Tag Archives: edith koh

28 December, Thursday – Incarnation

Dec 28 – Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs

During this octave of Christmas, the Church celebrates the memory of the small children of the neighborhood of Bethlehem put to death by Herod. Sacrificed by a wicked monarch, these innocent lives bear witness to Christ who was persecuted from the time of His birth by a world which would not receive Him. It is Christ Himself who is at stake in this mass-murder of the children; already the choice, for or against Him, is put clearly before men. But the persecutors are powerless, for Christ came to perform a work of salvation that nothing can prevent; when He fell into the hands of His enemies at the time chosen by God, it was to redeem the world by His own Blood.

Our Christmas joy is tempered today by a feeling of sadness. But the Church looks principally to the glory of the children, of these innocent victims, whom she shows us in heaven following the Lamb wherever He goes.

– CatholicCulture.org

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1 John 1:5-2:2

This is what we have heard from Jesus Christ,
and the message that we are announcing to you:
God is light; there is no darkness in him at all.
If we say that we are in union with God
while we are living in darkness,
we are lying because we are not living the truth.
But if we live our lives in the light,
as he is in the light,
we are in union with one another,
and the blood of Jesus, his Son,
purifies us from all sin.

If we say we have no sin in us,
we are deceiving ourselves
and refusing to admit the truth;
but if we acknowledge our sins,
then God who is faithful and just
will forgive our sins and purify us
from everything that is wrong.
To say that we have never sinned
is to call God a liar
and to show that his word is not in us.

I am writing this, my children,
to stop you sinning;
but if anyone should sin,
we have our advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ, who is just;
he is the sacrifice that takes our sins away,
and not only ours,
but the whole world’s.

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Matthew 2:13-18

After the wise men had left, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him.’ So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod was dead. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet:

I called my son out of Egypt.

Herod was furious when he realised that he had been outwitted by the wise men, and in Bethlehem and its surrounding district he had all the male children killed who were two years old or under, reckoning by the date he had been careful to ask the wise men. It was then that the words spoken through the prophet Jeremiah were fulfilled:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loudly lamenting:
it was Rachel weeping for her children,
refusing to be comforted because they were no more.

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He is the sacrifice that takes our sins away

The Jewish people had been hoping for a messiah for a long time. And a Messiah God did send, just not one who quite fulfilled their expectations of overthrowing their present rulers and becoming a worldly king. The Messiah came to be born into a poor family and the events surrounding his birth were difficult for his parents and disastrous for many innocent families who lost their sons to Herod’s decree. So much for a messianic grand entrance.

Jesus did not come to rid the world of suffering, He joined us in it. The point of this is something that is quite beyond human understanding. Whenever we find ourselves in mental or physical suffering, our natural bodily desire is to remove that suffering so that we feel better and can move on with our lives. But Jesus did not promise to simply end suffering. What He did promise is to give us rest amidst our labour and burdens.

I think that the incarnation, ultimately, is about trusting in the Lord. It is not a passive kind of trusting or a vague kind of hope, but a conscious decision to live a life in Christ. It is about forming new habits and getting rid of old ones that lead one away from God. It is about trusting that all that we do as believers will lead us to the eternal life that Christ promised.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we will be able to have a child-like trust in the Lord.

Thanksgiving: We look back on the year and give thanks for the many opportunities that we had to grow closer to God.

27 December, Wednesday – Jesus, Human and Divine

Dec 27 – Feast of St. John, apostle, evangelist

St. John, also known as the ‘beloved disciple’ of Jesus, was the son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of St. James the Great, and was called one of the Sons of Thunder. Before becoming Jesus’ disciple, he was already a disciple of St. John the Baptist, and a friend of St. Peter the Apostle. He was called by Jesus during the first year of Christ’s ministry and travelled everywhere with him. He took part in the Last Supper, and was the only one of the Twelve not to forsake the Saviour in the hour of his Passion, standing at the foot of the cross.

He was made guardian of Our Lady by Jesus, and he took her into his home. Upon hearing of the Resurrection, he was the first to reach the tomb; when he met the risen Lord at the Lake of Tiberius, he was the first to recognise him.

