Tag Archives: nicholas chia

15 May, Wednesday – Aligning our lives to God

15 May 2019

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Acts 12:24-13:5

The word of God continued to spread and to gain followers. Barnabas and Saul completed their task and came back from Jerusalem, bringing John Mark with them.

In the church at Antioch the following were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. One day while they were offering worship to the Lord and keeping a fast, the Holy Spirit said, ‘I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them.’ So it was that after fasting and prayer they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

So these two, sent on their mission by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and from there sailed to Cyprus. They landed at Salamis and proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; John acted as their assistant.

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John 12:44-50

I, the light, have come into the world

Jesus declared publicly:

‘Whoever believes in me
believes not in me
but in the one who sent me,
and whoever sees me,
sees the one who sent me.
I, the light, have come into the world,
so that whoever believes in me
need not stay in the dark any more.
If anyone hears my words and does not keep them faithfully,
it is not I who shall condemn him,
since I have come not to condemn the world,
but to save the world.
He who rejects me and refuses my words has his judge already:
the word itself that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day.
For what I have spoken does not come from myself;
no, what I was to say,
what I had to speak,
was commanded by the Father who sent me,
and I know that his commands mean eternal life.
And therefore what the Father has told me
is what I speak.’

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And therefore what the Father has told me is what I speak

The role of a voice recording is not to speak for itself but instead it is to faithfully transmit whatever the speaker has spoken. If the voice recording does not accurately reflect what was spoken, we would suspect of it being doctored. This is exactly what the Gospel of today is reminding us. As Christians, we are called to follow whatever God has called us to do.

The role of the Christian is to follow the identity of Christ. This means that we must learn how to surrender our will to God. This is not as easy as it seems because it requires the individual to realise that God is our creator. This means that we will need to learn how to acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses and allow God to take control of whatever we have in our midst.

Man loves to be in control. Uncertainty is unacceptable in this day and age. Yet God does not call us to a period of uncertainty but instead to trust in God. Trusting in God is not the easiest task to do but it does allow us to discover what it means to remain obedient to him. St Paul and Barnabas was obedient to the Holy Spirit’s direction to preach the word. This is also what we are called to do. As we continue with our daily lives, let us never forget to realign our lives back to God and yes, to submit to His will because God knows best.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that we remain docile to the workings of your spirit in our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the many people who have shown us what it means to trust God.

13 May, Monday – Trust in God

13 May – Feast of Our Lady of Fatima

This feast commemorates the visions of Our Lady seen near Fátima in Portugal in 1917 by three shepherd children, Lúcia dos Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto. The visions occurred on the 13th day of each month from May to October, and by October huge crowds were gathering at the site of the visions and reporting visions and miraculous occurrences themselves.

Pope John Paul II was devoted to Our Lady of Fátima and attributed his survival of an assassin’s bullet on 13 May 1981 to her intervention. Jacinta and Francisco Marto, who died in the great Spanish Flu pandemic of 1919-20, were beatified on 13 May 2000.
– Universalis
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Acts 11:1-18

The apostles and the brothers in Judaea heard that the pagans too had accepted the word of God, and when Peter came up to Jerusalem the Jews criticised him and said, ‘So you have been visiting the uncircumcised and eating with them, have you?’ Peter in reply gave them the details point by point: ‘One day, when I was in the town of Jaffa,’ he began ‘I fell into a trance as I was praying and had a vision of something like a big sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners. This sheet reached the ground quite close to me. I watched it intently and saw all sorts of animals and wild beasts – everything possible that could walk, crawl or fly. Then I heard a voice that said to me, “Now, Peter; kill and eat!” But I answered: Certainly not, Lord; nothing profane or unclean has ever crossed my lips. And a second time the voice spoke from heaven, “What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane.” This was repeated three times, before the whole of it was drawn up to heaven again.

‘Just at that moment, three men stopped outside the house where we were staying; they had been sent from Caesarea to fetch me, and the Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going back with them. The six brothers here came with me as well, and we entered the man’s house. He told us he had seen an angel standing in his house who said, “Send to Jaffa and fetch Simon known as Peter; he has a message for you that will save you and your entire household.”

‘I had scarcely begun to speak when the Holy Spirit came down on them in the same way as it came on us at the beginning, and I remembered that the Lord had said, “John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” I realised then that God was giving them the identical thing he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ; and who was I to stand in God’s way?’

