Tag Archives: hope

18 November, Sunday – Hope in Death

18 November 2018

_____________________

Daniel 12:1-3

‘At that time Michael will stand up, the great prince who mounts guard over your people. There is going to be a time of great distress, unparalleled since nations first came into existence. When that time comes, your own people will be spared, all those whose names are found written in the Book. Of those who lie sleeping in the dust of the earth many will awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting disgrace. The learned will shine as brightly as the vault of heaven, and those who have instructed many in virtue, as bright as stars for all eternity.’

_____________________

Hebrews 10:11-14,18

All the priests stand at their duties every day, offering over and over again the same sacrifices which are quite incapable of taking sins away. He, on the other hand, has offered one single sacrifice for sins, and then taken his place forever, at the right hand of God, where he is now waiting until his enemies are made into a footstool for him. By virtue of that one single offering, he has achieved the eternal perfection of all whom he is sanctifying. When all sins have been forgiven, there can be no more sin offerings.

_____________________

Mark 13:24-32

Jesus said, ‘In those days, after the time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory; then too he will send the angels to gather his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the world to the ends of heaven.

‘Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. So with you when you see these things happening: know that he is near, at the very gates. I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all these things will have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

‘But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father.’

_____________________

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away

When I was younger, my family was not comfortable talking about death. My parents regarded it with negativity and morbidity. But recently, as their friends and colleagues passed on one by one, we talked about death as a point in life. Only God knows when it is our time. Though we can talk about it a bit naturally now, there is still uneasiness on my part. Sometimes I ask myself, “Will I feel pain?” or “How will I answer if I should be interrogated by God or St. Peter?” or “Have I lived my life worthy to be in heaven?”  Things like these sometimes make me wonder if I have been living the way I should be.

Our gospel for the day tells us about the second coming of Christ. Imagine when the sun and moon no longer produce light, and the stars are falling from the sky. It will really be the end of the world. But after the days of suffering, it will be marvelous and glorious. “They will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory; then too he will send the angels to gather his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the world to the ends of heaven.” It clearly depicts that amidst trials and suffering, we must always be hopeful. There is hope that things will get better after all the calamity.

In our first reading from the book of Daniel, anguish will come upon us, but the Archangel Michael was sent to rescue the people. The second reading from the letter to the Hebrews tells us that suffering and hardship will continue to be a pattern in our life. We may feel that we are experiencing unlimited trials.  But our tribulations are incomparable with the sacrifice Christ made for us. “He, on the other hand, has offered one single sacrifice for sins, and then taken his place forever.”  Jesus is always with us. And our hope in Him keeps us going in life.

Yes, our future is uncertain. There are people that seem to think that the end of the world is coming soon. But in reality, nobody knows when. Mark even said so in the gospel, “But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, no one but the Father.”  We must not be afraid. We must remember that our future is perfectly in God’s hands.

There is so much we can do than just to be afraid of the second coming of Christ. Quoting the song by David Haas, “We are called to act with justice. We are called to love tenderly. We are called to serve one another, to walk humbly with God.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, we pray that we may be able to take good care of this gift of life. May we be able to face our fears and be an inspiration to others.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for this gift of life. Thank you for always giving us the opportunity to live well and respond to Your call.

10 November, Saturday – Lean On Me

10 November – Memorial for St. Leo the Great, Pope & Doctor of the Church

Leo (c.400 – 461) was born of Italian nobility. He was a strong student, especially in scripture and theology. As a priest, he was an eloquent writer and homilist.

He was pope from 440-461 during the time of the invasion of Attila the Hun. When Attila marched on Rome, Leo went out to meet him and pleaded for leave. As Leo spoke, Attila saw the vision of a man in priestly robes, carrying a bare sword, and threatening to kill the invader if he did not obey Pope Leo. As Leo had a great devotion to St. Peter, it is generally believed that the first pope was the visionary opponent to the Huns. When Genseric invaded Rome, Leo’s sanctity and eloquence saved the city again.

