Tag Archives: love

9 January, Wednesday – Animated by Love

9 January – Wednesday after Epiphany Sunday

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1 John 4:11-18

My dear people,
since God has loved us so much,
we too should love one another.
No one has ever seen God;
but as long as we love one another
God will live in us
and his love will be complete in us.
We can know that we are living in him
and he is living in us
because he lets us share his Spirit.
We ourselves saw and we testify
that the Father sent his Son
as saviour of the world.
If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,
God lives in him, and he in God.
We ourselves have known and put our faith in
God’s love towards ourselves.
God is love
and anyone who lives in love lives in God,
and God lives in him.
Love will come to its perfection in us
when we can face the day of Judgement without fear;
because even in this world
we have become as he is.
In love there can be no fear,
but fear is driven out by perfect love:
because to fear is to expect punishment,
and anyone who is afraid is still imperfect in love.

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Mark 6:45-52

After the five thousand had eaten and were filled, Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to Bethsaida, while he himself sent the crowd away. After saying goodbye to them he went off into the hills to pray. When evening came, the boat was far out on the lake, and he was alone on the land. He could see they were worn out with rowing, for the wind was against them; and about the fourth watch of the night he came towards them, walking on the lake. He was going to pass them by, but when they saw him walking on the lake they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they had all seen him and were terrified. But he at once spoke to them, and said, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ Then he got into the boat with them, and the wind dropped. They were utterly and completely dumbfounded, because they had not seen what the miracle of the loaves meant; their minds were closed.

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In love there can be no fear, but fear is driven out by perfect love

Emotions are truly powerful feelings and they have an incredible ability to spur a person on to greater heights to achieve what he may not have been able to achieve or paralyse him and make him unable to achieve what he could have done very easily in the past. The readings of today remind us that we are driven not by emotions but by a deeper sense of purpose; which is the desire to accept each person for who they are and just as they are.

St John in the First Reading reminds us of how the love which Jesus Christ has for us animates all actions and is the basis on which Christianity is built upon. The importance of the love of God in our midst cannot be under-estimated. Instead what we need to do is to re-kindle this love of God in ourselves through prayer and action. As mentioned in an earlier reflection this week, prayer is communication with God. We need to ask God for what His plans are for us and then accept the message which comes along even if it goes against what we want. We then need to put Christian love in action by sharing with others the faith we have inherited by being kind to others and putting in a good word. What distinguishes us from any other kind-hearted person is the consistency and manner in which we carry out these actions. We should be deliberate with our actions and allow the other party to know that what we do is borne out of a desire to share the Love of God which we have experienced with the other person.

Christianity is a religion of action and as we continue with our daily lives, we need to appreciate that sometimes this call to action runs contrary to what the world expects from us. As such, let us never falter from this call but instead continue to soldier on and persevere with God’s grace and help.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Father, we pray for the grace to continue to share your love to all around us despite difficulties which we may face

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the missionaries who spread God’s love to all around us.

24 December (Monday), Vigil Mass – Jesus — Truly God, Truly Man

24 December – Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord (Vigil Mass)

Dear Readers!

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Today, we welcome Justus Teo and Stephanie Seet, two new contributors to our OXYGEN team. We are really happy to have Justus and Stephanie on board and hope they grow in this journey of writing reflections and sharing the glory of our Lord with all of our readers.

Here is a little about them:

Justus:

Justus is a cradle Catholic, having come from several generations of Catholic lineage. His grandmother’s deep devotion to our Lady and his dad’s fidelity to the Church when they were both still alive, left deep impressions of faith and planted the roots of faith within him. Today, he professes that he is fiercely proud to be Catholic.

His journey has been a gradual unfolding of the heart of Christ and encounter of Him from the head towards the heart. In the last few years, the call to service has also grown slowly but surely and has is now a compelling cry to love Christ and His Mother, by serving the church and those they have chosen to entrust to him in my daily encounters.

