Tag Archives: Hannah Huang

13 October, Saturday – Faith Is A Gift

13 October

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Galatians 3:22-29

Scripture makes no exceptions when it says that sin is master everywhere. In this way the promise can only be given through faith in Jesus Christ and can only be given to those who have this faith.

Before faith came, we were allowed no freedom by the Law; we were being looked after till faith was revealed. The Law was to be our guardian until the Christ came and we could be justified by faith. Now that that time has come we are no longer under that guardian, and you are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.

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Luke 11:27-28

As Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, ‘Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!’ But he replied, ‘Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!’

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“For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus”

When I was in secondary school, someone told me that I was experiencing depression because I had little faith in God, and because of that, I thought that I was unwanted by God and was expected to endure punishment from Him. I was confused by that statement and it made me feel more isolated and alone than I already was. I started to question whether God allowed me to experience depression because I was weak in my faith, and I felt that I was fighting a losing battle with regards to the perception of others and thus left the Church.

In the book of Ephesians, Paul wrote that faith is a gift from God, and because faith is a gift, it cannot be taken back. Despite leaving the church, I knew that I still had faith in God, but I could not bring myself to return to a community where I would be judged for my faith. I met a friend who knew the hurts I experienced from my previous community and she reminded me of the book of James. In the book of James, we are encouraged to be joyful when we experience trials in our lives because trials encourage perseverance and increases our maturity. They also help us to strengthen our faith in and reliance on God. She also directed me towards today’s first reading, and reminded me that because I have faith, I am a child of God and no matter where I go, I will always remain a child of God. This conversation made me reflect on my life and my faith, and it brought me one step closer to returning to the Church. Shortly after that conversation, I was convicted to return to the Church, and to embrace the trials that come my way, and to find that sliver of hope and learning point in each trial. I am also reminded on a daily basis that my faith is a gift from God, and I will always be a child of God because of my faith.

Brothers and sisters, let us remember that we are all children of God, bounded by the gift of faith from God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Hannah Huang)

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Prayer: Dearest loving Father, we pray for the desire to increase our faith in you and to embrace the trials in our lives. We pray that through our trials, we will continue to grow in maturity and perseverance. 

Thanksgiving: Dearest Father, thank you for your gift of faith to us. Thank you for giving us trials in our lives and reassuring us that you will not give us more than we can handle.

12 October, Friday – Jesus Loves

12 October

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Galatians 3:7-14

Don’t you see that it is those who rely on faith who are the sons of Abraham? Scripture foresaw that God was going to use faith to justify the pagans, and proclaimed the Good News long ago when Abraham was told: In you all the pagans will be blessed. Those therefore who rely on faith receive the same blessing as Abraham, the man of faith.

On the other hand, those who rely on the keeping of the Law are under a curse, since scripture says: Cursed be everyone who does not persevere in observing everything prescribed in the book of the Law. The Law will not justify anyone in the sight of God, because we are told: the righteous man finds life through faith. The Law is not even based on faith, since we are told: The man who practises these precepts finds life through practising them. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by being cursed for our sake, since scripture says: Cursed be everyone who is hanged on a tree. This was done so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might include the pagans, and so that through faith we might receive the promised Spirit.

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Luke 11:15-26

When Jesus had cast out a devil, some of the people said, ‘It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.’ Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven; but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses. So too with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? – Since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils. Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out? Let them be your judges then. But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you. So long as a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he is attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.

‘He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.

‘When an unclean spirit goes out of a man it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and not finding one it says, “I will go back to the home I came from.” But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied, it then goes off and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and set up house there, so that the man ends up by being worse than he was before.’

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“Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law…”

As a child, I was exposed to the song “Jesus Loves Me This I Know…” and as a child, I could not comprehend how Jesus could love someone like me. Cognitively, I knew that Jesus loves me and he died for me, because it was stated in the Bible, but I could not accept it in my heart. I always felt that Jesus loves everyone but me, and for a long time, I believed that Jesus’ love had exceptions. The circumstances of my childhood shaped my perceptions about Jesus and it took me a long time to finally accept Jesus’ love for me.

