Tag Archives: faith

13 December, Thursday – Inconsistencies

13 December – Memorial for St. Lucy, Virgin, Martyr

Lucy (c. 283) was a rich, young Christian of Greek ancestry. She was raised in a pious family, and vowed her life to Christ. Her Roman father died when she was young. Her mother, Eutychia, arranged a marriage for her. For three years, she managed to keep the marriage on hold. To change the mother’s mind about the girl’s new faith, Lucy prayed at the tomb of St. Agatha, and her mother’s long haemorrhagic illness was cured. Her mother agreed with Lucy’s desire to live for God, and Lucy became known as a patron of those with maladies like her mother’s.

Her rejected pagan bridegroom, Paschasius, denounced Lucy as a Christian to the governor of Sicily, who sentenced her to forced prostitution. But when the guards went to fetch her, they could not move her even when they hitched her to a team of oxen. The governor ordered her killed instead. After torture that included having her eyes torn out, she was surrounded by bundles of wood which were set afire; they went out. She prophesied against her persecutors, and was executed by being stabbed to death with a dagger. Her name is listed in the prayer “Nobis quoque peccatoribus” in the Canon of the Mass.

Legend says that her eyesight was restored before her death. This and the meaning of her name led to her connection with eyes, the blind, eye trouble, etc.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 41:13-20

I, the Lord, your God,
I am holding you by the right hand;
I tell you, ‘Do not be afraid,
I will help you.’

Do not be afraid, Jacob, poor worm,
Israel, puny mite.’
I will help you – it is the Lord who speaks –
the Holy One of Israel is your redeemer.

See, I turn you into a threshing-sled,
new, with doubled teeth;
you shall thresh and crush the mountains,
and turn the hills to chaff.

You shall winnow them and the wind will blow them away,
the gale will scatter them.
But you yourself will rejoice in the Lord,
and glory in the Holy One of Israel.

The poor and needy ask for water, and there is none,
their tongue is parched with thirst.
I, the Lord, will answer them,
I, the God of Israel, will not abandon them.

I will make rivers well up on barren heights,
and fountains in the midst of valleys;
turn the wilderness into a lake,
and dry ground into waterspring.

In the wilderness I will put cedar trees,
acacias, myrtles, olives.
In the desert I will plant juniper,
plane tree and cypress side by side;

so that men may see and know,
may all observe and understand
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.

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Matthew 11:11-15

Jesus spoke to the crowds: ‘I tell you solemnly, of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is. Since John the Baptist came, up to this present time, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence and the violent are taking it by storm. Because it was towards John that all the prophecies of the prophets and of the Law were leading; and he, if you will believe me, is the Elijah who was to return. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen!’

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Among those born of women, there has been none greater than John the Baptist

Scripture, like Life, is full of incongruencies and inconsistencies. John the Baptist’s life started with so much promise. Here was one filled with the Holy Spirit at birth. He was supposed to be destined for great things. His birth was a miracle, and like all men born of miracle births, much was expected of him. And yet, life did not work out the way everyone thought it would, for John.

He spent his youth waiting to fulfil what he thought would be his destiny, never really sure if it was going to happen for him. His parents passed on while he was still young, so while he was lonely before, in his adult years he led a hermetic existence. When he eventually developed his ministry, it was quickly surpassed by that of Jesus. And though he was always prepared for it to happen, it must have been hard to swallow to have his career cut short like that. John’s end was just as incongruent. If there was no man, greater than John the Baptist, why did he have to suffer such an ignominious end, reduced to a punctuation at the end of a cruel dinner party prank? It’s hard to wrap our head around Scripture’s inconsistencies. This is what happens to one blessed by God?

What is consistent amongst the men and women of God though, is the tenacity with which they stayed their course. There were moments of doubt for sure and often, we hear long, plaintive discourses with a mostly silent God. We hear the wavering in their voices, the questioning, the self doubt. But they stayed their course despite their misgivings. There must have been times when alone in his prison cell, John would have wondered to himself, ‘Is this it, Lord? Is this all there is to me? Where are you Lord?’

Often, we wonder the same about ourselves. We go through such great lengths to get educated, to build a life, put together a CV of experience that reads well and yet we can’t seem to find a job. Or we put in the hours, yet the years pass and we get nowhere in our careers. Or we invest our life’s savings into a business, and the economy tanks. And we think, ‘Is this it, Lord? Is this all there is to me?’ It’s crushing to the self-esteem, and as the years roll on, debilitating to the soul, when we see how time has passed us by. John must have felt at times, like he had wasted his life waiting. Waiting for The Lord, waiting to fulfil his destiny, waiting to be released from Herod’s arrest, waiting, always waiting for deliverance. Waiting for God.

