Tag Archives: sharing of talents

27 December, Thursday – Spreading the Joy

27 December – Feast of St. John, Apostle, Evangelist

St. John, also known as the “beloved disciple” of Jesus’ was the son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of St. James the Great, and was called one of the Sons of Thunder. Before becoming Jesus’ disciple, he was already a disciple of St. John the Baptist, and a friend of St. Peter the Apostle. He was called by Jesus during the first year of Christ’s ministry, and travelled everywhere with him. He took part in the Last Supper, and was the only one of the Twelve not to forsake the Saviour in the hour of his Passion, standing at the foot of the cross.

He was made guardian of Our Lady by Jesus, and he took her into his home. Upon hearing of the Resurrection, he was the first to reach the tomb; when he met the risen Lord at the Lake of Tiberius, he was the first to recognise him.

During the era of the new Church, he worked in Jerusalem and at Ephesus. During Jesus’ ministry, he tried to block a Samaritan from their group, but Jesus explained the open nature of the new Way, and he worked on that principle to found churches in Asia Minor and baptising converts in Samaria. He was imprisoned with Peter for preaching after Pentecost. He wrote the fourth Gospel, three Epistles, and possibly the Book of Revelation.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 John 1:1-4

Something which has existed since the beginning,
that we have heard,
and we have seen with our own eyes;
that we have watched
and touched with our hands:
the Word, who is life –
this is our subject.
That life was made visible:
we saw it and we are giving our testimony,
telling you of the eternal life
which was with the Father and has been made visible to us.
What we have seen and heard
we are telling you
so that you too may be in union with us,
as we are in union
with the Father
and with his Son Jesus Christ.
We are writing this to you to make our own joy complete.

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John 20:2-8

On the first day of the week Mary of Magdala 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.

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We are writing this to you to make our own joy complete.

I have been part of this writing ministry for a good 10 years, starting first as a contributor in 2007 when I was based in Dubai. Back then, I needed to focus myself on getting through a week without a ‘meltdown’ at work and Oxygen helped me to centre my attention back on my faith.

Then, as I took on other duties, including editing and uploading, I got a better sense of how we were impacting the loves of others, especially when I read the comments that we were receiving on our WordPress platform. This humble little ministry that will soon reach 20 years, actually spreads His word around the world, as far as Canada and Africa. The core team met recently and we will be making efforts to help make Oxygen even more ‘palatable’ and shareable come 2019 because we felt that we needed to spread the joy that others were getting from some of the reflections. Thanks, in huge part, to the team of dedicated contributors who have diligently reflected on their own lives throughout the year and never fail to touch me with their honest and open sharings.

I cannot deny that I have often questioned my purpose in being in this unusual ministry where the members ‘meet’ online (though I do know some of the contributors personally). I figure that amidst the challenges we each face in our daily lives, we find joy in being able to use our God-given talents as writers and craftspeople to share about what the Lord has done for us. At times, we have struggled to find our voice. But I have found that trusting in the Lord’s providence and wisdom often leads to a small awakening in my heart, whether it is a topic I am passionate about, or if I feel down and need to express my feelings.

On behalf of the entire team, I would like to thank all of you who receive and read Oxygen faithfully. And a special thanks to the motley crew of contributors who have helped shape this ministry since 2000, when the original founder started his musings while in university. There is no doubt in my mind that the Holy Spirit has been guiding and shaping us in sharing our joys, our disappointments, our fears, our sorrows and, most of all, our hope – that in touching your lives, we not only fulfil a promise within our heart to make the most of our talents, but that we bring some hope to those who are searching.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for all those who have contributed to this ministry and ask for your continued blessings upon us as we share our hope and faith with others around us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for sustaining us throughout our struggles and for always helping us to remain steadfast and courageous as we spread your Word.

23 December, Sunday – Thy will be done.

23 December 2018

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Micah 5:1-4  

The Lord says this:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
the least of the clans of Judah,
out of you will be born for me
the one who is to rule over Israel;
his origin goes back to the distant past,
to the days of old.
The Lord is therefore going to abandon them
till the time when she who is to give birth gives birth.
Then the remnant of his brothers will come back
to the sons of Israel.
He will stand and feed his flock
with the power of the Lord,
with the majesty of the name of his God.
They will live secure, for from then on he will extend his power
to the ends of the land.
He himself will be peace.

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Hebrews 10:5-10

This is what Christ said, on coming into the world:

You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation,
prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin;
then I said,
just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book,
‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’

Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.

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Luke 1:39-44

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’

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“Here I am! I am coming to obey your will.”

