Tag Archives: edith koh

27 April, Thursday – Obedience to God or man

27 April 2017

_______________

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.

_____________________

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.’

_________________

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

_________________

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.

_______________________

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.

__________________________

 

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.

24 February, Friday – Spiritual Friends

24 February 2017

___________________

Ecclesiasticus 6:5-17

A kindly turn of speech multiplies a man’s friends,
and a courteous way of speaking invites many a friendly reply.
Let your acquaintances be many,
but your advisers one in a thousand.
If you want to make a friend, take him on trial,
and be in no hurry to trust him;
for one kind of friend is only so when it suits him
but will not stand by you in your day of trouble.
Another kind of friend will fall out with you
and to your dismay make the quarrel public,
and a third kind of friend will share your table,
but not stand by you in your day of trouble:
when you are doing well he will be your second self,
ordering your servants about;
but if ever you are brought low he will turn against you
and will hide himself from you.
Keep well clear of your enemies,
and be wary of your friends.
A faithful friend is a sure shelter,
whoever finds one has found a rare treasure.
A faithful friend is something beyond price,
there is no measuring his worth.
A faithful friend is the elixir of life,
and those who fear the Lord will find one.
Whoever fears the Lord makes true friends,
for as a man is, so is his friend.

________________________

Mark 10:1-12

Jesus came to the district of Judaea and the far side of the Jordan. And again crowds gathered round him, and again he taught them, as his custom was. Some Pharisees approached him and asked, ‘Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him. He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ ‘Moses allowed us’ they said ‘to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘It was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’ Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, ‘The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.’

________________________

Whoever fears the Lord makes true friends

I was feeling a little lost about what to reflect on for today’s readings – the first is about friendship, while the gospel is about marriage. I do not have anyone I can count as a best friend or even very close friends, nor am I married or in a relationship. I prayed about it and was led to this blog page where the writer related her experience of finding spiritual friends. Through the page, I learned about the writings of Saint Francis de Sales on friendship. I find them to be a good guide on how to build true spiritual friendships with others, and would like to share some of his writings with you.

“If men share false and vain things, their friendship will be false and vain; if that which is good and true, their friendship will be good and true…” What do you talk about with your good friends? I am grateful to have several friends with whom I can have deep meaningful conversations with, and I have a special love for those with whom I have shared spiritual ideas and thoughts with in an open and trusting manner. “If the bond of your mutual liking be charity, devotion and Christian perfection, God knows how very precious a friendship it is!” I have learned that having such “spiritual friends” is of paramount importance for one to continually grow in faith, especially in this present age where there are so many distractions that can lead one astray.

I have heard about two famous examples of spiritual friendships among saints – that between Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Clare, and between Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Jane de Chantal. It was evident that although they were close friends of the opposite sex, their eyes were not on each other but were looking in the same direction – towards God. In this way their friendship became apostolic and life-giving, allowing them to become pillars of faith in their own communities.

“And friendship is the most dangerous of all affections, because any other love may exist without much mental communication, but as friendship is founded thereon, it is hardly possible to be closely bound by its ties to any one without sharing in his qualities.” We like to talk about meeting the ‘right one’, but if instead we get to the meet the ‘right friend’, how precious would that friendship be!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the Holy Spirit to send us good and holy friendships at different points in life’s journeys.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the true spiritual friends you have blessed us with, and for all those who have truly loved us for who we are.

Thursday, 23 February – Flavourless salt

23 Feb – Saint Polycarp, Bishop, Martyr

St Polycarp (-155) He was a disciple of the Apostles, bishop of Smyrna, and a friend of St Ignatius of Antioch. He went to Rome to confer with Pope Anicetus about the celebration of Easter. He was martyred in about 155 by being burnt to death in the stadium. Polycarp is an important figure in the history of the Church because he is one of the earliest Christians whose writings still survive. He bears witness to the beliefs of the early Christians and the early stages of the development of doctrine.

___________________________

Ecclesiasticus 5:1-10

Do not give your heart to your money,
  or say, ‘With this I am self-sufficient.’
Do not be led by your appetites and energy
  to follow the passions of your heart.
And do not say, ‘Who has authority over me?’
  for the Lord will certainly be avenged on you.
Do not say, ‘I sinned, and what happened to me?’
f or the Lord’s forbearance is long.
Do not be so sure of forgiveness
  that you add sin to sin.
And do not say, ‘His compassion is great,
  he will forgive me my many sins’;
for with him are both mercy and wrath,
  and his rage bears heavy on sinners.
Do not delay your return to the Lord,
  do not put it off day after day;
for suddenly the Lord’s wrath will blaze out,
  and at the time of vengeance you will be utterly destroyed.
Do not set your heart on ill-gotten gains,
  they will be of no use to you on the day of disaster.