It has been 2 months since I started working with children, and I noticed that a number of these children believe that they are unlovable and no one could love them for who they are. Every morning when I go to work, I will remind myself to try and love the children with the love Jesus has for me. It can be very trying with some children, but each time I find myself hitting a roadblock with them, I would silently make a short prayer to God to grant me the grace to not react towards them, and to show them more of Jesus’ love. Sometimes when I am unable to pray as I am attending to the child, I would hold the crucifix pendant that I am wearing, and it would help me to calm down and to remember to love as Jesus loves. I realized that when I give the children the space to explore and to share their feelings without judgment, and to treat them with love regardless of what they have shared, it helps them to be more accepting of themselves. Working with children has allowed me to be constantly reminded of how Jesus sacrificed His life for me because He loves me for who I am, despite my shortcomings.

Brothers and sisters, let us learn to emulate Jesus’ love for our fellow brethren and to accept that in order to love, it sometimes requires sacrifice.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Hannah Huang)

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Prayer: Dearest loving Father, continue to grace us with the opportunity to know Jesus at a deeper level, and to continue to entrust our lives to you on a daily basis.

Thanksgiving: Dearest loving Father, thank you for your gift of Jesus to us, and thank you for showing us what unconditional love is.

11 October, Thursday – Come Holy Spirit, Come

11 October – Memorial for St. John XXIII, Pope

Also known as Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, John XXIII (1881 – 1963) was born to an Italian peasant family. He was educated at Bergamo and later at the Pontifical Roman Seminary in Rome.  He was ordained on 10 August 1904. He was the secretary to the bishop of Bergamo, Italy from 1904 to 1914. During which he wrote the basis for his five-volume biography of Saint Charles Borromeo. He served in World War I in the medical corps, and as a chaplain. From 1921 onwards he served the Holy See directly in various posts, both in Rome and in Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece, culminating as Apostolic Nuncio to France from 1944 until 1953, when he was created cardinal and made the Patriarch of Venice. He was elected 261st pope on 28 October 1958.

As pope he stressed his own pastoral duties as well as those of other bishops and clergy. Promoted social reforms for workers, poor people, orphans, and the outcast. He advanced cooperation with other faiths and traditions including Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Church of England, and even Shinto. In April 1959 he forbade Catholics to vote for parties supporting Communism. His encyclical, Mater et Magistra of 14 July 1961 advocated social reform, assistance to underdeveloped countries, a living wage for all workers, and support for socialist measures that promised real benefit to society.

He nearly doubled the number of cardinals, making the college the largest in history. On 25 January 1959, he announced his intent to call a council to consider ways to renew the Church in the modern world, promote diversity within the unity of the Church, and consider reforms promoted by ecumenical and liturgical movements. Convening the council, known as Vatican II, on 11 October 1962, was the high point of his reign.

His heartiness, his overflowing love for humanity individually and collectively, and his freshness of approach to ecclesiastical affairs made John one of the best-loved popes of modern times.

Patron Saint Index, Universalis

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Galatians 3:1-5

Are you people in Galatia mad? Has someone put a spell on you, in spite of the plain explanation you have had of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? Let me ask you one question: was it because you practised the Law that you received the Spirit, or because you believed what was preached to you? Are you foolish enough to end in outward observances what you began in the Spirit? Have all the favours you received been wasted? And if this were so, they would most certainly have been wasted. Does God give you the Spirit so freely and work miracles among you because you practise Law, or because you believed what was preached to you?

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Luke 11:5-13

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night to say, “My friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend of mine on his travels has just arrived at my house and I have nothing to offer him”; and the man answers from inside the house, “Do not bother me. The door is bolted now, and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up to give it you.” I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it him for friendship’s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants.

‘So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or hand him a snake instead of a fish? Or hand him a scorpion if he asked for an egg? If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

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“how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

When I attended the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER) in 2016, I came to realize that I am most attuned to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and the experiences that I encountered during the CER were largely related to the Holy Spirit as well. It was also during the retreat that I realized how close the Holy Spirit was journeying with me throughout my entire life. Since then, I started to draw closer to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has become a constant companion in my life and during moments where I feel alone, I am often consoled that I am not alone because I can talk to the Holy Spirit. I would also break out into conversation with the Holy Spirit when I walk to work, and sometimes I find that I get inspirations that I never would have thought of.

