Tag Archives: love

9 April, Tuesday – Meditating on the Cross

9 April 2019

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Numbers 21:4-9

The Israelites left Mount Hor by the road to the Sea of Suph, to skirt the land of Edom. On the way the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’

At this God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. The people came and said to Moses, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede for us with the Lord to save us from these serpents.’ Moses interceded for the people, and the Lord answered him, ‘Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.’ So Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard, and if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived.

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John 8:21-30

Jesus said to the Pharisees:

‘I am going away;
you will look for me
and you will die in your sin.
Where I am going, you cannot come.’

The Jews said to one another, ‘Will he kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, “Where I am going, you cannot come”?’ Jesus went on:

‘You are from below; I am from above.
You are of this world; I am not of this world.
I have told you already:
You will die in your sins.
Yes, if you do not believe that I am He,
you will die in your sins.’

So they said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus answered:

‘What I have told you from the outset.
About you I have much to say
and much to condemn;
but the one who sent me is truthful,
and what I have learnt from him
I declare to the world.’

They failed to understand that he was talking to them about the Father. So Jesus said:

‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man,
then you will know that I am He
and that I do nothing of myself:
what the Father has taught me is what I preach;
he who sent me is with me,
and has not left me to myself,
for I always do what pleases him.’

As he was saying this, many came to believe in him.

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If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins

Have you ever looked at a cross closely and intently?

I have developed a habit of sitting in a quiet church and just meditating upon the cross. Even during Mass, I focus on Jesus hanging on the cross. Then I am overcome with strong emotions. I use the word emotion because I lack the proper word to fully express the change in heart and mind.

When I gaze upon the cross and think about how our Lord suffered for our salvation, how He loved us so much that He laid down His life for us, I am moved to tears. Not only did He die for us, but the humiliation, the torture and the suffering that He went through, thoroughly makes me ashamed of my sins.

Just when I reach the depth of despair and shame, it dawns on me that the ransom has been paid. Jesus has paid a hefty price for my spiritual wellbeing. He loves us and wants what is best for us. He doesn’t want us to wallow in our misery, sin and suffering. He wants to share His life with us, life eternal. All we have to do is simply accept His invitation.

Once we accept His gift, it is then our responsibility to make sure that we stay ‘healthy’ spiritually, and to stay on course. We should not let Jesus die in vain by being unrepentant of our ways.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, there are so many pitfalls in this secular world where relativism blinds us at times. It is our duty to be steadfast and not waver in our love and obedience to God, just as Jesus did not waver in His sacrifice to bring us peace.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to be steadfast in our love and obedience to You, our God.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us and sending Your Son to atone for our sins.

5 April, Friday – Who am I?

5 Apr – Memorial for St. Vincent Ferrer, priest

Vincent (1350–1419) was the fourth child of the Anglo-Scottish nobleman William Stewart Ferrer and his Spanish wife, Constantia Miguel. His father is reported to have had a dream in which he was told that Vincent would be a world-famous Dominican friar.

The boy joined the Dominicans in 1367. He received his doctorate of theology from the University of Lleida. He was a priest and a missionary. He taught theology, and was adviser to the King of Aragon. During a severe fever in 1398, Vincent had a vision of Christ, St. Dominic de Guzman, and St. Francis of Assisi. It was a life-changing experience.

Vincent received supernatural gifts and believed that he was a messenger of penance, an “angel of the apocalypse” sent to prepare humankind for the Judgement of Christ.

He was a great preacher who converted thousands in Spain, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, England, Scotland, and Ireland. He was invited to preach in Muslim Granada. He was counsellor to Pope Benedict XIII. He travelled through Spain, France, Switzerland, and Italy, working to end the Western Schism.

He slept on the floor, had the gift of tongues (he spoke only Spanish, but all listeners understood him), lived an endless fast, celebrated Mass daily, and was known as a miracle worker. He was reported to have brought a murdered man back to life to prove the power of Christianity to the onlookers, and he would heal people throughout a hospital just by praying in front of it.

