Tag Archives: Hannah Huang

12 June, Tuesday – My Provider

12 June

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1 Kings 17:7-16

The stream in the place where Elijah lay hidden dried up, for the country had no rain. And then the word of the Lord came to Elijah, ‘Up and go to Zarephath, a Sidonian town, and stay there. I have ordered a widow there to give you food.’ So he went off to Sidon. And when he reached the city gate, there was a widow gathering sticks; addressing her he said, ‘Please bring me a little water in a vessel for me to drink.’ She was setting off to bring it when he called after her. ‘Please’ he said ‘bring me a scrap of bread in your hand.’ ‘As the Lord your God lives,’ she replied ‘I have no baked bread, but only a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jug; I am just gathering a stick or two to go and prepare this for myself and my son to eat, and then we shall die.’ But Elijah said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, go and do as you have said; but first make a little scone of it for me and bring it to me, and then make some for yourself and for your son. For thus the Lord speaks, the God of Israel:

“Jar of meal shall not be spent,
jug of oil shall not be emptied,
before the day when the Lord sends
rain on the face of the earth.”’

The woman went and did as Elijah told her and they ate the food, she, himself and her son. The jar of meal was not spent nor the jug of oil emptied, just as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.

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Matthew 5:13-16

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You are the salt of the earth. But if salt becomes tasteless, what can make it salty again? It is good for nothing, and can only be thrown out to be trampled underfoot by men.

‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill-top cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine in the sight of men, so that, seeing your good works, they may give the praise to your Father in heaven.’

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“The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry…”

I have been struggling emotionally for a couple of months before my decision to resign, because aside from the increase in portfolios due to inadequate assignment of duties, I was also struggling with the negativity of my office environment. I felt that I was going through a mid-life crisis, and every other aspect of life seemed to be going awry as well. I had to take a step back from friends, family, ministry and even God. I knew this was what happened when I went with my plan, and not God’s plan, and I had to face the consequences of doing so. I knew I had to do something, but I was so tired that I could not bring myself to do anything. Thankfully, God made a plan for me to avail myself to serve in a retreat and post-retreat, I had a trip to Rome which I had booked 8 months earlier.

During the retreat, I had three affirmations that it was time to move on from my current workplace, and although I did not know where to go, God gave me three words — I will provide. Unfortunately, being human and specifically, being me, I ended up wavering and questioning this decision. However, something happened while I was in Rome that made me realize no amount of money could make me stay, and I would resign upon my return. Three days before I was due to land in Singapore, I received a notification for a job interview the day I returned to Singapore, and I was offered the job three days later. When I returned to work, I kept my promise to God and I resigned from my current workplace.

This episode in my life has shown me that despite being 1.5 years late since God told me to move, He patiently waits for me to hand him the reins of my life, and immediately provided what I had needed. On hindsight, maybe if I had been less stubborn, I might not have needed to suffer the past couple of months, although I believe that despite the suffering, God had created opportunities for me to experience His grace.

Brothers and sisters, just like the widow in today’s first reading, she knew that she would have nothing left for her son and herself if she had provided for Elijah, yet she had faith and believed, and God provided as Elijah prophesized. Let us learn to be like the widow, as well as like Abraham, who entrusted his only son Isaac to God, that no matter how dire our situation may be, that God is Jehovah Jireh, He who provides.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Dear loving Father, help us to learn how to surrender to Your will, entrusting our lives fully to You because You are a God who provides.

Thanksgiving: Dearest Father, we thank You for providing for us what we need, according to Your will. Thank You for patiently waiting for us and not giving up on us even when things seem impossible.

11 June, Monday – Peacemakers

Jun 11 – Feast of St. Barnabas, apostle

St. Barnabas (martyred 61) founded the Church in Antioch. He was a Levite Jewish convert, coming to the faith soon after Pentecost. Barnabas is mentioned frequently in the Acts of the Apostles, and is included among the prophets and doctors at Antioch. Like Paul, Barnabas believed in the Church’s mission to Gentiles, and worked with him in Cyprus and Asia, but split with him over a non-theological matter. At the time of his death, he was carrying a copy of the Gospel of Saint Matthew that he had copied by hand.

