Tag Archives: sacrifice

6 March, Wednesday – A Time for Atonement and Prayer

6 March 2019 – Ash Wednesday

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Joel 2:12-18

‘Now, now – it is the Lord who speaks –
come back to me with all your heart,
fasting, weeping, mourning.’
Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn,
turn to the Lord your God again,
for he is all tenderness and compassion,
slow to anger, rich in graciousness,
and ready to relent.
Who knows if he will not turn again, will not relent,
will not leave a blessing as he passes,
oblation and libation
for the Lord your God?
Sound the trumpet in Zion!
Order a fast,
proclaim a solemn assembly,
call the people together,
summon the community,
assemble the elders,
gather the children,
even the infants at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his bedroom
and the bride her alcove.
Between vestibule and altar let the priests,
the ministers of the Lord, lament.
Let them say,
‘Spare your people, Lord!
Do not make your heritage a thing of shame,
a byword for the nations.
Why should it be said among the nations,
“Where is their God?”’
Then the Lord, jealous on behalf of his land,
took pity on his people.

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2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2

We are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God. For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God. As his fellow workers, we beg you once again not to neglect the grace of God that you have received. For he says: At the favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help. Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.

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Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win men’s admiration. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

‘And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them; I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

‘When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.’

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Now is the favourable time.

My wife and I will have been married 22 years come November this year. The questions we often get asked are how we managed to stay married for so long, and also, how we can get along so well without conflict.

The reality is that we do fight and have disagreements, and we have hurt each other with our inconsiderate words and behaviour. We have been unkind and said things we don’t mean. What matters is that we reconcile. We spend time talking, explaining, hugging and crying. Ultimately, we may have been angry, but in the end, forgiveness will always happen.

I regret the painful fights and the pain they bring. I regret hurting my wife, but I think those times allow us to understand each other better, to grow as a couple and as a family.

Our fallen nature causes us to sin against God, despite our privileged position as children of God. We make poor choices, fail to tame our tongue; we think wrong thoughts, we judge others, amongst the multitude of sins we can commit.

What an excellent opportunity Lent presents us to come back to our God! When we fast from our favourite foods or activities we usually enjoy doing, we give ourselves a chance to sit down and have a conversation with our Lord.

Have a wonderful Lent, my brothers and sisters.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray, Father, that we may be able to recognise everything within us that have sinned against You. Help us to face them and surrender them to You, oh Lord!

Thanksgiving: We thank You for this period of prayer and reconciliation. We are grateful that You continue to love and to never give up on us.

20 February, Wednesday – Talk is Cheap

20 February 2019

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Genesis 8:6-13,20-22

At the end of forty days Noah opened the porthole he had made in the ark and he sent out the raven. This went off, and flew back and forth until the waters dried up from the earth. Then he sent out the dove, to see whether the waters were receding from the surface of the earth. The dove, finding nowhere to perch, returned to him in the ark, for there was water over the whole surface of the earth; putting out his hand he took hold of it and brought it back into the ark with him. After waiting seven more days, again he sent out the dove from the ark. In the evening, the dove came back to him and there it was with a new olive-branch in its beak. So Noah realised that the waters were receding from the earth. After waiting seven more days he sent out the dove, and now it returned to him no more.

  It was in the six hundred and first year of Noah’s life, in the first month and on the first of the month, that the water dried up from the earth. Noah lifted back the hatch of the ark and looked out. The surface of the ground was dry!

  Noah built an altar for the Lord, and choosing from all the clean animals and all the clean birds he offered burnt offerings on the altar. The Lord smelt the appeasing fragrance and said to himself, ‘Never again will I curse the earth because of man, because his heart contrives evil from his infancy. Never again will I strike down every living thing as I have done.

‘As long as earth lasts,
sowing and reaping,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
shall cease no more.’

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Mark 8:22-26

Jesus and his disciples came to Bethsaida, and some people brought to him a blind man whom they begged him to touch. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Then putting spittle on his eyes and laying his hands on him, he asked, ‘Can you see anything?’ The man, who was beginning to see, replied, ‘I can see people; they look like trees to me, but they are walking about.’ Then he laid his hands on the man’s eyes again and he saw clearly; he was cured, and he could see everything plainly and distinctly. And Jesus sent him home, saying, ‘Do not even go into the village.’