There are times when waiting, we sleep with despair, we wake with despair, we breathe despair. And still The Lord does not show His face. Still there is no redemption, no deliverance. The waiting is the hardest part because we never know when it will end. In these times, it is hard to hold on, but hold on we must. As the Hebrews held on, so too must we. As Moses held on, so too must we. As John the Baptist held on, so too must we. All things happen in God’s time, and as hard as it is to do, as much as our soul cries out in anguish, it is for us to wait on Him. All things in His time. For those blessed by God, deliverance will come – whether in this life or the next.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer:  We pray Lord, for those waiting on You to see their deliverance. Be merciful Lord, and bring comfort to those who wait faithfully for the ripeness of Your time.

Thanksgiving:  We give thanks for the examples in Scripture, of greater men than us, who have persevered and prevailed. We give thanks for the hope they give us. All things in His time.

8 December, Saturday – Yes

8 December – Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

On this and the following eight days, the Church celebrates, with particular solemnity, the immaculate conception of the ever-blessed Virgin Mary who, from all eternity, was chosen to be the daughter of the heavenly Father, the spouse of the Holy Ghost, the Mother of the Divine Redeemer, and, by consequence, the queen of angels and of men.

The consideration of these prerogatives convinced the most enlightened fathers and teachers of the Catholic Church that she was conceived immaculate, that is, without original sin. It is very remarkable that among the shining hosts of saints who have, in every century, adorned the Church, no one wrote against this belief, while we find it confirmed by the decisions of the holy fathers from the earliest times.

Pope Piux IX forced, as it were, by the faith and devotion of the faithful throughout the world, finally on 8 December 1854, sanctioned, as a dogma of faith falling within the infallible rule of Catholic traditions, this admirable prerogative of the Blessed Virgin.

It is, therefore, now no longer, as formerly, a pious belief, but an article of the faith that Mary, like the purest morning light which precedes the rising of the most brilliant sun, was, from the first instant of her conception, free from original sin.

– Patron Saint Index

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Genesis 3:9-15,20

After Adam had eaten of the tree the Lord God called to him. ‘Where are you?’ he asked. ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden;’ he replied ‘I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.’ ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ he asked ‘Have you been eating of the tree I forbade you to eat?’ The man replied, ‘It was the woman you put with me; she gave me the fruit, and I ate it.’ Then the Lord God asked the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman replied, ‘The serpent tempted me and I ate.’

Then the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this,

‘Be accursed beyond all cattle,
all wild beasts.
You shall crawl on your belly and eat dust
every day of your life.
I will make you enemies of each other:
you and the woman,
your offspring and her offspring.
It will crush your head
and you will strike its heel.’

The man named his wife ‘Eve’ because she was the mother of all those who live.

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Ephesians 1:3-6,11-12

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ.
Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ,
to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence,
determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ
for his own kind purposes,
to make us praise the glory of his grace,
his free gift to us in the Beloved,
And it is in him that we were claimed as God’s own,
chosen from the beginning,
under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things
as he decides by his own will;
chosen to be,
for his greater glory,
the people who would put their hopes in Christ before he came.

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Luke 1:26-38 

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

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“let what you have said be done to me.”

Last weekend, I was blessed to have attended a cosy, intimate concert in a small church at the invitation of my vocal coach. He had helped put together an 11-piece choir to celebrate the 1st Sunday of Advent and their concert was themed ‘Ordinary Baby’. While there were a few familiar favourites sung, 2 new songs resonated deeply with me – ‘Ordinary Baby’ and ‘My Heart, Your Bethlehem’.

I couldn’t help but be amazed at how a ‘Yes’ at the beginning of this year led me on a journey of discovering my voice (I had taken my vocal exams the day before) and also to this wonderful moment where I witnessed God’s hand at work through the energy and sincerity of the small Christian community. The message that resonated deep within me was whether or not our hearts were prepared to welcome Jesus this Christmas and to let Him be born within us.

Too often, we let allow sin to harden our hearts. We get so used to habitual transgressions that our hearts develop calluses and a hard exterior. And when we don’t go for regular confession, that wall gets thicker and thicker, so much so that God’s word cannot penetrate into our hearts. Consequently, we lose all connection to God and our ‘wifi signal’ (as our spiritual director likes to put it) becomes weak. How then are we going to be able to provide rest and a soft place to sleep for the newborn infant Jesus on Christmas Eve?