This account satisfied them, and they gave glory to God. ‘God’ they said ‘can evidently grant even the pagans the repentance that leads to life.’

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John 10:1-10

Jesus said:
‘I tell you most solemnly, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but gets in some other way is a thief and a brigand. The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. They never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognise the voice of strangers.’

Jesus told them this parable but they failed to understand what he meant by telling it to them.

So Jesus spoke to them again:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
I am the gate of the sheepfold.
All others who have come
are thieves and brigands;
but the sheep took no notice of them.
I am the gate.
Anyone who enters through me will be safe:
he will go freely in and out
and be sure of finding pasture.
The thief comes
only to steal and kill and destroy.
I have come
so that they may have life and have it to the full.’

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I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full

I have seen how pet owners take good care of their pets. This is especially so when they are very young and the owner has seen the pet grow up. The pet trusts in the owner’s decisions and willingly obeys whatever the pet asks. In the same way, God our creator, calls us to a plan which we are unaware of in our lives. This plan requires us to trust in God in faith and love.

The sheep of the Good Shepherd will listen to the voice of the Lord. This is sometimes difficult for us to do especially since we do not know what is the plan which God has for us. The world we live in demands that we live in certainty. This comes in the form of endless confirmations, reducing risk and uncertainty and sometimes even doubt of what God has called us to do.

The mystery of the Christian Faith asks that we trust in God’s plan for us and that we allow Him to act in our lives. We may not know what to expect but we can trust in God that He has the best plans for us. In the world we live in, it is difficult for us to surrender our will to the Father because what He wants from us is different from what we want. Let us take it to the Lord in prayer today to see what God calls us to do and then let us be courageous to accept this call.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to accept your will.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who continue to show us how to live our life as Christian

12 May, Sunday – Role Model in Faith

12 May 2019

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Acts 13:14, 43-52

Paul and Barnabas carried on from Perga till they reached Antioch in Pisidia. Here they went to synagogue on the Sabbath and took their seats.
When the meeting broke up many Jews and devout converts joined Paul and Barnabas, and in their talks with them Paul and Barnabas urged them to remain faithful to the grace God had given them.
The next sabbath almost the whole town assembled to hear the word of God. When they saw the crowds, the Jews, prompted by jealousy, used blasphemies and contradicted everything Paul said. Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly. ‘We had to proclaim the word of God to you first, but since you have rejected it, since you do not think yourselves worthy of eternal life, we must turn to the pagans. For this is what the Lord commanded us to do when he said:
I have made you a light for the nations,
so that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth.’
It made the pagans very happy to hear this and they thanked the Lord for his message; all who were destined for eternal life became believers. Thus the word of the Lord spread through the whole countryside.
But the Jews worked upon some of the devout women of the upper classes and the leading men of the city and persuaded them to turn against Paul and Barnabas and expel them from their territory. So they shook the dust from their feet in defiance and went off to Iconium; but the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.
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Apocalypse 7:9, 14-17
I, John, saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. One of the elders said, ‘These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and because they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb, they now stand in front of God’s throne and serve him day and night in his sanctuary; and the One who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. They will never hunger or thirst again; neither the sun nor scorching wind will ever plague them, because the Lamb who is at the throne will be their shepherd and will lead them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away all tears from their eyes.’
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John 10:27-30
Jesus said:
‘The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice;
I know them and they follow me.
I give them eternal life;
they will never be lost
and no one will ever steal them from me.
The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone,
and no one can steal from the Father.
The Father and I are one.’
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Thus the word of the Lord spread through the whole countryside.
The role of the Christian is called to evangelise to the people around them. This does not mean going out to a stranger to share with them the Gospel although if that is a suitable way to reach out to them, then one could consider using it. However, in order to be good people of evangelisation, we will need to have good role models which we can draw an example from. The readings of today show us the traits of a role model which we can emulate.
The apostles in the first reading were very happy to have heard the Word of God and diligently shared the word with the people in the world. They continued to spread the word to the non-Jewish community. God’s salvation is not limited only to one group of people but is extended to the entire world. This means that we will need to continue to spread the word of God to the people in the world who matter to us.
Sometimes we can share the faith with the Christian community who are living in our midst. Fellow Christians also need reminders to know of the need of why God is needed in their lives. The faith journey which they are in could be at a low point – they might need some encouragement in order to push themselves out of the situation they are in.
Jesus reminds us that His sheep know Him. To know Christ requires us to spend time in reading the Bible and also to spend time in prayer. Only by being in contact with God can we learn how to trust in His plan for us. The world we live in is one which keeps us occupied and distracted from be in touch with God. We need to constantly be in touch with God to discover what He wants from us. God is the role model which we should emulate and this will definitely allow us to discover the plan which He has in store for us.
(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that we remain faithful to the message of love which you have preached.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who continue to show the way to Heaven.