Mother Mary has been unfailing in leading him to Christ, through her own fidelity to her Son. And the one event that has influenced a personal conversion was his consecration to Mary. And this call to serve with Oxygen is a strange one for someone who does not pay as much attention to encounter with God through His Word. But he sees this as one more step taken in trust and faith that this is the step Jesus has asked him to take, through his mother, to help him come to truly know Him, for love of God and others and from God’s love for others and himself. The spiritual journey can be so surprising and yet so wonderful and so amazing.

Stephanie:

Stephanie was born and raised a Catholic in the Serangoon district of Singapore. She spent many years adrift after Confirmation, pursuing higher education abroad in UK and US, and subsequently, her career. After attaining a significant career milestone which she spent years working towards, she soon realised that joy lies neither in achievement nor in possession. She embarked on a sabbatical, lacing up her hiking boots and travelling the world in search of a higher calling.

She really need not have left her shores. Stephanie re-encountered God at the Catholic Spirituality Centre during the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER) in August 2016. This prompted her career switch into social services, with a charity serving the physically challenged. The tenacity of her clients inspires her to see the best in people and recognise the untapped potential in each individual.

Stephanie credits her friend, Shaun, for nudging her towards CER and introducing her to Oxygen. As a fledging contributor, she hopes that these baby steps will help her stay close to God and cultivate a greater discipline in reading and meditating on His Word.

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Isaiah 62:1-5

About Zion I will not be silent,
about Jerusalem I will not grow weary,
until her integrity shines out like the dawn
and her salvation flames like a torch.

The nations then will see your integrity,
all the kings your glory,
and you will be called by a new name,
one which the mouth of the Lord will confer.
You are to be a crown of splendour in the hand of the Lord,
a princely diadem in the hand of your God;

no longer are you to be named ‘Forsaken’,
nor your land ‘Abandoned’,
but you shall be called ‘My Delight’
and your land ‘The Wedded’;
for the Lord takes delight in you
and your land will have its wedding.

Like a young man marrying a virgin,
so will the one who built you wed you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride,
so will your God rejoice in you.

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Acts 13:16-17,22-25

When Paul reached Antioch in Pisidia, he stood up in the synagogue, held up a hand for silence and began to speak:

‘Men of Israel, and fearers of God, listen! The God of our nation Israel chose our ancestors, and made our people great when they were living as foreigners in Egypt; then by divine power he led them out.

‘Then he made David their king, of whom he approved in these words, “I have selected David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will carry out my whole purpose.” To keep his promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour, whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel. Before John ended his career he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandal.”’

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Matthew 1:1-25

A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, Tamar being their mother,
Perez was the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram was the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon was the father of Boaz, Rahab being his mother,
Boaz was the father of Obed, Ruth being his mother,
Obed was the father of Jesse;
and Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Azariah,
Azariah was the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah;
and Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers.
Then the deportation to Babylon took place.
After the deportation to Babylon:
Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor was the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud was the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob;
and Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary;
of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.

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

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

a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home and, though he had not had intercourse with her, she gave birth to a son; and he named him Jesus.

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“… and the Word was made flesh …”

In the lead up to Christmas, Matthew’s Gospel details the long genealogy of Jesus to us. Fascinating though it may be, is this merely a record of the ancestry of Jesus? Perhaps not quite. It showed that the bloodline of Jesus went way back in time – not just physical time, but through the ages and through the history of the people of Israel itself. From Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to David, to Ahaz and eventually that of Jacob and Joseph, the genealogy seems to be pointing out that Jesus has always been the “Emmanuel” – it has been the eternal plan of the Father, from the beginning of time, that Emmanuel was to be and that he has always journeyed with Israel, His people, throughout the ages. Emmanuel has always journeyed with us in our own personal history with him. It was not a last-minute after-thought to salvage a people that seemed incorrigible.

The genealogy of Jesus drummed home the point of the true incarnation of the Son of God as man. That he is both divine AND human. That he was part of an earthly bloodline but yet no less in divinity as Son of God in the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary through the Holy Spirit.

And this has greatly shaped my own spiritual life and journey for Jesus has been to me, both God and brother. For the times I have knelt in awe at my God and Savior who has created the universe and yet loved me, who, in the entirety of everything, is not even a speck. But whom He has called His own and for whom He found worthy to hang on a cross for. Only God can do that. Only my God can do that for me.

