Tag Archives: love

14 October, Sunday – The Look of Love

14 October 2018

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Wisdom 7:7-11

I prayed, and understanding was given me;
I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me.
I esteemed her more than sceptres and thrones;
compared with her, I held riches as nothing.
I reckoned no priceless stone to be her peer,
for compared with her, all gold is a pinch of sand,
and beside her silver ranks as mud.
I loved her more than health or beauty,
preferred her to the light,
since her radiance never sleeps.
In her company all good things came to me,
at her hands riches not to be numbered.

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Hebrews 4:12-13

The word of God is something alive and active: it cuts like any double-edged sword but more finely: it can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit, or joints from the marrow; it can judge the secret emotions and thoughts. No created thing can hide from him; everything is uncovered and open to the eyes of the one to whom we must give account of ourselves.

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Mark 10:17-30

Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’

Peter took this up. ‘What about us?’ he asked him. ‘We have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.’

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Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him

The young man of the gospel today is often a sharp reminder for me of my state in life, wherever I may be. As I reflected on the scriptures today, I contemplated the image of Jesus and me, encapsulated in a moment of true encounter. How does it feel to have Jesus’ eyes look steadily at me and love me? There is such a beautiful and tender feeling in that picture I hold in my mind. Right now, I am aware of the distance I feel from Jesus’ heart.

Jesus Christ is the Living Word of God, the logos (in Greek), the Infinite Wisdom. The Old Testament scriptures today point to the prophecy of encounter that the young man would experience when face to face with the person of Christ. ‘The word of God is something alive and active… it can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit’ (Heb 4:12); and it is this spirit of Wisdom that cut so finely through the secret emotions and thoughts of the young man to unveil such great sorrow within him.

When Jesus looked, it was an active, penetrating, and radiant look of perfect love. And the young man’s desires came undone when Jesus told him, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ (Mk 10:21) In the gospel account, we are not told that the young man beheld the loving gaze of Jesus, instead his face fell and he went away.

There are times when I have looked away from Jesus’ loving gaze, feeling either ashamed, unworthy, or angry and hardened with some kind of bitterness. I realise I have not allowed Jesus to love me, for his love to soften and change my heart. Because honestly, it can be scary – wondering what I will be called to do. Worrying over what I must next give up, whether my ‘riches’ be an assignment, a coveted project, a friendship, a burden. Anything that could stand between my life being united with Christ even more. I fear change and material poverty.

Some of us are not the young man but the apostles. We may have given up much already, yet we are now ‘counting our losses’ and mentally chalking up ‘spiritual credit’. With divine wisdom, Jesus slices through this self-righteous mentality too, and tells us, ‘For men, it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’ (Mk 10:27)

What else is Jesus calling you to relinquish today? Will you let his loving gaze meet yours?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Loving Father, we seek Your wisdom to enlighten our minds and change our hearts, so that we may understand the truths you reveal in our hearts.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for loving me despite my imperfections and unreadiness to receive your love.

12 October, Friday – Jesus Loves

12 October

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Galatians 3:7-14

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

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

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Luke 11:15-26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Hannah Huang)

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

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

25 September, Tuesday – True Intent

25 September

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Proverbs 21:1-6,10-13

Like flowing water is the heart of the king in the hand of the Lord,
who turns it where he pleases.

A man’s conduct may strike him as upright,
the Lord, however, weighs the heart.

To act virtuously and with justice
is more pleasing to the Lord than sacrifice.

Haughty eye, proud heart,
lamp of the wicked, nothing but sin.

The hardworking man is thoughtful, and all is gain;
too much haste, and all that comes of it is want.

To make a fortune with the help of a lying tongue,
such the idle fantasy of those who look for death.

The wicked man’s soul is intent on evil,
he looks on his neighbour with dislike.

When a mocker is punished, the ignorant man grows wiser,
when a wise man is instructed he acquires more knowledge.

The Just One watches the house of the wicked:
he hurls the wicked to destruction.

He who shuts his ear to the poor man’s cry
shall himself plead and not be heard.

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Luke 8:19-21

The mother and the brothers of Jesus came looking for him, but they could not get to him because of the crowd. He was told, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to see you’ But he said in answer, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.’

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A man’s conduct may strike him as upright, the Lord, however, weighs the heart…

If I am honest with myself, there are plenty of times when I am pleasant with others or perform a good deed for them, but my motives are not entirely altruistic. That is not to say that there is a Machiavellian element to my behavior nor am I scheming to harm someone, but I reflect on the pureness of my words and actions.