___________________________

Mark 9:41-50

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.

  ‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go out. For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is a good thing, but if salt has become insipid, how can you season it again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.’

___________________________

If salt has become insipid, how can you season it again?

Salt was an extremely important and valuable commodity in ancient times. It can be used to flavour and preserve foods. Salt, in ancient times, did not go through the purification that modern technology provides, so it was possible for the salt from the Dead Sea to lose its saltiness through exposure to air, contamination with impurities or through exposure to excessive sunlight. A chemical reaction must occur for the salt to lose its saltiness, and the process is irreversible.

How can we lose our flavour when it comes to the faith? Very easily. We live in times where worldly ideas of ‘freedom’ are the social norm, or even if they are not yet the social norm, people fight to make it so. Without a solid foundation in the faith, it is easy to fall prey to the reasoning behind secular worldviews. A lifestyle where one places work and other priorities before Christ is another characteristic of this age of busyness, and almost inevitably the faith becomes lukewarm or even non-existent.

The silver lining in all this is that, unlike salt, we can still regain our saltiness. For me, I find that it is crucial for me to be in constant contact with spiritual writings or faith communities. Since most of us do work that does not directly involve scripture or religion, there has to be that extra effort made to be constantly reminded of Christ’s teachings. It is only when we ourselves feel refreshed, invigorated and inspired by the faith, that we can reach out effectively to others.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we will not be led by our own appetites and energy to follow the passions of our hearts. Instead, let us be led by Christ and His love.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the invisible hand of the Lord that guides us and brings us up when we fall.

31 December, Saturday – New Year Resolutions

Dec 31 – Memorial for St. Sylvester I, pope

Sylvester (d. 335) was pope in the reign of Emperor Constantine I, who built the Lateran and other churches. He sent legates to the First Council of Nicaea, and was involved in the controversy over Arianism. The spurious Donation of Constantine was supposedly given to St. Sylvester.

  • Patron Saint Index

___________________

1 John 2:18-21

Children, these are the last days;
you were told that an Antichrist must come,
and now several antichrists have already appeared;
we know from this that these are the last days.
Those rivals of Christ came out of our own number, but they had never really belonged;
if they had belonged, they would have stayed with us;
but they left us, to prove that not one of them
ever belonged to us.
But you have been anointed by the Holy One,
and have all received the knowledge.
It is not because you do not know the truth that I am writing to you
but rather because you know it already
and know that no lie can come from the truth.

_________________

John 1:1-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

______________________

And we saw his glory

We have reached the last day of 2016. As I type this, I am watching a television programme that is reviewing the key events of the year that is about to pass. There were moments of great joy, and also great sorrow. There were also fun moments. The one event that had the greatest impact on me, interestingly, was a game called Pokemon Go. In order to capture the water Pokemon from the many Pokemon stops at the reservoir park, I made my way there. It was a momentous occasion, as I am usually found on the couch at home and never at the reservoir park, which is walking distance from home. The game got me addicted for a couple of months and even till now, there is a large number of addicts roaming around parks and other hotspots.

The Gospel passage today are the famous words that refer to the Incarnation. Without Jesus, I suppose God would have remained somewhat abstract and probably distant. But in this one great act of love, our world is changed forever, for Jesus showed us the way to His Father and to our salvation. The way is a narrow one, however, and it takes work to change ourselves so that we become more like Christ.

Since we are at the brink of welcoming the new year, making New Year resolutions can be one way to help us become better followers of Christ. Rather than the usual ‘cut down on drinking’/ ‘do more exercise’ kind of resolutions, I suggest resolutions of a slightly different kind. In his book ‘Catholicism’, Bishop Barron mentions four main areas that people are addicted to – wealth, power, pleasure and honour. Indeed, I believe that each one of us can name an addiction under one of more of these categories. For example, I am not really into accumulating a lot of wealth, nor do I enjoy having power, but I am definitely addicted to honour. I often fantasise about myself getting accolades for something great that I did. With that awareness, I know I have to consciously curb those thoughts and desire to be honoured for the things I do.

So what is it that you are addicted to – wealth, power, pleasure or honour? What kind of resolution can you make to steer yourself away from that addiction and towards Christ?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the grace to discern our addictions in life, so that we can resolve to not let ourselves be enslaved by them.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for 2016, for the good, the bad and the ugly, as they have contributed, in one way or another, to our relationship with our Lord.

