my death. Life to me, of course, is Christ, but then death would bring me something more; but then again, if living in this body means doing work which is having good results – I do not know what I should choose. I am caught in this dilemma: I want to be gone and be with Christ, which would be very much the better, but for me to stay alive in this body is a more urgent need for your sake.

Avoid anything in your everyday lives that would be unworthy of the gospel of Christ.

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Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus said 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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My ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts.

Nobody likes to be last. Whether it is to be the last to join a group project, the last to complete a piece of work, or the last in a race. If we were the last to join an established group of people, some of us may feel awkward and lost amidst the already comfortable dynamics and conversation. And especially if we were the first few to kick-start a group or a project but ended up finishing close to last or doing the worst among every one else, that feeling would surely stink.

I imagine that the gospel passage today is often a huge stumbling block for many people, Christians and non-Christians alike. Jesus relates the kingdom of heaven (and its logic) to the system of work and payment agreement between this particular vineyard owner and his workers.

The reward for all was always intended to be the same. This is the law of a truly fair and just God. He had laid out the plan from the beginning. Each one of us who are made in His image are loved as much as the other, and share in an equal dignity among others.

Hence, whether you or I came first or late or last to the eternal banquet, we are served exactly the same portion and food, and given the same treatment – love and mercy. However, when we look out at the world through our limited and human perspective of scarcity, it is inevitable that we think the ones who struck the deal the vineyard owner first deserve the best compensation for their long and hard service. Interestingly, these first-comers were actually not short-changed, for they indeed received the wages that was agreed upon. It was only upon realizing that the latecomers received the same dues as them too, that their satisfaction was challenged and their joy diminished. They were also upset that the latecomers were paid first! It appears that fairness to them was that the latecomers should be paid later and lesser!

Let us think about the one denarius daily wage as if it were paid in terms of a meal or food at the end of the work day. In these terms, it seems the first group felt entitled to a complete meal at the banquet, whereas the later group should only be distributed the remnants of the meal!

God invites us today to open our hearts to his logic of justice and generosity. He does not reward first-comers to the faith better for our long years of service and faith – we have already had our reward in communion with Him! Likewise, he does not reward the late-comers better, in some twist of unfairness and indulgence.

“Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?”

He rewards all the same with his boundless mercy and love, for it is communion that he desires with each and every soul. The dignity and worth of every single person was formed one and the same by One God who is Creator above all.

May we participate in expressing the generosity of God’s love to all who come to Him, no matter if they joined the family at birth, through marriage, in mid-life, or at deathbed. Even if a hardcore sinner or criminal should have spent all his/her life indulging in all manner of debauchery, only to repent late in life, may we give thanks and rejoice with our Heavenly Father who embraces the younger prodigal son, “he was once lost, but now is found.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: We pray to cultivate a heart of mercy and generosity to embrace and love our neighbour.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for receiving and loving us all equally no matter when we return to your fold.

27 May, Saturday – Praying for Joy

27 May 2017

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Acts 18:23-28

Paul came down to Antioch, where he spent a short time before continuing his journey through the Galatian country and then through Phrygia, encouraging all the followers.

An Alexandrian Jew named Apollos now arrived in Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, with a sound knowledge of the scriptures, and yet, though he had been given instruction in the Way of the Lord and preached with great spiritual earnestness and was accurate in all the details he taught about Jesus, he had only experienced the baptism of John. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him speak boldly in the synagogue, they took an interest in him and gave him further instruction about the Way.

When Apollos thought of crossing over to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote asking the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived there he was able by God’s grace to help the believers considerably by the energetic way he refuted the Jews in public and demonstrated from the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

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John 16:23-28

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
anything you ask for from the Father he will grant in my name.
Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.
Ask and you will receive, and so your joy will be complete.
I have been telling you all this in metaphors,
the hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in metaphors;
but tell you about the Father in plain words.
When that day comes you will ask in my name;
and I do not say that I shall pray to the Father for you,
because the Father himself loves you for loving me
and believing that I came from God.
I came from the Father and have come into the world
and now I leave the world to go to the Father.’

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Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and so your joy will be complete.

How do we reconcile the line of scripture above that Jesus tells his disciples, with the knowledge of all our unanswered prayers?

When I was much younger, I prayed for many things. I prayed to God about big things like granting us world peace (seriously), taking away world hunger, saving children who suffered without family, home, and love.

I prayed also about personal things like having peace in the family and for my parents to argue less, for friendships to stand the test of time and change. As you can guess, not everything has been answered – not even fully, and certainly not in the way I had hoped they would be resolved.

As I grew older, I learnt that God does not answer prayers like one answers a phone call. When I read scripture like this, I cannot help but imagine the helpless confusion of a new believer (as many in those biblical times would have been when Jesus first spoke this), and what this promise might mean: “Ask and you will receive, and so your joy will be complete.”

What does this mean for a gentile convert who had never so much as learnt to pray to God through the name of Jesus Christ? Ask and you will receive?? What is that? To answer this confusion with the persuasion that “You need to have faith in God” would be shallow and incomplete. We must not assume that once someone professes belief in God, that they would automatically know how to pray, and how to feel about or experience prayer.

For me, the greatest comfort I have found in prayer, in the innocence of my actual and spiritual childhood, is to ponder and marvel at the very fact that I have a Heavenly Father and a friend in Jesus Christ, to whom I can speak to, confide in and petition for all my big and little cares and concerns. This is a special privilege of having a God who loves me so personally, that I can confidently ask and talk with Him, and receive His attention.

Truly, whether or not our prayers are answered in the way we imagined (or at all), let us learn from the simplicity of a child who is confident that when she calls out to Daddy, he is always and already there. The joy of a child is always complete; because she knows that her outstretched hand will always be met with her father’s confident and protective hand.

May we ponder this sacred truth — what we receive by our prayers is not always an answer, but it is certainly the love and presence of God with us, through Christ our Lord, by the power of the Holy Spirit our Advocate.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Teach me Lord, to pray with simplicity and innocence, such that simply being present with you will bring me the fullness of joy.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for leaving us a channel of reaching out to you and receiving your love and attention.

24 May, Wednesday – The Importance of being a Child

24 May 2017

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Acts 17:15,22-18:1

Paul’s escort took him as far as Athens, and went back with instructions for Silas and Timothy to rejoin Paul as soon as they could.

So Paul stood before the whole Council of the Areopagus and made this speech:
‘Men of Athens, I have seen for myself how extremely scrupulous you are in all religious matters, because I noticed, as I strolled round admiring your sacred monuments, that you had an altar inscribed: To An Unknown God. Well, the God whom I proclaim is in fact the one whom you already worship without knowing it.

‘Since the God who made the world and everything in it is himself Lord of heaven and earth, he does not make his home in shrines made by human hands. Nor is he dependent on anything that human hands can do for him, since he can never be in need of anything; on the contrary, it is he who gives everything – including life and breath – to everyone. From one single stock he not only created the whole human race so that they could occupy the entire earth, but he decreed how long each nation should flourish and what the boundaries of its territory should be. And he did this so that all nations might seek the deity and, by feeling their way towards him, succeed in finding him. Yet in fact he is not far from any of us, since it is in him that we live, and move, and exist, as indeed some of your own writers have said:

“We are all his children.”