And for the times, when I turn to my brother, the human Jesus, who like me, has felt the weight of this earthly human life of strife and struggle, pain and evil. For Jesus too, experienced the whole spectrum of the human condition – joy and friendship; pain and betrayal.

Only in the Catholic-Christian faith, do we find a God who is both divine and human. A God who is able and willing to save His people, and a God who knew exactly what his people needed to be saved from. The human Jesus knows exactly how tough human existence in this “vale of tears” can sometimes be. Only my human brother Jesus can truly relate to that. Only a human Jesus could know how much we needed God to save us. Where God and Man become as one – there is the abundance of life and of love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Loving Father, gentle Brother, help us never forget your unfailing love for us and that you are fully able to be with us in the midst of the joys and pain of our lives. Lift us by your Spirit that we can encounter the saving presence of you as our Almighty God. And come to us for the times when we are bound to earth’s darkness, as our brother who feels our pains and fears. Help us to persevere through your grace as our God and your friendship as our brother.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for calling us into your family as your sons and daughters and for the lavish love you have showered upon us as our Father.

15 December, Saturday – Entering into Relationship

15 December

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Ecclesiasticus 48:1-4, 9-12

The prophet Elijah arose like a fire,
  his word flaring like a torch.
It was he who brought famine on the people,
  and who decimated them in his zeal.
By the word of the Lord, he shut up the heavens,
  he also, three times, brought down fire.

How glorious you were in your miracles, Elijah!
  Has anyone reason to boast as you have?
Taken up in the whirlwind of fire,
  in a chariot with fiery horses;
designated in the prophecies of doom
  to allay God’s wrath before the fury breaks,
to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children,
  and to restore the tribes of Jacob,
Happy shall they be who see you,
  and those who have fallen asleep in love.

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Matthew 17:10-13

As they came down from the mountain the disciples put this question to Jesus, ‘Why do the scribes say then that Elijah has to come first?’ ‘True;’ he replied ‘Elijah is to come to see that everything is once more as it should be; however, I tell you that Elijah has come already and they did not recognise him but treated him as they pleased; and the Son of Man will suffer similarly at their hands.’ The disciples understood then that he had been speaking of John the Baptist.

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They did not recognise him but treated him as they pleased; and the Son of Man will suffer similarly at their hands.

In less than two weeks, it will be Christmas. The night of the Christmas Vigil Mass, we will then see the figure of baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the crib of the manger. This is the scene we would be none the wiser to recognise, if we were one of the wise men that fateful desert night. And that was part of God’s elaborate, intricate plan.

It is precisely this detail of our powerful God choosing to enter our world as a vulnerable and needing baby that reveals to us where His heart truly lies. He chose to appear in the flesh of the defenseless and uncelebrated. He deliberately chose vulnerability every time, as a baby and as the crucified Christ. Each time, the hearts of only a few were open to receiving Him, the eyes of only some could witness His surrendered glory.

The wise men had to strip off all presumptions of majesty in order to see the Christ-child. The young girl who first bowed her head with humble Fiat embraced vulnerability to be the holy vessel of the Immaculate Conception. She had to abandon worldly caution, social customs, and human logic. Joseph would defy his strict Jewish faith to obey the illogical command of this Mystery.

This ability to surrender and follow requires of us the willingness to enter into relationship with the Beloved. It is not possible to trust someone you do not know well – much less when the impossible is asked of your trust! To choose “Yes”, one needs to have faith that there is good ultimately in the end, no matter what evidences and reality is presented. Mary and Joseph, who brought to birth Christ to the world, were in deep communion with God, to the extent that their logical selves must have screamed, “You crazy!” in some of these moments, especially at the Annunciation. “Happy shall they be who see you, and those who have fallen asleep in love.” (Ecc. 48:12). In other translations, love is read as “friendship”.