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A thanksgiving sacrifice I make to you, O Lord.

I feel that God has decoded a mystery to me in the scripture readings today – that there is more than one component to having faith in God. The words of the Responsorial Psalm stuck with me – ‘A thanksgiving sacrifice I make to you, O Lord.’ These words describe a very strong and intentional action on my part which is far greater than the lip service of simply giving thanks. Yes, our God is not a calculative ‘quid pro quo’ God. At the same time, we are called to fully contemplate the weight of our thanksgiving. How grateful am I, really, when I sometimes just absentmindedly exclaim ‘Thanks be to God!’ in messages with friends when I hear or share good news that happened in our lives?

Having faith in God is an ongoing process that goes beyond merely professing and confessing believe in Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I often hear of comparisons of the Catholic Church’s practice of infant baptism versus a protestant understanding of water baptism as an adult, that the former is done unthinkingly (“the baby cannot choose”), whilst the latter is one made consentingly (“I know why I am being baptised”). I would suggest that baptism is an ongoing an iterative process that requires persistence of profession of our faith in God; constant surrender on to the will of God; and, the desire to make very real sacrifices in our daily lives to God. This means that, the initial baptism of water is only the first layer of faith. A baptism of fire (and perhaps, several) is always par for the course of being and becoming Christian.

The gospel of Jesus healing the blind man twice today is echoed by the Old Testament Genesis passage of Noah releasing not one, but two birds; and for each bird, not once but twice. Why is this so? Jesus performed many miracles and healed many people in the bible with just once word, one touch, one gesture. Why is this account of Jesus laying hands on the blind mind twice necessary for us? One way we can understand this is to query the depth of the blind man’s faith – that requires a further deepening. There is another way to decipher this account. The first instance of healing was a healing of a physical nature – the blind man could now see, although he could only see imperceptibly humans looking like trees. The second instance of healing cured the man spiritually. He could finally ‘see everything plainly and distinctly’. It was then Jesus sent him home and instructed him not to go back into the village.

What a strange order!

Indeed, God knows us better than we even know ourselves. Jesus healing of blindness included an ongoing medication for the blind man – stay away from your old influences, sacrifice your old associations or pleasures, break from the pattern of your old habits and evils. This is the potion of ‘thanksgiving sacrifice’ in which we are called to ‘make’ to God. We make a decision henceforth because of our faith in Christ. Thus our faith is an active, performative, sacrificial one. And not one of shallow, perfunctory lip service made effortlessly and unthinkingly!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: We pray for the courage, the conviction, and the determination to make our individual ‘thanksgiving sacrifices’ to God.

Thanksgiving: Today or tomorrow, I will make my act of service as a love sacrifice to God by going beyond my comfort zone to be loving and kind to someone who has hurt me.

1 November, Thursday – A happy future

1 November – Solemnity of All Saints

All Saints’ Day is celebrated in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. In terms of Roman Catholic theology, the feast commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in heaven. The beatific vision is the eternal and direct perception of God enjoyed by those who are in Heaven, imparting supreme happiness and blessedness. St. Thomas Aquinas defined the beatific vision as the ultimate end of human existence after physical death.

The origin of this feast as celebrated in the West dates to 13 May 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs; the feast of the dedication Sanctae mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. The chosen day, May 13, was a pagan observation of great antiquity, the culmination of three days of the Feast of the Lemures, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated.

The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III (731-741) of an oratory in St. Peter’s for the relics “of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world”, with the day moved to Nov 1.

– Wikipedia

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Apocalypse 7:2-4,9-14

I, John, saw another angel rising where the sun rises, carrying the seal of the living God; he called in a powerful voice to the four angels whose duty was to devastate land and sea, ‘Wait before you do any damage on land or at sea or to the trees, until we have put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.’ Then I heard how many were sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel.