Pope Leo called the Council of Chalcedon to condemn the heresies of the day, which were Nestorianism (Christ as a human person joined to the divine person of God’s Son), Monophysitism (Christ’s human nature ceases to exist when the divine person of God’s Son assumed it), Manichaeism (Gnostic system resting on a dualistic concept of the world’s structure), and Pelaianism (no supernatural grace is needed for one to choose good).

He built churches and wrote letters and sermons encouraging and teaching the flock, many of which survive today. It is for these writings that Leo was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1574.

“Virtue is nothing without the trial of temptation, for there is no conflict without an enemy, no victory without strife.” – Pope St. Leo the Great

– Patron Saint Index

_____________________

Philippians 4:10-19

It is a great joy to me, in the Lord, that at last you have shown some concern for me again; though of course you were concerned before, and only lacked an opportunity. I am not talking about shortage of money: I have learnt to manage on whatever I have, I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty. There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength. All the same, it was good of you to share with me in my hardships. In the early days of the Good News, as you people of Philippi well know, when I left Macedonia, no other church helped me with gifts of money. You were the only ones; and twice since my stay in Thessalonika you have sent me what I needed. It is not your gift that I value; what is valuable to me is the interest that is mounting up in your account. Now for the time being I have everything that I need and more: I am fully provided now that I have received from Epaphroditus the offering that you sent, a sweet fragrance – the sacrifice that God accepts and finds pleasing. In return my God will fulfil all your needs, in Christ Jesus, as lavishly as only God can.

_____________________

Luke 16:9-15

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?

‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and laughed at him. He said to them, ‘You are the very ones who pass yourselves off as virtuous in people’s sight, but God knows your hearts. For what is thought highly of by men is loathsome in the sight of God.’

_____________________

There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength

“I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me”. The Lord knows how many times I have repeated this to myself. Through deadlines, exams, meetings, breakups – I’ve clung on to these words like a mantra, trying to reassure myself that I can indeed do all things through Christ.

I’ve prayed this in times of trials and tribulations, when I sometimes feel as though I can’t face another day, or don’t see a solution to my problems. It gives me reassurance, no matter how defeated or fatigued I am, that Jesus is with me, helping me to put one foot in front of the other till I get to the finish line. It is Jesus telling me, “We’re going to do this, we’re in this together, you and I.” And it gives me peace – peace in knowing that whatever the outcome, He will not abandon me as He promised.

And what happens if the outcome is not what we expected? Does this mean that God did not give us enough strength to achieve our goal? In our disappointment, we need to look beyond that and even then, God will give us the strength to get over our disappointment. God’s plan for us is not for our understanding, nor does His plan mirror our own plans for ourselves. When St. Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians, he was in captivity, which is hardly an ideal situation, but he saw beyond this. He saw his captivity and persecution as a a chance to proclaim the word of God: “… what has happened to me has served to advance the Gospel” (Phil 1:12). St. Paul did not know then what his fate would be, whether he would live or die, but he did know for certain that whatever the situation, Christ would be exalted, and with that he felt reconciled with himself that his trials would not be in vain.

Again, how do we manage if the outcome is not to our desire? We worry about the outcomes: if I don’t get this job, how will I know if I can meet my loan repayments? If I don’t pass these exams, how will I get into a good university? If this agreement doesn’t get signed, will I get fired? The answer to these questions lie in St Paul’s letter further on: “God himself will provide you with everything you need, according to his riches, and show you his generosity in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19).

The prayer from St. Patrick’s Breastplate says it all about the magnitude of God’s strength, and I would like to share an excerpt here with you, with the hopes that it will carry you through your challenges, as it has for me:

“I arise today, through
God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that our worries do not overwhelm us, that we learn instead to rely on Your unending strength to see us through to the finish line.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always walking with us, every step of the way. Thank you for bearing us up even when we are down, and for never losing faith in us even when we have lost faith in ourselves.

