Tag Archives: Lorraine Wong

27 April, Saturday – Proclaim in words and in deeds

27 April 2019

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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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Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation

The Lord said, “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.” However, often there is a tendency to tell ourselves we are not good enough, or we need to be better, or worse, we need to be perfect in order to do God’s work. Are we giving enough justice to God in our unwillingness to step forward as his disciples? This is the devil’s doing, to stop God’s work from even beginning by having us think ourselves as too small or unworthy! So don’t let the evil one manipulate us this way!

In today’s account in the Acts of the Apostles, Peter and John were considered uneducated laymen, yet the rulers, elders and scribes (learned men themselves) were intimidated by and, dare I say, afraid of the disciples’ fervor and conviction! When we have the fire of Christ in us, and when we are doing God’s will, he enables us!

I would like to share a story of a gentleman that guided my parents in their conversion to Catholicism. Uncle A, an elderly gentleman who spoke only English and Malay in his early years, was instrumental in bringing many non-English speaking elderly people to Christ. He once told me that he will go before our Lord, asking for His graces each time before he ministers to the old and frail. He would then travel about in Singapore riding his motorbike, to speak about our Lord to the old folks either in the hospital or at their home, in a smattering of broken Mandarin and dialect. After more than 40 years in this ministry, Uncle A is now fluent in many different dialects. Not to mention the many souls he has saved for God! He heeded our Lord’s call, and with a sincere heart and fearlessness, God empowered him in His ministry. Whenever I falter or have my moment of doubt, Uncle A is my inspiration. So fear not, God has our back!

In a different way, I am reminded that even in our broken states, we can be powerful instruments for God. The image of our beloved Saint Pope John Paul II in his final days, clinging onto his staff and still ministering to his flock. This image of him alone touches many, and without speaking a word, he bore witness to the world.

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Jesus, empower us to step forward in proclaiming your word! In whatever ways you deem fit, use us! For we are your instruments on earth, take away the doubt, take away the fears so that the light you have placed in us at our baptism can be seen by all and they will come to know you!

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for blessing us with the many gifts and talents, those we embrace today, and those yet to be fulfilled. We thank you!  

26 April, Friday – Be Transformed this Easter

26 April 2019

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Acts 4:1-12

While Peter and John were talking to the people the priests came up to them, accompanied by the captain of the Temple and the Sadducees. They were extremely annoyed at their teaching the people the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead by proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. They arrested them, but as it was already late, they held them till the next day. But many of those who had listened to their message became believers, the total number of whom had now risen to something like five thousand.

The next day the rulers, elders and scribes had a meeting in Jerusalem with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, Jonathan, Alexander and all the members of the high-priestly families. They made the prisoners stand in the middle and began to interrogate them, ‘By what power, and by whose name have you men done this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, addressed them, ‘Rulers of the people, and elders! If you are questioning us today about an act of kindness to a cripple, and asking us how he was healed, then I am glad to tell you all, and would indeed be glad to tell the whole people of Israel, that it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence, today. This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone. For of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.’

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John 21:1-14

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. It was by the Sea of Tiberias, and it happened like this: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two more of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing.’ They replied, ‘We’ll come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat but caught nothing that night.

It was light by now and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. Jesus called out, ‘Have you caught anything, friends?’ And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’ So they dropped the net, and there were so many fish that they could not haul it in. The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ At these words ‘It is the Lord’, Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water. The other disciples came on in the boat, towing the net and the fish; they were only about a hundred yards from land.

As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there, and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it. Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘Who are you?’; they knew quite well it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after rising from the dead.

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The name of Jesus Christ is the only one by which we can be saved

In today’s gospel, it appeared that the disciples were feeling lost without Jesus. Not knowing what to do, they went back to doing what they were familiar with, that is, fishing. But our Lord, knowing their confusion and disheartened state, appeared to them with breakfast! Oh, how loving our Lord is. Upon recognizing Jesus, Simon Peter jumped into the waters immediately and swam towards our Lord. And it is the same Peter that proclaimed fearlessly to the chief priests, rebuking them for rejecting our Lord, the keystone.