4 May, Saturday – In God we Trust

4 May 2019

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Acts 6:1-7

About this time, when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenists made a complaint against the Hebrews: in the daily distribution their own widows were being overlooked. So the Twelve called a full meeting of the disciples and addressed them, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the word of God so as to give out food; you, brothers, must select from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, filled with the Spirit and with wisdom; we will hand over this duty to them, and continue to devote ourselves to prayer and to the service of the word.’ The whole assembly approved of this proposal and elected Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

The word of the Lord continued to spread: the number of disciples in Jerusalem was greatly increased, and a large group of priests made their submission to the faith.

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John 6:16-21

In the evening the disciples went down to the shore of the lake and got into a boat to make for Capernaum on the other side of the lake. It was getting dark by now and Jesus had still not rejoined them. The wind was strong, and the sea was getting rough. They had rowed three or four miles when they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming towards the boat. This frightened them, but he said, ‘It is I. Do not be afraid.’ They were for taking him into the boat, but in no time it reached the shore at the place they were making for.

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It is I. Do not be afraid

Fear has a way of creating trouble for people. It has an ability to make people doubt about their own capabilities, their faith and also the people around them. This was exactly what the apostles faced in the Gospel of today. They were fearful of the bad weather around them and how it would cause them to lose their lives.

Our lives are also not smooth sailing. To be a Christian does not mean that the circumstances in our life changes. Rather, it is a situation where we trust the Lord Jesus to be the centre of our life. He is to be in charge of us despite the various storms that life brings us. Be it emotional challenges, problems at work or medical problems, these are all storms in our lives which will continue to challenge and afflict our daily lives.

I believe that it is our response which matters. As we continue with the demands of our lives, we should always trust in God that He has a plan and that by co-operating with that plan – all will indeed turn out well.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Jesus, I trust in You

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who continue to spread the faith.

2 May, Thursday – Remember your purpose in life

May 2 – Memorial for St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor

Athanasius (c. 295) studied the classics and theology in Alexandria, Egypt. He was a deacon, secretary, and student of Bishop Alexander of Alexandria. He attended the Council of Nicaea in 325, where he fought for the defeat of Arianism and the acceptance of the divinity of Jesus. He formulated the doctrine of homo-ousianism, which says that Christ is the same substance as the Father; Arianism taught that Christ was different and a creation of the Father, a creature and not part of God.

He became Bishop of Alexandria c. 328; he served for 46 years. When the dispute over Arianism spilled over from theology to politics, Athanasius got exiled five times, spending more than a third of his episcopate in exile.

He was the biographer of St. Anthony the Abbot. Confessor of the faith and Doctor of the Church, he fought for the acceptance of the Nicene Creed.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 5:27-33

When the officials had brought the apostles in to face the Sanhedrin, the high priest demanded an explanation. ‘We gave you a formal warning’ he said ‘not to preach in this name, and what have you done? You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and seem determined to fix the guilt of this man’s death on us.’ In reply Peter and the apostles said,

‘Obedience to God comes before obedience to men; it was the God of our ancestors who raised up Jesus, but it was you who had him executed by hanging on a tree. By his own right hand God has now raised him up to be leader and saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins through him to Israel. We are witnesses to all this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’

This so infuriated them that they wanted to put them to death.

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John 3:31-36

John the Baptist said to his disciples:

‘He who comes from above is above all others;
he who is born of the earth is earthly himself
and speaks in an earthly way.
He who comes from heaven
bears witness to the things he has seen and heard,
even if his testimony is not accepted;
though all who do accept his testimony
are attesting the truthfulness of God,
since he whom God has sent
speaks God’s own words:
God gives him the Spirit without reserve.
The Father loves the Son
and has entrusted everything to him.
Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life,
but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life:
the anger of God stays on him.’