He worked so hard to build up the Church that he became the patron of people in building trades.

– Patron Saint Index

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Wisdom 2:1,12-22

The godless say to themselves, with their misguided reasoning:

‘Our life is short and dreary,
nor is there any relief when man’s end comes,
nor is anyone known who can give release from Hades.
Let us lie in wait for the virtuous man, since he annoys us
and opposes our way of life,
reproaches us for our breaches of the law
and accuses us of playing false to our upbringing.
He claims to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a son of the Lord.
Before us he stands, a reproof to our way of thinking,
the very sight of him weighs our spirits down;
his way of life is not like other men’s,
the paths he treads are unfamiliar.
In his opinion we are counterfeit;
he holds aloof from our doings as though from filth;
he proclaims the final end of the virtuous as happy
and boasts of having God for his father.
Let us see if what he says is true,
let us observe what kind of end he himself will have.
If the virtuous man is God’s son, God will take his part
and rescue him from the clutches of his enemies.
Let us test him with cruelty and with torture,
and thus explore this gentleness of his
and put his endurance to the proof.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death
since he will be looked after – we have his word for it.’

This is the way they reason, but they are misled,
their malice makes them blind.
They do not know the hidden things of God,
they have no hope that holiness will be rewarded,
they can see no reward for blameless souls.

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John 7:1-2,10,25-30

Jesus stayed in Galilee; he could not stay in Judaea, because the Jews were out to kill him.

As the Jewish feast of Tabernacles drew near, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went up as well, but quite privately, without drawing attention to himself. Meanwhile some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, ‘Isn’t this the man they want to kill? And here he is, speaking freely, and they have nothing to say to him! Can it be true the authorities have made up their minds that he is the Christ? Yet we all know where he comes from, but when the Christ appears no one will know where he comes from.’

Then, as Jesus taught in the Temple, he cried out:

‘Yes, you know me
and you know where I came from.
Yet I have not come of myself:
no, there is one who sent me
and I really come from him,
and you do not know him,
but I know him because I have come from him
and it was he who sent me.’

They would have arrested him then, but because his time had not yet come no one laid a hand on him.

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The very sight of him weighs our spirit down; his way of life is not like other men’s

Today’s first reading profiles who is good and who is wicked. I suppose it also stems from which side you are on. There are always two sides to a story, from different viewpoints.

Our life is short and full of sorrow, and when its end comes, there is no escape. No one has ever been known to come back from the world of the dead. ….. Come on, then, let’s enjoy the good things of life, and live in this world the way we did when we were young and free of care!

How many times have our friends good naturedly told us whenever we lament about something or what someone did or did not do for us. “Life is short, don’t take things to heart and just enjoy yourself.” Isn’t that exactly what the verses in Wisdom are depicting? Are our friends wrong then? Well, everything needs to be taken into context. If we continue to read the entire chapter in Wisdom 2, we see that the ‘wicked person’ simply throws caution to the wind, enjoys life in debauchery and torments those who are not in line with their views (the just ones).

I had to read today’s first reading a couple of times before I really understood it. At first, I saw myself as the ‘just one, the good person because I am a child of God. As I read the verses again, I see traces of the wicked one in myself. I think about the many times I feel uncomfortable or irritated with a person because she is simply weird, attention-seeking or someone who seemingly is doing ‘good’ but really feeding their own agendas.

Recently, a member of our community decided to step away and pursue a different journey. This person had some grievances with our community – how the ministry is being run, how certain people within the community conducted themselves, and some other issues which were very subjective (in my opinion). Whatever the reasons, God had a new plan for my fellow sister. My last interaction with her was somewhat confrontational. I am not sure to this day what the cause was. I have searched my mind over this but cannot find an answer. I decided to just let it go. When she sent a message to all to say her goodbyes to our community, I replied with a private message to wish her well and asked for her forgiveness if I had hurt her in any way. She never responded.