In many ways, today’s readings showed us how the lives of the disciples were transformed after encountering the resurrected Lord. Many became martyrs, laid down their lives for Him, no longer were they fishermen but “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Easter signifies new birth, so how are we being transformed today? Do we continue to reject Jesus as our keystone, like the chief priests of old, with our sinful ways? Do we just go back to our old ways? Or are we stepping into a better version of ourselves to glorify our Lord?

When we find ourselves in the unchartered waters of life, be it illness, a new job, loss of a loved one, etc., let us be reassured that Jesus is here, always on standby to provide for us. He is the keystone — He is the way, the truth and the life, the only one by which we can be saved.

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: My Lord and my God, as we renew our baptismal vows this Easter, let our lives be transformed as we step forth, in your name, with courage and strength to do the Father’s will.

Thanksgiving: Our Father, thank you for all the blessings and gifts you have given us, the biggest of all Our Lord Jesus Christ!

25 April, Thursday – He reigns triumphant, in the end so will we

25 April 2019

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Acts 3:11-26

Everyone came running towards Peter and John in great excitement, to the Portico of Solomon, as it is called, where the man was still clinging to Peter and John. When Peter saw the people he addressed them, ‘Why are you so surprised at this? Why are you staring at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or holiness? You are Israelites, and it is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, who has glorified his servant Jesus, the same Jesus you handed over and then disowned in the presence of Pilate after Pilate had decided to release him. It was you who accused the Holy One, the Just One, you who demanded the reprieve of a murderer while you killed the prince of life. God, however, raised him from the dead, and to that fact we are the witnesses; and it is the name of Jesus which, through our faith in it, has brought back the strength of this man whom you see here and who is well known to you. It is faith in that name that has restored this man to health, as you can all see.

‘Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing; this was the way God carried out what he had foretold, when he said through all his prophets that his Christ would suffer. Now you must repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, and so that the Lord may send the time of comfort. Then he will send you the Christ he has predestined, that is Jesus, whom heaven must keep till the universal restoration comes which God proclaimed, speaking through his holy prophets. Moses, for example, said: The Lord God will raise up a prophet like myself for you, from among your own brothers; you must listen to whatever he tells you. The man who does not listen to that prophet is to be cut off from the people. In fact, all the prophets that have ever spoken, from Samuel onwards, have predicted these days.

‘You are the heirs of the prophets, the heirs of the covenant God made with our ancestors when he told Abraham: in your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed. It was for you in the first place that God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.’

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Luke 24:35-48

The disciples told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised Jesus at the breaking of bread.

They were still talking about all this when Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’ In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost. But he said, ‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.’ And as he said this he showed them his hands and feet. Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded; so he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ And they offered him a piece of grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes.

Then he told them, ‘This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms has to be fulfilled.’ He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.’

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Everything written about me…. has to be fulfilled

Time and time again in scripture, and even Jesus himself during his ministry, foretold his death and resurrection. Yet, how many of us truly appreciated it? Sure, it is understandable in the days right after his resurrection, there was excitement coupled with bewilderment, to see Jesus alive and well walking among men – I imagine it probably caused a mayhem. There must have been such disbelief at seeing Jesus walk into the room to dine with the apostles! And many other ‘Ah-ha’ moments!

But what about today? Are we still in shock? Do we still question even after all these years? With all the witnesses before us, all the martyrs and lives of the saints; with all the evidence and knowledge, do we still doubt? Are we just going through the motion and downplaying the significance of the resurrection?

Like the people of Jerusalem in days of old, I too have this mixed feeling of joy and doubt. I am ashamed to admit it, but it is true. Our human logic simply cannot fathom this possibility and yet, I know deep down, my Saviour lives. And I guess I will just have to hang on to that! There will be days of darkness and doubt, and we cannot see the path ahead of us. But I am assured of not only His love but I know I have a God who truly understands. A God who entered the darkness of sin, yet all light, just so He can say to me, “I know it is difficult, I know it is painful and I know it hurts.”

And brothers and sisters, that… is enough for me.  For He reigns triumphant, in the end so will we!

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: O Lord my God, you came to show us the way. In the season of Easter, we want to celebrate your victory over death. Teach us too, to celebrate the little victories in our lives; to look for the moments of new beginnings around us, and cling onto your promises that we too will reign triumphant, if we have you at our side.