  • – Patron Saint Index

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Acts 11:21-26,13:1-3

A great number believed and were converted to the Lord.

The church in Jerusalem heard about this and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. There he could see for himself that God had given grace, and this pleased him, and he urged them all to remain faithful to the Lord with heartfelt devotion; for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith. And a large number of people were won over to the Lord.

Barnabas then left for Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. As things turned out they were to live together in that church a whole year, instructing a large number of people. It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians.’

In the church at Antioch the following were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. One day while they were offering worship to the Lord and keeping a fast, the Holy Spirit said, ‘I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them.’ So it was that after fasting and prayer they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

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Matthew 5:1-12

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:

‘How happy are the poor in spirit;
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:
they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn:
they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right:
they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful:
they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart:
they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers:
they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven: this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.’

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“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

When I was younger, I used to attend Sunday school and we were tasked to memorize verses as part of our homework. I used to take pride in being able to memorize the Beatitudes, but I never took the time to really meditate and understand what the Beatitudes were about. I knew that the Latin noun of the word Beatitude was used to describe a state of blessedness, but I never understood these eight Beatitudes using my heart. Recently, I had a conversation with a friend and she mentioned that she had a t-shirt with a very cool-looking dog decked in a pair of sunglasses with the phrase “Be attitude”. At that moment, I started to realize that the Beatitudes were more than just blessings spoken by Jesus, but they are the attitudes that He wanted us to have, and although these attitudes are not easy to embrace, through God’s grace, it is possible.

The past month has been extremely rough for me emotionally, because I have decided to leave my first job after close to 7 years; not because I became bored of the nature of the work, but because I started to succumb to the negativity of the office environment. I loved my job, and I still do, which was why the decision to resign was a struggle for me; but for my own mental and emotional well-being, I decided that it was best that I resign. My boss called me silly for leaving right before the bonus month, but my happiness was more important and I knew I could no longer feel happy working in this job. A few days after my resignation, I chanced upon the Beatitudes and the particular Beatitude – Blessed are the peacemakers, they will be called children of God – struck a chord in me. I decided to embark on a personal project to connect with people who I was avoiding at work, and to make peace with them before my last day. I guess God knew it was not an easy task for me, and he has been creating opportunities for me to ‘bump’ into these people, and through a brief conversation, make peace with them.

Brothers and sisters, as today is the memorial of Saint Barnabas, the patron saint of peacemakers, let us also take this chance to make peace with someone in our lives who God has been trying to lead us to. We, together with our brethren, are God’s beloved children, and He would want nothing but the best for us. Let us be the peacemakers in the lives of those around us, and with great faith, make an impact in this chaotic and conflicting world.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the desire to reflect upon these eight Beatitudes and to give us the grace to emulate them through our daily living.

Thanksgiving: Dearest Father, we thank you for giving us the opportunity and humility to be peacemakers in the lives of those around us. Thank you for reminding us that despite all that we have done, we are Your children, and as Your children, we need to continually love one another.

10 June, Sunday – Division

10 June

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Genesis 3:9-15

The Lord God called to the man after he had eaten of the tree. ‘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.’

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2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

As we have the same spirit of faith that is mentioned in scripture – I believed, and therefore I spoke – we too believe and therefore we too speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus to life will raise us with Jesus in our turn, and put us by his side and you with us. You see, all this is for your benefit, so that the more grace is multiplied among people, the more thanksgiving there will be, to the glory of God.

That is why there is no weakening on our part, and instead, though this outer man of ours may be falling into decay, the inner man is renewed day by day. Yes, the troubles which are soon over, though they weigh little, train us for the carrying of a weight of eternal glory which is out of all proportion to them. And so we have no eyes for things that are visible, but only for things that are invisible; for visible things last only for a time, and the invisible things are eternal.

For we know that when the tent that we live in on earth is folded up, there is a house built by God for us, an everlasting home not made by human hands, in the heavens.

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Mark 3:20-35

Jesus went home with his disciples, and such a crowd collected that they could not even have a meal. When his relatives heard of this, they set out to take charge of him, convinced he was out of his mind.

