Tag Archives: hope

13 December, Thursday – Inconsistencies

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

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 41:13-20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Matthew 11:11-15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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

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

9 December, Sunday – Hidden Glory

9 December 2018

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Baruch 5:1-9

Jerusalem, take off your dress of sorrow and distress,
put on the beauty of the glory of God for ever,
wrap the cloak of the integrity of God around you,
put the diadem of the glory of the Eternal on your head:
since God means to show your splendour to every nation under heaven,
since the name God gives you for ever will be,
‘Peace through integrity, and honour through devotedness.’
Arise, Jerusalem, stand on the heights
and turn your eyes to the east:
see your sons reassembled from west and east
at the command of the Holy One, jubilant that God has remembered them.
Though they left you on foot,
with enemies for an escort,
now God brings them back to you
like royal princes carried back in glory.
For God has decreed the flattening
of each high mountain, of the everlasting hills,
the filling of the valleys to make the ground level
so that Israel can walk in safety under the glory of God.
And the forests and every fragrant tree will provide shade
for Israel at the command of God;
for God will guide Israel in joy by the light of his glory
with his mercy and integrity for escort.

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Philippians 1:4-6,8-11

Every time I pray for all of you, I pray with joy, remembering how you have helped to spread the Good News from the day you first heard it right up to the present. I am quite certain that the One who began this good work in you will see that it is finished when the Day of Christ Jesus comes; and God knows how much I miss you all, loving you as Christ Jesus loves you. My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more and never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception so that you can always recognise what is best. This will help you to become pure and blameless, and prepare you for the Day of Christ, when you will reach the perfect goodness which Jesus Christ produces in us for the glory and praise of God.

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Luke 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the lands of Ituraea and Trachonitis, Lysanias tetrach of Abilene, during the pontificate of Annas and Caiaphas the word of God came to John son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. He went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the sayings of the prophet Isaiah:

A voice cries in the wilderness:

Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley will be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low,
winding ways will be straightened
and rough roads made smooth.
And all mankind shall see the salvation of God.

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Peace through integrity, and honour through devotedness.

The words ‘peace through integrity, and honour through devotedness’ in our First Reading of Baruch caught my imagination today. That word ‘integrity’ is used more often these days in referring to honesty and moral principles, especially when we think of work ethics or corruption, or the mismanagement of funds in public or private arenas. We think less of the intrinsic value that ‘integrity’ points towards: the state of being whole and undivided; completeness, coherence, unity.

It is this yearning for a deep wholeness and peace that our world today lacks – peace through a ‘complete, united, whole and undivided’ love and respect for God. I realised that the yearning for a source of Divine Peace is truly universal. Otherwise, all of the world would not recognise, in solidarity, that the outbreak of terror and war has destroyed peace in the world and our families. And peace in our own hearts. Isn’t it true that the realisation of lack implies the need for that which is lacking? The same goes for the moments when we feel unloved and rejected. This feeling opens our eyes to realising our deep ache for acceptance and love.

It is a great sadness that when we do have love, we think little of it or may wish to be loved with greater thrill; when we have peace and stability, we see our mundanity as boring and routine; when we have the joys of waking up each new day, that we wish we could snooze longer and not have to wake up to face the daily grind. I find myself in this struggle, and it is indeed a hallmark of being human – the never ending ability to tend towards feeling disgruntled and ungrateful. And it is true too that those of us who do know God, have sometimes grieved Him so much. After all, our Heavenly Maker did give us this coveted ‘free will’.

At the same time, this freedom we have been given puts before us a task to ‘choose’ peace through integrity, and honour through devotedness. Peace and honour, joy, beauty and glory, love and compassion do not come without our striving. These come from our choosing to respond to our deep inmost desires for wholeness, completeness and unity with God through Jesus Christ. This is why the book of Baruch exhorts Jerusalem to ‘take off your dress of sorrow and distress, put on the beauty of the glory of God for ever, wrap the cloak of the integrity of God around you, put the diadem of the glory of the Eternal on your head…’

Likewise, the joy of claiming the Gospel, the good news of our salvation, is written beautifully by St Paul in the Second Reading. ‘Every time I pray for all of you, I pray with joy, remembering how you have helped to spread the Good News from the day you first heard it right up to the present… the One who began this good work in you will see that it is finished when the Day of Christ Jesus comes… My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more… This will help you… and prepare you for the Day of Christ, when you will reach the perfect goodness which Jesus Christ produces in us for the glory and praise of God.’ (Philippians 1:4-11)

Our wait for Jesus this Advent, and indeed the everyday advent of our lives, requires of us an active participation in cleaving to the joy and zeal of our missionary faith and our filial love and devotion to God who is our Heavenly Father.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I seek you first in all my ways and days. Help me to wait in active hope and joy of Your promises and blessings in the ups and downs of life.

Thanksgiving: Jesus, in this time of worldly crisis, we thank you for the memory of your reign on earth in a form that people could not recognise. We trust therefore that murky as the times are today, your Glory is hidden but not absent. Jesus, we continue to trust in you.

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

2 December 2018

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Jeremiah 33:14-16

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

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

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1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2

May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you. And may he so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints.

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

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Luke 21:25-28,34-36

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

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

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Beware that your heart does not get drowsy 

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

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

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

18 November, Sunday – Hope in Death

18 November 2018

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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.’

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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.

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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.’

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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

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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.

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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.’

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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

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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.’

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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.

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Matthew 5:1-12

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

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

‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’

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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

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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.

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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.’

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“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

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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.

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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.

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“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

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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.