Many of us are more than willing to say ‘Yes’ whenever there is a call for volunteers to serve in church or to give of our time for a particular church project. But many of us put conditions on our ‘Yes’. We ask question after question, or place restrictions on our time and how much we are willing to give. Sure, we all have our crosses to bear and families to take care of. However, remember Mother Mary’s fiat when she said ‘Yes’ to the Lord. It was spoken out of true love for God and fully from her heart. There were no ‘buts’ nor ‘what ifs’. Her ‘Yes’ was the ultimate sign of humility and obedience.

Brothers and sisters, when we say our own fiat with our words and our deeds, that is when a conversion of heart takes place. And that is when we begin to reconnect with our heavenly Father. How many of us are willing to open our hearts and say to God that He can do what he wills to us so that His ultimate plans for each and every one of us can be fulfilled?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, give us the courage and the strength to say ‘Yes’ unconditionally to you each and every day.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for all that you have done for us, O heavenly Father, and for all that you are going to do for us despite our fears and our doubts.

7 December, Friday – Acting In Faith

7 December – Memorial for St. Ambrose, Bishop & Doctor of the Church

Ambrose (c.340–397) was born to the Roman nobility. He was the brother of St. Marcellina and St. Satyrus. He was educated in the classics, Greek, and philosophy at Rome, Italy. He was a poet and a noted orator. He was a convert to Christianity, and governor of Milan, Italy.

When the Bishop of Milan died, a dispute over his replacement led to violence. Ambrose intervened to calm both sides; he impressed everyone involved so much that though he was still an unbaptized catechumen, he was chosen as the new bishop. He resisted, claiming that he was not worthy, but he assented to prevent further violence. On Dec 7, 374, he was baptized, ordained as a priest, and consecrated as bishop. He immediately gave away his wealth to the Church and the poor, both for the good it did, and as an example to his flock.

He was a noted preacher and teacher, a Bible student of renown, and writer of liturgical hymns. He stood firm against paganism and Arianism. His preaching helped convert St. Augustine of Hippo, whom Ambrose baptized and brought into the Church. Ambrose’s preaching brought Emperor Theodosius to do public penance for his sins.

During his time as bishop, he also called and chaired several theological councils, many devoted to fighting heresy. He welcomed St. Ursus and St. Alban of Mainz when they fled Naxos to escape Arian persecution, and then sent them on to evangelize in Gaul and Germany. He was proclaimed a great Doctor of the Latin Church by Pope Boniface VIII in 1298.

The title “Honey Tongued Doctor” was initially bestowed on Ambrose because of his speaking and preaching ability; this led to the use of a beehive and bees in his iconography, symbols which also indicate wisdom. This led to his association with bees, beekeepers, chandlers, wax refiners, etc.

– Patron Saint Index

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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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“Your faith deserves it, so let this be done for you.”

When was the last time you took a leap of faith, fully trusting that nothing would happen to you? Over the years, I have plunged headlong into one adventure after another, trusting that the Lord would sustain me throughout my journeys; some of which I completed (my Camino in 2016), some of which are still going on (playing the violin for P&W, vocal lessons). Truly, when we lift any situation up to God in faith, He will take over and anoint us – as long as we do not waver in our faith.

We’re going through some tough times in our ministry and for some of us, the changes that we are trying to implement are taking a tad too long. In fact, some of the initial members who stepped up to take on leadership roles have decided to step down. In the aftermath of the recent Prayer Experience Retreat (PER), I am also considering focusing my energies on serving only in PER as I feel that the testimonies and encounters resonate deeper with me.

Yet, I recognize the struggle faced by our leaders as they too come to terms with being a little tired and jaded, some after serving for more than 20 years. Looking around, I too sense their concern that there are not enough ‘next generation’ leaders stepping up to take over some of the critical duties (though that is starting to happen slowly, thanks to technology). I appreciate how daunting it can be, to try to step into the shoes of others, yet have their shadows looming over you each time you assume a role previously handled by someone ‘senior’. Perhaps that’s where all of us need to act in faith, and to trust fully that God will take over; instead of trying to get things done the ‘tried and tested’ way.

Over the past few months, I have certainly learnt to trust more in the Lord and to ‘let go and let God’. I recall the words of one of my mentors, who said that there will be a point in any worship session where the spirit will take over. That is when I have to not try and wrest control back because He is the main worship leader

Brothers and sisters, how often do we actually step back and let God take over in our lives? How often do we think that He does not know what we are going through or that we know better because we face the same situation each and every day? Yes, it is not easy to let go, specially if some of us are the ‘alpha’ characters at work. But what have we got to lose by trusting in God’s providence and letting Him make the critical decisions we face? Of course, that is predicated on the fact that we keep in communion with him through regular prayer. So here’s the real question – are we speaking with Him each day so that our every action and thought is centred around Him?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear God, we pray that you give us the will and the heart to commune with you in prayer each and every day of our lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always being there for us.