The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem were saying, ‘Beelzebul is in him’ and, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts devils out.’ So he called them to him and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot last. And if a household is divided against itself, that household can never stand. Now if Satan has rebelled against himself and is divided, he cannot stand either – it is the end of him. But no one can make his way into a strong man’s house and burgle his property unless he has tied up the strong man first. Only then can he burgle his house.

‘I tell you solemnly, all men’s sins will be forgiven, and all their blasphemies; but let anyone blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and he will never have forgiveness: he is guilty of an eternal sin.’ This was because they were saying, ‘An unclean spirit is in him.’

His mother and brothers now arrived and, standing outside, sent in a message asking for him. A crowd was sitting round him at the time the message was passed to him, ‘Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you.’ He replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking round at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.’

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“… if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”

Last week, I had a conversation with a colleague about leadership styles, and we were discussing the rationale behind a particular type of leadership style that preferred a divided team over a cohesive and united one. This type of leadership not only creates animosity and distrust amongst staff, but the office environment becomes filled with negativity. In such an office, the well-being of each staff is compromised and the quality of work is also affected. Archbishop William, during one of the retreats conducted by him, has cautioned against this style of leadership because it not only reflects negatively on the leader, but because of the effects it has on the employees as well.

Personally, I am someone who hates conflict and I would normally run away when I anticipate conflict coming my way. Being in an office environment like the one described above, I started to see my emotional well-being decline and suffer, especially in the past year. My close friends have encouraged me to resign as they could see that I am no longer happy, not because of the nature of my job, but because of the negativity in the environment. Many people in my office have lost the passion and reason why they started work here, and most end up staying because the pay and benefits are good; but this causes the quality of work to decline. I could see myself going down the same path as my colleagues, as it would be less emotionally draining. However, I found myself fighting this as I could not bring myself to produce a poorer quality of work.

My work was not the only thing in my life that seemed to be affected by such a leadership and office environment. I started becoming irritable and my emotional meter seemed to be hitting a negative, and my family experienced a lot of my outbursts due to a shorter fuse. I also contemplated pulling away from ministry as well because I could sense myself losing my patience as I dealt with certain issues pertaining to the ministry I am in. I started to doubt my capabilities, and the effects of work started to become the truth in my life; and it took me some time to realize how it was affecting me and how I need to move on.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus cautioned against the division of kingdoms and households as it would not sustain during times of difficulty. It is also a reminder not just for leaders, but for everyone, that a division in any setting could have destructive consequences that not only affects one person, but everyone involved. Let us learn to seek cohesion instead of disharmony, and to seek for God’s unity in all that we do.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to work towards cohesion as a cord with three strands is not quickly broken. We pray for unity in our lives and in the relationships we form.

 Thanksgiving: Dear loving Father, thank you for your gentle mercies and for reminding us that a divided house is detrimental for the wellbeing of all its members.

21 March, Wednesday – Trust In The Lord Wholeheartedly

21 March

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Daniel 3:14-20,24-25,28

King Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, is it true that you do not serve my gods, and that you refuse to worship the golden statue I have erected? When you hear the sound of horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, or any other instrument, are you prepared to prostrate yourselves and worship the statue I have made? If you refuse to worship it, you must be thrown straight away into the burning fiery furnace; and where is the god who could save you from my power?’ Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘Your question hardly requires an answer: if our God, the one we serve, is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace and from your power, O king, he will save us; and even if he does not, then you must know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue you have erected.’ These words infuriated King Nebuchadnezzar; his expression was very different now as he looked at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He gave orders for the furnace to be made seven times hotter than usual, and commanded certain stalwarts from his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the burning fiery furnace.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar sprang to his feet in amazement. He said to his advisers, ‘Did we not have these three men thrown bound into the fire?’ They replied, ‘Certainly, O king.’ ‘But,’ he went on ‘I can see four men walking about freely in the heart of the fire without coming to any harm. And the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’

Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: he has sent his angel to rescue the servants who, putting their trust in him, defied the order of the king, and preferred to forfeit their bodies rather than serve or worship any god but their own.’

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John 8:31-42

To the Jews who believed in him Jesus said:

‘If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples, you will learn the truth and the truth will make you free.’