During the era of the new Church, he worked in Jerusalem and at Ephesus. During Jesus’ ministry, he tried to block a Samaritan from their group, but Jesus explained the open nature of the new Way, and he worked on that principle to found churches in Asia Minor and baptising converts in Samaria. He was imprisoned with Peter for preaching after Pentecost. He wrote the fourth Gospel, three Epistles, and possibly the Book of Revelation.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 John 1:1-4

Something which has existed since the beginning,
that we have heard,
and we have seen with our own eyes;
that we have watched
and touched with our hands:
the Word, who is life –
this is our subject.
That life was made visible:
we saw it and we are giving our testimony,
telling you of the eternal life
which was with the Father and has been made visible to us.
What we have seen and heard
we are telling you
so that you too may be in union with us,
as we are in union
with the Father
and with his Son Jesus Christ.
We are writing this to you to make our own joy complete.

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John 20:2-8

On the first day of the week Mary of Magdala came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed.

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That life was made visible

Ever heard of Arianism, Apollinarism and Monotheletism? In the early years of Christianity, the church struggled to understand and make clear to all believers the teachings of the faith. Those long names are the names of heresies that came about in the few hundred years after Christianity was established. The concept of Jesus’ humanity and divinity was one of the most highly contentious and divisive.

For most of us, it might seem a little too heavy on a theoretical level to delve all the way into whether Jesus had both a human soul and a human will, or whether he had a human intellect that was separate from a divine intellect. But, if questioned, would you be able to articulate your understanding of who it is that you are worshipping? For your reference, this is how the fifth century Athanasian Creed puts it – “He is perfect God; and He is perfect man, with a rational soul and human flesh. He is equal to the Father in His divinity but he is inferior to the Father in His humanity. Although He is God and man, He is not two but one Christ. And He is one, not because His divinity was changed into flesh, but because His humanity was assumed into God. He is one, not at all because of a mingling of substances, but because He is one person.”

For me, the Christmas season is a good time to reflect on God’s love for us. We are somewhat trapped within our limited understanding of time, seeing the birth of Christ as an event happening in a very distant past, and a very foreign land where there was a crazed leader wanting to murder all first-born sons. But the appreciation cannot start and end there, at the scene of the Nativity. Jesus, being fully human, knows exactly how it is like to think and feel as a human. He also knows how suffering is like, enduring a most painful death two thousand plus years ago. Here and now, since Jesus is also fully divine, He is here with us, in our minds, our hearts and everyday lives.

During Christmas vigil mass, I had this reflection — that I am merely a speck of dust or less in God’s eyes, completely subject to his might and power and yet, I am loved; and not only that, am given the choice to accept that love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that the Spirit can move more hearts and minds among Catholics to seek God in scripture and deeper study.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for entering into our human suffering, and although we may not fully understand His purpose of doing so, we will always remain faithful to Him.

25 December, Mass At Dawn – The Gift Of Grace

25 December

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Isaiah 62:11-12

This the Lord proclaims
to the ends of the earth:

Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Look,
your saviour comes,
the prize of his victory with him,
his trophies before him.’
They shall be called ‘The Holy People’,
‘the Lord’s Redeemed.’
And you shall be called ‘The-sought-after’,
‘City-not-forsaken.’

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Titus 3:4-7

When the kindness and love of God our saviour for mankind were revealed, it was not because he was concerned with any righteous actions we might have done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own compassion that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and by renewing us with the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our saviour. He did this so that we should be justified by his grace, to become heirs looking forward to inheriting eternal life.

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Luke 2:15-20

When the angels had gone from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was exactly as they had been told.

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So that we should be justified by his grace

 “As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart”. The shepherds had been paid a visit by an angel proclaiming the birth of a saviour. They were told that the sign is an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. As they repeated these to Mary, I wonder if she had felt an overwhelming sense of reassurance, to have received confirmation of the message that she was given nine months earlier. After a long period of what is presumably silence from divine messengers, it must have been a great relief and comfort to hear that other people had received the same divine revelation.

As the year draws to a close, besides starting to plan for what’s ahead, I think it will be helpful to look back at events of the past year, especially at the times when God’s grace was clearly at work. I had kept a written log of the examens I did over the past year, and it served as a useful reference. There were things I had prayed for but had forgotten about, but which were fulfilled later in the year. There were instances of unexpected blessing, some of which went in the opposite direction of what I had initially dreaded. Even when I had consciously hardened my heart against feeling for a lot of things, God’s grace continued to flow, reminding me of His loving presence.