After that I 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. They shouted aloud, ‘Victory to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels who were standing in a circle round the throne, surrounding the elders and the four animals, prostrated themselves before the throne, and touched the ground with their foreheads, worshipping God with these words, ‘Amen. Praise and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength to our God for ever and ever. Amen.’

One of the elders then spoke, and asked me, ‘Do you know who these people are, dressed in white robes, and where they have come from?’ I answered him, ‘You can tell me, my lord.’ Then he said, ‘These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.’

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1 John 3:1-3

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us,
by letting us be called God’s children;
and that is what we are.

Because the world refused to acknowledge him,
therefore it does not acknowledge us.

My dear people, we are already the children of God
but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed;

all we know is, that when it is revealed
we shall be like him
because we shall see him as he really is.

Surely everyone who entertains this hope
must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.

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Matthew 5:1-12

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:

‘How happy are the poor in spirit;
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:
they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn:
they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right:
they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful:
they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart:
they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers:
they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’

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Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.

There are days when I wonder if all the stress I go through now in this world is all worth it. There are many deadlines to meet for various projects and having to manage the expectations of many people around us. The readings of today remind us that our time on this world is meant to be temporary. It does not mean that it is supposed to be meaningless because God has placed us on this world to spread the love He has shown us to all around us. In doing so, we will receive the eternal reward which will belong to us in the future.

The Beatitudes are a beautiful way of instructing us on what actions will receive a blessing from God. It is for us to emulate such behaviour as many before us have already done so. For example, the martyrs who would rather suffer torture and persecution, instead of renouncing the faith, are a good reference point for us. They lived out the Beatitudes with their lives and were willing to use their lives to bring people closer to God. The Gospel reading of today is a blueprint for us to live our lives. Indeed, if all of us could even strive towards this standard, we will definitely be on route to heaven.

St John reminds us that we are God’s children and as God’s children we will definitely become like him in the future. As such, we should look forward to the reward which God is granting us and to always anticipate the future. This world may be tough for some of us but we should not let it hinder us in our final aim, which is to be in union with God. Persecution is indeed something which all of us go through – be it physical, mental, emotional and intellectual, regardless of where we live. What distinguishes us from others is the hope we have in God and the certainty of our eternal reward.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace to live out the Beatitudes.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who bring peace to the world.

20 October, Saturday – Truth

20 October

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Ephesians 1:15-23

I, having once heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus, and the love that you show towards all the saints, have never failed to remember you in my prayers and to thank God for you. May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers. This you can tell from the strength of his power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven, far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named not only in this age but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.

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Luke 12:8-12

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I tell you, if anyone openly declares himself for me in the presence of men, the Son of Man will declare himself for him in the presence of the angels. But the man who disowns me in the presence of men will be disowned in the presence of God’s angels.

‘Everyone who says a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

‘When they take you before synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say, because when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say.’

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When they take you before synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say, because when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say

History has given us many examples of people who have spoken up for the truth, and paid the price for it with their lives. All of them stood by their deep-set beliefs fighting for justice, and were never afraid to do so. Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln – these are some famous examples. Yet for every famous person that has spoken up for the side of truth, there are many, many more who suffer for speaking the truth, and submitted into silence. Torture, threats against their lives, and the lives of their loved ones have put fear into these people’s hearts. They are not less courageous though.

If presented with the same situation, how many of us would actually speak up? We need not even have to put ourselves in situations of fighting for political or social injustice, just looking into our daily lives is sufficient. Most people adopt a “don’t get involved” policy. You could even be viewed as someone who has nothing else better to do than to cause trouble by speaking up. People would rather go their own way and live their lives. If we knew something was wrong, say at work, where a boss was sexually harassing a colleague, would we speak up? Or would we “mind our own business”, knowing that the victim may not be in a position to speak up for herself? Do we turn a blind eye?