When I was in Rome earlier this year, I visited the famous St. Peter’s Basilica and one of the many pieces that caught my eye was the Dove of the Holy Spirit that is above the Throne of St. Peter. The Dove of the Holy Spirit is an amber stained glass window with a white dove at the center of the window. As I managed to attend mass and spend an extended time at the basilica, I noticed that the intensity of the amber going from light to dark and light again, depending on the time of day and the position of the sun. This light to dark to light depiction of the Holy Spirit reminded me of the times in my life where the promptings of the Spirit were either very gentle or very obvious and intense, depending on how receptive and attuned I was to the Spirit.

Today’s Gospel reminds us of the Holy Spirit being a helper in our lives and God’s generosity and willingness to gift the Holy Spirit to all who ask of Him. Brothers and sisters, let us invite the Holy Spirit to journey with us through our everyday lives and to be aware of the promptings of the Spirit at every moment of our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Dearest Father, we pray for the grace to grow closer to the Holy Spirit by being more aware of the Spirit’s presence. Help us to be patient and more attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Thanksgiving: Dearest Father, thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Thank you for providing us with such a wonderful helper in our lives.

10 October, Wednesday – Pray without ceasing

10 October

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Galatians 2:1-2,7-14

It was not till fourteen years had passed that I went up to Jerusalem again. I went with Barnabas and took Titus with me. I went there as the result of a revelation, and privately I laid before the leading men the Good News as I proclaim it among the pagans; I did so for fear the course I was adopting or had already adopted would not be allowed. On the contrary, they recognised that I had been commissioned to preach the Good News to the uncircumcised just as Peter had been commissioned to preach it to the circumcised. The same person whose action had made Peter the apostle of the circumcised had given me a similar mission to the pagans. So, James, Cephas and John, these leaders, these pillars, shook hands with Barnabas and me as a sign of partnership: we were to go to the pagans and they to the circumcised. The only thing they insisted on was that we should remember to help the poor, as indeed I was anxious to do.

When Cephas came to Antioch, however, I opposed him to his face, since he was manifestly in the wrong. His custom had been to eat with the pagans, but after certain friends of James arrived he stopped doing this and kept away from them altogether for fear of the group that insisted on circumcision. The other Jews joined him in this pretence, and even Barnabas felt himself obliged to copy their behaviour.

When I saw they were not respecting the true meaning of the Good News, I said to Cephas in front of everyone, ‘In spite of being a Jew, you live like the pagans and not like the Jews, so you have no right to make the pagans copy Jewish ways.’

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Luke 11:1-4

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘Say this when you pray:

“Father, may your name be held holy,
your kingdom come;
give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us.
And do not put us to the test.”’

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“Father, hallowed be your name…”

When I was younger, I had a lot of difficulty praying because I did not know what to say to God or how to put my thoughts across to Him. To make matters worse, I was in a church group that practiced a lot of spontaneous and verbalized prayers, and I found myself avoiding meet ups and group meetings because I was terrified of being called up to lead in such prayers. This fear was etched deeply within my heart because I was often compared to a peer who had “better” prayers than I did, and since then, I often felt that I would be judged for my prayers and no matter how sincere I was, it was not good enough for God and for those around me. The only prayer that I was confident of verbalizing was the Lord’s Prayer, because it is from the Bible, and I did not receive any negative comparisons when I recited the Lord’s Prayer.

When I was 15, I attended a church retreat and the pastor’s wife encouraged me to pray the Lord’s Prayer and to pray for the desire to be able to pray without fear. Since then, I started praying the Lord’s Prayer during my quiet time, especially when I did not know what else to say to God or when I was so troubled that I could not focus on my time with God. I slowly came to the realization that I had a deep desire to pray spontaneously; however due to my fear, I often stifled this desire and preferred to stay away from such opportunities. I stayed away for many years as I left the church thereafter, and it was only when I returned to the faith did I realize that this desire was still present within me. It was about 6 months after I was received into the Catholic church when I was thrown into the deep end where I was asked to give a closing prayer after a session I attended. Instead of being overwhelmed by fear, I felt a comforting reassurance which reminded me that if I froze or ran out of words to say, I could always rely on the Lord’s Prayer. I found that the minute I took the first step, God guided me through the prayer, and I experienced new-found freedom while praying. Since then, whenever I have been tasked to lead in prayer, I find myself experiencing joy, and during my quiet moments, I often return to the Lord’s Prayer as a reminder that this is how my praying journey began.