1 November, Thursday – A happy future

1 November – Solemnity of All Saints

All Saints’ Day is celebrated in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. In terms of Roman Catholic theology, the feast commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in heaven. The beatific vision is the eternal and direct perception of God enjoyed by those who are in Heaven, imparting supreme happiness and blessedness. St. Thomas Aquinas defined the beatific vision as the ultimate end of human existence after physical death.

The origin of this feast as celebrated in the West dates to 13 May 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs; the feast of the dedication Sanctae mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. The chosen day, May 13, was a pagan observation of great antiquity, the culmination of three days of the Feast of the Lemures, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated.

The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III (731-741) of an oratory in St. Peter’s for the relics “of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world”, with the day moved to Nov 1.

– Wikipedia

_____________________

Apocalypse 7:2-4,9-14

I, John, saw another angel rising where the sun rises, carrying the seal of the living God; he called in a powerful voice to the four angels whose duty was to devastate land and sea, ‘Wait before you do any damage on land or at sea or to the trees, until we have put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.’ Then I heard how many were sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel.

After that I saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. They shouted aloud, ‘Victory to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels who were standing in a circle round the throne, surrounding the elders and the four animals, prostrated themselves before the throne, and touched the ground with their foreheads, worshipping God with these words, ‘Amen. Praise and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength to our God for ever and ever. Amen.’

One of the elders then spoke, and asked me, ‘Do you know who these people are, dressed in white robes, and where they have come from?’ I answered him, ‘You can tell me, my lord.’ Then he said, ‘These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.’

_____________________

1 John 3:1-3

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us,
by letting us be called God’s children;
and that is what we are.

Because the world refused to acknowledge him,
therefore it does not acknowledge us.

My dear people, we are already the children of God
but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed;

all we know is, that when it is revealed
we shall be like him
because we shall see him as he really is.

Surely everyone who entertains this hope
must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.

_____________________

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.’

_____________________

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.

There are days when I wonder if all the stress I go through now in this world is all worth it. There are many deadlines to meet for various projects and having to manage the expectations of many people around us. The readings of today remind us that our time on this world is meant to be temporary. It does not mean that it is supposed to be meaningless because God has placed us on this world to spread the love He has shown us to all around us. In doing so, we will receive the eternal reward which will belong to us in the future.

The Beatitudes are a beautiful way of instructing us on what actions will receive a blessing from God. It is for us to emulate such behaviour as many before us have already done so. For example, the martyrs who would rather suffer torture and persecution, instead of renouncing the faith, are a good reference point for us. They lived out the Beatitudes with their lives and were willing to use their lives to bring people closer to God. The Gospel reading of today is a blueprint for us to live our lives. Indeed, if all of us could even strive towards this standard, we will definitely be on route to heaven.

St John reminds us that we are God’s children and as God’s children we will definitely become like him in the future. As such, we should look forward to the reward which God is granting us and to always anticipate the future. This world may be tough for some of us but we should not let it hinder us in our final aim, which is to be in union with God. Persecution is indeed something which all of us go through – be it physical, mental, emotional and intellectual, regardless of where we live. What distinguishes us from others is the hope we have in God and the certainty of our eternal reward.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace to live out the Beatitudes.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who bring peace to the world.

7 April, Saturday – Reckless Love

7 Apr – Saturday in the Octave of Easter

______________

Acts 4:13-21

The rulers, elders and scribes were astonished at the assurance shown by Peter and John, considering they were uneducated laymen; and they recognised them as associates of Jesus; but when they saw the man who had been cured standing by their side, they could find no answer. So they ordered them to stand outside while the Sanhedrin had a private discussion. ‘What are we going to do with these men?’ they asked. ‘It is obvious to everybody in Jerusalem that a miracle has been worked through them in public, and we cannot deny it. But to stop the whole thing spreading any further among the people, let us caution them never to speak to anyone in this name again.’