If we feel that it is the right thing to do, but lack the courage to speak up, let us take comfort knowing that some of the bravest people too were scared to speak up. Ghandi who was trained as a barrister, was too shy to speak up in court, and as a result was unsuccessful at his attempts in setting up a law practice in Bombay (now Mumbai). This was a man, who was trained to represent the law, who later became a leader in non-violent movements to oppose the social injustice and British rule in India. His turning point came after experiencing first-hand the prejudices against coloured people in South Africa. If Ghandi could do it, what more us? I’m not saying that we all have to become statesmen and women, but I believe that each of us should have a little “Ghandi” in us: that in each of us, there is a little seed of courage that is not afraid to step out.

Jesus represented the truth, and spoke out against the religious leaders of his day. He admonished them on several scores, incurring their wrath. Yet knowing the fate that lay before him, Jesus continued with his sermons. Though he is the Son of God, but he was made Man, and knew fear. And he feared what was to come, and prayed that God would take that cup from him. Yet he also prayed, “Your will, not mine be done”. (Luke 22:42) He was in so much agony, that he sweated blood. God heard his fervent prayers and sent an angel to strengthen him.

What does this mean for us? To speak the truth takes a measure of courage. Sometimes we fear the consequences, but we should pray about it. God hears our prayers, and He will strengthen us as He did Jesus. He will put the words in our mouths, and direct our thoughts. But we have to keep up our prayers, as Jesus did, and submit wholeheartedly to God’s will. It is okay to be afraid, and if we stand by the side of truth, we will never be alone, for God will always be with us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, fill us with the spirit of discernment so that we can tell right from wrong, and when there is wrong, fill us with the Holy Spirit to right that wrong. Where we lack courage, strengthen us, yet let your will, not ours be done.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for those before us who have stood up for the basic rights that we take for granted today. May we never forget the sacrifices that they have made.

26 August, Sunday – True Love

26 August 2018

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Joshua 24:1-2,15-18

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

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

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Ephesians 5:21-32

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

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John 6:60-69

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

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

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

1 April, Sunday – Rolled Up Cloth

1 Apr – Easter Sunday

Alleluia!

This mass is our Alleluia; our song of praise to the risen Christ who is our life and whose triumph over death we proclaim to all the world.

– Sunday Missal
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Acts 10:34.37-43

Peter addressed Cornelius and his household: ‘The truth I have now come to realise’ he said ‘is that God does not have favourites, You must have heard about the recent happenings in Judaea; about Jesus of Nazareth and how he began in Galilee, after John had been preaching baptism. God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil. Now I, and those with me, can witness to everything he did throughout the countryside of Judaea and in Jerusalem itself: and also to the fact that they killed him by hanging him on a tree, yet three days afterwards God raised him to life and allowed him to be seen, not by the whole people but only by certain witnesses God had chosen beforehand. Now we are those witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead – and he has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead. It is to him that all the prophets bear this witness: that all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.’
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Colossians 3:1-4

Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.
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John 20:1-9

It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
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…he saw and he believed…

It has been forty days (excluding Sundays) since Ash Wednesday. How were we these past weeks? How did we prepare ourselves during the Lenten Season? Did we have any realizations?

Every Lenten period, we comply with abstaining from meat every Friday. When Holy Week comes, my family has this tradition of visiting seven churches. Until now, I do not know the real reason behind going to seven churches. I have friends who visit nine churches. Their explanation is related to ‘novena’ (latin: novem) — it is praying repeatedly, for nine times. Anyway, we make prayers and wishes in every church. Sometimes, my prayers for all the churches are the same. There were times when my prayers were answered. But there are still plenty in my wish list. Even so, I still continue praying and hoping for a ‘yes’ answer. I just have to patiently wait for it.

When Mary of Magdala went to the tomb, “she saw that the stone had been moved away and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple (the one Jesus loved).” She told them that the “Lord has been taken out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him.” These two disciples then ran together to the tomb and the other one (not Peter), arrived first. He did not enter but peeked inside and saw the cloths lying on the ground. Peter arrived next, went inside the tomb and observed that the cloth for the head was not on the ground but “rolled up in a place by itself.” When John (the other disciple whom Jesus loved) entered the tomb, “he saw and he believed.” They still did not understand that Jesus had to rise from the dead. They still hadn’t realized that God overcomes death. And Jesus Christ is the only manifestation for it. The resurrection of Jesus Christ does not only signify the greatness of God, it also shows the mercy of God. When we sin, it reduces our life with God — similar to death. We stray from God and forget that it is only through Jesus Christ that we can be saved.