“…it was for no reason except his own compassion that he saved us…”. It is hard to shake off the thinking that in our constant state of sin, we do not ‘deserve’ the grace of God, so we sometimes do not see the grace for what it is, or we reject it. I think that if we can only pause and recognise God’s grace in our lives, it would be taking a step towards God, and away from sin.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we can be conduits of divine grace in our daily living.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the times we were open to His grace.

21 December, Thursday – Joy Of The Visitation

21 December – St Peter Canisius, Priest, Doctor

He was born in Nijmegen (now in Holland) in 1521. He studied at Cologne and joined the Society of Jesus: he was ordained priest in 1546. He was sent to Germany, where for many years he worked hard to defend and strengthen the Catholic faith both by writing and by preaching. He wrote many books, of which The Catechism is particularly noteworthy. He died at Fribourg in Switzerland on 21 November 1597.

– Universalis

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Song of Songs 2:8-14

I hear my Beloved.
See how he comes
leaping on the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My Beloved is like a gazelle,
like a young stag.

See where he stands
behind our wall.
He looks in at the window,
he peers through the lattice.

My Beloved lifts up his voice,
he says to me,
‘Come then, my love,
my lovely one, come.
For see, winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth.
The season of glad songs has come,
the cooing of the turtledove is heard
in our land.
The fig tree is forming its first figs
and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance.
Come then, my love,
my lovely one, come.
My dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock,
in the coverts of the cliff,
show me your face,
let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet
and your face is beautiful.’

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Luke 1:39-45

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’

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The child in my womb leapt for joy

There is an image of the visitation of Elizabeth by Mary, portrayed in many statues. It shows two women bending forward towards each other, foreheads almost touching, hands joined. Both are with child, and their expression is one of gratitude and joyful anticipation.

It is interesting how this joy came about. The young woman got pregnant before she married, and her much older cousin was also about to have a child, unheard of for a woman her age. Both would have had to deal with a fair amount of external gossip, but in each other, they found the affirmation that comes from another who is in a similar situation. Not only that, they received tangible signs of God’s blessings and graces, and marvelled at the wonder of how the fates of their children will be closely intertwined.

How joyful are you as we approach Christmas? I have to say that presently, I feel besieged by anxiety about my work next year and the uncertainty of my future career. In the midst of such thoughts and feelings, it feels much more comfortable to slip into a state of self-absorbed melancholy. It is hard to feel joy presently, but I shall continue to reflect on Elizabeth’s words in Luke 1:45 – “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that the joy of the Good News will touch our hearts this Christmas.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the spiritual graces that the Lord has blessed us with.

12 November, Sunday – How Committed Are We?

12 November 2017

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Wisdom 6:12-16

Wisdom is bright, and does not grow dim.
By those who love her she is readily seen,
and found by those who look for her.
Quick to anticipate those who desire her, she makes herself known to them.
Watch for her early and you will have no trouble;
you will find her sitting at your gates.
Even to think about her is understanding fully grown;
be on the alert for her and anxiety will quickly leave you.
She herself walks about looking for those who are worthy of her
and graciously shows herself to them as they go,
in every thought of theirs coming to meet them.

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1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about those who have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with him. We can tell you this from the Lord’s own teaching, that any of us who are left alive until the Lord’s coming will not have any advantage over those who have died. At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then those of us who are still alive will be taken up in the clouds, together with them; to meet the Lord in the air. So we shall stay with the Lord for ever. With such thoughts as these you should comfort one another.

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Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven will be like this: Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible: the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps. The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight there was a cry, “The bridegroom is here! Go out and meet him.” At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, “Give us some of your oil: our lamps are going out.” But they replied, “There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.” They had gone off to buy it when the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall and the door was closed. The other bridesmaids arrived later. “Lord, Lord,” they said “open the door for us.” But he replied, “I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.” So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.’

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Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall

I remember one of the priests in my parish describing a little anecdote about social responsibility. He would always pick up the rubbish he sees on the church grounds, but would always find himself being stopped by parishioners when he is in the midst of doing so. The concerned parishioners would tell him that he does not need to dirty his hands as the cleaner would pick up the trash. Their remarks did not make much sense to the priest.

In the gospel reading, the ten bridesmaids had all committed themselves to the wedding, and part of that commitment involves ensuring that they had sufficient oil in their lamps to last the night. The five foolish bridesmaids did nothing to honour that commitment, and even hoped to cut corners by getting the oil from the five wise ones. At the end, they found themselves completely shut out from the wedding, left out in the dark.