6 December, Thursday – Foundation

6 December – Memorial for St. Nicholas, bishop

Nicholas (d. 346) was a priest and abbot, and the bishop of Myra, Lycia (modern Turkey). He was generous to the poor, and a special protector of the innocent and wrong. Many stories grew up around him prior to his becoming Santa Claus.

One story is that upon hearing that a local man had fallen on such hard times that he was planning to sell his daughters into prostitution, Nicholas went by night to the house and threw three bags of gold in through the window, saving the girls from an evil life. These three bags, gold generously given in time of trouble, became the three golden balls that indicate a pawn broker’s shop.

Another story is that he raised to life three young boys who had been murdered and pickled in a barrel of brine to hide the crime. These stories led to his patronage of children in general, and of barrel-makers besides.

Another St. Nicholas story is that he induced some thieves to return their plunder, which led to his protection against theft and robbery, and his patronage of them – he is not helping them to steal, but to repent and change. In the past, thieves have been known as Saint Nicholas’ clerks or Knights of St. Nicholas.

A fourth story is that during a voyage to the Holy Lands, a fierce storm blew up, threatening the ship. He prayed about it, and the storm calmed – hence the patronage of sailors and those like dockworkers who work on the sea.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 26:1-6

That day, this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
We have a strong city;
to guard us he has set
wall and rampart about us.
Open the gates! Let the upright nation come in,
she, the faithful one
whose mind is steadfast, who keeps the peace,
because she trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord for ever,
for the Lord is the everlasting Rock;
he has brought low those who lived high up
in the steep citadel;
he brings it down, brings it down to the ground,
flings it down in the dust:
the feet of the lowly, the footsteps of the poor
trample on it.

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Matthew 7:21,24-27

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘It is not those who say to me, “Lord, Lord,” who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven. ‘Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against that house, and it did not fall: it was founded on rock. But everyone who listens to these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and struck that house, and it fell; and what a fall it had!’

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…for the Lord is the everlasting Rock.

It is performance appraisal season at work and the oft-dreaded one-on-one conversations are going to come up soon. That is when I have to exercise a lot of patience and self-control, especially towards my staff, who may not have performed as strongly as I would have liked them to over the course of the year.

I have been fortunate to have staff who have been with me for more than 3 years and it is no easy task telling someone that he/she does not deserve to be given a certain rating, especially when it impacts on their performance bonuses. So the one thing I always fall back on is whether or not they have continued to build up a strong foundation that will enable them to weather any sort of organizational changes. Many people in communications tend to want the ‘sexy’ assignments or more ‘high value’ PR projects that will garner media attention. However, I always caution them that fame is fleeting and if they only focus on the superficial stuff that goes out into the news, they may be doing themselves a disservice by forgetting that by focusing on the substance, the stories will naturally emerge.

I believe it is the same when it comes to our faith. We can do all the ‘good’ things like going for Sunday mass, fasting, giving to causes and even giving our time to serve in various ministries. But if our foundation is not strong, if our faith is not built on solid ground, we will fall by the wayside at the first sign of trouble or when temptation rears its ugly head. This begs the oft-asked question – why are we serving Him? What are our motives? Are we trying to earn our way to heaven? Or are we trying to establish our own personal kingdoms within our parishes?

Sadly, where two or three are gathered in His name, that is also where the devil lurks. Pride, envy, greed, those are three predominant sins that tend to surface whenever there are opportunities for our own brethren to shine. Brothers and sisters, we must always remember that as we toil in His vineyard, we must not lose sight of the one goal – serving our God who has redeemed us with an ultimate sacrifice. If we can anchor ourselves on our faith in His love and mercy, that He is always present in our lives and that we are serving him in true humility and as a community united in faith and love, then we have nothing to fear.

Christ made St Peter the rock on which he built the church. A church that has certainly withstood the test of time and countless scandals over the centuries. Indeed, the ultimate master builder, the architect of our very faith made it extremely clear from the outset that our foundation needed to be strong. In going through our daily struggles, are we wavering all the time? If so, then perhaps a good look at our own foundation may be in order.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, give us the strength to persevere and to stand firm in the face of all our daily struggles.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for your gift of fortitude in our lives.