Brothers and sisters, during moments of tiredness or moments when we find it tough or impossible to pray, let us remember the Lord’s Prayer, and to offer up the feelings we are experiencing to the Lord, and let us always remember the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord through this prayer.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Dearest merciful Father, remind us that we can pray the Lord’s Prayer if we are unable to pray, and continue to grace us with the desire to pray on a daily basis, and to use our prayers to draw closer to you.

Thanksgiving: Dearest Father, thank you for the gift of the Lord’s Prayer, that we are able to seek your consolation and your love especially through this Prayer.

14 August, Tuesday – Hail Mary, Full of Grace

Aug 14 – St. Maximillian Mary Kolbe, priest, martyr

Maximillian Mary Kolbe (1894-1941) was known as a mischievous child, sometimes considered wild, and a trial to his parents. However around the time of his first Communion, he received a vision of the Virgin Mary that changed his life. While still in seminary, he and six friends founded the Immaculata Movement (Militia Immaculatae, Crusade of Mary Immaculate) devoted to the conversion of sinners, opposition to freemasonry (which was extremely anti-Catholic at the time), spread of the Miraculous Medal (which they wore as their habit), and devotion to Our Lady and the path to Christ. Stricken with tuberculosis which nearly killed him, it left him frail in health the rest of his life. His insights into Marian theology echo today through their influence on Vatican II.

He founded monastries and published a magazine to fight religious apathy in Poland and Japan. By 1939 the Polish monastery housed a religious community of nearly 800 men, the largest in the world in its day, and was completely self-sufficient including medical facilities and a fire brigade staffed by the religious brothers. During his arrest by the Nazis, he volunteered to die in place of a married man with young children. He died as he had always wished – in service.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ezekiel 2:8-3:4

I, Ezekiel, heard a voice speaking. It said, ‘You, son of man, listen to the words I say; do not be a rebel like that rebellious set. Open your mouth and eat what I am about to give you.’ I looked. A hand was there, stretching out to me and holding a scroll. He unrolled it in front of me; it was written on back and front; on it was written ‘lamentations, wailings, meanings.’ He said, ‘Son of man, eat what is given to you; eat this scroll, then go and speak to the House of Israel.’ I opened my mouth; he gave me the scroll to eat and said, ‘Son of man, feed and be satisfied by the scroll I am giving you.’ I ate it, and it tasted sweet as honey.

Then he said, ‘Son of man, go to the House of Israel and tell them what I have said.’

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Matthew 18:1-5,10,12-14

The disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ So he called a little child to him and set the child in front of them. Then he said, ‘I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

‘Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven.

‘Tell me. Suppose a man has a hundred sheep and one of them strays; will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go in search of the stray? I tell you solemnly, if he finds it, it gives him more joy than do the ninety-nine that did not stray at all. Similarly, it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.’

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“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray…”

During the 25 days I spent with Aunty in hospital, I was blessed to be able to witness her love for God and Mother Mary through her constant prayers, even when it was tough for her to pray. Whenever Aunty had visitors in the hospital, she would always tell them that she will keep them in her prayers, and if any specific prayer intention was mentioned, she would try her best to remember each of them. Every morning and during moments of free time, Aunty would be praying the Rosary, and asking Mother to intercede for the people she was praying for. Aunty would not turn down the chance to pray for another person, and her deep faith in Mother’s intercessions had deepened my understanding of the Rosary.

As a convert, I struggled with praying the Rosary because I could not grasp the rationale behind the Rosary. After experiencing Auntie’s daily intercessions through our Mother, I realized that the Rosary started growing on me, and I began to enjoy praying the Rosary. My cynical questions pertaining to the Rosary were no longer a priority, and instead, I am learning how to intercede for others through the Rosary.

