Tag Archives: hope

31 October, Tuesday – Perseverance

31 October 2017

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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.

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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.’

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“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

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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.

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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.’

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“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

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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.

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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.

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“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

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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.

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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.

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“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

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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.’

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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.

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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.

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“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.

19 December, Monday – Fearless

19 December 2016

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Judges 13:2-7,24-25

There was a man of Zorah of the tribe of Dan, called Manoah. His wife was barren, she had borne no children. The angel of the Lord appeared to this woman and said to her, ‘You are barren and have had no child. But from now on take great care. Take no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean. For you will conceive and bear a son. No razor is to touch his head, for the boy shall be God’s nazirite from his mother’s womb. It is he who will begin to rescue Israel from the power of the Philistines.’ Then the woman went and told her husband, ‘A man of God has just come to me; his presence was like the presence of the angel of God, he was so majestic. I did not ask him where he came from, and he did not reveal his name to me. But he said to me, “You will conceive and bear a son. From now on, take no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean. For the boy shall be God’s nazirite from his mother’s womb to his dying day.”’

The woman gave birth to a son and called him Samson. The child grew, and the Lord blessed him; and the spirit of the Lord began to move him.

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Luke 1:5-25

In the days of King Herod of Judaea there lived a priest called Zechariah who belonged to the Abijah section of the priesthood, and he had a wife, Elizabeth by name, who was a descendant of Aaron. Both were worthy in the sight of God, and scrupulously observed all the commandments and observances of the Lord. But they were childless: Elizabeth was barren and they were both getting on in years.

Now it was the turn of Zechariah’s section to serve, and he was exercising his priestly office before God when it fell to him by lot, as the ritual custom was, to enter the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense there. And at the hour of incense the whole congregation was outside, praying.
Then there appeared to him the angel of the Lord, standing on the right of the altar of incense. The sight disturbed Zechariah and he was overcome with fear.

But the angel said to him, ‘Zechariah, do not be afraid, your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth is to bear you a son and you must name him John. He will be your joy and delight and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord; he must drink no wine, no strong drink. Even from his mother’s womb he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, and he will bring back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah, he will go before him to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children and the disobedient back to the wisdom that the virtuous have, preparing for the Lord a people fit for him.’

Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is getting on in years.’ The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel who stand in God’s presence, and I have been sent to speak to you and bring you this good news. Listen! Since you have not believed my words, which will come true at their appointed time, you will be silenced and have no power of speech until this has happened.’ Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were surprised that he stayed in the sanctuary so long. When he came out he could not speak to them, and they realised that he had received a vision in the sanctuary. But he could only make signs to them, and remained dumb.

When his time of service came to an end he returned home. Some time later his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept to herself. ‘The Lord has done this for me’ she said ‘now that it has pleased him to take away the humiliation I suffered among men.’

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Do not be afraid

Today’s readings shows us how God made the seemingly impossible, possible. Barren women were gifted with child. The wife of Manoah (who remained nameless), Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth in today’s scripture, Sarah who was Isaac’s mother, and also his wife Rebekah were all seemingly barren women. I often wonder how it is scientifically possible given that most of these women were in their twilight years. But with God, these miracles cannot be explained scientifically. It’s faith that helps us know in our hearts that everything is possible with God.

Imagine what it must have been like when the angel of God appeared to Zechariah telling him his wife was about to be pregnant. If I had been him, I would probably have said “Ya, right! Are you out of your mind?”

In today’s modern world, with advancement of science and technology, we are able to do things that weren’t possible before. So much so, we have become nonchalant, almost blasé about some of the amazing new discoveries. How is it so then when God prompts us to do something or reveals a situation in our lives – we find it so hard to believe? Is it because it cannot be explained to our intellectual minds? Or is it out of fear that we refuse to believe.

“Do not be afraid” are words we need to hear today. A quick Google search reveals that these words appear 365 times in the bible. How awesome is that – a daily reminder from God that we should live our lives fearlessly!

Recently, a family situation called for some changes to our lives. Some, more than others. For some, our lives will be irrevocably changed. I personally felt that God was pushing me to do something that I am uncomfortable with, something I absolutely didn’t want a part of. I was angry and feared that immense responsibility. And as I reflected on why I was feeling so strongly about it, I realised that it is simply because it didn’t fit my own plans. I am then reminded of our Mother when she said ‘do unto me according to thy word.’ She had deep faith and trust in God and His plans, despite the fact that being a young, unmarried pregnant woman was terribly ‘inconvenient’. While I still fight against what God is calling me to do, I am slowly learning to let go and let God take me along this journey. And the words ‘Do not be afraid’ are the words that carry me though each day.

