Tag Archives: edith koh

21 March, Saturday – Have mercy on me, a sinner

21 March

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Hosea 5:15-6:6

The Lord says this:

They will search for me in their misery.
‘Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces, but he will heal us;
he has struck us down, but he will bandage our wounds;
after a day or two he will bring us back to life,
on the third day he will raise us
and we shall live in his presence.
Let us set ourselves to know the Lord;
that he will come is as certain as the dawn
his judgement will rise like the light,
he will come to us as showers come,
like spring rains watering the earth.’

What am I to do with you, Ephraim?
What am I to do with you, Judah?
This love of yours is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that quickly disappears.
This is why I have torn them to pieces by the prophets,
why I slaughtered them with the words from my mouth,
since what I want is love, not sacrifice;
knowledge of God, not holocausts.

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Luke 18:9-14

Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else: ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

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God, be merciful to me, a sinner

In this period where we are not able to attend mass and receive the Eucharist, I have been reading articles and listening to podcasts in an attempt to fill the spiritual gap. One of the recommendations I came across is to pray the Jesus prayer. The prayer goes like this: “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me.” It originated from the desert fathers, who repeated the prayer continually (akin to reciting the rosary) as part of their ascetic practice. The Jesus prayer is a combination of three bible verses from Philippians 2:6-11, Luke 1:31-35 and the parable in today’s Gospel passage.

In his boastful “prayer” to God, the Pharisee gauged the level of his sinfulness by the sins that he did not commit. There was no mention of his own sins, and he also took the opportunity to take a dig at the tax collector whom he obviously despised. He also seemed to take pride in his “holy” actions of fasting and tithing, as if these would protect him from sin. The tax collector, in contrast, simply opened his heart to God, acknowledged his sins and appealed to God for mercy and forgiveness.

We may think that we are not like the Pharisee, so self-absorbed in his rituals and religious practices. The recent unprecedented absence of mass attendance in my life has led me to realise that I have always relied on my participation at weekly mass as a kind of crutch to assure myself that at least I am in contact with God once a week. Whether I do my daily prayers and reflections may not be that important. Now that my crutch is gone, I am forced to re-look at my own spirituality. I was also struck by an article I read that described how people in the past had little access to priests and would receive the Eucharist only once a year. That really led me to wonder how I take the Eucharist for granted. Mass is always a privilege, and should come on top of daily communion with God through constant prayer and surrender. “What I want is love, not sacrifice; knowledge of God, not holocausts.” (Hosea 6:6)

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for the opportunity to grow closer to Him, to ponder in silence at His will, while we continue to pray for greater wisdom in dealing with the current pandemic.

20 March, Friday – Love with all our heart

20 March

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Hosea 14:2-10

The Lord says this:

Israel, come back to the Lord your God;
your iniquity was the cause of your downfall.
Provide yourself with words
and come back to the Lord.
Say to him, ‘Take all iniquity away
so that we may have happiness again
and offer you our words of praise.
Assyria cannot save us,
we will not ride horses any more,
or say, “Our God!” to what our own hands have made,
for you are the one in whom orphans find compassion.’
– I will heal their disloyalty,
I will love them with all my heart,
for my anger has turned from them.
I will fall like dew on Israel.
He shall bloom like the lily,
and thrust out roots like the poplar,
his shoots will spread far;
he will have the beauty of the olive
and the fragrance of Lebanon.
They will come back to live in my shade;
they will grow corn that flourishes,
they will cultivate vines
as renowned as the wine of Helbon.
What has Ephraim to do with idols any more
when it is I who hear his prayer and care for him?
I am like a cypress ever green,
all your fruitfulness comes from me.

Let the wise man understand these words.
Let the intelligent man grasp their meaning.
For the ways of the Lord are straight,
and virtuous men walk in them,
but sinners stumble.

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Mark 12:28-34

One of the scribes came up to Jesus and put a question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to him, ‘Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true: that he is one and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.’ Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken, said, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that no one dared to question him any more.

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To love him with all your heart

Since the middle of last year, I have been experiencing bad anxiety over my various responsibilities. The new challenges that came with PhD research somehow brought about a great deal of worry and an unprecedented sense of desperation. I found myself sinking into despair often, believing that I would not pull through, and was completely unable to place things in God’s hands.