So they called them in and gave them a warning on no account to make statements or to teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John retorted, ‘You must judge whether in God’s eyes it is right to listen to you and not to God. We cannot promise to stop proclaiming what we have seen and heard.’ The court repeated the warnings and then released them; they could not think of any way to punish them, since all the people were giving glory to God for what had happened.

______________________

Mark 16:9-15

Having risen in the morning on the first day of the week, Jesus appeared first to Mary of Magdala from whom he had cast out seven devils. She then went to those who had been his companions, and who were mourning and in tears, and told them. But they did not believe her when they heard her say that he was alive and that she had seen him.

After this, he showed himself under another form to two of them as they were on their way into the country. These went back and told the others, who did not believe them either.

Lastly, he showed himself to the Eleven themselves while they were at table. He reproached them for their incredulity and obstinacy, because they had refused to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. And he said to them, ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.’

____________________

“Why this uproar among the nations, this impotent muttering of the peoples? Kings on earth take up position, princes plot together against the Lord and his Anointed.”

Such is the love of Christ, a reckless love. One who leaves the ninety-nine to find the lost one; one who runs out as soon as He sees a glimpse of a desire for reconciliation. One who focuses on the last, the lost, the least. One who washes the feet of His disciples, one who is born in a manger. One who has to die on the cross for His people.

But even after everything, it is always so hard to believe, as seen in the readings where many don’t believe that Jesus is the Christ, that He has risen from the dead. We’d rather choose to continue to wait for His second coming rather than to embrace this life we have in front of us.

For our actions, sacrifices and devotions alone are of no use unless they help us to encounter the Risen Lord in our lives, through the people we meet and the circumstances we face. For God is not dead, He is alive and more than just living in this world, living in us.

Sometimes it’s really so hard to believe that Christ is real when our world is in the state it is in. Where it is no more about what we can do for the world, but how to make the world work for us. And we wonder why, after everything, we can’t simply fill the voids of peace, freedom, unity and love.

As the disciples continue to proclaim the Good News, we know the amount of resistance, negativity and the harsh consequences they have to face; but they know it is worth it because of this reckless love of Christ.

I guess love comes with a degree of uncertainty. It may not be love if it is something we are entering, fully aware of its outcomes and circumstances. Love, in that sense, is never certain; but what is already certain is Christ’s love for us. May we always cling on to this hope, this love that despite whatever comes our way, we already have been given this grace, this life, our salvation.

Christ has died for us. Let us now live for Him. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for all those who have not yet come to know you, that you will reveal yourself to them through the people you place in their lives and circumstances that they will go through. We pray for all Catholics, that we may grow this courage of standing up for our faith and spreading the Good News so that all may come to know you and your love for all of us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for everything you have done for us. Thank you Lord, for showing us what it means to love and how we should live and treat others by your example. Thank you Lord, for your reckless love. Amen

4 April, Wednesday – Hope

4 Apr – Wednesday in the Octave of Easter

______________

Acts 3:1-10

Once, when Peter and John were going up to the Temple for the prayers at the ninth hour, it happened that there was a man being carried past. He was a cripple from birth; and they used to put him down every day near the Temple entrance called the Beautiful Gate so that he could beg from the people going in. When this man saw Peter and John on their way into the Temple he begged from them. Both Peter and John looked straight at him and said, ‘Look at us.’ He turned to them expectantly, hoping to get something from them, but Peter said, ‘I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!’ Peter then took him by the hand and helped him to stand up. Instantly his feet and ankles became firm, he jumped up, stood, and began to walk, and he went with them into the Temple, walking and jumping and praising God. Everyone could see him walking and praising God, and they recognised him as the man who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. They were all astonished and unable to explain what had happened to him.

______________________

Luke 24:13-35

Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.

Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’

Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.

When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’

They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.

____________________

“Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer before entering into his glory?”

Blessed Easter! Christ is risen!