‘Since we are the children of God, we have no excuse for thinking that the deity looks like anything in gold, silver or stone that has been carved and designed by a man.

‘God overlooked that sort of thing when men were ignorant, but now he is telling everyone everywhere that they must repent, because he has fixed a day when the whole world will be judged, and judged in righteousness, and he has appointed a man to be the judge. And God has publicly proved this by raising this man from the dead.’

At this mention of rising from the dead, some of them burst out laughing; others said, ‘We would like to hear you talk about this again.’

After that Paul left them, but there were some who attached themselves to him and became believers, among them Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman called Damaris, and others besides.

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.

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John 16:12-15

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I still have many things to say to you
but they would be too much for you now.
But when the Spirit of truth comes
he will lead you to the complete truth,
since he will not be speaking as from himself
but will say only what he has learnt;
and he will tell you of the things to come.
He will glorify me,
since all he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.
Everything the Father has is mine;
that is why I said:
All he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.’

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Since we are the children of God, we have no excuse for thinking that the deity looks like anything in gold, silver or stone that has been carved and designed by a man.

It can be said that we begin to age the moment we are born.

As we grow in age, stature and knowledge, we slowly begin to lose the child-like wisdom of the idea of eternity. An adult is really no wiser than a child in the eyes of God.

A baby, an infant, already knows God. This moment can be revealed so clearly when you stare deep into the eyes of a baby and watch them gaze back, or afar, in a sort of glazed wonderment and serenity. Have you seen that look before? We never say, “Babies have a ‘stoned’ look” when we catch those glassy-eyed gazes of theirs. I believe it is because we intuit that they are not actually staring blankly, but discovering and uncovering something mysterious, awesome, and amazing through their newly-realized gift of sight. This wonderment and innocent gaze is truly the eye with which we need to know our God as Creator and Father.

When Paul sees a sacred altar in Athens inscribed with “To An Unknown God”, he tells the Athenians: “Well, the God whom I proclaim is in fact the one whom you already worship without knowing it… Since the God who made the world and everything in it is himself Lord of heaven and earth… it is he who gives everything – including life and breath – to everyone.”

I appreciate that Paul does not trash the Athenians’ way of pagan life and numerous sacred monuments from the get-go. Instead, he uses what they already seem to know dimly, to point them towards the Truth and Light of God. We surely can note from Paul’s way of sharing the faith and existence of God. We need to refrain from putting down, denigrating, nor mocking the beliefs (or lack of belief) of others.

I would like to suggest that Paul’s acknowledgement that the altar to the Unknown God connected with the One True God reveals three important things to us.

First — a great humility. Coming from his moral ‘high horse’ of before, his fall triggers a deep conversion to humility in connecting with the other, to people different from him.

Second — a deep wisdom. His sight was not obscured by (self) righteousness, and so his gaze penetrated the mere appearances of a possibly pagan altar to see deeper truths beyond the Athenians’ ignorance.

Third — a child-like simplicity in seeing and connecting with others. He sees their innocence and appeals to this innocence that is shared by all of God’s children by pointing out to them that the One True God is “the one whom you already worship without knowing it.” He alludes to their heritage and tradition of writers who had already written: “We are all his children.”

Indeed, to know God might come more from a purity of heart and soul, and an emptying out of a whole baggage of misconceptions, presumptions, and pride. It is to return to not just a spiritual childhood, but also a return to the wide-eyed wonderment of a baby who looks out into the world for the very first few days and months!

When we do this very simple but intentional exercise of emptying out our subconscious and unconscious ‘gold, silver, or stone’ of images, ideology or preconceptions that we have constructed out of hardened life experiences, we will more readily invite the Holy Spirit to burn a new fire of joy and love in our hearts. Indeed, it is not easy to be a child of God!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Come, Holy Spirit, help us to become child-like and youthful again in our gaze and ways – to love and give to others as God has loved and given to us.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for the gentleness of those who point our dimly-lit vision towards the Truth, Way and Light of Christ – and challenge us to humility and innocence again.

23 May, Tuesday – Outside my comfort zone

23 May 2017

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Acts 16:22-34

The crowd joined in and showed their hostility to Paul and Silas, so the magistrates had them stripped and ordered them to be flogged. They were given many lashes and then thrown into prison, and the gaoler was told to keep a close watch on them. So, following his instructions, he threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
Late that night Paul and Silas were praying and singing God’s praises, while the other prisoners listened. Suddenly there was an earthquake that shook the prison to its foundations. All the doors flew open and the chains fell from all the prisoners.

When the gaoler woke and saw the doors wide open he drew his sword and was about to commit suicide, presuming that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted at the top of his voice, ‘Don’t do yourself any harm; we are all here.’ The gaoler called for lights, then rushed in, threw himself trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas, and escorted them out, saying, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’

They told him, ‘Become a believer in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, and your household too.’ Then they preached the word of the Lord to him and to all his family. Late as it was, he took them to wash their wounds, and was baptised then and there with all his household. Afterwards he took them home and gave them a meal, and the whole family celebrated their conversion to belief in God.

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John 16:5-11

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Now I am going to the one who sent me.
Not one of you has asked, “Where are you going?”
Yet you are sad at heart because I have told you this.
Still, I must tell you the truth:
it is for your own good that I am going
because unless I go,
the Advocate will not come to you;
but if I do go,
I will send him to you.
And when he comes,
he will show the world how wrong it was,
about sin,
and about who was in the right,
and about judgement:
about sin: proved by their refusal to believe in me;
about who was in the right: proved by my going to the Father and your seeing me no more;
about judgement: proved by the prince of this world being already condemned.’

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Unless I go, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I do go, I will send him to you.

As I write this reflection, I am sitting in a wooden cabin library, connected to the rest of the outside world by a sole source of internet in order to send this out to the Oxygen editorial team for posting on our website.

These past three days have been an adventure and exercise in the extraordinary for my husband and I. We are at a conference called ‘Architecture, Culture, Spirituality’ in Maine, USA – out on a far tip of Deer Isle facing the North Atlantic Ocean. This is a completely remote and back-to-nature setting where we sleep in unheated wooden cabins poised on the slopes of a mountain facing a serene body of water. This all sounds so incredibly relaxing, but frankly, I spent my first night here, pregnant and sleepless, even though I could have been lulled to sleep with the constant gentle lapping of waves upon rocks.

We experienced an unexpected storm upon arrival that saw a full day of rains, and 0 degree Celsius nighttime temperatures. Without a warm room, some mindless scrolling through my phone’s newsfeeds and chat groups, I felt completely miserable shivering under 3 layers of blankets. I whined even though I knew it would not help.

However, it was in this moment that I became acutely aware of how I had taken my creature comforts for granted, how blessed I have always been! My thoughts went out to the many homeless men and women I saw sleeping on the sidewalks around the city and around the Harvard University campus. In that kind of cold, how could anyone have a night’s rest, even if they were bundled up in the warmest of sleeping bags? They were at the mercy of the elements. As I shivered in my bed, I prayed to offer up my own discomfort and misery for those I recalled – that in a way, our solidarity with them could be somehow redemptive.

