Tag Archives: edith koh

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.

24 February, Friday – Spiritual Friends

24 February 2017

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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.

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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.’

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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.

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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.

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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.’

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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

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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.

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John 1:1-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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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.

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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.’

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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.