Today we read a very familiar Gospel text — the Road to Emmaus. It is probably almost impossible to relate to how the disciples must have been feeling then, where it seems that all that had been prophesised, their master, Lord, Messiah and hope was gone, lost.

Did we go through everything for nothing? Did we give up everything for nothing? What’s next? Where do we go from here?

And while it may seem that they made the right choices, followed the right person, how is it that they still ended up in that situation? Where did we go wrong?

In the Gospel, it says, “Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but their eyes were prevented from recognising him.”

We have the privilege of knowing the entire salvation history and we are told that salvation has already been won for us. But sometimes because of this, we tend to limit God to a certain way, He’s only in the good, He’s in church, in the adoration room, present in good people, people who are active in ministry. That God only works when a session is run a certain way, we limit God and put Him in a box. We are closed, we are blinded even while we may be active, while we may know who we are serving. And when things don’t go our way, or when we can’t create that environment/attitude or culture, we lack the faith that God is still present and working even in the most unfortunate/unlikely/impossible situations.

“Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer before entering into his glory?”

As with the first reading, Christ can work even through each and every one of us, curing a lame man. Many times, we see suffering as the absence of Christ, like He doesn’t care about us and hence we are suffering. Perhaps we should close our eyes and open our hearts to see that even in our ‘sufferings’, Christ is very much present. Suffering is never the end, just like the Road to Emmaus, we are meant to return home to Jerusalem, to Christ. We are on this journey, a journey filled with many obstacles, but never alone. Let us allow the Risen Lord to touch our hearts and open our eyes always. Lead us Lord. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, open our hearts and our eyes, that we may your glory in all our sufferings. Help us to always cling on to you. Lead us Lord, love us Lord.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for always assuring us that you are working through us, living within us, amongst us.

31 October, Tuesday – Perseverance

31 October 2017

____________________

Romans 8:18-25

I think that what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us. The whole creation is eagerly waiting for God to reveal his sons. It was not for any fault on the part of creation that it was made unable to attain its purpose, it was made so by God; but creation still retains the hope of being freed, like us, from its slavery to decadence, to enjoy the same freedom and glory as the children of God. From the beginning till now the entire creation, as we know, has been groaning in one great act of giving birth; and not only creation, but all of us who possess the first-fruits of the Spirit, we too groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free. For we must be content to hope that we shall be saved – our salvation is not in sight, we should not have to be hoping for it if it were – but, as I say, we must hope to be saved since we are not saved yet – it is something we must wait for with patience.

___________________

Luke 13:18-21

Jesus said, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it with? It is like a mustard seed which a man took and threw into his garden: it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air sheltered in its branches.’

Another thing he said, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God with? It is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’

____________________

“In hope, we already have salvation; in hope, not visibly present, … But having this hope for what we cannot yet see, we are able to wait for it with persevering confidence.”

In today’s Gospel, we read of Jesus using the parable of the mustard seed and of the yeast. One common thing about the parables is that it involves a waiting before fruition. How something so small and simple becomes so essential in our lives.

I’m reminded of this quote by Mother Teresa, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

All the small things we do are indeed very important, in order that the bigger things may happen. And when we realise that, we are able to also appreciate the many small things that others are doing for us, to also see how God is journeying with us every day as opposed to waiting for that big miracle to come. To know that we are making a difference with that one small act of kindness, a small act of love.

Other quotes I’m reminded of are, “You think you are just a drop in the ocean but look at the ripple effect one drop can make”, or “Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into the water, the actions of individuals can have far reaching effects.”

For myself, it is indeed a challenge to persevere, especially when I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. What is the final outcome? Is everything I am doing worth it? What if I’m heading in the wrong direction? So many uncertainties and obstacles that weigh on my shoulders. What more our faith where it’s mostly a mystery, which is why we call it faith — because we need faith.

God, however, assures us in the first reading, that we need to continue to cling on to this faith, this hope for salvation has already been won for us. Our lives aren’t about what happens on earth, but how we are preparing ourselves for the eternal, for eternity. A God who gave His life to us and who still loves us despite our rejection, brokenness and unworthiness; who, time and time again, waits for us to return; who gives us all our share of His property to squander yet rushes out to embrace us, to seek us when we are lost. Who loves us unconditionally.