Entering into earthly relationships is so tough. Whether they be romantic or friendships. We have to shed defences, and reveal vulnerabilities, in order to unlock the door towards new levels of intimacy, trust, and fellowship. It’s risky, terrifying, and it’s like giving someone the chance to disappoint you or break your heart. But at the same time, it is liberating to be able to choose trust. The freedom that came with spiritual surrender to God’s plan, enabled Mary and Joseph to keep saying “Yes” to how God used them, and where He led them.

I can imagine that it was only in the first “Yes”, that their intimacy and reliance on God deepened, and their relationship with Him continued to be strengthened and purified. It may have appeared ridiculous from the outside, but the interior room of their hearts was unlocked for Christ’s entrance. God was still actively moulding their journey of faith. They were actively remaining pliable and open to the Potter’s hands.

Recalling the prophet Elijah, who was considered a raving lunatic and an outcast amongst the people of Israel who had turned to worship Baal, Jesus uses the Old Testament prophecies to bring the disciples’ attention to the way John the Baptist’s ascetic life was being mocked in his time. For this same reason, the Memorial of St John of the Cross was chosen for this day’s readings. None of them could have continued on their paths and mission if not for their deep relationship with God and their abiding trust in His love and purpose. With that, they were able to choose present foolishness and ridicule, lay open their vulnerabilities, and push to birth God’s plan – an elaborate plan that could only be appreciated in retrospect.

His veiled power emanates from these hidden moments. A babe in swaddling cloths would overpower human sense. A cloth-less man in his prime hung on condemned cross would be the Saviour of the world. This divine plan of God had been set in motion since the beginning of time (John 1:1-5). It’s time we entered into this scene with Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Debbie Loo)

Prayer:  I thank you God for the models of faith in Mary and Joseph, who inspire us to enter into a deep relationship with You.

Thanksgiving:  I pray for the courage to be vulnerable, to remain open to Your love and purposes, starting with baby steps.

5 December, Wednesday – Saved

5 December

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Isaiah 25:6-10

On this mountain,
the Lord of Hosts will prepare for all peoples
a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines,
of food rich and juicy, of fine strained wines.
On this mountain he will remove
the mourning veil covering all peoples,
and the shroud enwrapping all nations,
he will destroy Death for ever.
The Lord will wipe away
the tears from every cheek;
he will take away his people’s shame
everywhere on earth,
for the Lord has said so.
That day, it will be said: See, this is our God
in whom we hoped for salvation;
the Lord is the one in whom we hoped.
We exult and we rejoice
that he has saved us;
for the hand of the Lord
rests on this mountain.

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Matthew 15:29-37

Jesus reached the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and he went up into the hills. He sat there, and large crowds came to him bringing the lame, the crippled, the blind, the dumb and many others; these they put down at his feet, and he cured them. The crowds were astonished to see the dumb speaking, the cripples whole again, the lame walking and the blind with their sight, and they praised the God of Israel.

But Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I feel sorry for all these people; they have been with me for three days now and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them off hungry, they might collapse on the way.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Where could we get enough bread in this deserted place to feed such a crowd?’ Jesus said to them, ‘How many loaves have you?’ ‘Seven’ they said ‘and a few small fish.’ Then he instructed the crowd to sit down on the ground, and he took the seven loaves and the fish, and he gave thanks and broke them and handed them to the disciples who gave them to the crowds. They all ate as much as they wanted, and they collected what was left of the scraps, seven baskets full.

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We exult and we rejoice that He has saved us.

When was the last time someone ‘saved’ you, either from a potential accident or an embarrassing situation? Can you recall the relief that you felt as you thanked the person? Or did you even bother to thank the one who ‘rescued’ you? In today’s first reading, we see how God has lavished us with a banquet fit for a king, and how he has destroyed death and all that hinders us from fulfilling our true mission. What more can we ask for?

So how are we, mere mortals, ever going to repay a single ounce of what God has given to us? Our God is a benevolent and kind God; one who merely asks for us to strive to love each other as He has loved us. I, for one, would never be able to fathom the love a parent has for his child but for God to give up his only son in order to save humanity is something that can never be repaid no matter how much of the riches of this earth one can muster.