Today’s gospel passage is a well-known one. It sounds straightforward, what Jesus said. But what does it really mean to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength? It means that we abide by all the commandments, even if we are tempted to do otherwise. It means that we prioritise God in the use of our time and when making decisions. It means that we spend a lot of our time in prayer, just to be in regular communion with God. It means that we recognise that everything that we are, that we have, comes from God. Without Him, we are literally nothing.

I think that I have not come to truly see God as the Lord and ruler of my life. There are still many things that I want to hang on to, and my habit is to rely on myself and my own abilities rather than on God. Even though I have pulled through several seemingly insurmountable challenges during the past year, I am still not completely convinced of God’s ability to make the impossible possible. There are moments when I do feel that He is real and has given me so many graces, but there are many more when I cannot see anything except a thick opaque wall of gloom. In such times, I try to fall back on the teachings of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, particularly his advice on what to do during times of desolation. One of his exhortations is to maintain spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation. I see this act as being an example of living out the first commandment, because we would be making great effort to resist the desolation. May the Lord help us find the strength to love Him even when we do not feel like it.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we will learn to love our Lord even in the most trying circumstances, and truly appreciate that we are nothing without Him. 

Thanksgiving: We thank our loving Father for the abundance of His generosity and mercy.

6 December, Friday – Believe that He can do it

6 December 2019

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Isaiah 29:17-24 

The Lord says this:

In a short time, a very short time,
shall not Lebanon become fertile land
and fertile land turn into forest?
The deaf, that day,
will hear the words of a book
and, after shadow and darkness,
the eyes of the blind will see.

But the lowly will rejoice in the Lord even more
and the poorest exult in the Holy One of Israel;
for tyrants shall be no more, and scoffers vanish,
and all be destroyed who are disposed to do evil:
those who gossip to incriminate others,
those who try at the gate to trip the arbitrator
and get the upright man’s case dismissed for groundless reasons.

Therefore the Lord speaks,
the God of the House of Jacob,
Abraham’s redeemer:
No longer shall Jacob be ashamed,
no more shall his face grow pale,
for he shall see what my hands have done in his midst,
he shall hold my name holy.
They will hallow the Holy One of Jacob,
stand in awe of the God of Israel.
Erring spirits will learn wisdom
and murmurers accept instruction.

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Matthew 9:27-31

As Jesus went on his way two blind men followed him shouting, ‘Take pity on us, Son of David.’ And when Jesus reached the house the blind men came up with him and he said to them, ‘Do you believe I can do this?’ They said, ‘Sir, we do.’ Then he touched their eyes saying, ‘Your faith deserves it, so let this be done for you.’ And their sight returned. Then Jesus sternly warned them, ‘Take care that no one learns about this.’ But when they had gone, they talked about him all over the countryside.

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‘Do you believe I can do this?’ They said, ‘Sir, we do.’

A couple of weeks ago, I did a retreat at the Tarrawarra Abbey in Melbourne. It was the first retreat I had done in years, and I must say that it took me considerable effort to really feel connected with God. It got to a point where I had to consciously let go of my own direction and let God lead the way. It was only then that certain revelations came to me. My main takeaway from the retreat was that I needed to learn to rely on God in my life.

The blind men approached Jesus in faith. Their desire to have their sight restored was very strong, and they were certain that Jesus would grant them that healing. As with other instances in the gospels, such as when the centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant, Jesus complimented them for the strength of their faith.

There are several areas in my life that I do not lift up to God even though they are causing me a significant amount of anxiety. I think that I still lack that kind of faith where I am certain that God is capable of anything and everything. Although spending more time in prayer always helps me feel at peace, I am somehow not able to commit to it. As I continue with this struggle of faith, I pray that I will one day have be able to say with the utmost conviction that “Yes, God, you can do everything”.

 

(Today’s Oxygen by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the confidence to trust in and rely on God.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for His grace and mercy.

30 October, Wednesday – The narrow door

30 Oct 2019

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Romans 8:26-30

The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what he means, and that the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit are according to the mind of God.
We know that by turning everything to their good God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those that he has called according to his purpose. They are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son, so that his Son might be the eldest of many brothers. He called those he intended for this; those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory.

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Luke 13:22-30

Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.

‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!”
‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.
‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’

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Try your best to enter by the narrow door

A few years ago, I left a parish ministry on a rather negative note. I was the coordinator of the group, and some negligence on my part caused unhappiness for one of the members. I could have dealt with it if her messages were sent only to me, but she chose to express her disappointment with me in the group chat. That action, to me, crossed a line. I also felt that it had unnecessarily skewed the other members’ impression of me. I had intended to leave out of sheer exhaustion anyway, and that incident marred my years of service. Recently, I was part of the organising team of a parish event, and my disagreement over finances with another member led to this person posting a series of group chat messages that were highly unpleasant, to say the least. When it happened, I could not help but recall its predecessor, and I felt the same degree of weariness. When such antics occur after I have committed so much willpower and effort to a task, the impact is not easy to bear.

Indeed, our brains seem wired to remember bad things with great intensity. For me to get past the weariness and continue to optimistically go forth with the same amount of commitment, I cannot count on my own strength. “The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness”, says today’s first reading. If I choose to dwell on my feelings of hurt, disappointment and wounded pride, I risk becoming bitter and resentful. As unwilling as I am, being a Christian means that I need to go where the Lord leads. In the first book of Kings Chapter 19, the prophet Elijah finds himself utterly defeated and broken, asking God to end his life. But God tells him to get up and go on. At his lowest point, the Lord did not allow Elijah to cave in to his despair.

All the above being said, my experience with ministries has been mostly positive and edifying. At the organisation I am currently volunteering at, I face cheery and enthusiastic adult learners every session, and the staff there make me feel truly valued as a volunteer trainer. There is of course also the ministry that is responsible for this reflection. Over the past 17 years or so of my off and on involvement in the Oxygen team, the atmosphere has always been one of mutual respect and God-centredness, cultivated almost wholly in an online environment. To help myself move on, perhaps I should learn to draw strength from such faith-affirming experiences rather than be dragged down by the weight of far less significant blips.

(Today’s Oxygen by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we can overcome adversity and sin with humility and trust in the ultimate goodness of the Lord.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for all the grace-filled moments in our service to Him. May we keep the the memories close to our hearts, so that they can help to rescue us in times of distress. 

28 August, Wednesday – Not dramatic, just lukewarm

Aug 28 – Memorial for St. Augustine, bishop, doctor

After investigating and experimenting with several philosophies, Augustine (354-430) became a Manichaean for several years; it taught of a great struggle between good and evil, and featured a lax moral code. A summation of his thinking at the time comes from his Confessions: “God, give me chastity and continence – but not just now.”

Augustine finally broke with the Manichaeans and was converted by the prayers of his mother and the help of St. Ambrose of Milan, who baptised him. Upon the death of his mother he returned to Africa, sold his property, gave the proceeds to the poor, and founded a monastery. He founded religious communities and fought heresies. His later thinking can also be summed up in a line from his writings: Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.

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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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To live a life worthy of God

I met someone who recently returned to the Catholic faith after a long period of being lapsed. She had really struggled with the feelings of shame and unworthiness after having accumulated a long list of sins, and she did not know how she could accept herself or re-enter the church after having strayed so far. The journey is still an ongoing one for her.

Today is the memorial of St Augustine of Hippo, bishop and doctor of the church. St Augustine is well-known for what I think are two main features of his life and works. One is his seminal book The Confessions of Saint Augustine, which continues to inspire and enlighten believers and non-believers alike. The other is his great conversion and transformation from living a lifestyle of debauchery and sin to one that is largely monastic and devoted to God.

Not every believer would encounter such dramatic transformations and conversions, since admittedly one would need to be in quite a deep state of sin in the first place. Instead of swinging from one extreme to another, prodigal son style, I would think that most of us are comfortably in the middle, not committing very serious sins but perhaps also not fully turning back to God. In that sense, it is not so much hypocrisy that we should be concerned about, but lukewarmness in faith. If the interior is truly transformed, it will naturally flow into the exterior. Lukewarmness makes the entire effort appear half-hearted, and half-heartedness will not get one through the narrow door into heaven.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the grace to develop the discipline for a true transformation of our selves.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for always leaving the door open for us.