30 December, Friday – Challenges of the Call

Dec 30 – Feast of the Holy Family

We celebrate the Holy Family of Nazareth, which is the model for all who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

  • The Sunday Missal

__________________________

Ecclesiasticus 3:3-7,14-17

The Lord honours the father in his children,
and upholds the rights of a mother over her sons.
Whoever respects his father is atoning for his sins,
he who honours his mother is like someone amassing a fortune.
Whoever respects his father will be happy with children of his own,
he shall be heard on the day when he prays.
Long life comes to him who honours his father,
he who sets his mother at ease is showing obedience to the Lord.
My son, support your father in his old age,
do not grieve him during his life.
Even if his mind should fail, show him sympathy,
do not despise him in your health and strength;
for kindness to a father shall not be forgotten
but will serve as reparation for your sins.

__________________________

Matthew 2:13-15,19-23

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.

After Herod’s death, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother with you and go back to the land of Israel, for those who wanted to kill the child are dead.’ So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, went back to the land of Israel. But when he learnt that Archelaus had succeeded his father Herod as ruler of Judaea he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he left for the region of Galilee. There he settled in a town called Nazareth. In this way the words spoken through the prophets were to be fulfilled:

‘He will be called a Nazarene.’

___________________________

So Joseph got up

Joseph is famously silent in the gospels. There is no record of him uttering a word anywhere. But there are records of his actions, which show that he is a faithful man, devoted to God and to caring for his family. Mary was the one who said ‘Yes’ to God to bring the Saviour to the world. Although largely overshadowed by his wife, Joseph had also said ‘Yes’ in a big way, ensuring that the Saviour was protected, and grew up in a complete family. He had to relocate his family over long distances based on a message received in a dream. Also, he surely could not tell others the truth of his son’s parentage, and he had to shoulder the responsibility of bringing up the son of God.

Being obedient to God’s call usually comes with its challenges and sacrifices. Over the past two years, I have been active in the Catholic Student Community in my school. I stepped up after the main teacher left, mainly because I saw a need to fill the gap, and there are only a handful of Catholic teachers in the school. I did not think too much about how it would impact my workload, and it turned out to be, if I may be blunt, quite burdensome. My core work is in my subject area, and in managing the department and the teachers under me. In terms of my appraisal, such work on a religious level is quite extraneous and not given much prominence.

There were times when I was rushing out a lesson plan on religious education, or slides for mass, that I felt I was reaching the end of my tether, drowning in work. But my desire to do something for the Catholic teens helped me to push on. In the process, there were highlights that would become precious memories in my faith journey, and there were also countless instances of disappointment and frustration. I have since left my job, and I may not know what I managed to achieve, if there was anything at all. I just did what I could with my time there, trusting that God’s grace and might is way above my own inadequacies.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that when we encounter difficulties in our relationships with family members, we would turn to the Lord for guidance and healing.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the joy amidst pain in our daily lives.

29 December, Thursday – The Wait is Over

Dec 29 – Memorial for St. Thomas Becket, bishop, martyr

Thomas (1118-1170) was of Norman ancestry. He was educated at Merton Priory, Paris, Bologna, and Auxerre. He was a civil and canon lawyer, a soldier and officer. He was archdeacon of Canterbury, and was a Friend of King Henry II, as well as Chancellor of England. He was ordained in 1162 and was appointed archbishop of Canterbury the next day. He opposed the King’s interference in ecclesiastical matters. He was exiled several times, and was eventually murdered (and martyred) in 1170 in the Cathedral at Canterbury, England.

  • Patron Saint Index

________________________

1 John 2:3-11

We can be sure that we know God
only by keeping his commandments.
Anyone who says, ‘I know him’,
and does not keep his commandments,
is a liar,
refusing to admit the truth.
But when anyone does obey what he has said,
God’s love comes to perfection in him.
We can be sure that we are in God
only when the one who claims to be living in him
is living the same kind of life as Christ lived.
My dear people,
this is not a new commandment that I am writing to tell you,
but an old commandment
that you were given from the beginning,
the original commandment which was the message brought to you.
Yet in another way, what I am writing to you,
and what is being carried out in your lives as it was in his,
is a new commandment;
because the night is over
and the real light is already shining.
Anyone who claims to be in the light
but hates his brother
is still in the dark.
But anyone who loves his brother is living in the light
and need not be afraid of stumbling;
unlike the man who hates his brother and is in the darkness,
not knowing where he is going,
because it is too dark to see.

__________________________

Luke 2:22-35

When the day came for them to be purified as laid down by the Law of Moses, the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord – observing what stands written in the Law of the Lord: Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord – and also to offer in sacrifice, in accordance with what is said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. Now in Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to Israel’s comforting and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord. Prompted by the Spirit he came to the Temple and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the Law required, he took him into his arms and blessed God; and he said:

‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace,
just as you promised;
because my eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared for all the nations to see,
a light to enlighten the pagans
and the glory of your people Israel.’