In this way, I recognize the Holy Spirit had come to dwell with us in our cabin. Though we were not the warmer for it, we knew that our momentary suffering was meaningful simply because we were able to see beyond its material appearance and enjoin it to a transcendent suffering that is larger than us.

The gospel account of John reveals to us this same truth. Jesus told his disciples that the Advocate would come to dwell with them – but first, he had to leave them. In reality, it was really the disciples who had to first let go of their familiarity and comfort of holding on to the resurrected Christ in the form of Jesus, their mortal friend and teacher, before they would be ready to accept and receive the transfigured form of God’s love that would be given to them through the Holy Spirit.

All of us experience certain material or emotional comforts that we may not recognize and be willing to forsake. But following Christ, claiming this Christian faith requires of us to attempt a radical way of re-seeing and re-experiencing the mundane aspects of our daily lives. Just as the prison guard in the first reading risked his life, livelihood and entire household to embrace the faith that Paul and Silas proclaimed, are we willing to be challenged to a radical way of living and seeing which God may be asking of us? What if this entails an entire change of plan, environment, lifestyle, or level of comfort?

Even if it is a radical way of perceiving a short term suffering or trial, or a long-drawn struggle, we can call upon the Holy Spirit to help us transform our experiences for a vision that transcends the finitude of our reality and constraints. What really touched me in the first reading was the complete turnabout of the prison guard who, with his new eyes of faith and charity, humbly washed their wounds, sought baptism, and received Paul and Silas into his household to share a celebratory meal as fellow Christians.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: I pray that I can commit to greater acts of warmth and charity in the face of the many suffering men and women whom I witness in the city. I pray that the Holy Spirit gives me the courage and wisdom to act with love and compassion.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for these gifted moments when the scales fall off our eyes and we can see and experience humbly, the graces and blessings God has already poured into our lives.

21 May, Sunday – Uber Evangelisation

May 21 – Saint Christopher Magallanes and his Companions

Cristóbal Magallanes Jara was born in the state of Jalisco, in Mexico, in 1869. He was ordained priest at the age of 30 and became parish priest of his home town of Totatiche. He took a special interest in the evangelization of the local indigenous Huichol people and founded a mission for them. When government persecution of the Catholic Church began and the seminaries were closed, he opened a small local ‘auxiliary seminary.’ He wrote and preached against armed rebellion but was falsely accused of promoting the Cristero rebellion. He was arrested on 21 May 1927 while on the way to celebrate Mass at a farm. He was executed without a trial, but not before giving his remaining possessions to his executioners and giving them absolution.

With him are celebrated 24 other Mexican martyrs of the early 20th century.

-Universalis

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Acts 8:5-8,14-17

Philip went to a Samaritan town and proclaimed the Christ to them. The people united in welcoming the message Philip preached, either because they had heard of the miracles he worked or because they saw them for themselves. There were, for example, unclean spirits that came shrieking out of many who were possessed, and several paralytics and cripples were cured. As a result there was great rejoicing in that town.
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, and they went down there, and prayed for the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit, for as yet he had not come down on any of them: they had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

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1 Peter 3:15-18

Reverence the Lord Christ in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have. But give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience, so that those who slander you when you are living a good life in Christ may be proved wrong in the accusations that they bring. And if it is the will of God that you should suffer, it is better to suffer for doing right than for doing wrong.

Why, Christ himself, innocent though he was, had died once for sins, died for the guilty, to lead us to God. In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life.

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John 14:15-21

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If you love me you will keep my commandments.
I shall ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate
to be with you for ever,
that Spirit of truth
whom the world can never receive
since it neither sees nor knows him;
but you know him,
because he is with you, he is in you.
I will not leave you orphans;
I will come back to you.
In a short time the world will no longer see me;
but you will see me,
because I live and you will live.
On that day you will understand that I am in my Father
and you in me and I in you.
Anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them
will be one who loves me;
and anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I shall love him and show myself to him.’

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The Father will give you another Advocate to be with you for ever, that Spirit of truth

In the past few months of living in Boston, I have had several encounters with Uber drivers who ventured into conversations with me about my faith. This is the strangest thing to experience coming from Singapore, where the topics of conversation in taxis tend to range from politics to the rough economy, or how bad other road users are. My encounters have all happened when I am traveling to church for Mass.

In this city and country where topics of faith and religion tend to be highly polarizing for casual conversation, and with a declining church-going population, I believe that my destination fascinates the Uber drivers I ride with. It is usually this information that sparks off these anointed conversations.

During one ride, my driver shared about his period of depression in trying to get back to regular work after his back surgery. He shared of his struggle to believe that God cared about his difficulties. As I listened, I silently prayed that I would have the wisdom to respond with charity. I empathized as I had undergone a back surgery years ago that put me out of work for several months. From the memory of my own struggle and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, I was able to speak some words of hope. I encouraged him to keep on trusting in God’s goodness and timing in his recovery. As I got out of the car outside the church, he said to me, “Will you please say a prayer for me inside?” I assured him I would, and we wished each other well. When I settled in the pews, I prayed for him.

On Good Shepherd Sunday evening, I rode with another driver who, upon hearing I was heading to church asked me, while pointing at the building, “Is this a Catholic church? So are you Catholic?” In the brief minute it took for us to reach, he shared that he had lost count of when he last entered a church. It was one of my tired and distracted days, but a part of me tried to find the right words to say to this friendly man. As we turned into the car porch, he joked, “Oh I am sure if I were to go inside, the priest would feel something strange and know, and he would ask me to get out.” In a split second, I was caught unprepared to welcome this man back into the fold.

With only the wit and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, I assured him otherwise. “No, that will not happen. Well, if that were the case, then a lot of people would have to get out too!” The both of us burst out laughing. In that brief moment – it is both a mystery and wonder – the fullness of God’s mercy and forgiveness was somehow shared in that tentative joke. Because almost immediately, he muttered in a moment of private reverie that he knew, that He does not keep score for what had been committed the day before – “tomorrow is a new day”.

I wonder if I had spoken enough of my Lord’s goodness. If I had, in Peter’s words, “always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have” (1 Peter 3:15). While I do not know exactly how each of these conversations has touched them, I am humbled by the knowledge that the Holy Spirit had been with us in the car and inspiring me with just the right words in the right way, to help point these fellow pilgrims back to God.

I whole-heartedly believe that our strongest witness for God’s existence and goodness is our deep-seated Christian joy. Even if our evangelization may be confined to two obscure minutes in a car journey, it is our palpable joy, hope, openness, and lack of taking petty offences that point towards God’s wide mercy. Mercy and welcome is what almost every weary fellow traveller needs to hear most today.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Holy Spirit, anoint me with wisdom and wit, joy and welcome, to share the reason for my faith when the opportunity arises. Please make me a channel of your peace, love and mercy.

Thanksgiving: Thank you dear Lord, for these privileged moments of being a laborer in your vineyard. Thank you for being the reason for my great joy and renewed life.