27 August, Tuesday – True Obedience

27 Aug – Memorial for Saint Monica

Raised in a Christian family, she was given in marriage to a bad-tempered, adulterous pagan named Patricius. Mother of two, one of whom is Saint Augustine of Hippo whose writings about her are the primary source of our information about Monica. She prayed constantly for the conversion of her husband (who converted on his death bed), and of her son (who converted after a wild life). Spiritual student of Saint Ambrose of Milan. Reformed alcoholic.

  • Patron Saint Index

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1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

You know yourselves, my brothers, that our visit to you has not proved ineffectual.
  We had, as you know, been given rough treatment and been grossly insulted at Philippi, and it was our God who gave us the courage to proclaim his Good News to you in the face of great opposition. We have not taken to preaching because we are deluded, or immoral, or trying to deceive anyone; it was God who decided that we were fit to be entrusted with the Good News, and when we are speaking, we are not trying to please men but God, who can read our inmost thoughts. You know very well, and we can swear it before God, that never at any time have our speeches been simply flattery, or a cover for trying to get money; nor have we ever looked for any special honour from men, either from you or anybody else, when we could have imposed ourselves on you with full weight, as apostles of Christ.
  Instead, we were unassuming. Like a mother feeding and looking after her own children, we felt so devoted and protective towards you, and had come to love you so much, that we were eager to hand over to you not only the Good News but our whole lives as well.

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Matthew 23:23-26

Jesus said: ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who pay your tithe of mint and dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law – justice, mercy, good faith! These you should have practised, without neglecting the others. You blind guides! Straining out gnats and swallowing camels!
  ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who clean the outside of cup and dish and leave the inside full of extortion and intemperance. Blind Pharisee! Clean the inside of cup and dish first so that the outside may become clean as well.’

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Straining out gnats and swallowing camels!

The Pharisees and scribes in Jesus’ time had a long list of rituals and observances that they would religiously carry out to the minutest detail. This included going to the extent of straining their wine with a wine cloth so as to avoid accidental consumption of a gnat, a very small insect considered impure according to their customs. But Jesus said in today’s gospel that in doing so, they are swallowing a camel, also considered an impure creature. They have only purified themselves externally but not internally. They probably also went a little overboard with the number of rules and regulations they gave themselves. With so many of them to abide by and carry out, it is easy to let that commitment become a priority over God.

In our church today, we do have our fair share of rules and observances, but our problem on the surface is not quite the same as that of the Pharisees and scribes. I think I would not be wrong in saying that quite a lot of us are not very committed in observing the rules, regulations and teachings of the church, and might even question their purpose and necessity. We may not be as “fake” as the Pharisees and scribes, but we are similarly lacking in true obedience to God. Our resistance to the teachings of the Church is reflective of our subjection to the worldly ways of thinking, where obedience to authority is something to be derided, and where the desires of the self triumphs any external moral truth.

I have always felt that if we profess ourselves as Catholics, we have the responsibility to obey the teachings of the church. Even if they are the sole voice of opposition (or reason) in this age where relativism is the new norm, it does not mean the teachings are the problem. Rather, it speaks on a lack of effort on our part to learn and appreciate the theology behind those teachings.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that our minds will be freed from the chains of relativistic thinking, and that we will emulate Mother Mary’s virtue of obedience.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, dearest Father, for giving us the deposit of faith in our church.

29 July, Monday – A developing faith

Jul 29 – Memorial for St. Martha

Jesus liked to stay at the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, his friends at Bethany, when he was in Judaea. One of these visits has ever remained dear to Christian memory. On that occasion, Martha, busily serving the Master, asked Him to persuade Mary to help her. Jesus explained to her that certain souls, called by God, should choose a better part still — the primary duty of listening to Him and contemplating Him.

After His Ascension, she was seized by the Jews, together with many other Christians. They were put on board a ship without sails or oars, and left helpless on the open sea. But God guided the ship, and they all arrived safely at Marseilles. Martha, after having won the love and admiration of the people of Marseilles by the sanctity of her life and her wonderful charity, withdrew with several virtuous women to a spot remote from men, where she lived for a long time, greatly renowned for her piety and prudence.

http://www.catholicculture.org/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2006-07-29

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1 John 4:7-16

My dear people,
let us love one another
since love comes from God
and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Anyone who fails to love can never have known God,
because God is love.
God’s love for us was revealed
when God sent into the world his only Son
so that we could have life through him;
this is the love I mean:
not our love for God,
but God’s love for us when he sent his Son
to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.
My dear people,
since God has loved us so much,
we too should love one another.
No one has ever seen God;
but as long as we love one another
God will live in us
and his love will be complete in us.
We can know that we are living in him
and he is living in us
because he lets us share his Spirit.
We ourselves saw and we testify
that the Father sent his Son
as saviour of the world.
If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,
God lives in him, and he in God.
We ourselves have known and put our faith in
God’s love towards ourselves.
God is love
and anyone who lives in love lives in God,
and God lives in him.