They answered, ‘We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone; what do you mean, “You will be made free”?’ Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly, everyone who commits sin is a slave. Now the slave’s place in the house is not assured, but the son’s place is assured. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

I know that you are descended from Abraham; but in spite of that you want to kill me because nothing I say has penetrated into you. What I, for my part, speak of is what I have seen with my Father; but you, you put into action the lessons learnt from your father.’

They repeated, ‘Our father is Abraham.’ Jesus said to them:

‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would do as Abraham did. As it is, you want to kill me when I tell you the truth as I have learnt it from God; that is not what Abraham did. What you are doing is what your father does.’

‘We were not born of prostitution,’ they went on ‘we have one father: God.’ Jesus answered:

‘If God were your father, you would love me, since I have come here from God; yes, I have come from him; not that I came because I chose, no, I was sent, and by him.’

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“Blessed be the God … who sent his angel to deliver the servants who trusted in him”

It is often easy to say, “I trust in the Lord”, when things get difficult. But how many of us really trust in the Lord entirely during such situations? For many, including myself, trusting in the Lord entirely does not come naturally or easily, and more often than not, this phrase denotes a theoretical understanding rather than an applied one.

Since young, trusting in the Lord has been extremely difficult for me. I have had my fair share of disappointments from the people in my life while I was growing up, and I extended this disappointment to God as well. I would often question Him and why life was the way it was for me. I found it hard to trust God and had always wanted to control my life the way I wanted it to be. That led me to leave the church in 2009 and I only returned in 2016.

I suffered from depression growing up, and it worsened after I left the Church. I was hitting roadblocks as I journeyed through life, and despite experiencing frequent suicidal thoughts, I always found the last ounce of strength to move beyond these obstacles. When I returned to the Church and became a Catholic, I realized that the 7 years I was away from Him, He was still next to me, intercepting my life with His hand whenever I could not manage, and helping me when I was at my lowest. This new-found revelation brought me closer to God and despite this, it still took me quite some time to relinquish control and to trust in the Lord more wholeheartedly.

Recently, things at work have become slightly more hectic and sometimes unmanageable, and coupled with the new responsibility within my ministry, I found myself craving the Lord’s consolation more and more. Each morning, I would offer my day to the Lord and the worries of the day got lesser and became more manageable. I realized that when I stop trying to control my life, the obstacles and stressors of daily life become easier to bear. I would seek His advice when things get tough and I found myself becoming more hopeful and at peace amidst the storms that I experience.

Brothers and sisters, the Lord reminds us in today’s reading that He will protect His servants and those who trust Him wholeheartedly, as seen in the lives of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Similarly, Jesus reminded us that a son will always remain in the household of his parents, and as children of God, we are given the utmost privilege to remain in the house of God, protected and loved by the all-encompassing and merciful Father.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the desire to trust in You. And to learn how to surrender the urge to control our lives, because You know the plans You have for us and You will never let us down.

Thanksgiving: Dear loving Father, we thank you for welcoming us into your house even though at times we want things to be our way. Thank you for protecting us from harm and for always looking out for us.

20 March, Tuesday – Being Beacons Of Light

20 March

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Numbers 21:4-9

The Israelites left Mount Hor by the road to the Sea of Suph, to skirt the land of Edom. On the way the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’

At this God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. The people came and said to Moses, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede for us with the Lord to save us from these serpents.’ Moses interceded for the people, and the Lord answered him, ‘Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.’ So Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard, and if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived.

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John 8:21-30

Again Jesus said to the Pharisees:

‘I am going away; you will look for me and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.’

The Jews said to one another, ‘Will he kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, “Where I am going, you cannot come”?’ Jesus went on:

‘You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I have told you already: You will die in your sins. Yes, if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.’

So they said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus answered:

‘What I have told you from the outset. About you I have much to say and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is truthful, and what I have learnt from him I declare to the world.’

They failed to understand that he was talking to them about the Father. So Jesus said:

‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He and that I do nothing of myself: what the Father has taught me is what I preach; he who sent me is with me, and has not left me to myself, for I always do what pleases him.’

As he was saying this, many came to believe in him.

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“The one who sent me is with me…”

Today’s society has a very low tolerance for imperfection. This can be seen by the countless number of feedback channels readily available on websites, survey forms and on social media. It has become extremely easy for one to lodge an official complaint against the poor quality of service received from any staff. Due to the convenience of handphones and other personal devices, there is the instant gratification of lodging a complaint within the same breath of experiencing the bad service.