15 April, Saturday – Easter Vigil

15 April 2017 – Easter Vigil 

Dear Readers,

The Easter Vigil Mass features a total of nine readings. It is an Oxygen tradition to have a reflection for each of these readings. This Easter, 5 from our writing team, along with 3 guest writers, Adele, Daryl and Cassandra have contributed to the reflections. It is a long read, but we hope that it will be an enjoyable and inspiring one!

Blessed Easter!
Nicholas (on behalf of the Oxygen Team)
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FIRST READING

Genesis 1:1-2:2

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, and God’s spirit hovered over the water.

God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light. God saw that light was good, and God divided light from darkness. God called light ‘day’, and darkness he called ‘night.’ Evening came and morning came: the first day.

God said, ‘Let there be a vault in the waters to divide the waters in two.’ And so it was. God made the vault, and it divided the waters above the vault from the waters under the vault. God called the vault ‘heaven.’ Evening came and morning came: the second day.

God said, ‘Let the waters under heaven come together into a single mass, and let dry land appear.’ And so it was. God called the dry land ‘earth’ and the mass of waters ‘seas’, and God saw that it was good.

God said, ‘Let the earth produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants, and fruit trees bearing fruit with their seed inside, on the earth.’ And so it was. The earth produced vegetation: plants bearing seed in their several kinds, and trees bearing fruit with their seed inside in their several kinds. God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came: the third day.

God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of heaven to divide day from night, and let them indicate festivals, days and years. Let them be lights in the vault of heaven to shine on the earth.’ And so it was. God made the two great lights: the greater light to govern the day, the smaller light to govern the night, and the stars. God set them in the vault of heaven to shine on the earth, to govern the day and the night and to divide light from darkness. God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came: the fourth day.

God said, ‘Let the waters teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth within the vault of heaven.’ And so it was. God created great sea-serpents and every kind of living creature with which the waters teem, and every kind of winged creature. God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the waters of the seas; and let the birds multiply upon the earth.’ Evening came and morning came: the fifth day.

God said, ‘Let the earth produce every kind of living creature: cattle, reptiles, and every kind of wild beast.’ And so it was. God made every kind of wild beast, every kind of cattle, and every kind of land reptile. God saw that it was good.

God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild beasts and all the reptiles that crawl upon the earth.’

God created man in the image of himself,
in the image of God he created him,
male and female he created them.

God blessed them, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and conquer it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all living animals on the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I give you all the seed-bearing plants that are upon the whole earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this shall be your food. To all wild beasts, all birds of heaven and all living reptiles on the earth I give all the foliage of plants for food.’ And so it was. God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good. Evening came and morning came: the sixth day.

Thus heaven and earth were completed with all their array. On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing. He rested on the seventh day after all the work he had been doing.
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Responsarial: Psalm 103:1-2,5-6,10,12-14,24,35

R/: Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.
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Exactly what you need to be

“Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work he had been doing, he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.”

In the run-up to Easter, there is the risk that we try to do too much and, in the process, lose sight of why we celebrate this spiritual season. We weigh ourselves down with so much of the ‘doing’ that we can’t find the time for ‘thinking’. Or ‘reflecting’. Or ‘praying’. Or ‘being’ with God.

Everything has its place in time. God could have created the world in an instant, yet He spread it out over 6 days, with a day of rest to reflect upon and appreciate all that was before him. Let’s take heed then and make this Vigil evening a time of thanksgiving for all that He has put in our lives – the light and the dark, the good and the bad, the friends, the foes, the blessings, the struggles, the triumphs and the disappointments. Everything in its proper place in time. This beautiful evening, let’s lay aside all of our ‘doing’ and focus on simply ‘being’ with God.

Lay down your cares. Right now, you are exactly where you need to be.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the awareness to appreciate the moments and the people in our lives, to not breeze past superficially, but fully breathe in the beauty of each.

Thanksgiving:  We give thanks for the gifts and blessings that He has so generously showered upon us. May He give us the wisdom to be good stewards of them.

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SECOND READING

Genesis 22:1-18

God put Abraham to the test. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he called. ‘Here I am’ he replied. ‘Take your son,’ God said ‘your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.’

Rising early next morning Abraham saddled his ass and took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. He chopped wood for the burnt offering and started on his journey to the place God had pointed out to him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. Then Abraham said to his servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there; we will worship and come back to you.’

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering, loaded it on Isaac, and carried in his own hands the fire and the knife. Then the two of them set out together. Isaac spoke to his father Abraham, ‘Father’ he said. ‘Yes, my son’ he replied. ‘Look,’ he said ‘here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered, ‘My son, God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.’ Then the two of them went on together.

When they arrived at the place God had pointed out to him, Abraham built an altar there, and arranged the wood. Then he bound his son Isaac and put him on the altar on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son.

But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he said. ‘I am here’ he replied. ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy’ the angel said. ‘Do not harm him, for now I know you fear God. You have not refused me your son, your only son.’ Then looking up, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. Abraham took the ram and offered it as a burnt-offering in place of his son.

Abraham called this place ‘The Lord Provides’, and hence the saying today: On the mountain the Lord provides.

The angel of the Lord called Abraham a second time from heaven. ‘I swear by my own self – it is the Lord who speaks – because you have done this, because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants shall gain possession of the gates of their enemies. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.’
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Responsarial Psalm 15:5,8-11

R/: Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.
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Abraham tested, faith tested

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son”. And the two of them went on together.

It seems that God is asking for an impossible sacrifice from Abraham, his only son. When God speaks His will for me in no uncertain terms, do I have the courage to obey Him, if it seems that there is a high personal price to pay? Do I have faith that His plans for me are the best ones? Do I understand that He loves me so lavishly and wholly, that what He asks of me, is most certainly for my good?

What is God asking me to give up?

When I am asked to give up something that I treasure, is my instinct to give generously and unquestioningly? Or do I harbor resentment towards God for this costly price of obedience? It is human nature to be ‘loss averse’, since behaviourial economics tell us that ‘losses loom larger than gains’, and the pain of losing something is psychologically twice as powerful as the pleasure of gaining something of equivalent value. As a result, people are willing to go to great lengths to avoid a loss, but will be less motivated to take risks for acquiring equivalent gains.

In the reading of Genesis today, Abraham is tested to his limits when God asks for Isaac to be offered as a burnt offering on one of the mountains. I can only imagine the shock, grief and disbelief of a father, when Abraham spots the place that God had identified, and proceeds to build an altar, bind up Isaac, and prepares to take his knife to his only beloved son.

Why would a loving God ask this immense sacrifice of the people who love Him? Perhaps Abraham, in his heart, was hoping for a miracle, or an intervention?

I cannot begin to even imagine, the fear that Isaac might have felt, as his father led him into the isolation and desolation of the mountains. What might Isaac be thinking, as his own father bound him up, and appeared to be on the verge of killing him? Why did the passage not speak of any struggle on Isaac’s part? Why did he appear to accept his fate so calmly?

God’s lavish providence transcends our human understanding. What are the big and little ways that God is providing for you?