Lenten season is not only about abstaining from what to eat. What have we offered to God during the previous weeks? Some may have given up long hours on social media. Some may have extended help to a co-worker or another person. Some may have given up luxury time. Some may even hurt themselves during Lenten period. Small or big, it does not matter. What matters more is our preparation for a great anticipation — the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection reminds us that we can always start anew. Whatever wrongdoings we have done, we must repent and start all over again. We may experience suffering and hardship, but we must always remember that Christ also suffered before resurrection. And Jesus Christ on the cross is a sign that there is always light after darkness. It does not always come easy. Our patience, perseverance, and faith are always tested.

As we begin the Easter Season, what is the current state of our heart? Are we ready to welcome and believe in the resurrected Christ?

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, please forgive all our wrong doings. Please help us keep our faith.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus Christ to set us free. Thank you for the gift of life.

25 December, Mass in the Day – The Revelation Of A Child

25 December

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Isaiah 52:7-10

How beautiful on the mountains,
are the feet of one who brings good news,
who heralds peace, brings happiness,
proclaims salvation,
and tells Zion,
‘Your God is king!’

Listen! Your watchmen raise their voices,
they shout for joy together,
for they see the Lord face to face,
as he returns to Zion.

Break into shouts of joy together,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord is consoling his people,
redeeming Jerusalem.

The Lord bares his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.

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Hebrews 1:1-6

At various times in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our own time, the last days, he has spoken to us through his Son, the Son that he has appointed to inherit everything and through whom he made everything there is. He is the radiant light of God’s glory and the perfect copy of his nature, sustaining the universe by his powerful command; and now that he has destroyed the defilement of sin, he has gone to take his place in heaven at the right hand of divine Majesty. So he is now as far above the angels as the title which he has inherited is higher than their own name.

God has never said to any angel: You are my Son, today I have become your father; or: I will be a father to him and he a son to me. Again, when he brings the First-Born into the world, he says: Let all the angels of God worship him.

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John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word:
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things came to be,
not one thing had its being but through him.
All that came to be had life in him
and that life was the light of men,
a light that shines in the dark,
a light that darkness could not overpower.

A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.

The Word was the true light
that enlightens all men;
and he was coming into the world.
He was in the world
that had its being through him,
and the world did not know him.
He came to his own domain
and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to all who believe in the name of him
who was born not out of human stock
or urge of the flesh
or will of man
but of God himself.

The Word was made flesh,
he lived among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father,
full of grace and truth.

John appears as his witness. He proclaims:
‘This is the one of whom I said:
He who comes after me ranks before me
because he existed before me.’

Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received –
yes, grace in return for grace,
since, though the Law was given through Moses,
grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God;
it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart,
who has made him known.

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But to all who did accept him he gave power to become children of God

This Advent has been a memorable one. My husband and I recently welcomed the birth of our first born child – a precious little boy. Awaiting the birth of our son has naturally placed us in a state of waiting. True enough, our world has completely changed in a mere month!

There are countless things I have learnt about my child, my husband, and myself during this time – and it has been a challenging and humbling journey so far.

Ever since I have become a mother to my son, I have had an ongoing ‘conversation’ with Mother Mary. These happen throughout our endless days and nights, when feeding sessions merge with naps, that merge with feeding sessions yet again, in one infinite two or three hour loop! There have been tough nights when we are kept up trying to soothe a crying colicky baby to no avail, with no way to communicate our desire to help take away his pain. Watching your tiny baby’s suffering cries, as he fights the discomfort and tries to sleep, is one of the most heart-wrenching experiences.