Can you let go of fears in your own life situation and let God lead you today? Can you get past your own notion of what your life should look like and let God’s miracle reveal itself?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, often we feel the need to be in control of our lives. When in fact, you have the blueprint to our life stories. Grant us deeper faith to trust that your plan for us is perfect, your timing perfect. Unconventional your ways may be, teach us to always remember that you know what is best for our lives today.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your daily reminder that you are with us. And that there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of.

18 December, Sunday – Are you there?

18 December 2016

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Isaiah 7:10-14

The Lord spoke to Ahaz and said, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign for yourself coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above.’ ‘No,’ Ahaz answered ‘I will not put the Lord to the test.’
Then Isaiah said:

‘Listen now, House of David:
are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men
without trying the patience of my God, too?
The Lord himself, therefore,
will give you a sign.
It is this: the maiden is with child
and will soon give birth to a son
whom she will call Immanuel,
a name which means “God-is-with-us.”’

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Romans 1:1-7

From Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus who has been called to be an apostle, and specially chosen to preach the Good News that God promised long ago through his prophets in the scriptures.

This news is about the Son of God who, according to the human nature he took was a descendant of David: it is about Jesus Christ our Lord who, in the order of the spirit, the spirit of holiness that was in him, was proclaimed Son of God in all his power through his resurrection from the dead.

Through him we received grace and our apostolic mission to preach the obedience of faith to all pagan nations in honour of his name. You are one of these nations, and by his call belong to Jesus Christ.

To you all, then, who are God’s beloved in Rome, called to be saints, may God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send grace and peace.

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Matthew 1:18-24

This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son
and they will call him Emmanuel,

a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home.

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Emmanuel…..God is with us.

December is the most magical time of the year. It was for me as well. The one time in the year I really looked forward to. But in the last few years, somehow things changed. I look upon December with much apprehension. It’s the time of year when people start to take stock of what they have accomplished. If the goals set out in the beginning of the year have been met. I keep asking myself – so what huge accomplishments have I achieved this year? I struggle to find something.

The year has been extremely busy for me – I have been co-chairing several parish projects, in addition to my music ministry responsibilities. I said ‘Yes’, when Jesus called for us to be involved in parish work, having absolutely no previous experience in what we were called to do. It was very fulfilling at the onset, and we could really see His hand in our work, every step of the way. The results were nothing short of amazing. And I remember telling our committee (especially when we hit roadblocks), that Jesus would take care of it all. After all, it was His project. And He did.

However, by end October, the ‘work’ was beginning to take its toll. And I was getting frustrated. One project had barely completed, and the next committee was already setting up meetings for the next project in 2017. To add to this, our music ministry had a restructure and we were expected to ‘serve’ more. Everyone wanted a piece of me and I just wanted to just get to the end of our term as co-chairperson, complete the task, KPIs met.

Just last week, I had one of those ‘low’ days. I was feeling sorry for myself and a bit frustrated with a situation that had been bugging me for a while. I struggled to find reasons to thank Jesus.

I was suffering ‘the glass is half empty’ syndrome. I found myself asking Jesus, “So I have done all these things for you, what am I getting in return??” I was getting impatient and frustrated with Him.

Recently, I was at a weekday mass. And the priest said “Emmanuel, God is with us!” That day, these words suddenly hit me. God is indeed with me. Except that, having been caught up in the goind, I have failed to see Him present in my daily life. I have closed my heart to being loved by Jesus. How quickly I have forgotten to see how He had been with me every single day of the year. How He had taken me out of my comfort zone and taught me that I could do things I’d never imagined or cared to do. How He has sustained me through very trying periods this year. And today, in mid-December, I am still in one piece!

During this season of Advent, are we filled with hope, peace, love and joy? Can we recognize God’s presence in our lives and His hands in everything that happens to us today? Like Joseph, can we open ourselves to where the Lord is taking us? Or are we too caught up in our own ‘doing’?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: During this time of Advent, help us to be open to the actions of God in our daily lives. God is indeed with us. Help us to be available to Him.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for being with us, even during the times when we stray far away from you. For the times when we insist on doing things our own way and seeing situations with or own eyes, that we fail to see that you are right there with us. Thank you for being loving and patient with us.

16 December, Friday – The Testimony of our Habits

16 December 2016

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Isaiah 56:1-3,6-8

Thus says the Lord: Have a care for justice, act with integrity, for soon my salvation will come and my integrity be manifest.
Blessed is the man who does this and the son of man who clings to it: observing the sabbath, not profaning it, and keeping his hand from every evil deed.

Let no foreigner who has attached himself to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.’ Let no eunuch say, ‘And I, I am a dried-up tree.’

Foreigners who have attached themselves to the Lord to serve him and to love his name and be his servants – all who observe the sabbath, not profaning it, and cling to my covenant – these I will bring to my holy mountain. I will make them joyful in my house of prayer. Their holocausts and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.