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Obedience to God comes before obedience to men

I have always wondered why there is a need to obey. In this day and age where everybody values freedom, it appears that the need to obey is antiquated and some would say outdated. Yet the readings of today remind us that obedience is not that of compliance but more of a response to a loving relationship.

The apostles continued to boldly preach the Gospel because they have had a real encounter with the Lord Jesus. They knew what the good Lord did for then and experienced his love first hand. This does not mean that the path was all smooth. They must have had their ups and downs too but they never lost sight of their mission – to spread the word of God to all over the world.

Their mission to spread the word of God is still our mission – we are still called to show God’s love to the people around us. The methods may be different but the message is still the same. As we continue with our journey in life, let us never forget what God has called us to do. Our response to his love is just as important for we discover the depth of God’s mercy for each one of us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us remember that you love us and that we should always trust in you.

Thanksgiving:  We give thanks for all who have the capacity to forgive others.

1 May, Wednesday – Staying faithful to God

1 May 2019

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Acts 5:17-26
The high priest intervened with all his supporters from the party of the Sadducees. Prompted by jealousy, they arrested the apostles and had them put in the common gaol.
But at night the angel of the Lord opened the prison gates and said as he led them out, ‘Go and stand in the Temple, and tell the people all about this new Life.’ They did as they were told; they went into the Temple at dawn and began to preach.
When the high priest arrived, he and his supporters convened the Sanhedrin – this was the full Senate of Israel – and sent to the gaol for them to be brought. But when the officials arrived at the prison they found they were not inside, so they went back and reported, ‘We found the gaol securely locked and the warders on duty at the gates, but when we unlocked the door we found no one inside.’ When the captain of the Temple and the chief priests heard this news they wondered what this could mean. Then a man arrived with fresh news. ‘At this very moment’ he said, ‘the men you imprisoned are in the Temple. They are standing there preaching to the people.’ The captain went with his men and fetched them. They were afraid to use force in case the people stoned them.
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John 3:16-21
Jesus said to Nicodemus:
‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned;
but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,
because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.
On these grounds is sentence pronounced:
that though the light has come into the world
men have shown they prefer darkness to the light
because their deeds were evil.
And indeed, everybody who does wrong
hates the light and avoids it,
for fear his actions should be exposed;
but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light,
so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.’
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They did as they were told

I have observed how young sportsmen and musicians seek to continue to train for their sport even though sometimes it is taking too much effort. They do it because they feel very strongly in their cause. They will not hesitate to spend countless hours and even money to travel down to the place just to ensure that they achieve the desired outcome. The readings of today remind us of the need to stay focused on the task and to never forget the purpose of why we are called to be in the world.

The first reading reminds us of how faithful the two apostles remained despite being imprisoned. They had no regret of what they did previously and they were willing to stay the course despite the possible punishments which they may face. They had a deep encounter with the Lord Jesus and this was what motivated them to continue to stay the course come what may.

Jesus reminds us in the Gospel of the need to stay faithful to the light of the world. This is what he stood for and he paid the ultimate price for us. As we go about our daily lives, we could spend time to reflect upon what God has called us to do. Only by orienting our lives towards God will we be able to remain faithful, even unto death.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to continue to love you with all our heart.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the people who show us what it means to love you.

15 March, Friday – Life of Virtue

15 March 2019

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Ezekiel 18:21-28

Thus says the Lord:

‘If the wicked man renounces all the sins he has committed, respects my laws and is law-abiding and honest, he will certainly live; he will not die. All the sins he committed will be forgotten from then on; he shall live because of the integrity he has practised. What! Am I likely to take pleasure in the death of a wicked man – it is the Lord who speaks – and not prefer to see him renounce his wickedness and live?

‘But if the upright man renounces his integrity, commits sin, copies the wicked man and practises every kind of filth, is he to live? All the integrity he has practised shall be forgotten from then on; but this is because he himself has broken faith and committed sin, and for this he shall die. But you object, “What the Lord does is unjust.” Listen, you House of Israel: is what I do unjust? Is it not what you do that is unjust? When the upright man renounces his integrity to commit sin and dies because of this, he dies because of the evil that he himself has committed. When the sinner renounces sin to become law-abiding and honest, he deserves to live. He has chosen to renounce all his previous sins; he shall certainly live; he shall not die.’