All our life, we have to deal with commitments. A lot of times we find ourselves making them, and sometimes, we break them. As illustrated by the gospel, making a commitment is not passive lip service – it requires continued, sustained action to keep fulfilling that promise. It means making that extra effort, going that additional mile, and occasionally getting our hands dirty (with reference to the litter example in my first paragraph).

We can identify the many roles that we play in our lives – a son or daughter, a parent, a friend, a neighbor. Ultimately, we are living out our commitment as Christians, followers of Christ. So we have to keep active in the faith, for “She herself walks about looking for those who are worthy of her and graciously shows herself to them as they go, in every thought of theirs coming to meet them” (Wisdom 6:16).

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the grace to meet Christ everyday in our words, thoughts and actions.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people who have shown their commitment to us in our lives.

2 November, Thursday – Finding Rest

2 Nov – All Souls Day

Today we celebrate a feast in commemoration of the faithful departed in purgatory, that is, the faithful departed who have not yet been purified and reached Heaven. After Abbot Odilo of Cluny instituted it in the monasteries of his congregation in 998, other religious orders took up the observance, and it was adopted by various dioceses and gradually by the whole Church. The Office of the Dead must be recited by the clergy on this day and Pope Benedict XV granted to all priests the privilege of saying three Masses of requiem: one for the souls in purgatory, one for the intention of the Holy Father, one for the priest’s.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 25:6-9 

On this mountain,
the Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples
a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines,
of food rich and juicy, of fine strained wines.
On this mountain he will remove
the mourning veil covering all peoples,
and the shroud enwrapping all nations,
he will destroy Death for ever.
The Lord will wipe away
the tears from every cheek;
he will take away his people’s shame
everywhere on earth,
for the Lord has said so.
That day, it will be said: See, this is our God
in whom we hoped for salvation;
the Lord is the one in whom we hoped.

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Romans 5:5-11

Hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us. We were still helpless when at his appointed moment Christ died for sinful men. It is not easy to die even for a good man – though of course for someone really worthy, a man might be prepared to die – but what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Having died to make us righteous, is it likely that he would now fail to save us from God’s anger? When we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, we were still enemies; now that we have been reconciled, surely we may count on being saved by the life of his Son? Not merely because we have been reconciled but because we are filled with joyful trust in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have already gained our reconciliation.

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Matthew 11:25-30

Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

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

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The Lord will wipe away the tears from every cheek

A priest in my parish who once asked the congregation to raise their hands if they wanted to go to heaven. Naturally, many hands went up (those who did not raise their hands were probably either very reserved or suspicious about what was going to come next). The priest then asked how many of us wanted to die. Naturally, no hands went up (save for a couple of unfathomable exceptions). He then remarked how interesting that was, since everyone would need to first die before entering heaven.

Jesus brings with Him the promise of eternal life. For those who have gone before us, they have passed the ‘obstacle’ of death and with God’s grace, would be either in purgatory or already in heaven. How about the rest of us still living the life on earth, running the race and struggling with our own sins and of others? Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Just last Thursday, I felt emotionally spent after a very long phone conversation with a parent of a student in my school. I felt that I had failed in my attempts to reason with her as I dealt with her demand to have that one additional mark given to her child. I prayed before calling her a second time, but her offensive remarks got worse and I had a hard time containing my anger and frustration as she ranted at me. The conversation ended with the issue unresolved, but I was very surprised to hear the next day that she was apparently satisfied with my response to her. She visited the school and met with all the heads of department, except for mine. I can only thank the good Lord that my emotional pain was somehow ‘worth it’, and He had helped me tide through yet another potential crisis.

Jesus is always with us, loving and protecting us, and we only need to step forth in faith, be it in life or death.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the souls of our dearly departed, the souls in purgatory, that they may be loosed from their sins. May eternal rest be granted upon them, Amen.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the hope that Christ gives us.

31 August, Thursday – Constant Vigilance

31 Aug

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1 Thessalonians 3:7-13

Brothers, your faith has been a great comfort to us in the middle of our own troubles and sorrows; now we can breathe again, as you are still holding firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you, for all the joy we feel before our God on your account? We are earnestly praying night and day to be able to see you face to face again and make up any shortcomings in your faith.

May God our Father himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, make it easy for us to come to you. May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you. And may he so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints.

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Matthew 24:42-51

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming. You may be quite sure of this that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house. Therefore, you too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

‘What sort of servant, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their food at the proper time? ‘Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you solemnly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the dishonest servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time,” and sets about beating his fellow servants and eating and drinking with drunkards, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.’