Thanksgiving: Our Father, thank you for never giving up on us, and for Jesus our Saviour to show us the way back to you.

9 March, Saturday – Spiritual Reset

9 Mar – Memorial for St. Frances of Rome, religious

St. Frances (1384-1440) was an aristocrat by birth. She married at the age of 12, and her marriage lasted 40 years. She was a mother of three before becoming a widow. She joined the Benedictines, and was the foundress of the “Oblates of the Tor de’ Specchi” (Collatines). She is said to have been guided by an archangel only she could see. She spent her life and fortune, both as a laywoman and a religious, in the service of the sick and the poor, including the founding of the first home in Rome for abandoned children. She dictated 97 “Visions”, in which she saw many of the pains of Hell.

On her feast day, priests bless cars due to her patronage of cars and drivers. Frances certainly never drove, but legend says that when she went abroad at night, her guardian angel went before her lighting the road with a headlight-live lantern, keeping her safe in her travels.

Prayer to St. Frances
Dear Frances, you were an exemplary wife, ever faithful to your husband. After his death, you founded and governed the Congregation of Mount Olivet, revealing your great devotion to our Lord’s Passion. Your faith in Angels was rewarded by frequent visions of them. Please pray for Catholics in our day that they may be as dedicated to God as you were. Amen.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 58:9-14

The Lord says this:

If you do away with the yoke,
the clenched fist, the wicked word,
if you give your bread to the hungry,
and relief to the oppressed,
your light will rise in the darkness,
and your shadows become like noon.
The Lord will always guide you,
giving you relief in desert places.

He will give strength to your bones
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water
whose waters never run dry.

You will rebuild the ancient ruins,
build up on the old foundations.
You will be called ‘Breach-mender’,
‘Restorer of ruined houses.’

If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,
and doing business on the holy day,
if you call the Sabbath ‘Delightful’,
and the day sacred to the Lord ‘Honourable’,
if you honour it by abstaining from travel,
from doing business and from gossip,
then shall you find your happiness in the Lord
and I will lead you triumphant over the heights of the land.
I will feed you on the heritage of Jacob your father.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

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Luke 5:27-32

Jesus noticed a tax collector, Levi by name, sitting by the customs house, and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And leaving everything he got up and followed him.

In his honour Levi held a great reception in his house, and with them at table was a large gathering of tax collectors and others. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples and said, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus said to them in reply, ‘It is not those who are well who need the doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the virtuous, but sinners to repentance.’

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You will be like a spring whose waters never run dry

How wonderful and delightful to read of the promises of Christ in today’s first reading. He has made all these great and mighty plans for us, for me, imagine that! I want to be all those things He promised, full of life, strong and resourceful; filled with joy, happiness with endless possibilities. He has painted such a beautiful picture, that my heart yearns to live up to His promises.

I see this passage as an instruction manual — a clear step-by-step guide on how to attain this promise of His. It has also become clearer for me, what this season of Lent is all about. It is a purification process, ridding us of all the darkness that consumes us, a spiritual reset button. Not that we shouldn’t repent and return to God throughout the year, but the Church has given us this period to focus on cleansing ourselves so that we can rise again with our Lord on Easter Sunday, to fully live in His glory.

This has also given me a different perspective of the season — it is not about the doom and gloom of our sinful nature that we should focus on. Yes, we need to repent and do our part, however, in today’s gospel Jesus declared it is for you and me that He became man and walked this world, it is for our salvation that He came. So, yes we are sinful and we need saving, that’s a fact! Nevertheless, He is with us, by our side, there’s nothing to fear but, more importantly, we ought to cast our sight further, to that image and vision He has created us for, to claim that promise He has given; to be that spring whose waters never run dry!

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer – Dear Lord, how wonderful to be called to greatness, how delightful that, in you, we can be the light that rises in darkness. As we continue our Lenten observances, let us cast our sight a little further, while we mourn for our sinful ways, to see the promises you’ve made knowing we will rise again victoriously in you.

Thanksgiving – Thank you Father, for your promises and for the gift of this season, for the chance to re-examine our sinful ways, to have the opportunity to hit the reset button time and time again.