What do I mean? Well, do my actions and words aim to gain recognition and favor with others, to win in the arena of public opinion, or do they truly manifest the teachings of Christ selflessly? Like the many selfies posted on the internet, do they truly reflect the reality or are they doctored to present an intended image?

We may be judging ourselves and others based on actions and words, and in our eyes, they are just and pure. However, the Lord, who is infinitely wiser, looks at our hearts and intentions. If our intention is to deceive and misguide, then our ‘good’ deeds lack the meaning they deserve. However, if our intention is to live according to what Jesus taught us, even the smallest good deed will carry much more meaning and is so much more pleasing to our Heavenly Father.

When I reflect on what was in my heart in the past, I would say that reputation was a big concern.  Secondly, I was afraid of God’s retribution if I misbehaved. However, as I learn a little more about Catholicism, I come to realize that fear is not the emotion, nor should it be the motivation to do what is right. We want to do what is right and pleasing to God because we love Him above all else. We do not want to hurt anyone we love; at least, not intentionally. When the Lord looks into our hearts, He doesn’t want to see fear but love – love of God and love of neighbors.

We should continue to do good and conduct ourselves in a manner that is pleasing to both God and man; but let’s put God first and be more concern about Jesus’ judgement than man’s. After all, what is earthly, is transient, but what is heavenly, is eternal.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: We pray that our hearts be filled with love of God and neighbors, so that our actions and words follow the full intent of this love.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for the unconditional and undying love of the Lord.  For second chances and the opportunity to do the right thing.

24 September, Monday – Loving Selflessly

24 September

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Proverbs 3:27-34

My son, do not refuse a kindness to anyone who begs it,
if it is in your power to perform it.
Do not say to your neighbour, ‘Go away! Come another time!
I will give it you tomorrow’, if you can do it now.
Do not plot harm against your neighbour
as he lives unsuspecting next door.
Do not pick a groundless quarrel with a man
who has done you no harm.
Do not emulate the man of violence,
never model your conduct on his;
for the wilful wrong-doer is abhorrent to the Lord,
who confides only in honest men.
The Lord’s curse lies on the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the home of the virtuous.
He mocks those who mock,
but accords his favour to the humble.

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Luke 8:16-18

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘No one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or to put it under a bed. No, he puts it on a lamp-stand so that people may see the light when they come in. For nothing is hidden but it will be made clear, nothing secret but it will be known and brought to light. So take care how you hear; for anyone who has will be given more; from anyone who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.’

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Do not refuse a kindness to anyone… 

In this technologically-advanced world where the internet has shortened distances in terms of communication and instant gratification has become the norm, patience and tolerance are definitely on the decline. In spite of all the technological advancements that are supposed to help us manage the balance between work and family life, we are far busier than before. We try to fit more into a day and so focussed are we on our own agendas, that we often get irate at the slightest interruption and lose sight of what is truly important – the human connection.

Living in this wired/wireless world, we have come to expect a life of interruptions. When working on a computer, we are so quick to close and dismiss all those pop-up ads that show up on our screen. As a Christian, we need to be concerned about others; sometimes at great inconvenience to ourselves. When I am concentrating on a task at hand, and my children are requesting my attention, I have found myself getting impatient and resentful. Often, I am dismissive with their needs, as I would with the pop-up ads, especially when the task at hand requires a continuum of thought.

Today’s first reading reminds us that we need to tend to our neighbors’ request for help post haste. Our neighbors could be our family member, our spouse, our children, friends or strangers that we meet. If it is within our power to do, we should not delay in lending a helping hand. This seems hard to do, doesn’t it?  But that is what Christ wants us to do. That is the calling of all Christians from all walks of life.

The priest at my previous parish is usually busy and there are endless demands on his attention. Even when he is in a meeting in his office, his phone doesn’t stop ringing and there are constant knocks on his door. Instead of ignoring the calls or getting annoyed, he closes his eyes, breathes deeply (perhaps to say a quick prayer) and answers his door or phone. He is never rude and simply asks the other party politely if it is an emergency and if it could wait until after his current appointment. This is a true example of Christian love. A love that is not only present when convenient for us, but is present even when it causes us discomfort. When I reflect on his reaction to life’s interruptions (in his case, constant disruptions), I am reminded how important it is to treat people in our lives the way that Jesus wants us to – with love and respect. Perhaps when we get interrupted in our busy schedule next time, we can practice reacting with patience and love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, grant us the ability to love others as you have loved us.  We pray that we may harbor Christian love towards our neighbors, even when we are under stress and do not feel we are able to give.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for the light of Christ, as reflected in the many saints, showing us how to treat others with love and respect.