I know I am guilty of such behaviour, especially when I was younger, and my lesson came when I first started work. I had received a complaint from a client who wasn’t happy that I contacted her family, despite her not giving consent as there were safety issues involved. I was immediately summoned by my boss for an interrogation and scrutiny on what I did, and whether I did the right thing as the Public Relations Office had to respond to the complaint. That experience made me realize that although I might feel satisfied in airing my grievances from the ‘bad service’ I received, my actions might have caused not only unnecessary stress to the person, but the person might be fired from the job they needed to sustain their family.

In today’s first reading, the Israelites were unhappy with the ‘service’ provided by God and Moses, and they did not hesitate in complaining. Although the Lord punished the Israelites, He also showed them mercy when they were repentant. In today’s culture, where feedback and reviews can harm the status and social standing of a particular company, how many employers would show mercy to an employee who had received a complaint from a customer?

Brothers and sisters, let us take a step back to reflect on our words and actions when we are dissatisfied by a particular service provider, and ask ourselves whether we would be causing more harm than good by instantly providing our negative feedback. Jesus also reminds us that God is always with us because we are sent by Him, and thus we should always be beacons of light to those around us, guiding others back to the love of God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the restraint to hold our tongue when we want to provide negative feedback and to give us the spirit of understanding and patience when we are faced with such situations.

Thanksgiving: Dear loving Father, thank you for giving us the chance to be light in the world and to show your love and generosity to the people we meet. Thank you for placing people in our paths as we learn to love as You loved.

18 March, Sunday – The Praying Servant

18 March 2018

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Jeremiah 31:31-34

See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel (and the House of Judah), but not a covenant like the one I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant of mine, so I had to show them who was master. It is the Lord who speaks. No, this is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel when those days arrive – it is the Lord who speaks. Deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I will be their God and they shall be my people. There will be no further need for neighbour to try to teach neighbour, or brother to say to brother, ‘Learn to know the Lord!’ No, they will all know me, the least no less than the greatest – it is the Lord who speaks – since I will forgive their iniquity and never call their sin to mind.

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Hebrews 5:7-9

During his life on earth, Christ offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard. Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation.

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John 12:20-33

Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. These approached Philip, who came from Bethsaida in Galilee, and put this request to him, ‘Sir, we should like to see Jesus.’ Philip went to tell Andrew, and Andrew and Philip together went to tell Jesus. Jesus replied to them:

‘Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

I tell you, most solemnly, unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.

Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life.

If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too. If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him. Now my soul is troubled.

What shall I say: Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name!’

A voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ People standing by, who heard this, said it was a clap of thunder; others said, ‘It was an angel speaking to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not for my sake that this voice came, but for yours.

‘Now sentence is being passed on this world; now the prince of this world is to be overthrown.

And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to myself.’

By these words he indicated the kind of death he would die.

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“Whoever serves me must follow me…”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus was talking to Andrew and Philip and He reminded them that “whoever serves me must follow me”. Jesus was not talking about just following Him from place to place, but it is also important to follow Him by praying unceasingly.

The ministry that I am serving in is currently undergoing a change in its leadership, and I have been asked to step up and take on a leadership role. Despite my initial apprehension (I was afraid of the backlash from some members as I was considered newer in the ministry), I knew my heart wanted to serve and decided to take courage and respond to the invitation after praying and finding peace. I was talking to a friend about how I was feeling and she told me to continue praying, not only for the leadership team, but also for the members who were feeling negative about this new team that has been formed.