8 March, Friday – Conversion from the inside out

8 Mar – Memorial for St. John of God, religious

Juan (1495-1550) grew up working as a shepherd in the Castile region of Spain. He led a wild and misspent youth, travelling over much of Europe and north Africa as a soldier in the army of Charles V, and a mercenary. He fought through a brief period of insanity. He peddled religious books and pictures in Gibraltar, though without any religious conviction himself.

In his 40s, he received a vision of the Infant Jesus who called him “John of God”. To make up for the misery he had caused as a soldier, he left the military, rented a house in Granada, Spain, and began caring for the sick, poor, homeless and unwanted. He gave what he had, begged for those who couldn’t, carried those who could not move on their own, and converted both his patients and those who saw him work with them.

He was a friend of St. John of Avila, on whom he tried to model his life. John founded the Order of Charity and the Order of Hospitallers of St. John of God.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 58:1-9

Thus says the Lord:

Shout for all you are worth,
raise your voice like a trumpet.
Proclaim their faults to my people,
their sins to the House of Jacob.

They seek me day after day,
they long to know my ways,
like a nation that wants to act with integrity
and not ignore the law of its God.

They ask me for laws that are just,
they long for God to draw near:
‘Why should we fast if you never see it,
why do penance if you never notice?’

Look, you do business on your fast-days,
you oppress all your workmen;
look, you quarrel and squabble when you fast
and strike the poor man with your fist.

Fasting like yours today
will never make your voice heard on high.
Is that the sort of fast that pleases me,
a truly penitential day for men?

Hanging your head like a reed,
lying down on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call fasting,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me
– it is the Lord who speaks –
to break unjust fetters and
undo the thongs of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,
and break every yoke,
to share your bread with the hungry,
and shelter the homeless poor,

to clothe the man you see to be naked
and not turn from your own kin?
Then will your light shine like the dawn
and your wound be quickly healed over.

Your integrity will go before you
and the glory of the Lord behind you.
Cry, and the Lord will answer;
call, and he will say, ‘I am here.’

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Matthew 9:14-15

John’s disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?’ Jesus replied, ‘Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of mourning as long as the bridegroom is still with them? But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then they will fast.’

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They seek me day after day, they long to know my ways, like a nation that wants to act with integrity and not ignore the law of its God

The longing of God’s people is there, we have the right intention to want to draw closer to God through self-denial and fasting. However, whatever penance we choose to do, it ought to be more than just an outward act of reparation. Fasting needs to lead to repentance and a true conversion of the spirit, for without which, it is just vain and hypocritical. We all need earnestly to pray for God’s assistance in examining ourselves; in purifying our intentions and motivations. Ultimately, whatever we choose to do as a sacrifice is with the aim of having a closer relationship with our Heavenly Father.

As in today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us not to fast as the Pharisees do, without clear intention and purpose just for the sake of following the laws. Purpose driven actions are imperative, and as Christians, our purpose must be Christ-centered and focussed on our Heavenly Father.

Conversely, be mindful of falling into the trap of thinking we can do without any outward signs. In our egocentricity, convincing ourselves that we do not need any acts of penance and charity, because we are saved and have attained conversion. Pride stands in our way, for if we truly love God and are sorry for our transgressions, then this conversion of the spirit will manifest into works of charity and sacrifice.

For me, a simple way of looking at it is an inside-out conversion journey. Conversion of heart, mind and spirit translates into outward signs of right actions and deeds.

In this season of Lent, let us walk closer to God with Jesus by our side, with purification of our heart every step of the way, and we shall be light of world and salt of the earth.

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer – Dear Lord, help us to purify our hearts, to examine our intentions and motivations, for we love you and want to draw closer to you during this season of Lent. We yearn for a deepening of our faith and to come face to face with our Father. In you we draw strength and power. Help us O, Lord.

Thanksgiving – Our Father, we are so grateful for your faithfulness and love. For never abandoning us despite our iniquities, thank you Father.