When I think back at the times where I experienced inexplicable, gut-wrenching losses, such as the painful breakdown of long cherished relationships and friendships, or sudden upheavals in my career that throw my livelihood into question, do I surrender to His providence? Or do I fight and cling on stubbornly to what I think I am entitled to and have painstakingly built, or hold on ever more tightly to the sand that is slipping through my fingers?

In my moments of extreme doubt, unhappiness and fear, I remember asking God, “What is Your purpose of taking this person, happiness or opportunity away from me? What is Your point of making me lose something so precious to me?” However, once the internal strife subsides, or when the initial shock wears off, when I can remain calm enough to consider the situation more clearly, like in Psalm 16, God will not “abandon me to Sheol, He cannot allow His faithful servant to see the abyss”, the final resolution or outcomes are often far better than what my human mind could previously imagine. Many times over, what God asks of me to give up is often replaced by His grace and provision beyond what I deserved. Like the angel that points out the ram that is meant to take Isaac’s place for the offering, God offers the best solutions to our challenges, only if we trust Him enough, to be open to His promptings.

Only when we trust God completely, can we fully welcome His love for us.

In Psalm 16:11, God “will teach me the path of life, unbounded joy in His presence, at His right hand delight forever”. When I let go of my human expectations of what my life ought to be like, how others should respond or reciprocate to my efforts, what my success is meant to be in worldly terms, or how God should grant me particular blessings, only then do I become open to rejoice in the abundance, delights and joys that God has already laid out for me. I would suffer a lot less heartache, anxiety and grief, when I choose to surrender completely to the circumstances that God has made for me to experience. Let us open our hearts and minds to God’s plan for our lives. For it is only in holding lightly, do we experience the magic of resting in our Father’s lavish love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Adele Khee)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, grant me the humility and wisdom to discern Your will for me. Grant me the courage to obey You completely and trust in Your providence, especially when the costs seem impossible or unacceptable in my limited human understanding.

Thanksgiving: I give thanks for Your divine providence, and Your care for the biggest concerns and smallest details of my life. I am grateful to You, Lord, for the people, circumstances and blessings that You have granted me, to help me become more like You.

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THIRD READING

Exodus 14:15-15:1

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me so? Tell the sons of Israel to march on. For yourself, raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and part it for the sons of Israel to walk through the sea on dry ground. I for my part will make the heart of the Egyptians so stubborn that they will follow them. So shall I win myself glory at the expense of Pharaoh, of all his army, his chariots, his horsemen. And when I have won glory for myself, at the expense of Pharaoh and his chariots and his army, the Egyptians will learn that I am the Lord.’

Then the angel of God, who marched at the front of the army of Israel, changed station and moved to their rear. The pillar of cloud changed station from the front to the rear of them, and remained there. It came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. The cloud was dark, and the night passed without the armies drawing any closer the whole night long.

Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove back the sea with a strong easterly wind all night, and he made dry land of the sea. The waters parted and the sons of Israel went on dry ground right into the sea, walls of water to right and to left of them. The Egyptians gave chase: after them they went, right into the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.

In the morning watch, the Lord looked down on the army of the Egyptians from the pillar of fire and of cloud, and threw the army into confusion. He so clogged their chariot wheels that they could scarcely make headway. ‘Let us flee from the Israelites,’ the Egyptians cried. ‘The Lord is fighting for them against the Egyptians!’

‘Stretch out your hand over the sea,’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘that the waters may flow back on the Egyptians and their chariots and their horsemen.’

Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and, as day broke, the sea returned to its bed. The fleeing Egyptians marched right into it, and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the very middle of the sea. The returning waters overwhelmed the chariots and the horsemen of Pharaoh’s whole army, which had followed the Israelites into the sea; not a single one of them was left. But the sons of Israel had marched through the sea on dry ground, walls of water to right and to left of them.

That day, the Lord rescued Israel from the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. Israel witnessed the great act that the Lord had performed against the Egyptians, and the people venerated the Lord; they put their faith in the Lord and in Moses, his servant.

It was then that Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song in honour of the Lord: …
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Canticle of Exodus 15

R/: I will sing to the Lord, glorious his triumph!

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A Close Partnership with God

“Tell the sons of Israel to march on”

Over the last few years, my son has taken a fascination to ‘special abilities’. We have been asked, repeatedly over a period of time, whether we prefer to be able to slow time, or be in two places at one time or even to know what others are thinking.

Very often, we hope to be saved in a very tangible way by our God. Like a superhero, we imagine the day we would have our Lord pop up and rescue us from whatever we need to be rescued from.

I have always known the song “The Horse and Rider” of Psalm 15. In it, we read of how God defeated the Egyptians as the slaves crossed the Red Sea, about how God turned up like a superhero, coming to save the day.

In the 3rd reading today, we read that before the events of Psalm 15 happened, God gave Moses two instructions. Firstly, to “tell the sons of Israel to march on”, and secondly, for Moses to raise his staff and stretch his hand over the sea and part it.  God asked Moses to play his part so that God could play His!

Rather than having God swoop in and solve our problems, I believe God asks us to be active participants in the solution. He wants us to first begin the process, then let Him take over and do the rest. Rather than being passive in the whole process, I feel that God wants us to be collaborators; to work in partnership with Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father God, we pray that we will have the courage to collaborate with You; to take the first steps in allowing You to work within our lives.

ThanksgivingThank You, Father for working within our lives; for teaching us to take the first step in working closely with You.

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FOURTH READING

Isaiah 54:5-14

Thus says the Lord:
Now your creator will be your husband,
his name, the Lord of Hosts;
your redeemer will be the Holy One of Israel,
he is called the God of the whole earth.

Yes, like a forsaken wife, distressed in spirit,
the Lord calls you back.
Does a man cast off the wife of his youth?
says your God.

I did forsake you for a brief moment,
but with great love will I take you back.
In excess of anger, for a moment
I hid my face from you.
But with everlasting love I have taken pity on you,
says the Lord, your redeemer.

I am now as I was in the days of Noah
when I swore that Noah’s waters
should never flood the world again.
So now I swear concerning my anger with you
and the threats I made against you;

for the mountains may depart,
the hills be shaken,
but my love for you will never leave you
and my covenant of peace with you will never be shaken,
says the Lord who takes pity on you.

Unhappy creature, storm-tossed, disconsolate,
see, I will set your stones on carbuncles
and your foundations on sapphires.
I will make rubies your battlements,
your gates crystal,
and your entire wall precious stones.
Your sons will all be taught by the Lord.
The prosperity of your sons will be great.
You will be founded on integrity;
remote from oppression, you will have nothing to fear;
remote from terror, it will not approach you.
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Responsarial Psalm 29:2,4-6,11-13

R/: I will praise you, Lord, you have rescued me.
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Strength in Commitment

“With great love will I take you back”

I remember attending the Marriage Preparation Course twenty years ago. One of the most memorable takeaways I remember is that love was not just an emotion; it was also a decision. Many older married couples counseled us, saying that beyond the initial ‘honeymoon’ period, making love work would take conscious decisions, which need to be made and reaffirmed time and again.