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Matthew 5:20-26

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.

‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.’

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‘If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.

We live in a world where the adage “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” is often practiced. People form alliances and befriend each other for the purpose of mutual benefit instead of with the intention of wanting to help the other party.

This is not what we are called as Christians to do. Instead we are called to extend love and generosity to the people around us. This means that we need to accept the people for who they are regardless of the faults which they have. Yet sometimes we are tainted by the ways of the world. We make friends only with the people who are of gain to us and whom are able to help us achieve the means in our lives.

The first reading reminds us of the need to live a life of virtue and not abandon the ways which have been taught to us. We must stay close to God and not deviate away from the path which God has set out for us. It is not difficult for us to stay on the straight and narrow path but we are called to do so in this season of Lent where God has allowed us to experience him more deeply through the tools of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us discover what it means to be your children and walk in the way of your love.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people who guide us towards the path of righteousness.

14 March, Thursday – Trust in God

14 March 2019

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Esther 4:17

Queen Esther took refuge with the Lord in the mortal peril which had overtaken her. She besought the Lord God of Israel in these words:

‘My Lord, our King, the only one,
come to my help, for I am alone
and have no helper but you
and am about to take my life in my hands.

‘I have been taught from my earliest years, in the bosom of my family,
that you, Lord, chose
Israel out of all the nations
and our ancestors out of all the people of old times
to be your heritage for ever;
and that you have treated them as you promised.

‘Remember, Lord; reveal yourself
in the time of our distress.

‘As for me, give me courage,
King of gods and master of all power.
Put persuasive words into my mouth
when I face the lion;
change his feeling into hatred for our enemy,
that the latter and all like him may be brought to their end.

‘As for ourselves, save us by your hand,
and come to my help, for I am alone
and have no one but you, Lord.’

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Matthew 7:7-12

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. Is there a man among you who would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or would hand him a snake when he asked for a fish? If you, then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

‘So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.’

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‘Remember, Lord; reveal yourself in the time of our distress.

This week has been a tough week for some of my friends. They are facing challenges at work such as difficult bosses. Some are also worried about the renewal of their employment papers. Another is dealing with too much work which causes a breakdown in his marriage. In all these issues, we ask ourselves where God is in their lives.

The first reading can provide us with some clue. The people of Israel were facing tremendous persecution and Queen Esther was feeling troubled. Torn between the identity as a Jew and the danger of losing her life for fear of offending the king, she went to the Lord in prayer. Indeed, she was facing the same issues that all of us face – the inability to understand what God desires and wants from us.

Sometimes we ask God why he puts us through these troubles in our lives. We ask for the ability to be freed from these concerns yet our prayer is not answered. Perhaps it is a sign for us to remember that we need to trust in God and not depend on our own human power. Only by surrendering to God can we allow ourselves to achieve the plan which he has set out for us. In this season of Lent, let us remember that we should try to mortify ourselves of whatever holds us back from entering into a relationship with God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us discover what it means to surrender our will to you.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people who love us.

26 December, Wednesday – Standing Firm

26 December – Feast of St. Stephen, Protomartyr

St. Stephen was the first Christian martyr. A deacon and a preacher, all we know of him is related in the Acts of the Apostles. While preaching the gospel in the streets, angry Jews who believed his message to be blasphemy dragged him outside the city, and stoned him to death. In the crowd, on the side of the mob, was a man who would later be known as St. Paul.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 6:8-10;7:54-59

Stephen was filled with grace and power and began to work miracles and great signs among the people. But then certain people came forward to debate with Stephen, some from Cyrene and Alexandria who were members of the synagogue called the Synagogue of Freedmen, and others from Cilicia and Asia. They found they could not get the better of him because of his wisdom, and because it was the Spirit that prompted what he said. They were infuriated when they heard this, and ground their teeth at him.

But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. ‘I can see heaven thrown open’ he said ‘and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this all the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they all rushed at him, sent him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man called Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’

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Matthew 10:17-22

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you.

‘Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved.’

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[B]ut the man who stands firm will be saved

The world today is plagued with many versions of how events in the world can be interpreted. The introduction of many forms of news media has left us to become more confused and sometimes leads to a distrust of the people around us. The Gospel of today reminds us of the need to stay firm in the Lord Jesus despite the contrasting view presented to us.