In these and many other trying moments, I wonder how Mother Mary experienced taking care of an inconsolable colicky Jesus. How frustrated and exhausted she must have felt trying to understand and decode what each cry meant, worrying over every little whimper or breath or silence from the baby. She must have felt discouraged when baby Jesus could not be soothed. How did she get through those nights of an endlessly needy and suckling infant? How did St Joseph help Mother Mary with the home and caring of Jesus? Did they let the sleep deprivation take over patience and tenderness with each other? I often pray for sufficient grace just to make it through to the next feed or nap!

At the same time, I marvel at the great sacrifice and heartbreak of our Heavenly Father who sent His only begotten son into our world, to walk in our midst, and to endure the suffering of being human though he is faultless. How often have we taken for granted the necessary stages of life that Jesus had to pass through from infancy to childhood into adulthood.

God has given us the greatest gift of a very vulnerable Jesus who humbly had to rely and trust completely in His mother’s ability to care for him.

As we celebrate Christmas, let us contemplate the humbling of our Lord and Saviour in order that we might more readily receive Him into our hearts and home. Christ came to mankind as a needy and humble infant to rescue us from our self-absorbed gazes of self-reliance and self-preservation.

May we extend our gazes beyond our needs this season, and reach out to friends, family, or strangers who need to know that they are a beloved child of God. May we bring the infant Jesus with us everywhere we go — to empathise with, to touch, and to comfort them. Blessed Christmas!

(Today’s Oxygen by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for ‘redeemed’ eyes to experience the world anew with the innocence of a child’s gaze, the reliance and surrender of a baby to his parents. May this image humble us to love more tenderly.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father for giving us the parents we have, who have tirelessly loved and cared for us, even in their moments of exasperation, self-doubt, ignorance and discouragement.

6 November, Sunday – The Lord gives us strength!

6 November

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2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14

There were seven brothers who were arrested with their mother. The king tried to force them to taste pig’s flesh, which the Law forbids, by torturing them with whips and scourges. One of them, acting as spokesman for the others, said, ‘What are you trying to find out from us? We are prepared to die rather than break the laws of our ancestors.’

With his last breath the second brother exclaimed, ‘Inhuman fiend, you may discharge us from this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up, since it is for his laws that we die, to live again for ever.’

After him, they amused themselves with the third, who on being asked for his tongue promptly thrust it out and boldly held out his hands, with these honourable words, ‘It was heaven that gave me these limbs; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again.’ The king and his attendants were astounded at the young man’s courage and his utter indifference to suffering.

When this one was dead they subjected the fourth to the same savage torture. When he neared his end he cried, ‘Ours is the better choice, to meet death at men’s hands, yet relying on God’s promise that we shall be raised up by him; whereas for you there can be no resurrection, no new life.’

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2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father who has given us his love and, through his grace, such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope, comfort you and strengthen you in everything good that you do or say.

Finally, brothers, pray for us; pray that the Lord’s message may spread quickly, and be received with honour as it was among you; and pray that we may be preserved from the interference of bigoted and evil people, for faith is not given to everyone. But the Lord is faithful, and he will give you strength and guard you from the evil one, and we, in the Lord, have every confidence that you are doing and will go on doing all that we tell you. May the Lord turn your hearts towards the love of God and the fortitude of Christ.

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Luke 20:27-38

Some Sadducees – those who say that there is no resurrection – approached him and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, that if a man’s married brother dies childless, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Well then, there were seven brothers. The first, having married a wife, died childless. The second and then the third married the widow. And the same with all seven, they died leaving no children. Finally the woman herself died Now, at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she had been married to all seven?’

Jesus replied, ‘The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the dead do not marry because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God. And Moses himself implies that the dead rise again, in the passage about the bush where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.’

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“I shall be filled, when I awake, with the sight of your glory, O Lord”

I used to have a recurring nightmare for years.  In this particular dream, I was brought before a judge, who asked me to make a public statement that I did not believe Jesus was my Lord and Savior.  I remember the anxiety and stress of that moment.  Strangely, I also remember the immense intensity of the temptation to do that in order to save my life.  The words the judge spoke also stuck with me, so much so that I can even remember it today: “Just say that you don’t think that Jesus is your Lord…it’s so easy… you can go home after that!”.