In the 4th reading today, we get a sense of the level of commitment our God has for us. The reading reminds us that whatever difficulties a wife may face with the husband, they return to the marital promise of being there for each other.

My wife and I have been married 20 years this year. Indeed, the advice and words from our elders came true during the years. Many friends have told me that both my wife and I are blessed to have a successful marriage. The truth is, however, that our marriage took very hard work, with many ups and downs along the way. Ultimately though, the decision was, for the both of us, we would work on our marriage no matter how hard it took.

Let us cling to this strong commitment that our God has for us and remember that whatever happens, He is there for us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father God, help us to always remember that You are always there for us, loving us.

ThanksgivingThank You Lord, for the deep commitment You have given us. Thank You for being there for us, no matter what.

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FIFTH READING

Isaiah 55:1-11

Thus says the Lord:

Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty;
though you have no money, come!
Buy corn without money, and eat,
and, at no cost, wine and milk.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
your wages on what fails to satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and you will have good things to eat
and rich food to enjoy.
Pay attention, come to me;
listen, and your soul will live.

With you I will make an everlasting covenant
out of the favours promised to David.
See, I have made of you a witness to the peoples,
a leader and a master of the nations.
See, you will summon a nation you never knew,
those unknown will come hurrying to you,
for the sake of the Lord your God,
of the Holy One of Israel who will glorify you.

Seek the Lord while he is still to be found,
call to him while he is still near.
Let the wicked man abandon his way,
the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn back to the Lord who will take pity on him,
to our God who is rich in forgiving;
for my thoughts are not your thoughts,
my ways not your ways – it is the Lord who speaks.
Yes, the heavens are as high above earth
as my ways are above your ways,
my thoughts above your thoughts.

Yes, as the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.
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Canticle of Isaiah 12

R/: With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
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Jesus is waiting for you

Listen, that you may have life.

The end of 2016 wasn’t not easy going for me – spiritual dryness, praying was especially hard and I struggled to find meaning in my very existence. It was a time of sheer darkness. My God had abandoned me! So by January, I knew I needed to just get away from it all. To be completely alone, to come away from ‘life’ as I knew it.

I marked the beginning of Lent by spending a week away on a retreat. I had planned to go with a friend, but that friend pulled out due to work commitments. I found another willing companion but just days before, she too pulled out. Eventually I went alone. I have never before travelled on my own; work trips excluded. But the Lord planned that I would make this journey on my own. I needed this quiet time away but truth be told, I wasn’t expecting much. After all, learning from past experiences, nothing goes according to my plan. On previous silent retreats, I would list a slew of questions and our God of surprises would throw my list out of the window. Still, on the very first day, I wrote in my journal 4 objectives for my retreat. How typical of me to set ‘the agenda’ for this ‘meeting’. But even as I wrote in my book, I was thinking to myself “I bet none of these questions would be covered.”

On route to my destination, I was reading and came across this line which struck me. Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? I had been worried about a situation I was facing and reading this was very comforting. Oh come to the water all you who are thirsty; though you have no money come! And so, my retreat began.

For some time, I kept questioning what my reason for being is – my vocation. I was convinced that the Lord was simply silent to that question. But during this time, when I shut out all my own thoughts and feelings, I heard it loud and clear — “Your vocation is not static. It moves and evolves”. It was like ‘wham!’ a lightning bolt, and it all became clear in my mind. While I was so busy wallowing in my self-constructed prison of darkness, the answer was as simple and clear as day, right before me and yet I never saw it. Pay attention, come to me; listen, and your soul will live.

God yearns to speak to us and lead us – we can choose to listen, or go our own merry way. He gives us free will. As for me, my head was so busy and noisy with my own thoughts and ways of fixing my problem that I practically shut out His voice. And of course, my way was not the best way. I found myself completely lost in a maze. Then like a spoilt child, I scream and throw a tantrum saying that God has abandoned me. It was only when I finally gave up, gave in and gave it all to Jesus that I heard Him. I acknowledged that it was I who walked away from Him, while all along, He never left my side. I came away from my vacation with Jesus refreshed, recharged, with a sense of hope and purpose. And yes, He did answer my questions this time!

So today, as we are just hours away from Easter, can we let ourselves out of the tomb of darkness? The darkness and pain that we are so accustomed to and walk out into the light?

Jesus is waiting just outside, my friends!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, teach us to silence our hearts and minds that we might hear you speaking. Teach us to seek you and call to you when we are lost and in need of your nourishment.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for rejuvenating our souls. Your words are refreshing cool spring waters on a parched soul. Thank you for being our strength and comfort.


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SIXTH READING

Baruch 3:9-15,32-4:4

Listen, Israel, to commands that bring life;
hear, and learn what knowledge means.
Why, Israel, why are you in the country of your enemies,
growing older and older in an alien land,
sharing defilement with the dead,
reckoned with those who go to Sheol?
Because you have forsaken the fountain of wisdom.
Had you walked in the way of God,
you would have lived in peace for ever.
Learn where knowledge is, where strength,
where understanding, and so learn
where length of days is, where life,
where the light of the eyes and where peace.

But who has found out where she lives,
who has entered her treasure house?
But the One who knows all knows her,
he has grasped her with his own intellect,
he has set the earth firm for ever
and filled it with four-footed beasts.
He sends the light – and it goes,
he recalls it – and trembling it obeys;
the stars shine joyfully at their set times:
when he calls them, they answer, ‘Here we are’;
they gladly shine for their creator.
It is he who is our God,
no other can compare with him.
He has grasped the whole way of knowledge,
and confided it to his servant Jacob,
to Israel his well-beloved;
so causing her to appear on earth
and move among men.

This is the book of the commandments of God,
the Law that stands for ever;
those who keep her live,
those who desert her die.
Turn back, Jacob, seize her,
in her radiance make your way to light:
do not yield your glory to another,
your privilege to a people not your own.
Israel, blessed are we:
what pleases God has been revealed to us.
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Responsarial Psalm 18:8-11

R/: You have the message of eternal life, O Lord.
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To Listen is to Love

“Had you walked in the way of God, you would have dwelt in enduring peace”

 I’ve heard it said many times before that hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I’m not so sure. For one it leaves me feeling foolish whenever I come across that mountain of bad decisions I’ve made in my life. What if I had done things differently or taken another path, would I be better off now? But then, what is better off? It would be what I perceived to be better off, maybe even what the world perceives to be ‘better off’.

But where would God fit into my life if I didn’t make bad decisions then beg for divine intervention? I might look back one day and say, if only I didn’t have it all together then God would have entered my life sooner. Much like the Israelites in slavery, did we ever find out what got them there in the first place? Then in being rescued, the journey took so long that while God was rescuing them, they wanted to abandon him again.

I think our journeys into the light are long and painful, filled with valleys and peaks so that we can stand tall at the end and say with true marvellous reverence, “My Lord and My God”.

How much more do we appreciate that which we fought so hard for, how much more do we appreciate the airport we land in when the flight was 24 hours long with 3 connections, when we find the place of wisdom and enter into her treasuries where we find peace, we can truly appreciate being there and dwelling there.