Today is the feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe, a saint who strongly advocated for the conversion of souls through the intercession of our Mother. She came to him through a vision when he was 12, and as young as he was, his faith was strong. He dedicated his life to praying through Mother, even when he was facing death. As a child, he accepted that his life was to be for the Lord, and he did not question what Mother had showed him. His sacrifice for a stranger was undoubtedly a heroic act, but more than that, it was an act of love towards God’s people.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Dearest merciful Father, grace us with the desire to pray for our fellow brothers and sisters even when it is hard to pray, and to look to our blessed Mother as the perfect example after Your heart.

Thanksgiving: Dearest Father, we thank You for persevering with us and not giving up on us, especially during our moments of being “the lost sheep”. Thank You for showering us with Your love.

13 August, Monday – Dreams And Visions

Aug 13 – Memorial for St. Pontian, pope, martyr, and St. Hippolytus, priest, martyr

Pontian was among the first victims of an anti-Christian new emperor. Rounded up with the antipope Hippolytus, Pontian was deported to the labour mines. While imprisoned, Hippolytus reconciled his differences with Pontian and even ordered his followers to bring themselves back to the Church. Before he succumbed to the harsh treatment of the mines, Hippolytus became a true confessor of Christ. Pontian, in the mines only two months, was brutally beaten to death by his jailers.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ezekiel 1:2-5,24-28

On the fifth of the month – it was the fifth year of exile for King Jehoiachin – the word of the Lord was addressed to the priest Ezekiel son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldaeans, on the bank of the river Chebar.

There the hand of the Lord came on me. I looked; a stormy wind blew from the north, a great cloud with light around it, a fire from which flashes of lightning darted, and in the centre a sheen like bronze at the heart of the fire. In the centre I saw what seemed four animals. I heard the noise of their wings as they moved; it sounded like rushing water, like the voice of Shaddai, a noise like a storm, like the noise of a camp; when they halted, they folded their wings, and there was a noise.

Above the vault over their heads was something that looked like a sapphire; it was shaped like a throne and high up on this throne was a being that looked like a man. I saw him shine like bronze, and close to and all around him from what seemed his loins upwards was what looked like fire; and from what seemed his loins downwards I saw what looked like fire, and a light all round like a bow in the clouds on rainy days; that is how the surrounding light appeared. It was something that looked like the glory of the Lord. I looked, and prostrated myself.

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Matthew 17:22-27

One day when they were together in Galilee, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘The Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men; they will put him to death, and on the third day he will be raised to life again.’ And a great sadness came over them.

When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the half-shekel came to Peter and said, ‘Does your master not pay the half-shekel?’ ‘Oh yes’ he replied, and went into the house. But before he could speak, Jesus said, ‘Simon, what is your opinion? From whom do the kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their sons or from foreigners?’ And when he replied, ‘From foreigners’, Jesus said, ‘Well then, the sons are exempt. However, so as not to offend these people, go to the lake and cast a hook; take the first fish that bites, open its mouth and there you will find a shekel; take it and give it to them for me and for you.’ 

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“Like the bow which appears in the clouds on a rainy day…..”

During Aunty’s time in the hospital, Aunty had quite a few dreams and visions of heaven, and each time she woke up from them, she would have this gleeful smile on her face and a look of comfort thereafter. Upon our curious probing, Aunty would divulge that she saw Jesus or the 3 Archangels and they were dressed in splendour. She shared briefly about her encounters with them but from her expression, it was very obvious that she was in awe of the magnificence that she had witnessed, and alongside was her deep longing to be in the house of the Lord when it was her time. Aunty had been experiencing pain that was only slightly relieved by the painkillers that could be given and after her encounter with Jesus, she immediately proclaimed in victory that she was pain-free and wanted to start walking again.

Aunty’s sharing during that time had helped me to further put in perspective my knowledge of what heaven is like. Although I believed that heaven is a lovely place, I have never really thought much about what it really is. Aunty’s dreams and visions gave me a deeper understanding of not only the bible, but also of God as Father – one who hears the deepest desires of His children and who wants the best for them.