And so we are faced with a dilemma – can we ever do anything to return God’s love, even as a gesture of thanks? I know many who strive each day to spend time with Him in adoration or at daily mass. Those who give of themselves to others via charitable works. Volunteers who spend time with the elderly, the needy and the disadvantaged. These people have received in order to give and I believe they have acknowledged God’s presence in their lives – which means they know that they are saved.

Brothers and sisters, an act of kindness usually elicits a simple ‘Thank you’. But when our God has sacrificed his only Son in order to save us and prepare for us a place in heaven, then perhaps we should truly look deep within ourselves to see if we are doing what we can to thank our heavenly Father for rescuing us. And while we can never, ever repay God in this lifetime, perhaps we should stop using that as an excuse for not even trying. Whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in, let us always appreciate that there are others around us who do need saving – through a simple act of kindness requiring a small sacrifice on our part.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Abba Father, give us the wisdom and strength to acknowledge the sacrifices that others have made for us so that we, in turn, can give as much.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your ultimate sacrifice of love that saved us all.

28 November, Wednesday – Justice — Because We Deserve Something Better

28 November

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Apocalypse 15:1-4

What I, John, saw in heaven was a great and wonderful sign: seven angels were bringing the seven plagues that are the last of all, because they exhaust the anger of God. I seemed to see a glass lake suffused with fire, and standing by the lake of glass, those who had fought against the beast and won, and against his statue and the number which is his name. They all had harps from God, and they were singing the hymn of Moses, the servant of God, and of the Lamb:

‘How great and wonderful are all your works,
Lord God Almighty;
just and true are all your ways,
King of nations.
Who would not revere and praise your name, O Lord?
You alone are holy,
and all the pagans will come and adore you
for the many acts of justice you have shown.’

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Luke 21:12-19

Jesus said: Men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives.’

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All the pagans will come and adore you for the many acts of justice you have shown.

I grew up in a family where many of my relatives are in adulterous or out of wedlock relationships. One of the phrases I usually heard from adults is how God ‘will understand’ why they had to be in such situations. That was their excuse for their choices. And I have wondered for a long time if God really understood as they have claimed.

When my brother, who was then legally married, got another woman pregnant, my grandmother laughed it off much to my disgust. I wished with all my heart that they would have stood up and told him that what he did was wrong. At that time, I wished someone stood up for what was right, rather than telling us that it was ‘ok’. I could not explain why I felt repulsed. Reading today’s first reading helped me understand a bit more.

One priest shared during one of his talks that because God is first just, that’s why he is merciful. You cannot separate the two. We need to understand how just God is first, before we can understand his mercy.

I feel that mercy is God’s way of meeting us where we are. Yes, he understands that we are weak creatures and that we fall short of what is expected of us. I think mercy is God’s way of telling us that he loves us where we are right now, where we were yesterday, and where we will be tomorrow.

Justice is God’s way of reminding us that we could be greater, that we were made for so much more, and that God has so much more he wanted to give us, if only we would do what we were meant to do. Justice is God’s way of making us feel how far we are from the goodness we’re meant to enjoy, and an invitation for us to walk towards that goodness and never settle.

Some of us might think that justice is punishment when it is really a display of tough love. Maybe it is God’s way of making the situation so uncomfortable that we are forced to journey towards the real comfort.

I have recently seen articles which encouraged the Catholic Church to remain faithful to the teachings of Christ, despite the cultural pressure. A lot of converts said that because the Church stood firm, they were attracted to convert and join the Catholic Church. Indeed, it was the proclammation of God’s justice that attracted people.

Let us learn to love God’s justice as much as we love his mercy.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, sometimes, we hate it when we are corrected and when we receive your justice. Help us see it as an invitation for us to become better versions of ourselves. And give us the strength and courage we need to move forward.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for giving your tough love. It’s probably tough for you to do so, too.

14 November, Wednesday – Christian Behaviour

14 November

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Titus 3:1-7

Remind your people that it is their duty to be obedient to the officials and representatives of the government; to be ready to do good at every opportunity; not to go slandering other people or picking quarrels, but to be courteous and always polite to all kinds of people. Remember, there was a time when we too were ignorant, disobedient and misled and enslaved by different passions and luxuries; we lived then in wickedness and ill-will, hating each other and hateful ourselves.