For those who have not encountered Him, what I’ve just written is probably just words. I ask that you continue to give Him a chance, to allow Him to touch you, to desire His love. To persevere, to hope. It’s the very reason I’m alive and it’s the reason I live and love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, give us strength as we continue to persevere when it seems like the world is against us. That when we feel furthest from you, that’s when we have the strength to run back rather than to let you go.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always being there, for giving us chance after chance. Thank you Lord, for desiring us and loving us unconditionally.

13 March, Monday – Do Not Judge

13 March 2017

__________________

Daniel 9:4-10

O Lord, God great and to be feared, you keep the covenant and have kindness for those who love you and keep your commandments: we have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly, we have betrayed your commandments and your ordinances and turned away from them. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. Integrity, Lord, is yours; ours the look of shame we wear today, we, the people of Judah, the citizens of Jerusalem, the whole of Israel, near and far away, in every country to which you have dispersed us because of the treason we have committed against you.

To us, Lord, the look of shame belongs, to our kings, our princes, our ancestors, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God mercy and pardon belong, because we have betrayed him, and have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God nor followed the laws he has given us through his servants the prophets.

_______________________

Luke 6:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.’

_________________________

“Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate”

Thanks to the invention of the mobile phone, or more specifically, the camera on the mobile phone, more and more of us are now taking photographs.  Very often, when we are out with friends or family, we whip out our phones and capture the moment for posterity. This is commonly known as taking a ‘selfie’.

The other way the camera is used is the traditional way. Once we take the photos, we use filters to change how the photos look… and when they look good enough, they are posted onto social media. If people like what they see, they will choose to ‘like’ or ‘love’ the photos.  In effect, by posting these onto social media, the photos are in effect subject to public judgement.

Similarly, we look at what is happening around us and tend to pass judgement. As human beings, we look at situations and sub-consciously attribute a story behind the happenings. It is part of the human condition that we have these ‘shortcuts’ to help us interpret the world around us.

Our Lord teaches us not to do this in today’s gospel passage. As an analogy, rather than looking at the photos that others post and casting a critical eye over them, the passage teaches us not to be judgemental. Instead, we should be like someone taking a ‘selfie’. The filter we should be applying should be coming from Christ and the Bible.  When we look at these ‘selfies’, we should, in fact, be looking at our imperfections and looking to change for the better.

Let us pray for humility and the kindness for others.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer We pray for the gift of gentleness and kindness for others.

ThanksgivingThank you Father, for giving us a conscience; in order to help us look at which aspects of ourselves to be able to improve.

12 January, Thursday – Being on constant guard

12 January 2017

__________________

Hebrews 3:7-14

The Holy Spirit says: If only you would listen to him today; do not harden your hearts, as happened in the Rebellion, on the Day of Temptation in the wilderness, when your ancestors challenged me and tested me, though they had seen what I could do for forty years. That was why I was angry with that generation and said: How unreliable these people who refuse to grasp my ways! And so, in anger, I swore that not one would reach the place of rest I had for them. Take care, brothers, that there is not in any one of your community a wicked mind, so unbelieving as to turn away from the living God. Every day, as long as this ‘today’ lasts, keep encouraging one another so that none of you is hardened by the lure of sin, because we shall remain co-heirs with Christ only if we keep a grasp on our first confidence right to the end.

______________________

Mark 1:40-45

A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: ‘If you want to’ he said ‘you can cure me.’ Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to!’ he said. ‘Be cured!’ And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured. Jesus immediately sent him away and sternly ordered him, ‘Mind you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering for your healing prescribed by Moses as evidence of your recovery.’ The man went away, but then started talking about it freely and telling the story everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived. Even so, people from all around would come to him.