3 December, Monday – Let’s go to God’s House

3 December – Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Presbyter, Religious, Missionary (Principal Patron of Foreign Missions)

Francis (1506-1552) was a nobleman from the Basque region. He studied and taught philosophy at the University of Paris, and planned a career as a professor. He was a friend of St. Ignatius of Loyola who convinced him to use his talents to spread the Gospel. He was one of the founding Jesuits, and the first Jesuit missionary.

In Goa, India, while waiting to take the ship, he preached in the street, worked with the sick, and taught children their catechism. He would walk through the streets ringing a bell to call the children to their studies. He was said to have converted the entire city.

He scolded his patron, King John of Portugal, over the slave trade: “You have no right to spread the Catholic faith while you take away all the country’s riches. It upsets me to know that at the hour of your death you may be ordered out of paradise.”

He was a tremendously successful missionary for the ten years he was in India, the East Indies, and Japan, baptizing more than 40,000 converts. His epic finds him dining with head hunters, washing the sores of lepers in Venice, teaching catechism to Indian children, baptizing 10,000 in a single month. He tolerated the most appalling conditions on long sea voyages, enduring extremes of heat and cold. Wherever he went he would seek out and help the poor and forgotten. He traveled thousands of miles, most on his bare feet, and he saw the greater part of the Far East. He had the gift of tongues, and was a miracle worker. He raised people from the dead, calmed storms. He was a prophet and a healer.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 2:1-5

The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In the days to come
the mountain of the Temple of the Lord
shall tower above the mountains
and be lifted higher than the hills.
All the nations will stream to it,
peoples without number will come to it; and they will say:

‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the Temple of the God of Jacob
that he may teach us his ways
so that we may walk in his paths;
since the Law will go out from Zion,
and the oracle of the Lord from Jerusalem.’

He will wield authority over the nations
and adjudicate between many peoples;
these will hammer their swords into ploughshares,
their spears into sickles.
Nation will not lift sword against nation,
there will be no more training for war.

O House of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the Lord.

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Matthew 8:5-11

When Jesus went into Capernaum a centurion came up and pleaded with him. ‘Sir,’ he said ‘my servant is lying at home paralysed, and in great pain.’ ‘I will come myself and cure him’ said Jesus. The centurion replied, ‘Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; just give the word and my servant will be cured. For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.’ When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘I tell you solemnly, nowhere in Israel have I found faith like this. And I tell you that many will come from east and west to take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven.’

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Only say the word 

“How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103). Imagine this Psalm, that the word of our Lord is sweeter than honey and in today’s gospel we are reminded that His words healed and blessed the centurion who believed that.

We hold onto the words of so many people but we lose sight, hearing and do not taste the words of our Lord. This is really sad. It is as if we have a beloved whose words bring nothing but good for us, yet we either ignore or disbelieve them.

In a recent sermon, Fr Xavier reminded us that God is with us always and He loves us so much, but we decide to ignore His presence. It makes no sense that we do it, but I am also guilty as charged.

But just realising that God’s word is powerful and sweet is not enough. This is much like us being convinced that a certain diet will help us attain our ideal weight, yet simply resting in that knowledge without taking the necessary action.

The questions remain, what should we do? Here are some suggestions so that we can stay attuned and be blessed by His words.

  1. Read the bible daily

This is a habit that I have been practising for the past 20 years and sometimes I wonder if it really bears fruit. Surely it does. Reading the word of God in the morning helps to allow God to direct our days. I have read of many busy people, especially young mums who confess that the first few minutes of their day spent in prayer sustains them over the long and tiring day. If you cannot read the bible in the morning, I am sure God words can still speak to you at any other time of the day, just open the bible and read daily!

  1. Reflect on the word

Allow His word to take root in your heart. For me, I write short, daily reflections that help me to relate to the word best, by spending 5 minutes in silence with the Lord and allowing Him to speak to my heart and soul. This is much like eating a nutritious meal, but way better.

  1. Allow the word to come alive in your life

Our days can be busy and overwhelming, but I have to admit that in the past few years, I have never forgotten my meals. Just like how that came with practice, on some days I recall certain verses to be the light in my words and actions. If I did it all the time, imagine the results. This can also allow us to be a testimony of Christ to others. After all, no one is interested in our preaching but they will see our actions and hear our words.

Though these are 3 simple steps, I often fail to keep up and in those moments, I know that it is God who sustains me and leads me back. After all it was never about me, it is Him all along. It is He who makes all things beautiful and sweet and makes us the best version of ourselves.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, help us to read, reflect and live your word. When we go astray, lead us back to you O Lord. We yearn to be healed and caressed by your word, give us this grace O Lord. St Francis Xavier, pray for us.