I initially struggled with my friend’s suggestion as I found it hard to pray for those who were against the team and I found myself wanting to be in control. But as today’s Gospel reminds us, unless we die to ourselves, God cannot work through us for the betterment of His people. I slowly started surrendering how I felt and tried to focus on praying for this ministry, the leaders, and everyone impacted by this new change. Gradually, I noticed that my apprehension of being a leader reduced significantly and I felt more at peace. Likewise, my fear of being picked on by others also started to reduce and my perspective started to shift – I was able to look at feedback from the giver’s point of view instead of becoming defensive or angry. I still struggle, but instead of being frustrated with myself and others, I would gently remind myself that it is okay to struggle, as long as I continue to persevere in my prayers to God. I was also thrilled when I saw that Pope Francis had dedicated the month of March to praying for spiritual discernment for both personal and communitarian levels, as I felt that God was reassuring me and reinforcing that prayer is taking a step in the right direction.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus did not have it easy during His ministry either, yet He persevered by fervently praying not only for Himself, but for the people He was preaching to and for the nations He hoped to reach out to. Jesus reminded us in today’s Gospel that as followers of Christ, it is important to emulate Him in our daily lives and in order for God to work through us, it is important that we do not give up when we struggle, but to continue surrendering our entirety to Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the desire to enrich our lives by praying for ourselves, our loved ones, as well as those who we struggle with. Open our hearts to be loving to all and not discriminate anyone because You love everyone.

 Thanksgiving: Dear loving Father, we thank you for your timely reminder to pray for those who hurt us as Jesus prayed for those who persecuted Him. Thank you for your gift of Jesus and His sacrifice.

16 January, Tuesday – Being Kind and Compassionate

16 January

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1 Samuel 16:1-13

The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you go on mourning over Saul when I have rejected him as king of Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen myself a king among his sons.’ Samuel replied, ‘How can I go? When Saul hears of it he will kill me.’ Then the Lord said, ‘Take a heifer with you and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.” Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and then I myself will tell you what you must do; you must anoint to me the one I point out to you.’

Samuel did what the Lord ordered and went to Bethlehem. The elders of the town came trembling to meet him and asked, ‘Seer, have you come with good intentions towards us?’ ‘Yes,’ he replied ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.’ He purified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

When they arrived, he caught sight of Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed one stands there before him’, but the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Take no notice of his appearance or his height for I have rejected him; God does not see as man sees; man looks at appearances but the Lord looks at the heart.’ Jesse then called Abinadab and presented him to Samuel, who said, ‘The Lord has not chosen this one either.’ Jesse then presented Shammah, but Samuel said, ‘The Lord has not chosen this one either.’ Jesse presented his seven sons to Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen these.’ He then asked Jesse, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’ He answered, ‘There is still one left, the youngest; he is out looking after the sheep.’ Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send for him; we will not sit down to eat until he comes.’ Jesse had him sent for, a boy of fresh complexion, with fine eyes and pleasant bearing. The Lord said, ‘Come, anoint him, for this is the one.’ At this, Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him where he stood with his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord seized on David and stayed with him from that day on. As for Samuel, he rose and went to Ramah.

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Mark 2:23-28

One sabbath day Jesus happened to be taking a walk through the cornfields, and his disciples began to pick ears of corn as they went along. And the Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing something on the sabbath day that is forbidden?’ And he replied, ‘Did you never read what David did in his time of need when he and his followers were hungry – how he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the loaves of offering which only the priests are allowed to eat, and how he also gave some to the men with him?’

And he said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; the Son of Man is master even of the sabbath.’

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“… but the Lord looks into the heart”

Society has grown accustomed to judging people based on their appearance, despite famous warnings such as ‘never to judge a book by its cover’. The emphasis on physical appearance has become a bane for the mental health field as an increasing number of children and adolescents are being diagnosed with eating or image-related disorders. School bullying would also go unnoticed and the repercussions would surface in young adulthood.

I was bullied in school for my size and, for many years, I hated who I was and how I looked. I fell into depression and my grades were badly affected, often just scraping through to make it to the next year. Some adults in church used to tell me that I had a kind heart, but I hated that description of me because it didn’t have the same impact as being pretty or good-looking. I questioned whether God hated me and thus gave me an appearance that was not acceptable to my peers, and that question became a belief which I held onto for many years of my life.

2 years ago, I was received into the Catholic Church and my godmother, who knew my struggles, reminded me that the Lord looks at the heart. I used to argue with her over this because of my perception of God towards me. It took quite a lot of time before I started to notice the slight shift in my beliefs, where I was more forgiving and accepting of myself. I would still get upset with my appearance but to a lesser degree.