19 September, Wednesday – The Gift of Love

19 September – Memorial for St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr

Januarius (d. 305) was arrested on account of his profession of the Christian religion during persecution of Christians. He was cast into the fiery furnace, through which he passed wholly unharmed. On the following day, along with a number of fellow martyrs, he was exposed to the fury of wild beasts, which laid themselves down in tame submission at his feet.

Timotheus, the governor who pronounced the sentence of death upon Januarius, was struck with blindness but was immediately healed by the powerful intercession of the saint, a miracle which converted nearly five thousand men on the spot. The ungrateful judge, only roused to further fury by these occurrences, caused the execution of Januarius by the sword to be forthwith carried out. The body was ultimately removed by the inhabitants of Naples to that city, where the relic became very famous for its miracles.

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13

Be ambitious for the higher gifts. And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them.

If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.

Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.

Love does not come to an end. But if there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail; or the gift of languages, it will not continue for ever; and knowledge – for this, too, the time will come when it must fail. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect; but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will disappear. When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and think like a child, and argue like a child, but now I am a man, all childish ways are put behind me. Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known.

In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.

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Luke 7:31-35

Jesus said to the people: ‘What description can I find for the men of this generation? What are they like? They are like children shouting to one another while they sit in the market-place:

‘“We played the pipes for you,
and you wouldn’t dance;
we sang dirges,
and you wouldn’t cry.”

‘For John the Baptist comes, not eating bread, not drinking wine, and you say, “He is possessed.” The Son of Man comes, eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Yet Wisdom has been proved right by all her children.’

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“…and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

The word that comes to mind after reading the readings for the day is — ‘Transactional’. In a world that inducts one from birth into a reward system, it sees us distorting the meaning and definition of love. Such that our faith today seems more like one that can be exploited and abused to fulfil our immediate desires such as financial needs, political power; basically everything else that we can’t obtain from the ‘outside world’.

One makes use of the hospitality, compassion and sometimes even scripture to get what they want. To take advantage of one’s ‘loving’ nature to satisfy one’s selfish desires and pleasures.

Indeed, our faith without love is truly nothing. We see that among the many who attend daily masses, those who are active in various ministries and especially those who hold leadership positions in the church; many fail to be a witness and an example that would lead others to Christ. And, in the whole spirit of welcoming and accepting one as he/she is, we allow them to continue their ways at the expense of so many other lives and souls.

This is the church. So broken and imperfect. I’m not sure if I led a decent life outside, I would still be actively involved. Sometimes, politics is more evident than in the corporate workplaces; what’s worse is that everyone else is a volunteer. Yes, this is our church, this is my church. For it is even in this ‘pathetic’ state that Christ still chooses us and adopts us as His children, to guarantee us a place in His kingdom, even as we continue to choose sin over love. He still gives Himself to us through the sacraments and the Eucharist week after week, in spite of how unworthy and unprepared or even, when we simply just make it a routine.

My friends, this is love. This is the gift of love. The definition of love. A gift of oneself completely for the good of the other. A love that is unconditional, definitely not transactional for it can’t be measured, can only be given.

Many times we also look to take, look to receive. May we always fix our gaze on you, for what you took is the weight of our sin on the cross, the crucifixion and death, and still you wait to receive us with open arms. Help us learn to make a gift of ourselves, a gift of love. Let our love be a testimony of our faith and our faith in You translate to loving all we meet. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for a renewal, a revival, a re-evangelising of hearts. That in a world filled with distractions, we are able to see you and your working in our lives. That our faith is more than a knowing, it is a call to love. Not to love as the world loves but to love as You love. I love you Lord.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for your love and your life. Thank you for showing us what it means to make a gift of one’s self. Thank you for the church, for still making the church Your bride.