It is the Lord who speaks, who gathers the outcasts of Israel: there are others will gather besides those already gathered.

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John 5:33-36

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘You sent messengers to John,
and he gave his testimony to the truth:
not that I depend on human testimony;
no, it is for your salvation that I speak of this.
John was a lamp alight and shining
and for a time you were content to enjoy the light that he gave.
But my testimony is greater than John’s:
the works my Father has given me to carry out,
these same works of mine testify
that the Father has sent me.’

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These same works of mine testify that the Father has sent me. 

Let me share with you one of my favorite quotes. It is from Evangelii Nuntiandi (Evangelization in the Modern World)

“Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”

I always keep this phrase in mind when I prepare and deliver my Catechism classes since I know that my witnessing will carry more weight. Jesus did not limit his testimony to words, it was accompanied with prayer and with works. It is through our actions that we give truth to our words. I know that when we are intentional about our actions, we can easily witness to the truth. When we are in Church, we tend to act more patient and with more decorum. When we are in front of children, we regulate the words we use. When we are mindful of where we are, we can choose what we can witness for.

However, let’s think of those times when we are not mindful, when we act on instinct, or when we act on habit. These habits of ours also carry testimonies, sometimes, these little habits carry a greater testimony than others that we do. Think for example, of a time when you heard someone swear. Now I know it’s common nowadays, some treat it just as an expression. I’m not sure about others but whenever I hear someone swear, I feel a tinge of uneasiness. If I can describe it, it’s like a pea that was put under many layers of mattresses and it makes me feel that something is not that right (Check out the story ‘The Princess and the Pea’ if you want to know what I’m refering to). It’s a small action, but it is witnessing to something.

For today, I’m not going to ask that we reflect on our ‘big’ actions but for us to reflect on our habits. Is there a habit that doesn’t communicate or witness to the love of God? Maybe we leave our shoes haphazardly for others to clear, and we communicate a lack of consideration. Maybe we use too many disposables and this action communicates a lack of care for our environment, which God has created.

What do your habits witness to? It takes a long time to break out of a habit so let’s start now.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, I have been so used to doing many things in a certain way I may not even know what kind of message I give others when I act in that manner. So I pray that you reveal to me a habit you want me to change, so I can be a better witness to you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for all those people who were mindful of even how the small things they do could affect others.

15 December, Thursday – Do we hang our Christmas Socks?

15 December 2016

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Isaiah 54:1-10

Shout for joy, you barren women who bore no children!
Break into cries of joy and gladness, you who were never in labour!
For the sons of the forsaken one are more in number
than the sons of the wedded wife, says the Lord.

Widen the space of your tent,
stretch out your hangings freely,
lengthen your ropes, make your pegs firm;
for you will burst out to right and to left.
Your race will take possession of the nations,
and people the abandoned cities.

Do not be afraid, you will not be put to shame,
do not be dismayed, you will not be disgraced;
for you will forget the shame of your youth
and no longer remember the curse of your widowhood.
For now your creator will be your husband,
his name, the Lord of Hosts;
your redeemer will be the Holy One of Israel,
he is called the God of the whole earth.

Yes, like a forsaken wife, distressed in spirit,
the Lord calls you back.
Does a man cast off the wife of his youth?
says your God.

I did forsake you for a brief moment,
but with great love will I take you back.
In excess of anger, for a moment
I hid my face from you.
But with everlasting love I have taken pity on you,
says the Lord, your redeemer.

I am now as I was in the days of Noah
when I swore that Noah’s waters
should never flood the world again.
So now I swear concerning my anger with you
and the threats I made against you;

for the mountains may depart,
the hills be shaken,
but my love for you will never leave you
and my covenant of peace with you will never be shaken,
says the Lord who takes pity on you.

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Luke 7:24-30

When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to talk to the people about John, ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the breeze? No? Then what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? Oh no, those who go in for fine clothes and live luxuriously are to be found at court! Then what did you go out to see? A prophet?

Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet: he is the one of whom scripture says:

See, I am going to send my messenger before you;
he will prepare the way before you.

‘I tell you, of all the children born of women, there is no one greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he is. All the people who heard him, and the tax collectors too, acknowledged God’s plan by accepting baptism from John; but by refusing baptism from him the Pharisees and the lawyers had thwarted what God had in mind for them.’

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Break into cries of joy and gladness, you who were never in labour!