So perhaps to her, the very sight of me or the mention of my name may weigh her down; irritates her. Today’s first reading might be the very words she uses to describe me. From my perspective she is the ‘godless one’. However, if I am being authentic for a moment, my first reaction to her non response and the way she has reacted to me the last few times we met – I felt that she was simply a very angry and hurt person. I also felt that her stepping away from community was a result of her anger and discontentment – from the community and God who gave her a new life. I decided to let it go and not let this rob me of my peace. But today on reading the first reading again, I realised that I too am the wicked one. Who am I to say that the way she chooses to lead her life now is not what God wants of her. They do not know the hidden things of God. God uses our pain and suffering and turns it into something good. This journey in life is what it is — a journey. Some paths come to an end and we make a turn and start on a new path. So while my fellow (or now ex) community member’s gifts and talents are clearly in music , she has chosen to heed the Lord’s prompting to exercise other gifts, and to use her to minister to others in a new way.

May the Lord always hold this sister in His love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, I pray you stay close to us who are broken-hearted. Help us in our weakness. Free us from the chains of anger, unforgiveness, and sadness from disappointments. Help us see others with your eyes of love. Help us to love you more.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for suffering for us. How painful it is for you to be condemned to such a death for us – especially for those of us who choose to stay away from you and not believe in you. Thank you for such unconditional love.

18 March, Monday – Come Back to Me

18 March 2019

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Daniel 9:4-10

O Lord, God great and to be feared, you keep the covenant and have kindness for those who love you and keep your commandments: we have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly, we have betrayed your commandments and your ordinances and turned away from them. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. Integrity, Lord, is yours; ours the look of shame we wear today, we, the people of Judah, the citizens of Jerusalem, the whole of Israel, near and far away, in every country to which you have dispersed us because of the treason we have committed against you. To us, Lord, the look of shame belongs, to our kings, our princes, our ancestors, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God mercy and pardon belong, because we have betrayed him, and have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God nor followed the laws he has given us through his servants the prophets.

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Luke 6:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.’

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Rescue us for the sake of your name

Come back to me with all your heart
Don’t let fear keep us apart
Trees do bend though straight and tall
So must we to others call

Long have I waited for
Your coming home to me
And living deeply our new life

The wilderness will lead you
To the place where I will speak
Integrity and justice
With tenderness
You shall know.

– Hosea (Come back to me) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czPF5B1aQ1Y

This beautiful hymn has been playing on in my head for the past week. It is after all, one of the Lenten staples. I am always struck with a quivering lip and hot tears welling in my eyes at the second verse “the wilderness will lead you, to the place where I will speak.” And I am speechless to explain why.

Perhaps, it is because I am going through a kind of wilderness now. At the same time, I know as well that the source of my tears are a deep longing for a closeness that I have missed with Christ my lover. This passionate love was so strong, that I would feel Jesus living in my heart every moment and I could commit to him with joy all my thoughts and feelings that happened throughout the day. I would visit him for daily morning or evening Mass and spend time in the quiet of the chapel in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I was SO IN LOVE! Yet, even as I continue to do these things (although with less frequency), I had felt a distance and coldness in me.

How long have I felt estranged? I cannot be sure. I do know that several rough and tumbles of life and strained relationships have cast me into the wilderness.

As I read today’s Gospel passage where Jesus urged his disciples to be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. I realise that while I do not know how I got to this wilderness, God has the antidote to the dry and barren soil of my heart. We are called to water our souls with compassion just as God is compassionate to us. I realised that this compassion is not only to be given to others (although our love does need to be poured out), but restoratively, I need to be compassionate to myself!

Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back. (Luke 6:38)

Notice the words of this hymn Hosea. It is a call to repentance that is borne out of a love and longing God has for us. He calls us to return to Him by casting aside our fears (of punishment, self-loathing, guilt, hatred, anger, unforgiveness)…

How often do we remember to be generous in forgiveness for ourselves and our own waywardness? Are we generous in giving ourselves time to truly rest, to freely play, to connect with the family and friends God has given to us in a deeply meaningful way? Or have we been distracted by the lesser but shinier things of this world?