26 August, Sunday – True Love

26 August 2018

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Joshua 24:1-2,15-18

Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel together at Shechem; then he called the elders, leaders, judges and scribes of Israel, and they presented themselves before God. Then Joshua said to all the people, ‘If you will not serve the Lord, choose today whom you wish to serve, whether the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are now living. As for me and my House, we will serve the Lord.’
The

people answered, ‘We have no intention of deserting the Lord and serving other gods! Was it not the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors out of the land of Egypt, the house of slavery, who worked those great wonders before our eyes and preserved us all along the way we travelled and among all the peoples through whom we journeyed? What is more, the Lord drove all those peoples out before us, as well as the Amorites who used to live in this country. We too will serve the Lord, for he is our God.’

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Ephesians 5:21-32

Give way to one another in obedience to Christ. Wives should regard their husbands as they regard the Lord, since as Christ is head of the Church and saves the whole body, so is a husband the head of his wife; and as the Church submits to Christ, so should wives to their husbands, in everything. Husbands should love their wives just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her to make her holy. He made her clean by washing her in water with a form of words, so that when he took her to himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless. In the same way, husbands must love their wives as they love their own bodies; for a man to love his wife is for him to love himself. A man never hates his own body, but he feeds it and looks after it; and that is the way Christ treats the Church, because it is his body – and we are its living parts. For this reason, a man must leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one body. This mystery has many implications; but I am saying it applies to Christ and the Church.

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John 6:60-69

After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’ Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, ‘Does this upset you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?

‘It is the spirit that gives life,
the flesh has nothing to offer.
The words I have spoken to you are spirit
and they are life.

‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the outset those who did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. He went on, ‘This is why I told you that no one could come to me unless the Father allows him.’ After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.
Then Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’

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“… Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her…”

I remember speaking with a colleague years ago about marriage and we were discussing about the challenges that married couples go through. I cannot remember much of this conversation, but I do remember how it ended.  “If it doesn’t work out”, she said, “can always divorce. I mean, if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.”

I have heard similar views being shared by many others and, in many cases, these marriages ended up in divorce. Friends caught up in such a situation have often shared the extreme difficulties they faced while being still married. They speak of disagreements and arguments, about rifts in relationships, about how their spouse no longer understood nor loved them and how both in the relationship finally decided it was no longer worth fighting for.

However, the irony is that when we speak to those marriages who have stood the test of time, we too hear about the same difficulties. They too, go through extremely challenging circumstances which had placed stresses on the marriage. Yet, these marriages survive.

Very often, the difference between the two is this — commitment to the marriage, and commitment to continue working on the relationship, no matter what both parties go through.

In today’s second reading, we read about perfect, giving love. About how Jesus gave of Himself, totally, to His Church and for His Church. The focus is not on Himself, but on us, His spouse. Instead of being concerned about Himself and His own needs, Our Lord ministered to the people, and did everything He could for them. It was this selfless love that attracted many to the early community.

Brothers and sisters, imagine if we learned to be just like Jesus in our relationships with our spouses. Imagine what would happen if we gave of ourselves selflessly, never thinking of what was in it for ourselves? What a way to build relationships of true love!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer:  Father God, we pray that You help us to always focus on those around You and on those around us. Help us to continue to grow in love for others.

Thanksgiving:  Thank You, Father, for showing what it truly means to love others.

30 December, Saturday – New Year Resolution

30 December 2017

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1 John 2:12-17

I am writing to you, my own children,
whose sins have already been forgiven through his name;
I am writing to you, fathers,
who have come to know the one
who has existed since the beginning;
I am writing to you, young men,
who have already overcome the Evil One;
I have written to you, children,
because you already know the Father;
I have written to you, fathers,
because you have come to know the one
who has existed since the beginning;
I have written to you, young men,
because you are strong and God’s word has made its home in you,
and you have overcome the Evil One.
You must not love this passing world
or anything that is in the world.
The love of the Father cannot be
in any man who loves the world,
because nothing the world has to offer
– the sensual body,
the lustful eye,
pride in possessions –
could ever come from the Father
but only from the world;
and the world, with all it craves for,
is coming to an end;
but anyone who does the will of God
remains for ever.

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Luke 2:36-40

There was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well on in years. Her days of girlhood over, she had been married for seven years before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. She came by just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.

When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.

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Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever.

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, never have been. I think this is because I’ve been apathetic for the most part, and totally undisciplined for the other. I used to receive annual diaries and planners that would remain as they were given to me – pristinely clean. But something this year has shifted in me, a sense of urgency if you will. Last year, I bought a journal for myself for the first time in my life, telling myself this year would be different from the last, and endeavouring to make it happen. For the first quarter of the year, that journal remained blank. Then suddenly around the month of April, a few notes appeared here and there. Gradually the pages filled up with more concrete ideas, as I journalled more about my life’s purpose. As I reflected, I constantly questioned what it is that God has called me to do, and what I can do with the gifts that He has given me. In fact, I sought to answer what those gifts were in the first place. I feel that each of us must have a purpose, and while I am still finding mine, no doubt that it is clearer to me now that I have started to put my thoughts on paper, and this clarity has led to a more defined plan, with milestones and timelines.