The nature of my work also started to reinforce that appearances do not matter as much as the genuineness of a person; and the heart is more important than how tall or slim or pretty one is. The clients I work with remind me on a daily basis that it is the heart that matters – it is kindness, compassion and love for mankind that triumphs over physical appearances. I learnt that when I start to love myself a bit more, and when God sent people into my life to remind me of His love and what is important to him.

Brothers and sisters, the Lord reminded Samuel in today’s reading that what pleases Him is the heart of the person and not the outward appearance. Let us remember to look beyond first impressions and not to judge others because they are different from us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the desire to look beyond appearances and to look at the heart of the people in our lives.

Thanksgiving: Dear loving Father, we thank you for loving us and not judging us even though we sometimes judge other people. Thank you for giving us reminders to look beyond what we can see.

15 January, Monday – Obeying God

15 January

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1 Samuel 15:16-23

Samuel said to Saul, ‘Stop! Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.’ Saul said, ‘Tell me.’ Samuel continued, ‘Small as you may be in your own eyes, are you not head of the tribes of Israel? the Lord has anointed you king over Israel. The Lord sent you on a mission and said to you, “Go, put these sinners, the Amalekites, under the ban and make war on them until they are exterminated.” Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you fall on the booty and do what is displeasing to the Lord?’ Saul replied to Samuel, ‘But I did obey the voice of the Lord. I went on the mission which the Lord gave me; I brought back Agag king of the Amalekites; I put the Amalekites under the ban. From the booty the people took the best sheep and oxen of what was under the ban to sacrifice them to the Lord your God in Gilgal.’ But Samuel replied:

‘Is the pleasure of the Lord in holocausts and sacrifices or in obedience to the voice of the Lord?

Yes, obedience is better than sacrifice, submissiveness better than the fat of rams.

Rebellion is a sin of sorcery, presumption a crime of teraphim.

‘Since you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.’

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Mark 2:18-22

One day when John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, some people came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Why is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?’ Jesus replied, ‘Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of fasting while the bridegroom is still with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they could not think of fasting. But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then, on that day, they will fast. No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak; if he does, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins too. No! New wine, fresh skins!’

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“Obedience is better than sacrifice”

Growing up, I would often comply with instructions in a bid to obey others; however, I would often question these instructions because I believed that things could be done in a different way, while achieving the same results. I would slowly start to tweak the instructions (and sometimes even sacrifice my nerves) in apprehension that it would not work. Should everything go according to plan, I would celebrate secretly as I had outwitted those who provided me with the instructions.

Likewise, in my relationship with God, I often convinced myself that I was doing what the Lord wanted by tweaking His instructions and plans. I compensated by sacrificing my time and energy to the ministry I was serving in, as well as at the workplace. However, I realized that despite all that I have been doing, I have not been obedient to what He wants me to do. I have slackened in my quiet time with Him, not responding entirely to His call when He has asked me to do something. I would also often bargain with Him, telling Him that I had already sacrificed enough for Him.

My wake-up call came when I started questioning my purpose in life. I realized that despite doing so much (by my standards), I felt empty. I decided to take a step back from everything that I had busied myself with, and to rebuild my relationship with God. I asked God for forgiveness because I was full of pride, built up from over the years, and I invited God to renew my spirit to do His work according to His will. It has been a few months, and I am still on this journey as obedience is not something that comes easily to me.

Brothers and sisters, today’s reading from Samuel reminds us that God first looks not at our sacrifices, but our obedience to Him. When we obey God, He renews our spirit and gives us the grace to experience meaning in our lives.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Dearest Father, we pray for the grace to listen to Your voice, and to be obedient in all that You have asked us to do.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank You for loving us even though we are disobedient, often questioning your plans for us.

14 January, Sunday – Conversations With God

Dear Readers,

It is truly amazing how God calls us to mission and gives us the talent to fulfil all that He plans for us. Today, we welcome Hannah, who has joined our stable of contributors and has been receiving Oxygen since last year.

Hannah is a relatively new Catholic trying to navigate her journey in the faith. During her growing up years, she often ran away from the faith because of her circumstances. Hannah had always loved the song ‘Still’ by Hillsong, but it was only 2 years ago that Hannah decided she would stop running, be still and know that God is present every day of her life.