 We pray the Lord’s Prayer each time we go for mass and even daily. But some of us have been so conditioned to recite this prayer without giving it a second thought. ‘Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’. But are we truly willing to give all we have and own to the Lord? Do we allow our Father to direct our lives? Or do we only ‘allow’ Him to lead when it is comfortable for us or fits into our plan? ‘Thy will be done’. Personally, I am always filled with trepidation whenever I pray that line. Because I know that My Father’s plan for me isn’t always my plan. His plan takes me into uncomfortable and unknown territory and that’s scary.

Recently, I prayed for the Lord to give me the courage to really submit to His will. I am not sure if that was a good idea, but shortly after, an avalanche of ‘invitations’ were extended to me.

As a result, I feel overwhelmed and yes, I feel extremely uncomfortable.

Days leading up to a retreat I was serving and also during the retreat proper, I have been asked to help out in our community’s forward strategic planning and communications. ‘Step up’, they say. In my own mind, I think to myself that I was asked because few people would want to do this on a volunteer basis. I do this professionally and this would be a good way of giving back; but I am hesitant and have not said ‘Yes!’

A more recent incident occurred when I was asked to do something, and this time, really against my will. I was asked to cantor the Responsorial Psalm in front of a large, unfamiliar crowd of people who are very used to extremely good cantors. Every fibre of my being was screaming ‘NO!’  I have been a part of this choir now for almost 8 years; very comfortable as part of the general choir and doing other work necessary to support the team in retreats. I do not have a great nor strong voice and so this request freaked me out. I had planned an ‘exit strategy’. A very viable and workable one. However, a very competitive part of me also challenged myself to just do it – to prove to others and myself that I would not chicken out. So when the time came, God allowed me exactly 45 seconds of calmness. I got through the Psalms. But as I sat down waiting my turn to do the gospel acclamation, my mind went blank and I simply forgot the tune. Too late and I whispered a quick prayer for the Holy Spirit to take over. Long story short – I survived the entire experience and I know the Holy Spirit took over. Will I do this again? Probably yes, not by my will, but by my Father’s.

I share this experience with you, my brothers and sisters, not to direct any attention to myself. The examples are share with you today are miniscule compared to other’s who have their lives turned upside down when they submit to Our Father.

Look at Mary in today’s gospel. Her trust and obedience to God led her to say ‘Yes’ although by any human standards, it seemed a really bad idea. Her ‘fiat’ led to many other ‘yes-s’. Her ‘yes’ led to a lot of pain, suffering and humiliation. Her ‘yes’ also gave her joy and happiness. Her ‘yes’ gave us her son, our Father’s Son – Our Lord and Saviour, whose birth we commemorate and will celebrate very soon.

Are we willing and truly open to really say ‘Thy will be done?’ knowing that Our Father’s will leads to a greater good than just our own?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Father, the next time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, let us pray this with our heart.  To truly and courageously say ‘Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven’. Give us the obedience to act and live according to Your Will and may our lives be living testimonies of putting you in the centre of everything. May we bring love, peace and hope to others this Christmas time.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your love and patience in teaching and moulding us. We thank you for showing us that when we obediently allow ourselves to be led by You, you show us all the wonderful possibilities and, more importantly, how our gifts and talents can be used to evangelise and bring others closer to you.

24 November, Saturday – Sacred Silence

24 November – Memorial for St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest, Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs of Vietnam

Between the arrival of the first Portuguese missionary in 1533, through the Dominicans and then the Jesuit missions of the 17th century, the politically-inspired persecutions of the 19th century, and the Communist-led terrors of the 20th, there have been many thousands of Catholics and other Christians murdered for their faith in Vietnam. Some were priests, nuns, or religious brothers. Some were lay people, some were foreign missionaries, but most were native Vietnamese killed by their own government and people.

Record keeping being what it was, and because the government did not care to keep track of the people it murdered, we have no information on the vast bulk of the victims. In 1988, Pope John Paul II recognized over a hundred of them, including some whose Causes we do have, and in commemoration of those we do not. They are collectively known as the Martyrs of Vietnam.

Andrew Dung Lac (1785-1839) was a Vietnamese priest who worked in the missions with the priests of the Foreign Mission Society of Paris (MEP). He was imprisoned and repeatedly tortured in the persecutions of Minh-Meng. He died with St. Peter Thi, beheaded in Hanoi for the offense of being a priest. He was canonized on 19 June 1988 by Pope John Paul II. He is one of the Martyrs of Vietnam.

– Patron Saint Index

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Apocalypse 11:4-12

I, John, heard a voice saying: ‘These, my two witnesses, are the two olive trees and the two lamps that stand before the Lord of the world. Fire can come from their mouths and consume their enemies if anyone tries to harm them; and if anybody does try to harm them he will certainly be killed in this way. They are able to lock up the sky so that it does not rain as long as they are prophesying; they are able to turn water into blood and strike the whole world with any plague as often as they like. When they have completed their witnessing, the beast that comes out of the Abyss is going to make war on them and overcome them and kill them. Their corpses will lie in the main street of the Great City known by the symbolic names Sodom and Egypt, in which their Lord was crucified. Men out of every people, race, language and nation will stare at their corpses, for three-and-a-half days, not letting them be buried, and the people of the world will be glad about it and celebrate the event by giving presents to each other, because these two prophets have been a plague to the people of the world.’