Many times at the end of the year, we make resolutions that don’t really stick: losing weight, getting fit, going to the gym x no. of times a week, being a better spouse / son / daughter, climbing a mountain, visiting places. Then life gets in the way and we get distracted and side-tracked. Back in high school, my English teacher gave us a project at the start of the year to write down our resolutions, and at the end of the year, she gave them back to us. I couldn’t recognise those resolutions, though it was clearly my handwriting. I had written them down and locked them away in my mind, never to be unearthed. Now that I am older (and hopefully wiser), I realised that all my previous resolutions were no more than fluff because they had no sense of purpose. When there is no purpose, they become weak resolutions. There is no resolute behind the resolution! But as I started asking myself about my life’s purpose, I also found myself praying more about it, asking God to show me the way. Though I have not seen the whole plan yet, God has, throughout this year, shown me little things that have led from one thing to another, like a little trail of breadcrumbs. I am certain that as I pick up on this trail and start acting on it, God will reveal His plan for me.

My point is this: if we make resolutions without a plan or purpose, we don’t attach a sense of urgency to it. Why are we doing it in the first place? And how are we going to do it? If it is unclear to us, we can’t expect that we will stick to it for long. And if we have no discipline or patience, chances are they won’t be permanent. So, what kind of resolutions are we making for 2018? Are we making resolutions of the world, or of God? Whatever our resolutions may be, let us attach a higher purpose to it, praying and asking God for guidance and wisdom, acting in faith that He will reveal His plan for our life in time.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we pray for wisdom to set goals to fulfill a life that You have planned for us, perseverance to hold steadfast to it, and faith to see it through till the end.

Thanksgiving – A brand new year approaches us oh Lord. Thank you for the blessing and opportunity to do something right and purposeful in our lives. May what we do not be “me-centric”, but focus instead on those around us, and on your purpose for each and every one of us.

8 November, Wednesday – Love Is A Two-way Street

8 November 2017

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Romans 13:8-10

Avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love. If you love your fellow men you have carried out your obligations. All the commandments: You shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet, and so on, are summed up in this single command: You must love your neighbour as yourself. Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.

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Luke 14:25-33

Great crowds accompanied Jesus on his way and he turned and spoke to them. ‘If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

‘And indeed, which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers would all start making fun of him and saying, “Here is a man who started to build and was unable to finish.” Or again, what king marching to war against another king would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other who advanced against him with twenty thousand? If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace. So in the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.’

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Love is the answer to every one of the commandments.

Ahhh love…… It’d so easy to love those who are lovable, likeable, those who reciprocate your love. However, when faced with challenging situations and difficult people, it is another thing altogether. We’ve all heard homilies preached by our priests to: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’, ‘Love and pray for those who persecute you’ and ‘Love those difficult people’.

I know I have been in those pews, rolled my eyes in my mind and said ‘Right, easier said than done.’ But Jesus tells us that love is the greatest commandment!

Of all the commandants, this one must be the hardest for me to follow. Even priests find it hard to keep that commandment, so we are in good company. Love has been described as a ‘two way street’. Many friendships and relationships end in disaster when one party forgets, and assumes that it has become a one-way expressway.

Recently, I was faced with a situation that put my faith to the test. I have had a business relationship with a very close relative of mine for the past 3 years. Though we are relatives, we are both like chalk and cheese — in personality, in the way we approach life and also how we approach business. Over time, I think we learnt to adjust to each other’s working style. However, because of issues which festered, she chose to sever our working relationship; and on my birthday to boot!

I believe that the way our little venture started is God’s gift to us. And working together would be beneficial to us and our clients. However, it is what it is and I have to honour the decision made and to move on. If the decision made was simply a difference in personality and ways we dealt with things, it would be easy for me to accept. However, the split was because of ‘personal motivations’. Even that I could accept. What hurts me most is the betrayal and the person I thought I’d known and loved all my life, turn into someone I barely know. What hurts me most is we are both Christians who continue to hurt each other.