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John 11:19-27

Many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to sympathise with them over their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus had come she went to meet him. Mary remained sitting in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.’ ‘Your brother’ said Jesus to her ‘will rise again.’ Martha said, ‘I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said:

‘I am the resurrection and the life.
If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live,
and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.

Do you believe this?’

‘Yes, Lord,’ she said ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.’

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Do you believe this?

This is the third year that I have not had a full-time job, and the additional time available has allowed me to read up a lot more about the faith than before. In the absence of exhausting work demands, I finally have the mental resources to appreciate and really learn the Church’s teachings and theology. It has been extremely enriching, enlightening and transformative. To my surprise, I have found that the more knowledge I gain, the more I realise I do not know. Truly, there is always so much room for one’s faith to develop.

Today is the memorial of Saint Martha of Bethany, one of a few people in the gospels who were privileged to have a close friendship with Jesus. Her personality is clearly contrasted with that of her sister’s – she is always on the move while Mary is much less action-oriented. Jesus’ message to her when he visited their home was about the importance of spending time in quiet prayer and contemplation, something that cannot be achieved when one is perpetually busy.

Although Martha seems to tend towards action rather than contemplation, it doesn’t mean that her faith is weak. She goes out to meet Jesus after her brother Lazarus died, and confidently makes a strong proclamation of faith in her Lord. Perhaps she had taken Jesus’ earlier words to heart.  However, although she is certain that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus was around, she still questioned Jesus’ command to open the tomb. That is a very natural thing to say, and very reflective of Martha’s nature. Opening the tomb would surely traumatise everyone present. Jesus gives her another message. This time, to trust him wholeheartedly. His very act of bringing Lazarus back to life would surely bring Martha’s faith to a whole new level.

I encourage all readers to take more active steps to study the faith. The more we know about Jesus, the better we are able to stay attuned to his message for us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: Dearest Father, we pray for a stronger faith in you and in your church. May we be open to the promptings of your Spirit, so that we may prioritise prayer and faithful study of your Word.

Thanksgiving: We thank you, God of infinite love and mercy, for blessing us with your grace. 

26 November, Monday – Real Generosity

26 November

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Apocalypse 14:1-5

In my vision I, John, saw Mount Zion, and standing on it a Lamb who had with him a hundred and forty-four thousand people, all with his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. I heard a sound coming out of the sky like the sound of the ocean or the roar of thunder; it seemed to be the sound of harpists playing their harps. There in front of the throne they were singing a new hymn in the presence of the four animals and the elders, a hymn that could only be learnt by the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the world; they follow the Lamb wherever he goes; they have been redeemed from amongst men to be the first-fruits for God and for the Lamb. They never allowed a lie to pass their lips and no fault can be found in them.

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Luke 21:1-4

As Jesus looked up, he saw rich people putting their offerings into the treasury; then he happened to notice a poverty-stricken widow putting in two small coins, and he said, ‘I tell you truly, this poor widow has put in more than any of them; for these have all contributed money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in all she had to live on.’

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She has put in all she has

Some time back, a TV programme featured the life of an old man in Singapore who spends his days doing charitable work. There might not be anything very remarkable about that, but in this particular case, the man had given all his savings to charity, and leads an unusually frugal life. His daily routine includes visiting the nearby coffeeshop at night, where he collects buckets of water gathered from ice used to chill beer bottles. That amount serves as his water supply for the day as he does not turn on any tap at home. The money saved from utility bills goes into charity.

The gospel today has Jesus observing a poor woman giving away all that she has, and contrasting her action with that of the rich people. Like the old man in the previous paragraph, the monetary value of her action is small, but the generosity associated with it is large. For the rich who maintain their affluent status, giving away ‘excess’ money is hardly something that can be considered generous.