Lent is a season for repentance. But it does not stop there. We repent because of love not fear. This Lent, try loving yourself (not in a selfish, prideful way) in all the parts of you within that feel unlovely – your sins, your imperfections, your bad temper, your insecurities. Believe that you are loved and wanted very much by your Heavenly Father.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: I seek God’s grace and mercy that I may see all my loveliness and to love my unloveliness, the way God sees me.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father for the chance to repent and return to you.

11 March, Monday – Love God, Love People

11 March 2019

Today we welcome a new writer, Cassilda Lim, to the team.

Cassilda was attracted to the Catholic faith from a young age, which she attributes to the Canossian sisters where she received her primary and secondary education. Baptised at 12, she had a deep and personal encounter of God several years later. This completely changed the trajectory of her life, which included two overseas studying stints in Christian leadership and theology, and a subsequent career change to a full time church worker. Her friends know her as a nerd who enjoys reading and writing. Her passion is to share the word of God and to help others recognise the life giving treasures that are held within the promises of scripture.

When she’s not working, Cassilda likes cooking and feeding her husband and friends.

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Leviticus 19:1-2,11-18

The Lord spoke to Moses. He said: ‘Speak to the whole community of the sons of Israel and say to them:

‘“Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.

‘“You must not steal nor deal deceitfully or fraudulently with your neighbour. You must not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God. I am the Lord. You must not exploit or rob your neighbour. You must not keep back the labourer’s wage until next morning. You must not curse the dumb, nor put an obstacle in the blind man’s way, but you must fear your God. I am the Lord.

‘“You must not be guilty of unjust verdicts. You must neither be partial to the little man nor overawed by the great; you must pass judgement on your neighbour according to justice. You must not slander your own people, and you must not jeopardise your neighbour’s life. I am the Lord. You must not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. You must openly tell him, your neighbour, of his offence; this way you will not take a sin upon yourself. You must not exact vengeance, nor must you bear a grudge against the children of your people. You must love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”’

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Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

‘Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

‘Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?” Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.”

‘And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’

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But love your neighbour as yourself

I often hurry into the season of Lent, bent on setting my heart and mind to practice some form of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The priest would be preaching during Ash Wednesday mass and my mind would often be distracted by the myriad of options before me. “Maybe I should fast from Netflix and spend that time in prayer and reflection, but boy, that will be a tough one!” Or “Maybe I should stick to the traditional route of fasting from meals and spending time in the adoration room before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.” More often than not, I veer towards spiritual practices and disciplines that I believe are designed to slow me down and refocus my attention on renewing and deepening my relationship with God. Lent, therefore, can often become a time of withdrawal and personal reflection.

While all the various spiritual disciplines are good to reorientate my heart and soul, the Scripture readings today jarred me out of my little spiritual bubble and personal enclave that I can sometimes consciously (or consciously) hedge for myself during this liturgical season.

We are told, quite plainly and unequivocally, that our relationship with, and love for God, cannot be viewed apart from our relationship with, and love for people. It is not just about God and me. It is also about others and me. Lev 19 is a series of laws and commandments. The opening verse sets the foundation of the subsequent commands, “Be holy because I the Lord your God, am holy.” Verses 11-18 then list down social and ethical expectations, with the refrain that occurs after every two verses, “I am the Lord” (v12, 14, 16, 18). Therefore we are commanded not to steal, lie, deceive, exploit, manipulate, show favoritism, apathy or be vengeful towards others because we claim to believe and worship the Lord.

The climax of these series of laws takes place in Lev 19:18b as a positive command, “Love your neigbour as yourself. I am the Lord.” The Hebrew word for love is this instance is ’ahabh, which carries an emotional, even romantic connotation. Here, scripture suggests that it is not simply about engaging in dutiful ethical behavior. We must also feel for our neighbour, allow our hearts to be moved by his or her plight, and only then can we truly love people as we love ourselves.