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

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Luke 17:11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered one of the villages, ten lepers came to meet him. They stood some way off and called to him, ‘Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.’ When he saw them he said, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ Now as they were going away they were cleansed. Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. This made Jesus say, ‘Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner.’ And he said to the man, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’

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It was purely by his own compassion that God saved us.

From ancient times through to modern day, there has always been a vestige of ‘an eye for an eye’ at the back of our minds. Although we do not take this literally, we often practice this principle in our daily lives.

How often are we more pleasant to someone who smiles at us? How many times have we become defensive when we encounter someone who is rude to us and we answer in kind? I can’t recall the last time I did not react or retort angrily if I felt that I have been unjustly treated.

Reflecting on this, it is an extremely wonderful thing that our Heavenly Father is not miserly like us. He is merciful and loving despite all our inequities and our lack of compassion towards others. Can you imagine if Jesus only saved the people who were nice to Him? The whole world would fall, and none would be saved.

Our God is full of compassion and mercy; otherwise, He would not have sent His only son to die a horrible death to atone for our sins. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we can not hope to merit, earn or buy our way to Heaven. We cannot bargain or bribe our way. It is thru the mercy, compassion and love of our Lord that we may gain such reward.

Let us not squander the opportunity given to us so very graciously. Let us repay the Lord in kind by being compassionate, forgiving, loving, and caring to our neighbors. From something simple as smiling at a stranger, to refraining from gossiping about others. We can all do our part in little ways to be more Christ-like, to show our Heavenly Father that we love Him by our actions. Let’s make Him proud to call us His children and show the world that we are followers of Christ by our words and actions.

“In this life, we cannot do great things.  We can do little things with great love.”  – Mother Teresa

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we can be more compassionate and loving in our day to day interactions with family, friends and strangers alike.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for granting us your grace to help us battle the temptations of this world.

29 October, Monday – Live in Love

29 October

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Ephesians 4:32-5:8

Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ.

Try, then, to imitate God as children of his that he loves and follow Christ loving as he loved you, giving himself up in our place as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God. Among you there must be not even a mention of fornication or impurity in any of its forms, or promiscuity: this would hardly become the saints! There must be no coarseness, or salacious talk and jokes-all this is wrong for you; raise your voices in thanksgiving instead. For you can be quite certain that nobody who actually indulges in fornication or impurity or promiscuity-which is worshipping a false god-can inherit anything of the kingdom of God. Do not let anyone deceive you with empty arguments: it is for this loose living that God’s anger comes down on those who rebel against him. Make sure that you are not included with them. You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light.

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Luke 13:10-17

One sabbath day Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who for eighteen years had been possessed by a spirit that left her enfeebled; she was bent double and quite unable to stand upright. When Jesus saw her he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are rid of your infirmity’ and he laid his hands on her. And at once she straightened up, and she glorified God.

But the synagogue official was indignant because Jesus had healed on the sabbath, and he addressed the people present. ‘There are six days’ he said ‘when work is to be done. Come and be healed on one of those days and not on the sabbath.’ But the Lord answered him. ‘Hypocrites!’ he said ‘Is there one of you who does not untie his ox or his donkey from the manger on the sabbath and take it out for watering? And this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan has held bound these eighteen years – was it not right to untie her bonds on the sabbath day?’ When he said this, all his adversaries were covered with confusion, and all the people were overjoyed at all the wonders he worked.

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Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another…and live in love.

Today’s first reading tells us to practice human virtues of kindness, compassion and forgiveness. We are to imitate God, as his beloved children and to live in love. Sounds so ‘zen’, yes? The way I feel sometimes, I think I might have to be high on drugs to be this loving person. Being a Christian and following Christ is not easy. It is ‘cheap words’ when we go around spouting “Peace be with you” when our hearts are far from peaceful.