There are many ways that one can give of oneself to others. I find that the giving of time and effort is often more reflective of sincerity than the gift itself. As the season of Christmas approaches, we could perhaps give more thought to the preparation of gifts for loved ones or for strangers in need.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that as the season of Advent approaches, we may prepare by opening our hearts to the love of Christ.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the kindness we have received from others.

25 November, Sunday – Jesus as King

25 November 2018 – Solemnity of Christ The King

Christ The King is a title of Jesus based on several passages of scripture and used by all Christians. The name is found in various forms in scripture: King Eternal (1 Timothy 1:17), King of Israel (John 1:49), King of the Jews (Matthew 27:11), King of kings (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16), King of the Ages (Revelation 15:3), and Ruler of the Kings of the Earth (Revelation 1:5).

Many denominations including Catholics, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and some Lutherans and Methodists celebrate the Feast of Christ the King on the last Sunday of the liturgical year.

The ideological movement of Christ’s Kingship was addressed in Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quas Primas (“In The First”). In it, he quotes with approval St. Cyril of Alexandria, notin ghtat Jesus’ Kingship is not obtained by violence: “Christ has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but his by essence and by nature.”

Pope Benedict XVI has remarked that Christ’s Kingship is not based on “human power” but on loving and serving others. The perfect exemplar of that acceptance is the Virgin Mary, he pointed out. Her humble and unconditional acceptance of God’s will in her life, the Pope noted, was the reason that “God exalted her over all other creatures, and Christ crowned her Queen of heaven and earth”.

– Wikipedia

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Daniel 7:13-14

I gazed into the visions of the night.
And I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven,
one like a son of man.
He came to the one of great age
and was led into his presence.
On him was conferred sovereignty,
glory and kingship,
and men of all peoples, nations and languages became his servants.
His sovereignty is an eternal sovereignty
which shall never pass away,
nor will his empire ever be destroyed.

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Apocalypse 1:5-8

Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the First-born from the dead, the Ruler of the kings of the earth. He loves us and has washed away our sins with his blood, and made us a line of kings, priests to serve his God and Father; to him, then, be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen. It is he who is coming on the clouds; everyone will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the races of the earth will mourn over him. This is the truth. Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’ says the Lord God, who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.

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John 18:33-37

‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked. Jesus replied, ‘Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?’ Jesus replied, ‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.’ ‘So you are a king then?’ said Pilate. ‘It is you who say it’ answered Jesus. ‘Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.’

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Yes, I am a king

Who is Jesus to you? This is a question often posed to the faithful. Common responses tend to go along the lines of “friend”, “helper”, “confidante” and so on. It is unlikely that “king” will pop up as an answer. In modern times, it is difficult to understand the concept of what it means to be a king’s subject, or to be part of a kingdom.

Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. In the gospel passage, Pilate asked Jesus if he was the king of the Jews, referring to an earthly king who would lead the Jews in overcoming foreign rule. Saint Augustine of Hippo highlighted that in His reply to Pilate, Jesus did not say “my kingdom is not in this world” but “my kingdom is not of this world”. Therefore, Jesus’ kingdom is in the world now, made up of His followers. For any kingdom to flourish, the subjects must remain loyal to their king, trust in his rule, and do what he says.

If we acknowledge Christ as the king of our hearts and minds, are we abiding by the rules of His kingdom?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the grace of accepting the lordship of Jesus in our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the love that enables us to share in the divinity of Christ.

21 November, Wednesday – Talents And Time

21 November – Memorial for the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today we commemorate the presentation of the Blessed Virgin as a child in the Temple where, according to tradition, she was educated. The feast originated in the Orient probably about the seventh century, and is found in the constitution of Manuel Comnenus (1166) as a recognized festival. It was introduced into the Western Church in the 14th century, abolished by Pope Pius V, but reestablished by Sixtus V in 1585. Its observance by the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the day of their origin led to the devotion of Mater Admirabilis (Mother Most Admirable).