When I was young, I would hang up socks on the eve of Christmas Day, hoping for Santa Claus to fill them up. The following morning, I would wake up to find local currency bills in my socks. I’m sure I was curious why a North Pole dweller had local currencies but I swept the thought aside as I thought of what to buy with my gift. The first two lines of the first reading struck me because the ladies were preparing themselves to receive blessings by breaking into ‘cries of joy and gladness’ even before the gift was received. They already prepared their praises! Their faith reminded me of how I would prepare to receive Santa’s gifts by hanging my socks even if I was not sure what gift I would receive, but I know that the gift will be good. If I did not hang my socks, where would Santa put my gifts?

I have always heard about the need to prepare because God will come like ‘a thief in the night.’ However, the reading reminded me that I should not just prepare myself for judgement; I should also prepare myself to receive God’s blessings. This thought really made me happy. I’m not looking at it from a prosperity gospel point of view but sometimes but we forget that God desires to give us gifts of joy and peace. So it’s not a thief sneaking in but Santa Claus. Sadly, sometimes we are not ready to receive them, because we have not hung our socks. How does this look in our life? Perhaps, we have not really forgiven a friend who has hurt us, and God can’t give us peace. Or maybe we were so scared to try something new, to learn a new skill, and God could not really send us to the vocation he had in mind for us. Sometimes, God’s dreams are different from our own that we overlook the preparations God is sending along our way.

We may not know why certain things are happening now, or why we have to do certain things to unbearable repetitions, but if we could look at it as a preparation time for something, then we should do it with our best effort. Let’s think of it as putting our socks out, ready to be filled with God’s blessings.

If you knew when the thief was coming, you would have stayed up. If you knew when Santa was coming, I bet you would also stay up. So let’s be prepared.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me have that child-like faith to hang my socks everyday so I can receive your love.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord, for the witnesses of hope of children who are always confident that they will be showered with blessings, even in what I think are simple thingshope

26 November, Saturday – Tree of Life

26 November

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Apocalypse 22:1-7

The angel showed me, John, the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing crystal-clear down the middle of the city street. On either side of the river were the trees of life, which bear twelve crops of fruit in a year, one in each month, and the leaves of which are the cure for the pagans.

The ban will be lifted. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in its place in the city; his servants will worship him, they will see him face to face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. It will never be night again and they will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will be shining on them. They will reign for ever and ever.

The angel said to me, ‘All that you have written is sure and will come true: the Lord God who gives the spirit to the prophets has sent his angel to reveal to his servants what is soon to take place. Very soon now, I shall be with you again.’ Happy are those who treasure the prophetic message of this book.

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Luke 21:34-36

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

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Then a powerful angel picked up a boulder like a great millstone, and as he hurled it into the sea, he said, “That is how the great city of Babylon is going to be hurled down, never to be seen again.

Yesterday, we spoke of the fig tree and how its blooming heralded the arrival of summer. After the season’s harvest of fruit and vegetables is over, we move on to the next fruit and have to wait till the next season before we get to enjoy it again. How nice it would be if we could have fresh figs or berries all year round!

At the start of the Bible in the book of Genesis, we read about the creation of a garden in Eden. The tree of life is first mentioned here, planted alongside the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. A river flowed from Eden to water the garden (Genesis 2:9-10). It is from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil that God warns Adam not to eat, for the day that he eats of it, would be the day he dies. As we know, Adam and Eve do eat of it and they become aware of good and evil. God becomes angry and disappointed, and bars Man from eating of the tree of life as well, lest he lived forever, and banishes Adam and Eve from Eden, stationing an angel with a flaming sword to guard the tree of life.

At the end of it all, in the book of Revelation, we encounter this tree of life again. It appears to be the only variety of tree around, albeit there are several trees of life, growing on both sides of the river. Evil has already been conquered in this new ‘garden’; God will renew the heavens and earth and no evil shall enter therein. The tree, we are told, is bountiful in harvest; the leaves itself are a cure, not a way to hide shame. The trees are watered by a river of life that comes from God, clear as crystal.

God is the source of all life in this new heaven and earth. He is the eternal light in this place. He is the life in the river that waters the new earth. However, He has already made this new life available to us right now. The Word of God is already our eternal light: a “lamp unto our feet and a light to our path” (Psalm 119:105). The ‘waters of life’ refers to the Holy Spirit that Jesus has sent from God, who will quench our thirst (John 7:39). And Christ Himself is the eternal Bread of Life (John 6:35). God has given us the available ‘tools’ to get ourselves to heaven, and to partake in this new earth; what remains is for us to make the choice of how we want to live our lives, how we choose to be guided in our lives. We can let God take over and be our guiding light; or we can walk away, banishing ourselves from the tree of life forever. What choice then are we going to make?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the Holy Spirit to be in our hearts and in our souls always, to guide us and show us the path. We pray that we will never stray from the path.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving us the guidance and the support to be the very best that we can be. We pray that we do not disappoint You or ourselves, and do all that is good and right.