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Stay awake

At this time of writing, I have been living in Canberra for more than two months. This is the first time I am living abroad on my own for an extended period of time, and is also a time of testing. I have been disconcerted and disappointed to find that when on my own, my thoughts often tended towards the negative and sinful, with the stress of assignments often compounding those dark thoughts. It is during this time that I realised my procrastination when it comes to daily activities also extends to sin and reconciliation with God. Yes, maybe I made the sinful choice now, but I can always go for confession and repent later, right?

Jesus taught his disciples about the narrow gate being the way to enter the kingdom of heaven. What is that narrow way? It is so easy in our days of material comfort to seek the same kind of comfort in the spiritual aspect as well. Instead of taking the narrow gate, I suspect that a lot of us are choosing to take the most comfortable gate, which will likely not lead one there, come to think of it.

“Constant vigilance!” is the mantra of Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody, a prominent character in the Harry Potter series. In the gospel reading for today, Jesus used the example of a vigilant householder who will earn the rewards of heaven. If I were to use a typical workplace example, most employees would take the opportunity to slack off work, take longer lunch breaks, etc in the boss’ absence. I have often done so myself, sad to say. But Jesus is not like any boss. The rules he set for entering His kingdom are tough, but are not meant to stifle and restrict us. In the great spiritual mystery that will only make sense if we put our hearts and minds to discerning God’s will and acting on it, following Jesus’ rules will set us free.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the discipline to turn away from sin and find the strength to make the difficult but God-loving decisions that are uncomfortable for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the forgiveness of God.

30 August, Wednesday – God’s Message or Human Thinking?

30 Aug

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1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Let me remind you, brothers, how hard we used to work, slaving night and day so as not to be a burden on any one of you while we were proclaiming God’s Good News to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, that our treatment of you, since you became believers, has been impeccably right and fair. You can remember how we treated every one of you as a father treats his children, teaching you what was right, encouraging you and appealing to you to live a life worthy of God, who is calling you to share the glory of his kingdom. Another reason why we constantly thank God for you is that as soon as you heard the message that we brought you as God’s message, you accepted it for what it really is, God’s message and not some human thinking; and it is still a living power among you who believe it.

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Matthew 23:27-32

Jesus said, ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of corruption. In the same way you appear to people from the outside like good honest men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who build the sepulchres of the prophets and decorate the tombs of holy men, saying, “We would never have joined in shedding the blood of the prophets, had we lived in our fathers’ day.” So! Your own evidence tells against you! You are the sons of those who murdered the prophets! Very well then, finish off the work that your fathers began.’

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You accepted it for what it really is

Are you happy? If you are not, is there something wrong? Should happiness be the main purpose of our lives? Popular thinking in contemporary times emphasises a lot on happiness and seeking it. People are consulting philosophy, psychology, science, religion and even pop culture to find the ingredients to not have to drag themselves along their lives in misery.

So how is Christianity different from the human thinking that so pervades our highly connected world now? What does Christianity offer? The answer is obvious and simple – Jesus. Our lives do not start and end with ourselves or the decisions we make. During this time abroad for my studies, I have faced several challenges. For example, having to deal with my own grades and assignments after a decade of being a teacher and not a student, having to overcome my laziness about domestic chores, trying to adapt to an unfamiliar culture and people. Very quickly, I realised that one really needs an anchor to navigate the choppy waters of life. This anchor cannot be a philosophy or some psychological finding limited by the extent of human thinking and ‘logic’. It has to be something beyond, something much greater.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt 11: 28-30) These words are probably among some of the most widely quoted verses of the bible, about what Jesus can give us if only we turn to Him. I am quite sure He is not offering happiness as such, but He is going all the way into the depths of our souls. It is not simply a matter of dumping all our sorrows and pain onto Him, but also accepting His yoke and learning His ways.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the humility to always seek guidance from the Lord, especially in our current climate of moral fluidity.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for His life-giving grace.

27 April, Thursday – Obedience to God or man

27 April 2017

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Acts 5:27-33

When the officials had brought the apostles in to face the Sanhedrin, the high priest demanded an explanation. ‘We gave you a formal warning’ he said ‘not to preach in this name, and what have you done? You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and seem determined to fix the guilt of this man’s death on us.’