____________________

“Keep encouraging one another”

In an earlier reflection, I talked about not going to church for a few years.  This situation came about because I had been particularly distraught at the failure of a personal relationship. I had been angry with God for abandoning me; for leaving me in a position that I did not want to be in.

The first Sunday, there was a tinge of guilt as I stayed away from the mass and proceeded to push that thought out of my mind, telling myself that I would return once I had gotten over my anger.

The second Sunday, it felt easier for me to stay away from the church. I could do what I wanted; remain in bed and watch television, go out with my friends and enjoy myself!

Soon, the thoughts of God had all but faded from my mind; I no longer prayed, and before I knew it, my Christian values no longer felt that important to me. I began to spend time with friends who were worldly, and I too started acting like them. I had become unaware of God, and His love for me.

I figure this was what Paul was talking about in the first reading today. Once we turn away from God, our hearts begin to ‘harden’ and staying away from Him becomes easier.

Eventually, I returned to church and immediately experienced God’s love for me again. Through the mass, I found myself letting go of the anger and over time, changed for the better. I changed my ‘friends’ and found myself a community of loving, faithful brothers and sisters.

May we always be sensitive to the temptations to turn away from our God, to think that it was okay to miss that one mass. Let us find a faith community that will watch, guard and pray for each other, and be willing to correct each other to continue on the ‘straight and narrow path’.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father, help us to be on constant guard against the temptation to turn away and rebel against You. May You help us find strength in community and Your Word for guidance.

ThanksgivingThank You, Father, for never giving up on us. Thank You for being there and loving us.

10 January, Tuesday – A Genuine Faith Relationship with God

10 January 2017

_________________

Hebrews 2:5-12

God did not appoint angels to be rulers of the world to come, and that world is what we are talking about. Somewhere there is a passage that shows us this. It runs: What is man that you should spare a thought for him, the son of man that you should care for him? For a short while you made him lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and splendour. You have put him in command of everything. Well then, if he has put him in command of everything, he has left nothing which is not under his command. At present, it is true, we are not able to see that everything has been put under his command, but we do see in Jesus one who was for a short while made lower than the angels and is now crowned with glory and splendour because he submitted to death; by God’s grace he had to experience death for all mankind.

As it was his purpose to bring a great many of his sons into glory, it was appropriate that God, for whom everything exists and through whom everything exists, should make perfect, through suffering, the leader who would take them to their salvation. For the one who sanctifies, and the ones who are sanctified, are of the same stock; that is why he openly calls them brothers in the text: I shall announce your name to my brothers, praise you in full assembly.

______________________

Mark 1:21-28

Jesus and his followers went as far as Capernaum, and as soon as the sabbath came he went to the synagogue and began to teach. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.

In their synagogue just then there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit and it shouted, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him. The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. ‘Here is a teaching that is new’ they said ‘and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’ And his reputation rapidly spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.

______________________

“And with authority behind it.”

For many years, I had been working hard to better myself, buying a lot of books and learning about how to become a better speaker, motivator, boss, time-manager, or any other area that I could improve myself.

One of the books that influenced me was the book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ written by the late Stephen Covey.  He once noted that the modern world of self-development focused too much on the ‘Personality Ethic’ versus the ‘Character Ethic’ approach, which was the default approach in the early years of personal development.

The ‘Character Ethic’ focuses on developing a person from the inside. One worked on improving his attributes or qualities that he felt was lacking.  In essence, one worked on becoming a better person.  Over time, however, the ‘Personality Ethic’ began taking over. Instead of improving oneself from within, people had become more concerned about learning tricks and techniques of impressing so that others would think the best of them.

The gospel passage today talks about Jesus teaching with authority. Clearly, our Lord had a very close relationship with His Father and hence was able to instruct with such knowledge and power.  Like the ‘Character Ethic’ approach, Jesus worked from within, spending much time developing this relationship.

In Matthew 6: 5-6, Jesus describes the difference between the two methods — one focuses on the external aspects of the relationship with God, while the other talks about approaching God privately.