As the child’s father and mother stood there wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’

______________________

Your word has been fulfilled

The day was 13 August 2016. I was in school that Saturday morning, overseeing the setting up of a carnival booth by students. Upstairs, a packed school hall was witnessing history. The whole place was pulsing with noise and I could not be sure, but I thought I heard screams and uproarious cheering coming from the hall. Moments later, a colleague walked past and announced, “He did it!”

To be very honest, I had long given up hope of Singapore garnering an Olympic gold medal. It was just one of those things that elude tiny countries like ours, no matter how wealthy we become. As a Singaporean, I felt my heart bursting with pride, and so deeply moved that a nation’s hope had been fulfilled so perfectly by a determined and gifted young man. The wait was over. We would never lament the futility of gunning for an Olympic gold ever again.

In today’s Gospel passage, Simeon had spent a lifetime waiting to glimpse his salvation. As his hair grew completely grey and his footsteps turned into a shuffle, would he have wondered whether his wait was worthwhile? Or would he have forged on with confidence that the Lord will fulfil his promise made to him? Imagine his joy when the wait was over.

Lately, I have been praying Simeon’s prayer at night, having decided out of the blue to start praying the Divine Office. I find it a beautiful prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord, as it expresses peace of mind at having accepted Jesus, joy at seeing the work of the Lord, and a humble submission to God’s will. “Lord, now let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that despite our wounds, we will find peace in our hearts.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the signs of grace that God places in our lives.

28 December, Wednesday – 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

______________________

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.

__________________________

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.

__________________________

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, Tuesday – 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

_______________________________

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.

___________________________

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.

________________________________

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.

26 December, Monday – Dying to Self

Dec 26 – Feast of St. Stephen, protomartyr

Stephen is the first martyr. He was one of the deacons appointed by the Apostles to organize the distribution of food to the poor. He performed many miracles and confounded the Jews in disputation. They fabricated false charges against him. At his trial he preached the risen Christ to them, so they stoned him to death. He prayed for his persecutors as he was dying. One of them, Saul of Tarsus, who was looking after the cloaks of the stone-throwers, was later converted and became the great missionary St Paul.

– Universalis

_____________________________

Acts 6:8-10,7:54-59

Stephen was filled with grace and power and began to work miracles and great signs among the people. But then certain people came forward to debate with Stephen, some from Cyrene and Alexandria who were members of the synagogue called the Synagogue of Freedmen, and others from Cilicia and Asia. They found they could not get the better of him because of his wisdom, and because it was the Spirit that prompted what he said. They were infuriated when they heard this, and ground their teeth at him.

But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. ‘I can see heaven thrown open’ he said ‘and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this all the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they all rushed at him, sent him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man called Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’

___________________________

Matthew 10:17-22

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you.

‘Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved.’

______________________

The man who stands firm to the end will be saved

 Today’s first reading reminds me of a soon-to-be-released film by Martin Scorsese, entitled ‘Silence’. It is a movie that is supposedly 28 years in the making, about two Jesuit priests who travel to Japan to meet their mentor whom they heard had committed apostasy. The film is based on a novel written by Japanese author Sh?saku End?. During the climax of the story, the lead character Sebastião Rodrigues, one of the Jesuits, decides to renounce his faith by stepping on a fumie (a carved image of Christ) in order to free local Christians from further torture.

Although the story is a work of fiction, it seems plausible that such methods were indeed used to threaten and torture priests during the persecution of Japanese Catholics. I have tried, but failed to imagine myself in the shoes of the priest made to renounce his faith in order to save his fellow Christians from torment. What is the right thing to do? To step on the fumie, or not renounce the faith but let the torment of others continue?

Something that I am sort of figuring out, and which is perhaps more related to the circumstances of my life, is the dying to self for the purpose of honouring God. There are certain actions that I like to do without feeling much guilt, although I know that they are technically contrary to the teachings of the church and of the Bible. At some point recently, I realised that I need to make a conscious decision to constantly die to myself and reject those sinful actions, so that I can truly stand and say that I am a follower of Christ. During the Advent Penitential Service this year, I confessed sins that had long been buried in my heart and which I had not even realised were there. I just somehow decided that there was no need to be a slave to fear or shame, and to make a decisive move to love Christ rather than waver and fret and make half-hearted attempts.

In this Christmas season, let us be open to renewing our hearts for Christ.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the courage to die to ourselves constantly so as to give glory to our God.

Thanksgiving:  We give thanks for the martyrs of the faith whom we know are praying for us and our salvation.