In reply Peter and the apostles said, ‘Obedience to God comes before obedience to men; it was the God of our ancestors who raised up Jesus, but it was you who had him executed by hanging on a tree. By his own right hand God has now raised him up to be leader and saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins through him to Israel. We are witnesses to all this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’

This so infuriated them that they wanted to put them to death.

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John 3:31-36

John the Baptist said to his disciples:

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

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Obedience to God comes before obedience to men

You may have heard of this rather famous social psychology experiment called the Milgram experiment. In 1961, psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted a series of experiments on Americans to test if German Nazi soldiers were merely following orders in their massacre and abuse of their prisoners. He had volunteers (the test subjects) administer ‘electric shocks’ of increasing voltage to another person (the ‘learner’) in another room but visible to the volunteers, whenever the learner got questions wrong. The electric shocks were not real, although the learner pretended to receive it. At some point, the participants got uncomfortable, but 65% of them went on to administer the final shock of 450 volts, with prompting from the experimenter.

Although the experiment has had its fair share of criticism for its methodology, I am quite disturbed by its results and when I imagine myself in such a situation. Would my subjection to authority override my moral values? I cannot say that it will definitely not happen.

Thanks to the deviousness of our human nature and influence from previous experiences, we will likely need to struggle to make a variety of moral decisions on a daily basis. Sometimes, it is not just a matter of struggling against our own will, but also against that of others. The latter can prove to be a lot more challenging than the former. What if your parents, or your superior at work, or even the law, requires you to do something that is morally wrong, by which I mean against the teachings of the Church?

I would assume that most of us were brought up in cultures where it is the norm to respect and obey authority; and, similar to the conclusions drawn by the Milgram researchers, we would tend to conform to that norm. That is of course a good and necessary thing for a functioning, structured society, but there is such a sin called the sin in excess against servility – meaning adherence to a directive that is contrary to a higher law. For example, civil law permits abortion, but that is against the law of our church.

Thomas Aquinas declared in his Summa Theologica that God is to be obeyed in all things, while human authorities are to be obeyed in certain things. It takes a lot of guts and a firm conviction in one’s faith to disobey authority who is commanding something contrary to God’s law. Most of us will not come naturally equipped with the resources to do this, and it is really only through God’s grace that we can rise up above ourselves.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that the Spirit will give us the courage to stand up to injustice and abuse of authority.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the role models around us who have dared to give witness to the faith.

25 February, Saturday – Becoming a Child

25 February 2017

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Ecclesiasticus 17:1-13

The Lord fashioned man from the earth,
to consign him back to it.
He gave them so many days’ determined time,
he gave them authority over everything on earth.
He clothed them with strength like his own,
and made them in his own image.
He filled all living things with dread of man,
making him master over beasts and birds.
He shaped for them a mouth and tongue, eyes and ears,
and gave them a heart to think with.
He filled them with knowledge and understanding,
and revealed to them good and evil.
He put his own light in their hearts
to show them the magnificence of his works.
They will praise his holy name,
as they tell of his magnificent works.
He set knowledge before them,
he endowed them with the law of life.
Their eyes saw his glorious majesty,
and their ears heard the glory of his voice.
He said to them, ‘Beware of all wrong-doing’;
he gave each a commandment concerning his neighbour.
Their ways are always under his eye,
they cannot be hidden from his sight.

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Mark 10:13-16

People were bringing little children to Jesus, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.

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Let the children come to me

In Jesus’ time, children had little or no status. Clearly, the disciples did not think much of them, rebuking people who were bringing children to Jesus for His blessings. But this caused one of the few episodes in the gospels where Jesus was described as feeling indignant, showing that he has great love for children.

How does one become like a little child in order to enter God’s kingdom? Perhaps one of the best references is the writings of Saint Therese, well-loved and famous for her ‘Little Way’. Saint Therese had a remarkable perception of her relationship with God from a young age, figuring out that the way to heaven for her is to do small things with great love and obedience. Like how a child is completely dependent on his/her parents, she would put her total trust in God, accepting whatever He gives her, and loving others as He has loved her.

I attempted to apply some of Saint Therese’s teachings to the way I deal with my own issues. It is a lot more challenging than it looks, especially when despair is always more tempting than trusting God. Perhaps it is not so much about avoiding or getting rid of negative feelings, but trusting God enough to still give and love in spite of the pain.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we can empty ourselves this Lent in order for God to fill it up.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the abundant and ever-present love of the Lord.