– Patron Saint Index

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Apocalypse 4:1-11

In my vision, I, John, saw a door open in heaven and heard the same voice speaking to me, the voice like a trumpet, saying, ‘Come up here: I will show you what is to come in the future.’ With that, the Spirit possessed me and I saw a throne standing in heaven, and the One who was sitting on the throne, and the Person sitting there looked like a diamond and a ruby. There was a rainbow encircling the throne, and this looked like an emerald. Round the throne in a circle were twenty-four thrones, and on them I saw twenty-four elders sitting, dressed in white robes with golden crowns on their heads. Flashes of lightning were coming from the throne, and the sound of peals of thunder, and in front of the throne there were seven flaming lamps burning, the seven Spirits of God. Between the throne and myself was a sea that seemed to be made of glass, like crystal. In the centre, grouped round the throne itself, were four animals with many eyes, in front and behind. The first animal was like a lion, the second like a bull, the third animal had a human face, and the fourth animal was like a flying eagle. Each of the four animals had six wings and had eyes all the way round as well as inside; and day and night they never stopped singing:

‘Holy, Holy, Holy
is the Lord God, the Almighty;
he was, he is and he is to come.’

Every time the animals glorified and honoured and gave thanks to the One sitting on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders prostrated themselves before him to worship the One who lives for ever and ever, and threw down their crowns in front of the throne, saying, ‘You are our Lord and our God, you are worthy of glory and honour and power, because you made all the universe and it was only by your will that everything was made and exists.’

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Luke 19:11-28

While the people were listening, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and they imagined that the kingdom of God was going to show itself then and there. Accordingly he said, ‘A man of noble birth went to a distant country to be appointed king and afterwards return. He summoned ten of his servants and gave them ten pounds. “Do business with these” he told them “until I get back.” But his compatriots detested him and sent a delegation to follow him with this message, “We do not want this man to be our king.”

Now on his return, having received his appointment as king, he sent for those servants to whom he had given the money, to find out what profit each had made. The first came in and said, “Sir, your one pound has brought in ten.” “Well done, my good servant!” he replied “Since you have proved yourself faithful in a very small thing, you shall have the government of ten cities..” Then came the second and said, “Sir, your one pound has made five.” To this one also he said, “And you shall be in charge of five cities.” Next came the other and said, “Sir, here is your pound. I put it away safely in a piece of linen because I was afraid of you; for you are an exacting man: you pick up what you have not put down and reap what you have not sown.” “You wicked servant!” he said “Out of your own mouth I condemn you. So you knew I was an exacting man, picking up what I have not put down and reaping what I have not sown? Then why did you not put my money in the bank? On my return I could have drawn it out with interest.” And he said to those standing by, “Take the pound from him and give it to the man who has ten pounds.” And they said to him, “But, sir, he has ten pounds . . .” “I tell you, to everyone who has will be given more; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

“But as for my enemies who did not want me for their king, bring them here and execute them in my presence.”’

When he had said this he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

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I tell you, to everyone who has will be given more, but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away

When I was in the university, I joined the varsity publication team for a while. The only article I wrote was about procrastination. I can’t recall the details of the article, but I do have the impression that I probably described procrastination as something that I was rather resigned to. It was a habit that I felt I could not, and also did not, want to break. It didn’t seem very cool to be always so prompt and efficient.

In Jesus’ time, a talent referred to a huge sum of money. It is not easy to quantify it relative to what we are familiar with today, but the idea is that the master entrusted the servants with quite a hefty sum. Two of them worked to make some profit out of what they already have, but one of them was lazy and did not do anything with the money. The rewards that the master gave to the servants are a symbol of the riches that await the worthy followers of Christ in heaven. The penalty for failing to make use of the talents would be an eternity away from God.

Do we recognise the amount of resources that God has placed at our disposal? It ranges from the physical, in terms of our health, energy and time, to the spiritual – our ability to love, show compassion, comfort and heal. The list is endless.

Everyone would have wondered at some point about the purpose of life. There is no clear answer, only what we decide to do with our lives. Regardless of whether one has a religion, many would realise the importance of leading meaningful lives. Why waste our time on earth? As we near the end of the liturgical year, the Mass readings focus on the end times and the hope of eternal life. Although some might say that it is morbid, reflecting on the end of earthly life will help remind us of what we should be doing before it ends.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: Lord, grant us the discipline and the faith to live every moment of our lives as a testimony to You.

Thanksgiving: Thank You, Lord, for allowing us to glorify You with our lives.