Thanksgiving: Only say a word O Lord, and my servant and my soul shall be healed. Spill your wisdom on me so that I may live to taste your words as it was as sweet honey.

2 December, Sunday – To You O Lord I lift up my soul

2 December 2018

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Jeremiah 33:14-16

See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when I am going to fulfil the promise I made to the House of Israel and the House of Judah:
‘In those days and at that time,

I will make a virtuous Branch grow for David,
who shall practise honesty and integrity in the land.
In those days Judah shall be saved
and Israel shall dwell in confidence.
And this is the name the city will be called:
The-Lord-our-integrity.’

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1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2

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.

Finally, brothers, we urge you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live: the life that God wants, as you learnt from us, and as you are already living it. You have not forgotten the instructions we gave you on the authority of the Lord Jesus.

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Luke 21:25-28,34-36

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.

‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap. For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.’

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Beware that your heart does not get drowsy 

If you and I lift our souls to the Lord and allow Him to direct our paths (Psalm 25:4-5) our hearts will never get drowsy and we will never be consumed by the cares of our life. Most of us intend to be warriors of Christ but, despite our best intentions, we sometimes fall and become worriers. This happened to me recently, as I kept getting drunk by the words and actions of others who are close to me. It is as if I walk through the sea of life and every wave that I had expected would lift me up hurled me to the corners of a dry beach where I lay parched and defeated. It is by grace that I fully realised that I needed to hold on to God and not others, not because others were not important, but rather it is only God’s approval that is truly needed.

Somehow, I have been unknowingly seeking the approval and acceptance of others. Since, just like me, my friends and family are also striving to be better versions of themselves, their expectations and words and actions are not always life giving. And though it is human to get hurt, today’s gospel reminds us that we are not to allow our hearts to be drowsy and that our antidote is to pray and be vigilant always, without any exceptions.

Life can hurl you around in unexpected ways, but if we know how to trust the Lord with all that He has, we will not grow weary nor be defeated.

I hope to pray the following from Psalm 25 to strengthen myself for the days ahead

“Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior,
and for you I wait all the day.

Dear sisters and brothers, as we enter this season of waiting, may we prepare our hearts to be blameless before the Lord by going for confessions and also making an extra effort to attend mass more frequently. It is the Lord, who heals and restores our spirit, soul and body, no one can do it for us. Let us allow Him to be God of our lives and master of our hearts and the pilot of our journey.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us as we begin another liturgical year that we continue to strive to be children that would make you a proud parent. May we never lose sight of our hope and trust in you. Mary, help me to never lose sight of my God and His gentle guidance.

Thanksgiving: To you O Lord we lift up our souls. Direct our paths and instruct our ways, our ever loving God.

29 November, Thursday – Faithful Always

29 November

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Apocalypse 18:1-2,21-23,19:1-3,9

I, John, saw an angel come down from heaven, with great authority given to him; the earth was lit up with his glory. At the top of his voice he shouted, ‘Babylon has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen, and has become the haunt of devils and a lodging for every foul spirit and dirty, loathsome bird. Then a powerful angel picked up a boulder like a great millstone, and as he hurled it into the sea, he said, ‘That is how the great city of Babylon is going to be hurled down, never to be seen again.

Never again in you, Babylon,
will be heard the song of harpists and minstrels,
the music of flute and trumpet;
never again will craftsmen of every skill be found
or the sound of the mill be heard;
never again will shine the light of the lamp,
never again will be heard
the voices of bridegroom and bride.
Your traders were the princes of the earth,
all the nations were under your spell.

After this I seemed to hear the great sound of a huge crowd in heaven, singing, ‘Alleluia! Victory and glory and power to our God! He judges fairly, he punishes justly, and he has condemned the famous prostitute who corrupted the earth with her fornication; he has avenged his servants that she killed.’ They sang again, ‘Alleluia! The smoke of her will go up for ever and ever.’ The angel said, ‘Write this: Happy are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb’, and he added, ‘All the things you have written are true messages from God.’

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Luke 21:20-28

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you must realise that she will soon be laid desolate. Then those in Judaea must escape to the mountains, those inside the city must leave it, and those in country districts must not take refuge in it. For this is the time of vengeance when all that scripture says must be fulfilled. Alas for those with child, or with babies at the breast, when those days come!

They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive to every pagan country; and Jerusalem will be trampled down by the pagans until the age of the pagans is completely over.

‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.’

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He is faithful from age to age.

This is one of the verses that gives me so much comfort during my morning prayer. With one phrase, I am reminded of how God has been so good and loving to me ever since I was young.

Around July this year, I started going for counselling in the hope of unloading myself of the baggages I had since I was a child. You see, I didn’t realize how affected I was after my parents separated when I was seven. The counsellor told me that I was traumatized and I didn’t even know it. During those times, all I could see was how sad it had been for me.

I was blessed that my counsellor was also a Catholic. God was always included in our discussions. She helped me rediscover how God has been so faithful to me even through the brokenness of my childhood. I shared with her how one day, while I was on my bed staring at the ceiling, a beautiful thought crossed my mind. Though many people will abandon me, God will always stay by my side. I think I was 10 then. That one thought really helped me through the many emotional moments in my life.

Recently, I have been fighting a lot with God, too. I guess it’s because I am not getting everything I want, so I just allowed myself to be like a kid and throw tantrums to God. Anyway, at the end of the conversations I have with God, I always felt myself telling God that no matter how frustrated I am with His timing and plans, ‘…where else can I go? You have the message of eternal life.’

I have this confidence in God that he can take my anger and frustration, and I can vent as much as I want to him, because he is always faithful. He will always be beside me, and if I go away, he will always be the father waiting for his prodigal daughter to come back.

We are all in different stages of our lives, but let us always remember that there is nothing that we can do to make God love us less, to make God less faithful to us.

“We may be unfaithful, but he is always faithful, for he cannot disown his own self.”

– 2 Timothy 2:13

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please give us the grace we need to be always faithful to you, to always run to you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for your love and patience. And for always being there for us.

28 November, Wednesday – Justice — Because We Deserve Something Better

28 November

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Apocalypse 15:1-4

What I, John, saw in heaven was a great and wonderful sign: seven angels were bringing the seven plagues that are the last of all, because they exhaust the anger of God. I seemed to see a glass lake suffused with fire, and standing by the lake of glass, those who had fought against the beast and won, and against his statue and the number which is his name. They all had harps from God, and they were singing the hymn of Moses, the servant of God, and of the Lamb:

‘How great and wonderful are all your works,
Lord God Almighty;
just and true are all your ways,
King of nations.
Who would not revere and praise your name, O Lord?
You alone are holy,
and all the pagans will come and adore you
for the many acts of justice you have shown.’

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Luke 21:12-19

Jesus said: Men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives.’

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All the pagans will come and adore you for the many acts of justice you have shown.

I grew up in a family where many of my relatives are in adulterous or out of wedlock relationships. One of the phrases I usually heard from adults is how God ‘will understand’ why they had to be in such situations. That was their excuse for their choices. And I have wondered for a long time if God really understood as they have claimed.

When my brother, who was then legally married, got another woman pregnant, my grandmother laughed it off much to my disgust. I wished with all my heart that they would have stood up and told him that what he did was wrong. At that time, I wished someone stood up for what was right, rather than telling us that it was ‘ok’. I could not explain why I felt repulsed. Reading today’s first reading helped me understand a bit more.

One priest shared during one of his talks that because God is first just, that’s why he is merciful. You cannot separate the two. We need to understand how just God is first, before we can understand his mercy.

I feel that mercy is God’s way of meeting us where we are. Yes, he understands that we are weak creatures and that we fall short of what is expected of us. I think mercy is God’s way of telling us that he loves us where we are right now, where we were yesterday, and where we will be tomorrow.

Justice is God’s way of reminding us that we could be greater, that we were made for so much more, and that God has so much more he wanted to give us, if only we would do what we were meant to do. Justice is God’s way of making us feel how far we are from the goodness we’re meant to enjoy, and an invitation for us to walk towards that goodness and never settle.

Some of us might think that justice is punishment when it is really a display of tough love. Maybe it is God’s way of making the situation so uncomfortable that we are forced to journey towards the real comfort.

I have recently seen articles which encouraged the Catholic Church to remain faithful to the teachings of Christ, despite the cultural pressure. A lot of converts said that because the Church stood firm, they were attracted to convert and join the Catholic Church. Indeed, it was the proclammation of God’s justice that attracted people.

Let us learn to love God’s justice as much as we love his mercy.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, sometimes, we hate it when we are corrected and when we receive your justice. Help us see it as an invitation for us to become better versions of ourselves. And give us the strength and courage we need to move forward.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for giving your tough love. It’s probably tough for you to do so, too.