Working in the mental health field, Hannah often encounters situations whereby she would see Jesus in each of her clients, and would question herself as to what Jesus would do when the situation becomes complex or dire for them. These moments would inspire Hannah to think out of the box and to do more for her clients.

During her free time, Hannah loves to read and write and will often fill journals with her reflections. Hannah is thankful to Desmond for introducing Oxygen to her as it enhances her daily reflections, and is also appreciative of the chance to contribute as well.

14 January

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1 Samuel 3:3-10,19

Samuel was lying in the sanctuary of the Lord, where the ark of God was, when the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ He answered, ‘Here I am.’ Then he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, since you called me.’ Eli said, ‘I did not call. Go back and lie down.’ So he went and lay down. Once again the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, since you called me.’ He replied, ‘I did not call you, my son; go back and lie down.’ Samuel had as yet no knowledge of the Lord and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. Once again the Lord called, the third time. He got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, since you called me.’ Eli then understood that it was the Lord who was calling the boy, and he said to Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if someone calls say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

The Lord then came and stood by, calling as he had done before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Samuel answered, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’

Samuel grew up and the Lord was with him and let no word of his fall to the ground.

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1 Corinthians 6:13-15, 17-20

The body is not meant for fornication: it is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. God, who raised the Lord from the dead, will by his power raise us up too.

You know, surely, that your bodies are members making up the body of Christ; do you think I can take parts of Christ’s body and join them to the body of a prostitute? Never! But anyone who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.

Keep away from fornication. All the other sins are committed outside the body; but to fornicate is to sin against your own body. Your body, you know, is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you since you received him from God. You are not your own property; you have been bought and paid for. That is why you should use your body for the glory of God.

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John 1:35-42

As John stood with two of his disciples, Jesus passed, and John stared hard at him and said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God.’ Hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. Jesus turned round, saw them following and said, ‘What do you want?’ They answered, ‘Rabbi,’ – which means Teacher –’where do you live?’ ‘Come and see’ he replied; so they went and saw where he lived, and stayed with him the rest of that day. It was about the tenth hour.

One of these two who became followers of Jesus after hearing what John had said was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. Early next morning, Andrew met his brother and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ – which means the Christ – and he took Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked hard at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John; you are to be called Cephas’ – meaning Rock.

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“Speak, Lord, your servant is listening”

2017 was an extremely busy year for me and, truth be told, I can barely remember what I was busy with. I knew that the days were flying by, and work became the most convenient excuse for me; God was on the receiving end as well. I stopped going for Adoration and my prayer life became affected. A 5-minute prayer to God every morning would superficially remove all guilt from me as I’d accomplished my ‘obligation’ to talk to God; however, deep down, I knew that I was becoming lazy.

I refused to accept that I was no longer putting God first in my life, and I believed that I had justified excuses to keep my distance from God. By mid-October, I found myself questioning my purpose in life, and I felt that life had neither meaning nor purpose. My mood started to get affected and over dinner one day, my friend casually asked “How’s your relationship with God?” My first instinct was to tell her it’s been good, but instead, I told her the truth — that it had been non-existent. That night, on my way home, I started to have a conversation with God, one I had not had in over 6 months.

During my conversation with God, He brought me back to the many times whereby I needed help, and it came to me via the people around me. He showed me specific instances whereby He prompted me when I was caught in a predicament. I realized that God had never left my side, and was always patiently waiting for me to say “Here I am Lord”. I expected Him to be there, but yet I was not willing to wait at His feet for Him to speak to me.

Since dinner that night, I have made a daily effort to invite God to speak to me and to open my heart to receive what He has to tell me. I also started using my traveling time to continue conversations with God instead of using my handphone to surf various social media sites. I am truly amazed at the way God speaks to me and I am more aware of the moments that He prompts me when I need assistance.

Brothers and sisters, let us learn to be like Samuel, who obeyed Elijah and responded to God’s call with a simple but powerful invitation — “Speak, for your servant is listening”. Or like John and Andrew, who listened to Jesus and responded to his invitation to follow Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Dearest Father, we pray for the grace to wait at your feet and to respond to your call on a daily basis.

Thanksgiving: We thank you O loving Father, that despite our impatience and neglect towards You, You are always there with us, waiting for us.