Our history is blessed, it had led us to where we are now, with all our failings and misdeeds. We have been called out of slavery and into everlasting life. Hindsight works for some, not so for others, but for me, I’m blessed to be able to look back at the journey that I am still on, in fact, and boast in my weaknesses, for when I am weak, he is strong and if I let him, he will carry me.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer: The path to you is narrow and filled with dangers; but you, my Saviour, can bring me home. Grant me that trust and reliance on you my Lord.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for my blessed history. Let me gain wisdom by reflecting on my past to help me rely on you more every day.

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SEVENTH READING

Ezekiel 36:16-17,18-28

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows: ‘Son of man, the members of the House of Israel used to live in their own land, but they defiled it by their conduct and actions. I then discharged my fury at them because of the blood they shed in their land and the idols with which they defiled it. I scattered them among the nations and dispersed them in foreign countries. I sentenced them as their conduct and actions deserved. And now they have profaned my holy name among the nations where they have gone, so that people say of them, “These are the people of the Lord; they have been exiled from his land.”

‘But I have been concerned about my holy name, which the House of Israel has profaned among the nations where they have gone.

‘And so, say to the House of Israel, “The Lord says this: I am not doing this for your sake, House of Israel, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I mean to display the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned among them. And the nations will learn that I am the Lord – it is the Lord who speaks – when I display my holiness for your sake before their eyes. Then I am going to take you from among the nations and gather you together from all the foreign countries, and bring you home to your own land.

‘“I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your defilement and all your idols. I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead. I shall put my spirit in you, and make you keep my laws and sincerely respect my observances. You will live in the land which I gave your ancestors. You shall be my people and I will be your God.”’
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Responsarial Psalm 41:2-3,5,42:3-4

R/: Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my God.
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The Struggles in Prayer

Not for your sakes do I act, house of Israel, but for the sake of my holy name.

Often in prayer, I have to overcome a barrier — my sense of unworthiness. I frequently enter into prayer with a sense of shame. A shame that I have not been living as closely with God as ‘I should’; that I have not been talking to God as ‘I should’. Needless to say, these thoughts keep me focused on myself and my inadequacies, causing prayer to be a very heavy and burdensome experience.

The verse above provides a sense of liberation. God treats me well not because I deserve it, but because of His own name. Perhaps it would help to think about how I treat certain individuals that I dislike in order to understand how God treats me when I act poorly.

When I am tempted to be unkind to people I dislike, I refrain from acting like this because I cannot live with myself being an unkind and cruel person. I find myself instead extending general courtesy towards them. If I, a human being and a sinner, can withhold from acting nastily or cruelly because it is not in my nature to do so, what more God?

In fact, God goes further. He doesn’t just treat me civilly; the way I do with people I am not fond of. He doesn’t just keep me at arm’s length when He is displeased with me. On the contrary, He pursues and gathers me home, cleanses me, changes my heart and calls me, a sinner, “Mine”. He does this because His nature is that of a loving Father – one who patiently woos and changes hearts, one that always welcomes His children home, one that does His best to let His children feel safe at home.

If I imagined God as this loving Father who is here to welcome me, hold me, help me, renew my heart, make me more like Him, would I enter into prayer differently? Would I still shrink into the darkness of self-condemnation or would I relax into His loving and compassionate light?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jean Nathalia)

Prayer: Dear Father, I pray to relax into Your loving and compassionate embrace. I pray to let go of my habit of judging myself, and build a new habit of focusing on who You are and how You will always act in accordance with Your loving nature.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks that because God’s nature is good, He will always be good to us. All we need to do is to say ‘Yes’.


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EPISTLE 

Romans 6:3-11

When we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death; in other words, when we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.

If in union with Christ we have imitated his death, we shall also imitate him in his resurrection. We must realise that our former selves have been crucified with him to destroy this sinful body and to free us from the slavery of sin. When a Christian dies, of course, he has finished with sin.

But we believe that having died with Christ we shall return to life with him: Christ, as we know, having been raised from the dead will never die again. Death has no power over him any more. When he died, he died, once for all, to sin, so his life now is life with God; and in that way, you too must consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.

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Responsarial Psalm 117:1-2, 16-17, 22-23

R:/ Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

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All you who long for Life

If in union with Christ we have imitated his death, we shall also imitate him in his resurrection.

This scripture passage reminds me of the story of Lazarus having died and been buried in the tomb for three days. We have encountered this story during Lent. And so we know that Jesus arrived late, he witnessed the grief of Mary and Martha, and he mourned with them. Then, to everyone’s amazement, Jesus called Lazarus to arise from his death and walk out from the tomb.

Tonight, we will witness the baptism of new members into our Catholic family. It is a tremendously joyous occasion, one filled with jubilation and hope and new life! At the same time, the readings also call us to a powerful reality we must contend with as Christians, and that is the fact of death, or the need to die. Dying is such an important part of life, that God uses death to reveal to us a conundrum – it does not only happen at the end of one’s life. Death is a powerful gateway to true and eternal Life. ‘But we believe that having died with Christ we shall return to life with him… in that way, you too must consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:8,11).

Many of us may never fully understand this until we are finitely confronted with death in its literal sense. We realize how helpless we truly are in the face of our mortality, and those of our loved ones, or even, the millions of refugees in war-torn lands. Even so, how would this knowledge touch our souls?

From my experience, dying will happen to us on three levels of our reality, although each may be felt differently. The first is literal (the loss of life), the second metaphorical or emotional (the loss of a relationship, a dream), and the third being spiritual (death to one’s sin, death to the spiritual life, the loss of hope, depression).

In the light of baptism and our renewal of our baptismal vows together with the congregation, we are called to choose to die to our sin, to reject Satan and his lies, to trust that our redemption and true life will come with His Resurrection. It will not be easy, as some of us struggle with addictions, compulsions and even blindness to our wrongs. Still, we pray humbly for the courage to wage this battle, knowing full well that our hope and victory come through the power of Christ’s Precious Blood and Body. We are called and chosen to hold the great I AM in our hands and taste of His true flesh and blood. May we never take the Eucharist for granted.

At the same time, I feel called to address my brothers and sisters who are struggling with your faith, with elements of our faith, with your own desolation, depression, and despair, who feel daily dead in their spirits or lost in loneliness. As Jesus comforts Mary and Martha, “this [illness, pain, doubt or suffering] does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4). This is a death that is hardest to talk about amongst even the closest of friends and family. But the Christ whom you have once professed faith in and who has chosen you, He sees you. He sees through, hidden as it may be. He feels your pain and struggles, your doubts and confusion, your despair and sorrow.

Oftentimes, there are no quick fixes, no three-day empowerment programs, no majestic resurrection moments. Do not be discouraged. Do not shudder or recoil at the glory of these “Alleluia!” Scriptures that are promised you tonight, simply because you can not presently feel the joy or hope.