Recently, at our ‘Revival Friday’ session at the Catholic Spirituality Centre, the priest said something that had me nodding – when someone is hurting and struggling with a life situation, the last thing you should say is “I’ll pray for you!” I can resonate with that, because every time someone says that to me, I will dutifully reply “Thank you.” When in my heart, I am really saying “What a cop out thing to say!” Actions speak louder than words. Instead of saying “I’ll pray for you.” It’s far better to say “I’ll pray with you.” When someone is not feeling so great and down, sometimes the best thing to do is just to be there for them, listen to them, and not utter a single word.

I have been pondering over a perplexing situation between a friend and I. For some reason, this friend became hostile and cold towards me. It really surprised me and for the life of me, I cannot quite figure out what I might have done to upset this person. So being the good Christian, I decided to reach out to her and apologized for whatever I may have done. She responded very casually, as if there was absolutely nothing wrong. Perhaps she wasn’t ready to confront me. Perhaps she is herself confronting a difficult life situation and I shouldn’t take this personally. Now may not be the time to reach out. But in my mind, I keep wondering what I’ve done, and waver between being upset and understanding.

But as today’s readings remind me – I will still love my sister, strive to be tender-hearted, understanding and compassionate. And when the time is right, perhaps I could reach out to her again. I may not be like Jesus, healing with a touch of my hands. But perhaps, I could pave the way for healing — just be being there. Just by praying with her and for her.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

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Prayer: Jesus, give us hearts after yours – hearts of forgiveness, compassion and kindness. Teach us to walk in love. Especially to show love to people who hurt us, people who are hurting and people whom we find difficult to love.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for loving us. Especially when we are so unlovable. That you for healing our broken hearts and broken lives.

21 October, Sunday – Being models of Christ

21 October 2018 – Mission Sunday

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Isaiah 53:10-11

The Lord has been pleased to crush his servant with suffering.
If he offers his life in atonement,
he shall see his heirs, he shall have a long life
and through him what the Lord wishes will be done.

His soul’s anguish over,
he shall see the light and be content.
By his sufferings shall my servant justify many,
taking their faults on himself.

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Hebrews 4:14-16

Since in Jesus, the Son of God, we have the supreme high priest who has gone through to the highest heaven, we must never let go of the faith that we have professed. For it is not as if we had a high priest who was incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us; but we have one who has been tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin. Let us be confident, then, in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help.

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Mark 10:35-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached Jesus. ‘Master,’ they said to him ‘we want you to do us a favour.’ He said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ They said to him, ‘Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I must drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I must be baptised you shall be baptised, but as for seats at my right hand or my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted.’

When the other ten heard this they began to feel indignant with James and John, so Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all. For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

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“The cup I must drink you shall drink”

I started my Christian life when I was 12 by attending a protestant church near my home. I was there at the invitation of my then-neighbour David. I remember that fateful day, when there was a call to approach the front of the church to be prayed over. I looked around and saw people, many emotional, deep in prayer.

For many years after that, I never felt a complete connection with our Lord. Despite the many prayers I prayed, and the songs I had sung, I yearned for the closeness that I saw other people had with Him. For me, Jesus was disconnected; someone far away, just observing me.

I only realised that Jesus was much closer to me than I had known much later. During the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER) that I attended, we prayed the Stations of the Cross. Then, and only then, did it hit me that not only did my Lord know what it meant to be human, but that He suffered more for me than I ever would. He was there all along.

In Matthew 28, our Lord Jesus sent us on a great mission, to make disciples of all nations and to baptise them.

How are we to go about this? In our encounters with our fellow humans, do we take on a position of pointing out the weaknesses of other people, highlighting areas of their lives where they think they could and should change?

Jesus, in Matthew 22:37-39, tells us that the greatest commandment is to love “the Lord our God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” and that the second greatest is to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. Surely, in the way He lived, our Lord Jesus showed us, as an example, of how we should live.

Let us be a reflection of the same, as we go about working to fulfill the Great Commission given to us by our Lord.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray Father that we may put on the eyes of love as we continue to do what our Lord has commissioned us to do.

Thanksgiving: Father, we thank You for showing us how to live our lives as Your children. Thank You for continuing to strengthen us and being with us as we journey.

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.