St Stephen was the first martyr of the Catholic Church. He firmly believed in the Lord Jesus and was prepared to give up his life for his belief. The crowd was not willing to be open to reason, to see his point of view when they realised that his point was much stronger than the points they could offer. Perhaps this is already indicative of the situation we see in our lives today – where when the truth hurts, people will attack the person.

Whilst today’s feast may be a historical event to some, it is a reminder that to be Christian means to suffer. In the season of Christmas, Christians are reminded that the birth of Christ marks the beginning of a lifetime of adhering to the faith of God come what may. As we wish each other Blessed Christmas in this season of Christmas, let us remember to stay firm in our faith and not let the secular world diminish the value of Christmas to another civic holiday.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to stay firm in spite of all persecution.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who hold on to the faith despite persecution.

10 December, Monday – A Spirit of Joy

10 December 2018

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Isaiah 35:1-10

Let the wilderness and the dry-lands exult,
let the wasteland rejoice and bloom,
let it bring forth flowers like the jonquil,
let it rejoice and sing for joy.

The glory of Lebanon is bestowed on it,
the splendour of Carmel and Sharon;
they shall see the glory of the Lord,
the splendour of our God.

Strengthen all weary hands,
steady all trembling knees
and say to all faint hearts,
‘Courage! Do not be afraid.

‘Look, your God is coming,
vengeance is coming,
the retribution of God;
he is coming to save you.’

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
the ears of the deaf unsealed,
then the lame shall leap like a deer
and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy;

for water gushes in the desert,
streams in the wasteland,
the scorched earth becomes a lake,
the parched land springs of water.

The lairs where the jackals used to live
become thickets of reed and papyrus.

And through it will run a highway undefiled
which shall be called the Sacred Way;
the unclean may not travel by it,
nor fools stray along it.

No lion will be there
nor any fierce beast roam about it,
but the redeemed will walk there,
for those the Lord has ransomed shall return.

They will come to Zion shouting for joy,
everlasting joy on their faces;
joy and gladness will go with them
and sorrow and lament be ended.

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Luke 5:17-26

Jesus was teaching one day, and among the audience there were Pharisees and doctors of the Law who had come from every village in Galilee, from Judaea and from Jerusalem. And the Power of the Lord was behind his works of healing.

Then some men appeared, carrying on a bed a paralysed man whom they were trying to bring in and lay down in front of him. But as the crowd made it impossible to find a way of getting him in, they went up on to the flat roof and lowered him and his stretcher down through the tiles into the middle of the gathering, in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith he said, ‘My friend, your sins are forgiven you.’

The scribes and the Pharisees began to think this over. ‘Who is this man talking blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ But Jesus, aware of their thoughts, made them this reply, ‘What are these thoughts you have in your hearts? Which of these is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven you” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ – he said to the paralysed man – ‘I order you: get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.’

And immediately before their very eyes he got up, picked up what he had been lying on and went home praising God.
They were all astounded and praised God, and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today.’

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They will come to Zion shouting for joy

I was taking the subway recently and noticed the faces of the commuters. I could count only two or three smiling faces and they all came from the younger children. They were all playing with each other and having a great time. Sometimes I wonder whether adults have lost a sense of joy which children possess. The readings of today remind us of the need to remain joyful in the season of Advent.

The first reading reminds us of the great joy of the Israelites who were about to return to the kingdom of Israel. In such a situation, everybody looked forward to the joy of going home. This feeling of joy is indescribable and which is missing today. The world is full of bad news and people do not have a spirit of hope. What is causing this? It is the fear of the unknown. There is no anticipation of the future and this is causing people to not look forward to what is coming before them.

The season of Advent reminds of the need to have hope. This hope is due to the coming of Jesus Christ before us. The good Lord came down to save us from our sins. A deep reflection on this would be important will allow us to discover what it means to be a hopeful people. With a hopeful anticipation of the future, we can then take every step of our life with joy and looking forward to the challenges in life. The steps we can take is to offer to the Lord our fears and concerns in prayer. Prayer is a conversation with God and in this conversation, we will be able to discover the importance of surrendering our fears and allowing the peace of the Lord to enter into our lives.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear Lord, give us the courage to surrender our faults and melt our hardness of heart to welcome you this Christmas.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who have shown us what it means to experience joy.