This is the heroism of our faith, that we, human as we are, are called upon to defy the darkness, in spite of our own darkness. Trust! Hold fast! The glory of God and His Son is still germinating in the dark soil beneath wherever you are standing, and it will take time. It must take time. We have the Christ, who is King over all of the living and the dead, and especially these agonising in-between spaces. He has traversed these boundaries and revealed His Eternal Dominion over all of time and space. Have faith. I know that three days can sometimes feel like forever. I know because I have been stuck before. But I know Christ has always remained faithful in these spaces with me. Even if I had been blind to it. He has never let me go, and He has raised me up. He will never let you go, and He will raise you up.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, please make known your love and presence to those who are struggling with sorrow, doubt, depression. May they sense the warmth of your Precious Blood even in the darkness.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Abba Father, for the gift of faith, the grace of baptism, and the Holy Spirit who protects me at all times.

 
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GOSPEL

Matthew 28:1-10

After the sabbath, and towards dawn on the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala and the other Mary went to visit the sepulchre. And all at once there was a violent earthquake, for the angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat on it.

His face was like lightning, his robe white as snow. The guards were so shaken, so frightened of him, that they were like dead men. But the angel spoke; and he said to the women, ‘There is no need for you to be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said he would. Come and see the place where he lay, then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has risen from the dead and now he is going before you to Galilee; it is there you will see him.” Now I have told you.’

Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.

And there, coming to meet them, was Jesus. ‘Greetings’ he said. And the women came up to him and, falling down before him, clasped his feet. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; they will see me there.’

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Nothing to Fear

Do not be afraid.

It is interesting how, in today’s gospel, the first words Jesus speaks to the women were comforting words of reassurance. “Do not be afraid” he said, before giving them further instructions to pass on to the apostles. At almost every CER I have served, He inevitably sends me one of the prophet Isaiah’s well-known verses to reassure me that He is indeed lifting me up each and every day and giving me eagle’s wings to soar. For indeed, Christ has conquered death. So what else have we to fear?

In the past, I never truly understood or connected with the significance of Easter. It was just Christ ‘waking up’ after three days in the tomb. But now, Christ’s resurrection is more than just a physical one fo rme. I truly believe that His resurrection is a daily reminder that we must die to ourselves each and every day — at home, at work, in ministry. And in dying to ourselves, we are to surrender all our attachments to sin, to pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, lust and covetousness. Easier said than done, especially when we also have to die to our loved ones, parents, colleagues, bosses and anyone else we encounter each day on our mortal journey here on earth.

If you think about it, we ‘die’ each night we lay down to sleep and are ‘resurrected’ each time we arise to a new day. How is it then that many of us are able to face each day with a strength and conviction that allows us to get out of the door? I think it is because we have some semblance of a ‘plan’, boring as it may seem – have breakfast, read the papers, head to the office, have lunch, attend meetings/do our work, head home, have dinner, watch some TV/surf the net, then go to bed. And the cycle repeats itself again. IF indeed we arise the next day.

But brothers and sisters, have you ever thought about those who are in depression, out of work, in counselling, or with nothing to look forward to each day? How would these people feel upon waking up in the morning? Some would dread having to face a new day with nothing to do, with no friends to meet up with, no-one to talk to. Life for them would literally be a ‘prison’ or a tomb of sorts, with darkness all around to engulf them. Perhaps that is how the apostles and Jesus’ followers felt after His death on the cross. That all was hopeless and life was going to be futile, not worth living at all.

Christ’s resurrection was more than just a physical ‘statement’. It symbolised an awakening of the spirit within his apostles and followers and it gave them the courage to persevere amid all kinds of challenges as they went about evangelising to the rest of the world. Today, as we prepare to welcome Christ again in his physical form, let us all take courage and live out our calling – to be prophets and evangelisers, to proclaim to the world that Jesus Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Abba Father, we thank you for the gift of Jesus Christ, for His sacrifice on the Cross and for fulfilling the promise He gave to us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Father for reawakening in us the spirit of your son, Jesus Christ.

 

22 March, Wednesday – So our children will believe

22 March 2017

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Deuteronomy 4:1,5-9

Moses said to the people:
‘Now, Israel, take notice of the laws and customs that I teach you today, and observe them, that you may have life and may enter and take possession of the land that the Lord the God of your fathers is giving you.

‘See, as the Lord my God has commanded me, I teach you the laws and customs that you are to observe in the land you are to enter and make your own. Keep them, observe them, and they will demonstrate to the peoples your wisdom and understanding. When they come to know of all these laws they will exclaim, “No other people is as wise and prudent as this great nation.” And indeed, what great nation is there that has its gods so near as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call to him? And what great nation is there that has laws and customs to match this whole Law that I put before you today?

‘But take care what you do and be on your guard. Do not forget the things your eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your heart all the days of your life; rather, tell them to your children and to your children’s children.’

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Matthew 5:17-19

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.’

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Tell them to your children and to your children’s children

Faith is relational. Although it is very much a personal journey undertaken by each person, we are all uplifted by the collective faith of our family, friends, and communities – just as Aaron and Hur supported Moses’ hands while he prayed for Israel’s triumph over the Amalekites (Exodus 17:12). In times of despair, we are strengthened by the stories, testimonies and journeys of faith that those around us share. We are invited to ponder deeper on this relational aspect of faith and fidelity in the readings today.

Moses reminds the Israelites that God desires them never to forget their history, their exile and journey, sufferings and triumphs:

“I teach you the laws and customs that you are to observe in the land you are to enter and make your own. Keep them, observe them, and they will demonstrate to the peoples your wisdom and understanding… take care what you do and be on your guard. Do not forget the things your eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your heart all the days of your life; rather, tell them to your children and to your children’s children’.” (Deut 4:5-9)

Likewise, we are reminded today that parents are integral to the formation of a child’s faith. Faithful parents are important to the ongoing formation of their children’s faith. But many of us have sometimes simplistically equated being faithful to being perfect. We may strive for perfection, but in our human finiteness we can hardly boast of perfection. So how can we be faithful even as we are often imperfect?

The thread in scripture points to three important actions here: ‘Remember,’ ‘Teach,’ and ‘Do.’ Each of these is vital to the transmission of our faith within our communities, and yet all three pillars in unity are needed to truly help us be witnesses to God’s love and mercy. I have been encouraged and strengthened by the testimonies of others who not only help me remember God’s faithfulness, their reflections teach me about steadfast hope in trials, and their actions and fidelity to God point me to the Truth of God as Love.

Jesus tells his disciples that he did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to complete them. Indeed, Christ fulfills the Law by the law of love. God sent Christ to walk among us, to remind us of the Law and the testimonies of the Prophets; to teach us the way of the Beatitudes; and, to complete for us the promise of salvation by dying on the Cross.

Do you have a faith story? Is God calling you to share the struggles and the beauty of being Christian with your community and your children? Let us remember that without the cross, there can be no resurrection. Let us faithfully teach the laws, customs, and reasons of our faith. Let us complete this by striving humbly to put our faith to practice by our good works – so that our children and children’s children may remember and believe.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, help us by your grace to keep this flame of faith burning within, and to fan the fires of your love for other longing hearts.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for giving me the gift of my memory. Anoint my memory to recall your goodness and mercy all the days of my life.