Like Jesus, we should strive to know God intimately, rather than make a ‘big show’ of a relationship with Him. May we be able to know the difference.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Jesus, we ask You to help us to grow closer to both You and Our Father. Teach us to develop a relationship with You that is authentic, intimate and not superficial.

ThanksgivingJesus, we offer You our thanks for showing us the correct way to relate to Our Father. Thank You for showing us how to live as Your followers.

25 December, Mass at Dawn – The Light of God

25 December

___________________

Isaiah 62:11-12

This the Lord proclaims
to the ends of the earth:

Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Look,
your saviour comes,
the prize of his victory with him,
his trophies before him.’
They shall be called ‘The Holy People’,
‘the Lord’s Redeemed.’
And you shall be called ‘The-sought-after’,
‘City-not-forsaken.’

____________________

Titus 3:4-7

When the kindness and love of God our saviour for mankind were revealed, it was not because he was concerned with any righteous actions we might have done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own compassion that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and by renewing us with the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our saviour. He did this so that we should be justified by his grace, to become heirs looking forward to inheriting eternal life.

_____________________

Luke 2:15-20

When the angels had gone from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was exactly as they had been told.

___________________________

“This day new light will shine upon the earth – the Lord is born for us”

The bright bluish light sparkled like a diamond and dropped, and then it sparkled again, and dropped. I called it, the ‘tear-drop light’. I was totally enthralled by it when it was first introduced at the Orchard Road Christmas light-up a few years ago. That year, the theme was ‘fairyland’, and it was as if these tear-drops hanging high up above the streets, lit up and awakened the sleeping fairies, elves and icons of Christmas lined up below the street lamps. It was a dazzling, enchanting sight.

This year, I chanced upon this ‘tear-drop light’ again. For a moment, I was excited by the familiar sight. But strangely, it no longer held my attention. It no longer touched me. It took me a while before I realised why. The deepen question in my heart was, “What has the ‘tear-drop light’ lit up for me?”

The ‘tear-drop light’ I saw this year, in my heartland, was disconnected from the rest of the Christmas decorations set up in another part of the street. On its own, it looked lonely — as each droplet sparkled and vanished into the dark, it re-appeared three seconds later; only to disappear again. The cycle tirelessly repeats itself and slowly, it began to hold my attention again. Despite its loneliness, despite not lighting up any other Christmas decorations, it continued to shine on its own, slowly and steadily. As I stayed on a little longer to observe, its intermittent sparkling light was actually gently lighting up the ordinary trees and shrubs along the sidewalk, giving a soft bluish glow, like icing on those everyday evergreens. It was a warm, humbling and enchanting sight, right here in my heartland.

As the first light of dawn breaks over the horizon this morning, like the shepherds of that first Christmas morning, we ordinary men and women, enthralled by the celestial light and message of the angels, hurried away from our heartland to town (Bethlehem), only to find our Lord born in a manger – a humbling sight. Our Lord humbled himself from the pedestal of divinity to becoming incarnate in the flesh and to embrace humanity. Our God is with us (Emmanuel) to journey with us in this world as He continues to glow and grow in our hearts, each day, each moment.

Has the tear-drop celestial light of Christ touched your heart this Christmas morning? Has Christ found a permanent dwelling in your humbled heart? This morning, we respond together with the Psalmist,  “This day new light will shine upon the earth: the Lord is born for us.” Happy birthday, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ!

(Today’s Oxygen by Stefanie Ng)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, we are restless souls dazzled by the myriad of distracting lights on earth. On this Christmas morning, “by renewing us with the Holy Spirit”, helps us to re-focus only on you — the eternal and life-giving light.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord Jesus Christ, by your incarnation, you embrace humanity and journey tirelessly with us to show us how to be like you, ‘gentle and humble in heart.’ Thank you, Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, for your faithfulness to God’s will in caring, protecting and nurturing Infant Jesus.