Because of this dream, I have always wondered (actually… it is more like fear) what I would do if I were put in the situation one day.  Would I turn on my Lord?  Would I be able to stand up to torture and death like what happened to the brothers in the first reading of today?

I got my answer one day when I attended a talk by the Archbishop of Singapore, the most reverend William Goh.  He exalted us to not even worry about it or even think about such a thing… because if and when the time comes, God would give us the strength and wisdom to act accordingly! What wonderful faith!  I also realized that my fears came about because I had been looking at this from the angle of my personal strength.  I had forgotten about the strength that God alone could give me!

Another realization I had was that the brothers were also able to stand up for their faith because of their support for each other. I have also experienced this in my own life, as brothers and sisters of the community support each other through all the trials and challenges together.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

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Prayer: Lord, help us to always be able to stand up for our faith. Be with us when we face challenges, especially when we are called upon to stand up for You.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for the gift of community; through which You give us strength to walk our lives in faith. Thank you for not giving us more than what we can bear. Praise you Jesus!

1 November, Tuesday – A happy future

1 November – Solemnity of All Saints

All Saints’ Day is celebrated in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. In terms of Roman Catholic theology, the feast commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in heaven. The beatific vision is the eternal and direct perception of God enjoyed by those who are in Heaven, imparting supreme happiness and blessedness. St. Thomas Aquinas defined the beatific vision as the ultimate end of human existence after physical death.

The origin of this feast as celebrated in the West dates to 13 May 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs; the feast of the dedication Sanctae mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. The chosen day, May 13, was a pagan observation of great antiquity, the culmination of three days of the Feast of the Lemures, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated.

The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III (731-741) of an oratory in St. Peter’s for the relics “of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world”, with the day moved to Nov 1.

– Wikipedia

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Apocalypse 7:2-4,9-14

I, John, saw another angel rising where the sun rises, carrying the seal of the living God; he called in a powerful voice to the four angels whose duty was to devastate land and sea, ‘Wait before you do any damage on land or at sea or to the trees, until we have put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.’ Then I heard how many were sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel.

After that I 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. They shouted aloud, ‘Victory to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels who were standing in a circle round the throne, surrounding the elders and the four animals, prostrated themselves before the throne, and touched the ground with their foreheads, worshipping God with these words, ‘Amen. Praise and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength to our God for ever and ever. Amen.’

One of the elders then spoke, and asked me, ‘Do you know who these people are, dressed in white robes, and where they have come from?’ I answered him, ‘You can tell me, my lord.’ Then he said, ‘These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.’

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1 John 3:1-3

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us,
by letting us be called God’s children;
and that is what we are.

Because the world refused to acknowledge him,
therefore it does not acknowledge us.

My dear people, we are already the children of God
but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed;

all we know is, that when it is revealed
we shall be like him
because we shall see him as he really is.

Surely everyone who entertains this hope
must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.

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Matthew 5:1-12

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:

‘How happy are the poor in spirit;
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:
they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn:
they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right:
they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful:
they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart:
they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers:
they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’

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Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.

There are days when I wonder if all the stress I go through now in this world is all worth it. There are many deadlines to meet for various projects and having to manage the expectations of many people around us. The readings of today remind us that our time on this world is meant to be temporary. It does not mean that it is supposed to be meaningless because God has placed us on this world to spread the love He has shown us to all around us. In doing so, we will receive the eternal reward which will belong to us in the future.

The Beatitudes are a beautiful way of instructing us on what actions will receive a blessing from God. It is for us to emulate such behaviour as many before us have already done so. For example, the martyrs who would rather suffer torture and persecution, instead of renouncing the faith, are a good reference point for us. They lived out the Beatitudes with their lives and were willing to use their lives to bring people closer to God. The Gospel reading of today is a blueprint for us to live our lives. Indeed, if all of us could even strive towards this standard, we will definitely be on route to heaven.