7 March, Thursday – WWJD

7 Mar – Memorial for Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, martyrs

Perpetua (d. 203) was a lay woman born to a noble pagan family. She was a convert, a wife and a mother. She was martyred with her maid, friend, and fellow convert Felicitas. In centuries past, their story was so popular that St. Augustine of Hippo warned against giving it the weight of scripture.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Moses said to the people: ‘See, today I set before you life and prosperity, death and disaster. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoin on you today, if you love the Lord your God and follow his ways, if you keep his commandments, his laws, his customs, you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to make your own. But if your heart strays, if you refuse to listen, if you let yourself be drawn into worshipping other gods and serving them, I tell you today, you will most certainly perish; you will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today: I set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live, in the love of the Lord your God, obeying his voice, clinging to him; for in this your life consists, and on this depends your long stay in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob he would give them.’

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Luke 9:22-25

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘The Son of Man is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’

Then to all he said:

‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to have won the whole world and to have lost or ruined his very self?’

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Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live

Do we choose life in our daily lives? Do we choose to give life in our words and deeds? Are we a blessing to others or a curse?

It is so hard to be part of this world as a Christian. The world will always tempt and entice us with fame, glitz and glory; it’s about survival of the fittest, to win at all cost, but truly at what cost? Our soul? A high price to pay indeed. Jesus is not forcing us to follow Him blindly and certainly not threatening us with fears and damnation. The invitation is to respond to Him in love! In all that I do, in my choices every day, to renounce the way of the world no matter how difficult it may be. For in choosing God, it is my love letter to Him!

Our Church emphasizes the concept of Imitatio Christi (imitation of Christ), which can be summarized in the phrase ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ (WWJD), a movement that arose in the 1990s as a personal motto for adherents of Christianity. In my daily struggles, to ask myself “WWJD?”, that will be a Christ-centered way of examining our motivations, choices and decisions; offering it all up in supplication to be led by His light.

To follow Jesus is a conscious living and giving of life and to be a blessing to everyone we encounter; for ours is a Living God and Jesus is alive and lives in us and through us. When we refuse to be drawn into the way of the world, when we choose life, we have won back our soul!

As we enter the season of Lent, let’s ask ourselves, what choices can I make today that bring life to others. WWJD?

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer – Jesus, you came to show us the way. Let us continue to fix our gaze upon you our Lord, leaving the world behind us, choosing to love you no matter what. And even when we falter, which we will, help us to turn back to you in humility, and start again.

Thanksgiving – Our Father, thank you for allowing us this freedom to choose and be co-operators of your plan. Not because you need us, but because we need it to reciprocate our love for you.

22 December, Saturday – The Almighty has done great things for me

22 December

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1 Samuel 1:24-28

When Hannah had weaned the infant Samuel, she took him up with her together with a three-year old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the temple of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was with them. They slaughtered the bull and the child’s mother came to Eli. She said, ‘If you please, my lord. As you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you, praying to the Lord. This is the child I prayed for, and the Lord granted me what I asked him. Now I make him over to the Lord for the whole of his life. He is made over to the Lord.’

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Luke 1:46-56

Mary said:

‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.

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“…the Lord granted me what I asked him.”

In writing today’s reflection, I can’t help but look back on the year 2018, and the journey I have been on. I am truly grateful for what the Lord has granted me, and the path He has laid out for me. Leaving corporate work at the end of last year to embark on my entrepreneurial pursuit was never the plan but, in doing so, He has opened so much possibilities. Opportunities for me to slow down and serve him, more time with my family, pursuits of interest and hobbies which would otherwise not have happened. Not to mention the self-development work I continue to explore. The road ahead is still uncertain for I still struggle with getting my business going and am discerning what is His plan for me.  Despite these struggles, I feel blessed for the year and what He has done for me.

Reciting the Magnificat found in today’s Gospel always gives me so much comfort and peace — the total surrender to His plan and the unwavering trust our Lady has inspires me. As the year comes to an end, there are regrets for things I could have done better, or people/encounters I could have deepened, but at the same time, knowing His plans are always the most perfect and what needed to be accomplished has been completed, I am at peace.

In our journey through life, let us never forget that He fulfills promises and will grant us our hearts desires.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, the road ahead is filled with uncertainty and, sometimes, in our struggles, we rely on our own strength and understanding. Help us never to forget the great blessings you have bestowed upon us and how you have always answered our prayers, help us to fix our gaze on you and cling to your cloak in our journey through life.

Thanksgiving: Abba Father, thank you for loving, even though we sometimes stray away from you, you have never abandoned us and always know what is best for us. Thank you for your providence, guidance and mercy.