Similarly, in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus equates godliness as offering practical acts of love and standing in solidarity with the stranger, the poor, and those considered least in society. It is sobering that those whom Jesus chastised had no trouble acknowledging him as “Lord” (Matt 31:44), yet they had failed to grasp the truth that God’s heart is always with the poor, the disadvantaged and those in need.

And so, as this season of Lent gets under way, and we focus once again on renewing our relationship with God, may we remember that the call to holiness cannot be understood apart from our relationship with others. We are called to love God, and to love others as ourselves. This is the summation and heart of our Christian faith.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Cassilda Lim)

Prayer: Help us Lord, to recognise you in others, especially those whom we find difficult to love. Grant us a tender and brave heart so that we will move to act with mercy, justice and compassion.

Thanksgiving: We thank you that you first loved us, so that we might love others.

2 March, Saturday – Rosie

2 March 2019

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Ecclesiasticus 17:1-13

The Lord fashioned man from the earth,
  to consign him back to it.
He gave them so many days’ determined time,
  he gave them authority over everything on earth.
He clothed them with strength like his own,
  and made them in his own image.
He filled all living things with dread of man,
  making him master over beasts and birds.
He shaped for them a mouth and tongue, eyes and ears,
  and gave them a heart to think with.
He filled them with knowledge and understanding,
  and revealed to them good and evil.
He put his own light in their hearts
  to show them the magnificence of his works.
They will praise his holy name,
  as they tell of his magnificent works.
He set knowledge before them,
  he endowed them with the law of life.
Their eyes saw his glorious majesty,
  and their ears heard the glory of his voice.
He said to them, ‘Beware of all wrong-doing’;
  he gave each a commandment concerning his neighbour.
Their ways are always under his eye,
  they cannot be hidden from his sight.

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Mark 10:13-16

People were bringing little children to Jesus, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.

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He gave them so many days’ determined time, he gave them authority over everything on earth.

We had a death in the family just before Christmas. Our niece, Rosie, passed away in her sleep. One day she was a hopeful 26-yr-old planning a new life with her fiancé, the next she had slipped away. It’s been a surreal few months. I have not reconciled myself to the fact that she is gone. It doesn’t seem real. When God decides to take a young person back to Himself, it is as if the natural order of things has been broken. Though my head understands it is His prerogative, that I cannot know the when and why of His ways, my heart is having a hard time with it. And along with denial is a terrible sense of regret – regret over words spoken and unspoken, over intentions good and bad, over things I should have done and things I wished I had not.

One of the inevitabilities of grief is an awareness of time. This isn’t new territory for me, but I had allowed myself to let my guard down. Our time with someone is finite and it can get taken away from us. Quite brutally too. My father passed away 3 years ago after a long battle with cancer. With him, I had a long time to say goodbye, to bank as many beautiful memories as I could. And still, I was careless and our last words were angry ones. After he died, I told myself that I would henceforth be more watchful over my tongue and my thoughts. Yet my last thoughts of Rosie were, if not angry, then certainly frustrated ones. And oh, how deeply I regret that.

The gospel in Mark talks about how only childlike faith will grant us citizenship in the kingdom of God. I know this to be true because it is only with childlike faith and wonder that one is able to rise above the cynicism, scepticism and jadedness of adulthood. I had lost that wonder, not just with Rosie, but with a lot of other people in my life. Just before she died, I was going through what I can only describe as a very angry period. Now she is gone, I wish that I had tempered myself more. I wish that I had prayed more. I wish that I had overlooked more things. But it’s a little late for all that now. Regret doesn’t bring back the dead, it only fills the living with grief and remorse. I am glad that Rosie is back with God. At least she no longer has to deal with the likes of me.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: I pray for the self-awareness to be more restrained in both my thoughts and my words.

Thanksgiving: I give thanks for the time that I did have with my father and Rosie. I give thanks for all the memories, both the good and the bad.

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.