Brothers and sisters, what Aunty saw and described was reflected in today’s first reading, where the Lord was depicted as being surrounded by splendour and brilliance, and His presence radiates hope to all who believes in Him. Let us continue to entrust our lives to the Lord and cling to the hope that He brings to us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Dearest Father, we pray for the grace to allow You to love us as Your children, and to experience the hope that you bring to us. Teach us to cling on to Your faithfulness and to entrust our lives into Your hands.

 Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank You for strengthening our faith by providing us with witnesses and giving us the grace to experience Your splendour and magnificence through the lives of those around us.

12 August, Sunday – Don’t Look Back In Anger

12 August 

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1 Kings 19:4-8

Elijah went into the wilderness, a day’s journey, and sitting under a furze bush wished he were dead. ‘O Lord,’ he said ‘I have had enough. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down and went to sleep. But an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked round, and there at his head was a scone baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. But the angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, or the journey will be too long for you.’ So he got up and ate and drank, and strengthened by that food he walked for forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

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Ephesians 4:30-5:2

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God who has marked you with his seal for you to be set free when the day comes. Never have grudges against others, or lose your temper, or raise your voice to anybody, or call each other names, or allow any sort of spitefulness. Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ.

Try, then, to imitate God as children of his that he loves and follow Christ loving as he loved you, giving himself up in our place as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God.

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John 6:41-51

The Jews were complaining to each other about Jesus, because he had said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ ‘Surely this is Jesus son of Joseph’ they said. ‘We know his father and mother. How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus said in reply, ‘Stop complaining to each other.

‘No one can come to me
unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me,
and I will raise him up at the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They will all be taught by God,
and to hear the teaching of the Father,
and learn from it,
is to come to me.
Not that anybody has seen the Father,
except the one who comes from God:
he has seen the Father.
I tell you most solemnly,
everybody who believes has eternal life.

‘I am the bread of life.
Your fathers ate the manna in the desert
and they are dead;
but this is the bread that comes down from heaven,
so that a man may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,
for the life of the world.’

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“All bitterness, fury, anger … must be removed from you …”

A few days after I left my job, my godmother’s mother was hospitalized and as I had the time, I started to accompany her daily during her stay in the hospital, till she returned home to the Lord. During these 25 days, I learnt a lot from her about God, her love for God’s people, her gift of intercession, as well as various lessons on how to live life without carrying unwanted baggage. One day, during one of the quieter mornings, we started talking about the reasons why I had left my previous work organization and, after I finished with my reasons, Aunty said to me, “Girl, do not keep anger in your heart”. It was a simple one liner, but it was not an easy one liner to practice. Aunty started sharing her life with me – her childhood, her marriage to Uncle, being a mother to 5 children, as well as being a prayer warrior for God. Aunty shared that there were many moments in her life where she could react with anger, but instead, she chose to forgive because anger has the ability to hinder one from loving a person wholeheartedly and without judgment, and harbouring anger could cause a breakdown in relationships.

Reflecting on my own life, I started to notice patterns as a result of anger or harbouring anger in my heart – decisions that were made based on anger usually cause hurt to someone else or myself. I had a tendency of imploding from the inside rather than confronting the individual that made me angry (unless I was extremely close to that person and I feel safe expressing my negative emotions), and I realized the detriment this had on my own well-being. Since the conversation, I have been trying to let go of anger, particularly towards certain people in my life, and although it is quite difficult, it is still something I want to persist in moving forward.

In today’s second reading, St. Paul reminds us that holding on to bitterness and anger grieves the Holy Spirit and instead of harbouring such negativity, we, as children of God, should practice kindness and compassion in our lives, and to forgive those who have hurt us in a loving, brotherly (sisterly) way. Let us learn to give our anger to God and exchange it for love, as Christ did for us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, teach us how to love our fellow brothers and sisters, especially those who we find hard to love. Grant us the graces to forgive and not to harbour anger in our hearts.

Thanksgiving: Dear loving Father, thank you for your gentle reminders that we are your children and that you love us for who we are.

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.