21 December, Friday – Promises of God

21 December – Memorial for St. Peter Canisius, priest, doctor of the Church

Peter (1521–1597) was the son of Jacob Canisius, a wealthy burgomeister, and Ægidia van Houweningen, who died shortly after Peter’s birth. He was educated in Cologne, Germany, where he studied art, civil law, and theology. He received a master’s degree by age 19. His closest friends at university were monks and clerics.

He joined the Jesuits on May 8, 1543 after attending a retreat conducted by Bl. Peter Faber. He taught at the University of Cologne, and helped found the first Jesuit house in the city. He was ordained in 1546. He was theologian of Cardinal Otto Truchsess von Waldburg, Bishop of Augsburg in 1547.

He travelled and worked with St. Ignatius of Loyola who was his spiritual director in Rome, Italy. He taught rhetoric in Messina, Sicily in 1548, preaching in Italian and Latin. He was doctor of theology in 1549. He began teaching theology and preaching at Ingolstadt, Germany in 1549, and was rector of the university the following year.

In 1552 he began teaching theology, and preaching in the Cathedral of St. Stephen in Vienna, Austria. He was the royal court confessor even as he continued to work in hospitals and prisons. During Lent in 1553 he travelled to preach in abandoned parishes in Lower Austria.

During Mass one day, he received a vision of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and ever after offered his work to the Sacred Heart. He led the Counter-Reformation in Germany, Austria, Bohemia, and Switzerland, and his work led to the return of Catholicism to Germany. His catechism went through 200 editions during his lifetime, and was translated into 12 languages. In some places catechisms were referred to as “Canisi”.

He attended the Diets of Augsburg (1555), Ratisbon (1556, 1557), and founded Jesuit colleges in Ingolstadt, Prague, Dilingen, and Fribourg. Everywhere he worked he became a noted preacher, and often worked with children, teaching them and hearing their confessions.

He represented Pope Paul IV at the imperial Diet of Pieternow. He addressed the Council of Trent on the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. He recommended St. Stanislaus Kostka for reception as a Jesuit. He was court preacher to Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria.

While in Fribourg, Switzerland, he received a message from the city’s patron saint, Nicholas of Myra, that he should stop travelling. Canisius spent the rest of his life there. He taught, preached, edited books, and worked to support the Catholic press and printers in many cities. His advice was sought by St. Francis de Sales, and by his friend St. Charles Borromeo. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1925 by Pope Pius XI.

– Patron Saint Index

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Song of Songs 2:8-14

I hear my Beloved.
See how he comes
leaping on the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My Beloved is like a gazelle,
like a young stag.

See where he stands
behind our wall.
He looks in at the window,
he peers through the lattice.

My Beloved lifts up his voice,
he says to me,
‘Come then, my love,
my lovely one, come.
For see, winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth.
The season of glad songs has come,
the cooing of the turtledove is heard
in our land.
The fig tree is forming its first figs
and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance.
Come then, my love,
my lovely one, come.
My dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock,
in the coverts of the cliff,
show me your face,
let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet
and your face is beautiful.’

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Luke 1:39-45

Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’

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“filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Christmas is truly my favorite season of the year; it has always been since I was a child, even though my family were non-Catholics during my growing up years, and never really celebrated Christmas. Somehow, it has this magical spirit that was so captivating to me. Only years later when I received Christ did I truly comprehend its significance!

It was also during this season that my husband and I met (over caroling practice) and this year, we celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary. What makes it even more special for me as I reflected on today’s first reading, is that it was one of the readings chosen for our wedding mass and he sang these verses as I walked down the aisle.

There is such an atmosphere of joy and good cheer during Christmas and today’s readings remind us of Christ’s triumphant coming. So what is joy really? To me joy is not the absence of pain and suffering but to have joy in spite of it. In 21 years of marriage, we have had our fair share of ups and downs. We have gone through many trials, but through it all, we never felt abandoned by the Lord. These difficulties strengthened us and our marriage, and it is because Jesus has been with us through it all, and He still is! When Mary visited Elizabeth carrying the child Jesus, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leapt for joy and “she was filled with the Holy Spirit.” So it is in our marriage and in our lives, wherever we go, as long as we have Christ in us, joy follows! True joy is not found in the future or the often mistaken view that we will be happy ‘only if…’; only if we live in a bigger house; only if we have that promotion; only if we get to go on that holiday etc. True joy is found here and now for His spirit lives in us!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to see the joy that is around us in our everyday life, to see the joy that is within us, and to celebrate being alive in the Spirit. For you are with us, and nothing else matters.