With any cessation of a relationship, we have to deal with the difficult topic of ‘the split’. This has been an incredibly difficult process, you’d imagine. I liken it to a divorce. It brings out the monster in us. I have been praying about this and asking God what I should do. ‘Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.’(Rom. 12:9). I know that I have to be fair and Christ-like in handling this and I am trying really hard. Every hour of the day, I need his grace to carry me through. If it were my old self, I would fight tooth and nail and drive a really hard bargain. But as a Catholic, I keep asking myself “What would Jesus do?” But each time I receive a downright rude and war-declaring WhatsApp message, I feel like someone punched me again and I just want to throw this ‘Love your neighbour’ thing out the window and punch right back.

Remember the phrase, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you?’ I read in some article that whether you’ve been betrayed or not, don’t resort to betraying another. Following Christ is indeed not easy. It requires us to hate our father, mother, wife, children, brother, sisters, yes our own life too.

Don’t take it too literally, what Jesus is telling us is to put Him first above all other relationships and things. It asks that I give up my own ways of doing things and lean on Him to lead me. It continues to be an uphill climb today. But I know that I cannot deal with it on my own. For now, ironically, love is a one-way street. This makes no sense in the outside world. But with God, it’s the way. I have to forgive, let go and move on. Forgiving does not mean accepting the wrong behaviour of others; it means detaching from the pain, frustration, and bitterness buried within.

I continue to pray for her daily.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, in our humanness, we struggle each day to love, especially those who hurt and persecute us. But only if we walk with you, can love be possible. We pray for your grace to carry us through, especially through seemingly impossible situations. We pray to be more like you – when Peter betrayed you and yet you continued to love him.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the trials that come our way. In these times, you show us you are closer to us than ever. And also in these times, you teach us how to love and forgive as you do.

29 October, Sunday – The Greatest Commandment

29 October 2017

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Exodus 22:20-26

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell the sons of Israel this:

‘“You must not molest the stranger or oppress him, for you lived as strangers in the land of Egypt. You must not be harsh with the widow, or with the orphan; if you are harsh with them, they will surely cry out to me, and be sure I shall hear their cry; my anger will flare and I shall kill you with the sword, your own wives will be widows, your own children orphans.

‘“If you lend money to any of my people, to any poor man among you, you must not play the usurer with him: you must not demand interest from him.

‘“If you take another’s cloak as a pledge, you must give it back to him before sunset. It is all the covering he has; it is the cloak he wraps his body in; what else would he sleep in? If he cries to me, I will listen, for I am full of pity.”’

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1 Thessalonians 1:5-10

You observed the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction, and you were led to become imitators of us, and of the Lord; and it was with the joy of the Holy Spirit that you took to the gospel, in spite of the great opposition all round you. This has made you the great example to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia since it was from you that the word of the Lord started to spread – and not only throughout Macedonia and Achaia, for the news of your faith in God has spread everywhere. We do not need to tell other people about it: other people tell us how we started the work among you, how you broke with idolatry when you were converted to God and became servants of the real, living God; and how you are now waiting for Jesus, his Son, whom he raised from the dead, to come from heaven to save us from the retribution which is coming.

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Matthew 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’

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“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.”

As with the Gospel from the previous week, we read again how Jesus was once again being put to the test. We see how there’s a special connotation when we use the word ‘test’. Sometimes, we simply just want to push our boundaries and make life difficult for others even when the result or outcome may not even be applicable or affect us. Sometimes, we just want to prove people wrong and try to make our lives/rules or, in this context, the commandments, easier to follow.

Sometimes we even make ‘bets’ with God, “If you help me to get through this, I will do something for you”, or “If I’m able to witness a miracle, I’ll convert”, or “If you are real God, ….” and much more.

For me, how I ‘test’ God is, even though I am aware of the sin I’ll be committing, I still choose to willingly commit it, thinking that God will still forgive me after I’ve gone for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

But at the end of the day, Jesus makes it clear that it isn’t about keeping every one of the commandments. For even more than that, for the commandments to be kept, we must first “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind” and “love your neighbour as yourself”. We see how, in the New Testament, Jesus helps us to summarise the 10 Commandments into these two simple commandments. The key word being LOVE.

Why is there so much emphasis then on LOVE? To do things with great love, to love our enemies, to look out for the last, the lost and the least. And I guess, deep down, it is because we all want and desire to be loved, not for what we can offer or how we look, but because of who we are.