27 November, Tuesday – Sorry We Are Out Of Seats

27 November

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Apocalypse 14:14-19

In my vision I, John, saw a white cloud and, sitting on it, one like a son of man with a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the sanctuary, and shouted aloud to the one sitting on the cloud, ‘Put your sickle in and reap: harvest time has come and the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ Then the one sitting on the cloud set his sickle to work on the earth, and the earth’s harvest was reaped.

Another angel, who also carried a sharp sickle, came out of the temple in heaven, and the angel in charge of the fire left the altar and shouted aloud to the one with the sharp sickle, ‘Put your sickle in and cut all the bunches off the vine of the earth; all its grapes are ripe.’ So the angel set his sickle to work on the earth and harvested the whole vintage of the earth and put it into a huge winepress, the winepress of God’s anger.

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Luke 21:5-11

When some were talking about the Temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings, Jesus said, ‘All these things you are staring at now – the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.’ And they put to him this question: ‘Master,’ they said ‘when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that this is about to take place?’

‘Take care not to be deceived,’ he said ‘because many will come using my name and saying, “I am he” and, “The time is near at hand.” Refuse to join them. And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen but the end is not so soon.’ Then he said to them, ‘Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines here and there; there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.’

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Take care not to be deceived, because many will come using my name

Many years ago, my friend invited me to accompany her on a short weekend trip to Malaysia. The plan was to take a coach from Singapore and meet up with a local friend who would show us around. We were told of the departure point and time of the coach and so arranged to meet up there to catch our ride. However we arrived at the waiting coach (albeit on the dot and not ten minutes early as advised) both frantic and panting, to the nonchalant announcement by the guide, “Sorry we are out of seats.”

I recall feelings of disappointment and dejection pour down on us, and we were literally left stranded at the driveway as the coach pulled away from us. After settling down somewhere to chat, we both discovered that there was some misinformation between us both, and with the tour organizer. We had each interpreted the ‘Reservation’ of coach seats wrongly and the tour organizer thought that we were not turning up that morning. Even though we finally arrived, it was just too late to sort out the administrative details. It was a good lesson learnt for us and we were more careful next time to make sure we had a common and clear understanding of the terms, conditions, and information needed before we embark on any trip. Check, double-check, triple-confirm. Our next trip turned out with no such glitch!

But we don’t have this luxury for Life itself, to say “Next time I will know better to do this.” Jesus warned those who marvelled at the grandeur of the temple, of this physical world, that “the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another; everything will be destroyed.” Being human, we have this instinctive need to gather information, to find out exactly the details of such a time hoping we can cleverly prepare ourselves for the time. Yet we lose focus on what is truly important – that Jesus is standing before us this very moment. We are like the temple-goers who stand face to face, speaking with the true Messiah without realising it, but instead rather look to a future event thinking we can successfully plan ahead by recognising the signs and symbols. Not now for me, we think. And so presently, we only want to know those forecast clues.

If today you stand before a decision to choose Christ over something else of this world, would you choose to recognise Him and fall at His feet proclaiming that He is indeed the Lord of your life? Our daily decisions do present to us either the choice to marvel at the fine stonework and gleaming treasures of the present world, or the choice to turn to our Lord and God as the most important relationship we must nurture and depend on in this life.

We do often kid ourselves with this phrase, “but for now…” the part and parcel of surviving in this world, of making a living, or of achieving the physical or material goals I have set for myself, is of paramount importance. And we comfort ourselves that we are sure God would understand. We constantly fear that we would lose out on the chance and opportune time to be set for life, in this world – forgetting that there is nothing more terrifying than to arrive suddenly at the end of our lives frantically clutching a fistful of misinterpretations or wrong priorities – indeed many others and many misplaced goals would have you deceived! Then we are told at the departure gates to our eternal journey that, “I’m sorry you have got the details all wrong. You read the signs wrong.” You thought all these other things were your God. You should have focused on the Lord Jesus Christ, and not foolishly asked Him for the time and signs so you could get ready to be ‘just in time’.

Choose Christ now; choose now His body which is the Church. Receive the salvation which is offered up at every Eucharistic celebration for you. Choose Jesus as your present guide in life, and abandon the need for superfluous signs. With Jesus as our constant travel companion, the seat will always be saved for us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: I pray that I can be brutally honest with myself to examine the heart of my intentions. When I should choose Jesus, let me not bury my intention with layers of excuses that there is still time to spare, when really, I do not know.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, I thank you for the assurance of second chances that I can return to you like the Prodigal Son. May I not be complacent, but approach you with true gratitude and repentance.

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.