Thanksgiving: Our Father in Heaven, we are grateful for your unyielding love and for giving us Jesus to redeem our sins, and for the Holy Spirit that lives in us.

20 December, Thursday – God is with us

20 December

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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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Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

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“…Immanuel.”

God is with us…..just pause for a moment and let these words sink in slowly — GOD IS WITH US.

I am guilty of keeping this at the head level and not hold this dear to my heart. In the busyness of everyday life, worrying about my business, worrying about the children and what is ahead of me, I have often relied on my own strength and understanding. Even in times of joy and happiness, I have often neglected to stop and ponder on this beautiful mystery. And yet, especially when life becomes overwhelming, it is important to slow down, to pause and remind myself of His presence.

Our family took a trip to Hokkaido recently, and we were exposed to subzero temperatures. The silence was deafeningly beautiful and, in that moment, standing in the snow with the wind blowing, I found God once again. This reminded me of saint Mother Teresa’s quote: “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass — grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

Just like our beautiful Mother, her purpose in life was fulfilled when she was deep in prayer and in the silence of the night. As in today’s Gospel, when she said those famous words “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me.” None of this would have happened if not because of Mary’s devotion to God and seeking him in the silence.

I am reminded today to persevere in my quiet time with the Lord, so as to hold dear in my heart that God is with us, as saint Mother Teresa said that nature grows in silence, and we need silence to be able to touch souls. I am part of nature and his creation and I grow and move in silence.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, let my soul be touched by you in silence. Help me to remain faithful to you throughout my day. Even in the busyness of the season, I can find silence; to reach into my heart and soul to encounter you in every moment and hear the whisper “I am with you.”

Thanksgiving: Our Father in Heaven, thank you for blessing us with nature and the changing of seasons, for in these encounters with your creation we are reminded of your presence here on earth.

1 September, Saturday – Called to Greatness

1 September

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1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Take yourselves for instance, brothers, at the time when you were called: how many of you were wise in the ordinary sense of the word, how many were influential people, or came from noble families? No, it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame what is strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything. The human race has nothing to boast about to God, but you, God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom. As scripture says: if anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord.

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Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.

‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”

‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”’

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…those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything

I must admit, for the longest time, I struggled with today’s Gospel text. I never understood why the last servant was punished for being prudent. I guess, being a risk averse person, I totally identified with the servant that hid his 1 talent to safeguard what little he has — afraid to, or perhaps not willing to work towards multiplying the talents given by God.

However, in my journey out of corporate life and walking towards the path God has paved for me, I began to appreciate what Jesus is teaching in this parable. My talents are not mine to keep and bury. By limiting myself and not showing up as who I really am or could be — sharing with the world the gifts and talents that God has blessed me with — I am doing God a huge disservice. You can even say I have sinned by refusing to partake in His plan for me!

Yet, many times I struggle. I lack the faith and courage to step into the possibilities that God has given me and shrink into my old way of being. How could I, this imperfect being, be called to greatness? Surely not? And yet, He reminds us that “those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything.”

I still have a long way to go with this. I am humbled by this calling and yet, in my humanness, I walk with trepidation towards the ultimate purpose God has planned for me. I must constantly remind myself that it is only through His grace and His alone, that I do what I do. I need Jesus in my life to nourish and guide me, “God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness and our freedom”. I need His wisdom and strength, to shine for the world. Writing today’s reflection reminded me of a beautiful gift I received from a friend when I started on my journey:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’

Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others”. —- Marianne Williamson

(Today’s OXYGEN by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer:  Jesus, you are my wisdom, my virtue, my holiness and freedom. Teach me dear Lord, to lean on you and seek your counsel so that I not only embrace the talents given by my Heavenly Father, but be a beacon of light to others and in turn, encourage others to shine for God.

Thanksgiving:  Thank you my Heavenly Father, for your grace and mercy; for choosing me to be a little light in the world.