Should this be what we desire, then this is what we should also give/share with all. God has given us His greatest love in the form of Jesus — where He gave Himself to us, in order that we may all be saved. And in that LOVE, FREEDOM as well, to sometimes choose to go against Him.

We give because we have already been given, we love because we are first loved by Him. Let us treasure this FREEDOM that we are given, not to ‘test’ God, but to allow His face and His glory to shine through all of us, onto everyone around us as we too make a gift of ourselves, so that all may experience His love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the grace to love. To love without condition. To love as you love. To do your will and build your kingdom here on earth, in our homes and in our hearts. Let all that we do be done in love, with love, to love and for love. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your love. For giving us this freedom. For being patient and understanding in our journey towards holiness. Thank you for the many graces and blessings that you have already bestowed upon us.

30 September, Saturday – God’s Full Measure of Mercy

Sep 30 – Memorial for St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor

Jerome (347-419) led a misspent youth. He later converted in theory, being baptised in 365, and then had a true conversion when he studied theology. Monk. He revised the Latin text of the Bible. The result of his 30 years of work was the Vulgate translation, which is still in use. He is a Doctor of the Church and Father of the Church. Since his own time, he has been associated in the popular mind with scrolls, writing, cataloguing, translating, etc. This led to those who work in such fields taking him as their patron – a man who knew their lives and problems.

  • Patron Saints Index

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Zechariah 2:5-9,14-15

Raising my eyes, I saw a vision. It was this: there was a man with a measuring line in his hand. I asked him, ‘Where are you going?’ He said, ‘To measure Jerusalem, to find out her breadth and her length.’ And then, while the angel who was talking to me stood still, another angel came forward to meet him. He said to him, ‘Run, and tell that young man this, “Jerusalem is to remain unwalled, because of the great number of men and cattle there will be in her. But I – it is the Lord who speaks – I will be a wall of fire for her all round her, and I will be her glory in the midst of her.”’

Sing, rejoice,
daughter of Zion;
for I am coming
to dwell in the middle of you
– it is the Lord who speaks.

Many nations will join the Lord,
on that day;
they will become his people.

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Luke 9:43-45

At a time when everyone was full of admiration for all he did, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘For your part, you must have these words constantly in your mind: “The Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men.”’ But they did not understand him when he said this; it was hidden from them so that they should not see the meaning of it, and they were afraid to ask him about what he had just said.

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Many nations will join the Lord, on that day; they will become his people. 

Imagine the last days when we are all gathered outside the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem. Yet, as today’s first readings prophesy, it is an unwalled city (Zechariah 2:4-5) and the Lord Himself is dwelling gloriously in the midst of it, casting a mighty ‘wall of fire’ around her where fortress walls should stand. Who will we discover being admitted through the wall of fire around her?

Today’s readings remind me of this hymn:

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
like the wideness of the sea.
There’s a kindness in God’s justice,
which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth’s sorrows
are more felt than up in heaven.
There is no place where earth’s failings
have such kindly judgment given.
 

For the love of God is broader
than the measures of the mind.
And the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful,
we would gladly trust God’s Word,
and our lives reflect thanksgiving
for the goodness of our Lord.

The man with the measuring line in the first reading today seems to be conducting a vain and futile endeavor – to measure Jerusalem’s breadth and length. I cannot help but think of the best intentions of even the most righteous and self-righteous people I have met, who believe they know just how God will measure us up for the deeds of our lives.

Fraternal correction must be conducted with charity, justice, and mercy. But within this desire to call out a brother or sister to their failings or sins, is ultimately a mirror of reflection for the one who brings this charge against the sinner – how have you truly loved your neighbour in the midst of professing your judgment and correction? How pure is your heart? How humble have you been in acknowledging to God for your own times of failure?

This is not to say that no one is ever righteous enough to correct another with love. But indeed, we should not claim to think we know better whether this present momentary sin of others would be the death knell for the sinner and presume his or her condemnation outside the walls of Jerusalem. One’s present state of life does not convict them to an eternal state of life – but we must commit them to prayer with great love.

We are told that Jerusalem is unwalled. It is only God’s glorious wall of fire – a fire of justice and mercy – that will be the true measurement for the eternal length and breadth of his Heavenly kingdom.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: We pray for the gift of wisdom and greater love when we exercise our Christian duty of fraternal correction.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for the love of my fellow Christians who courageously challenge me to accountability for my actions – even at the expense of risking misunderstandings.