St John reminds us that we are God’s children and as God’s children we will definitely become like him in the future. As such, we should look forward to the reward which God is granting us and to always anticipate the future. This world may be tough for some of us but we should not let it hinder us in our final aim, which is to be in union with God. Persecution is indeed something which all of us go through – be it physical, mental, emotional and intellectual, regardless of where we live. What distinguishes us from others is the hope we have in God and the certainty of our eternal reward.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace to live out the Beatitudes.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who bring peace to the world.

27 October, Thursday – Bye Felicia!

27 October

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Ephesians 6:10-20

Grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of his power. Put God’s armour on so as to be able to resist the devil’s tactics. For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the Sovereignties and the Powers who originate the darkness in this world, the spiritual army of evil in the heavens. That is why you must rely on God’s armour, or you will not be able to put up any resistance when the worst happens, or have enough resources to hold your ground.

So stand your ground, with truth buckled round your waist, and integrity for a breastplate, wearing for shoes on your feet the eagerness to spread the gospel of peace and always carrying the shield of faith so that you can use it to put out the burning arrows of the evil one. And then you must accept salvation from God to be your helmet and receive the word of God from the Spirit to use as a sword.
Pray all the time, asking for what you need, praying in the Spirit on every possible occasion. Never get tired of staying awake to pray for all the saints; and pray for me to be given an opportunity to open my mouth and speak without fear and give out the mystery of the gospel of which I am an ambassador in chains; pray that in proclaiming it I may speak as boldly as I ought to.

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Luke 13:31-35

Some Pharisees came up. ‘Go away’ they said. ‘Leave this place, because Herod means to kill you.’ He replied, ‘You may go and give that fox this message: Learn that today and tomorrow I cast out devils and on the third day attain my end. But for today and tomorrow and the next day I must go on, since it would not be right for a prophet to die outside Jerusalem.

‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you refused! So be it! Your house will be left to you. Yes, I promise you, you shall not see me till the time comes when you say:

‘Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!’

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Grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of his power.

I have found myself becoming very short of patience lately. I guess we all go through cycles like that, when we feel run over by people whose sole putpose in life seems to be to take as much as they can get, without ever giving back. Takers are tiring to be around. Their ‘Dementor-like’ demeanors suck the joy out of any occasion. They’re never happy and they refuse to allow anyone else to be happy when they’re around. Exhausting! Jerusalem in today’s gospel reminds me so much of people like that. The Bible is old as eternity, yet its echoes are as fresh as if they were yesterday. Why? Because people are inherently the same! The one certainty in life is that there will always be ingratitude in our lives. Jesus had to deal with it over and over, and in some sense, gave us the playbook for how to handle ingrates without losing our mind. He died for the ingrates in his life, asking for forgiveness on their behalf with his last breath. Most of us would have just cursed them on the cross. Not him. Yesterday, we touched on the ‘narrow gate’, how to love someone who doesn’t allow you to love them back. You know you’re at the ‘narrow gate’ when you can find in your heart the ability to love the takers and the users in your life.

I’ve been feeling run down lately, and I think part of the reason is that I’ve let the ingrates in my life suck the joy out of me. “Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power” it seems. I wish sometimes, that my Lord would rescue me, ‘Superman like’, from all the users, the takers, the no-good-backstabbers, the complainers, the Polly-Put-Downs who won’t be happy and refuse to let me be happy as a result. Yes, I am sensitive to barbed words and passive aggressive plays. Who wouldn’t be? I am not so strong that I can just let their arrows bounce off me. Yet I know that in tears and suffering, the cadences of the Holy Spirit are all the clearer. “Draw your strength from the Lord and his mighty power”. We hear his voice, not with our ears, but with our hearts, and when we are heartbroken, we are most attuned to his voice. I’ve found my Lord in my exhaustion and despair. He has opened his playbook for me to see, and made it clear that as tired as I am, what I feel now is not even a half measure of the suffering he endured on the cross for me. So I have to gird myself up and hold on to my joy, because my joy should come not from the affirmation of people in my life. My joy should come from him. To the rest of the ingrates – bye Felicia!

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for the fortitude to draw on the Lord’s mighty power in times of stress.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for His great love for us, that while we were unworthy, he died for us on the cross.