After the three-and-a-half days, God breathed life into them and they stood up, and everybody who saw it happen was terrified; then they heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, ‘Come up here’, and while their enemies were watching, they went up to heaven in a cloud.

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Luke 20:27-40

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.’

Some scribes then spoke up. ‘Well put, Master’ they said – because they would not dare to ask him any more questions.

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“…and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God.”

I am learning to play a new song on the violin for an upcoming Prayer Experience Retreat and cannot help but recall how nervous I was when I first picked up the violin again more than 3 years ago. Since then, I have jumped at the various opportunities to play in my ministry whenever called upon and each time I lay the bow on the steel strings, memories of my father come welling through.

He would have been 77 today and as I write this, his smile continues to remind me of how much he loved our family. And particularly, his children. He never stinged on us and always strove to give his very best, only wanting the very best for us. Now, whenever I play any song, I cannot help but give thanks to him for his generosity in recognizing my talent and giving me the gift of music. At times, especially with more contemplative tunes, I close my eyes and see him sitting back with his eyes closed, enjoying the music. That spurs me on even more to play better and give more of myself.

I had always thought that my talent was forced upon me. But since I discovered the love of playing this amazing instrument and singing (I will be taking my classical vocal exams next week), I have begun to appreciate those with similar gifts and remain in awe of the young toddlers who have a natural inclination towards expressing their God-given talents.

The words that follow the haunting violin intro to ‘Sacred Silence’ are – ‘Sacred silence, Holy ocean, Gentle waters, washing over me. Help me listen, Holy Spirit, Come and speak to me.’ Isn’t it wonderful how our God is so approachable and so filled with love for us that we can call upon Him in our wretched, sinful state and plead for His grace and mercies to cleanse us?

Three years ago, while on his deathbed, God’s grace was indeed overflowing as two shepherds visited to bless him and confirm him as a son of God. While some may say he got an ‘express ticket’ without having to go through all the trials and tribulations that we all go through as Catholics, I would like to think that in his own way, dad bore his crosses and gave of himself as any other good Catholic father would have. So today, as I play my violin, I am proud to acknowledge him as a true son of God in every sense.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you continue to carry us on your shoulders, especially when we struggle to find meaning and are deaf to your words of love. We pray that you always keep faith in us and give us the desire to hear your whisper each day.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for your steadfast love and for your faith in each and every one of us.

25 September, Monday – Entitlement

25 September 2017

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Ezra 1:1-6

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, to fulfil the word of the Lord that was spoken through Jeremiah, the Lord roused the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue a proclamation and to have it publicly displayed throughout his kingdom: ‘Thus speaks Cyrus king of Persia, “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth; he has ordered me to build him a Temple in Jerusalem, in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah to build the Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel – he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, wherever he lives, be helped by the people of that place with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, as well as voluntary offerings for the Temple of God which is in Jerusalem.”’

Then the heads of families of Judah and of Benjamin, the priests and the Levites, in fact all whose spirit had been roused by God, prepared to go and rebuild the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem; and all their neighbours gave them every assistance with silver, gold, goods, cattle, quantities of costly gifts and with voluntary offerings of every kind.

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Luke 8:16-18

Jesus said to the crowds:

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

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… for anyone who has will be given more; from anyone who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.

God’s many gifts are given to each of us and meant for us to share with the world. This is the crux of the readings today. How often do we think about our gifts and talents as something that should be put to use for the good of others first, before we ourselves reap the benefits? I guess I’m guilty of often thinking: me first, then when I have time and the chance, I will share or contribute.

I know it isn’t easy to constantly think beyond myself or even to encompass the concerns of a larger community above my own needs. Jesus tells the crowds that when one possesses a coveted lit lamp in the midst of a deep darkness, the most important thing is to put it on a lamp-stand for all to see the light when they come in.

Have you have known someone who would probably snuff out the lamp once they are done with their use of it? I can think of some people I have met in life who might actually do so! Or even keep the lamp solely for their personal use.

Therein lies the question of ‘how entitled do I think I am to the gifts and talents I have?’ The reality today is that we are often told ‘to each his own’, ‘you’ve earned it!’, ‘some are just more equal than others’, and  ‘you can have control over your destiny/path/identity/dreams.’ In each of these overwhelmingly common refrains lurks a sense of selfishness and entitlement of the individual. Self-help books today abound with similar themes of ‘me, myself, and I’.

Likewise, the first reading today shows us the strength and resilience of community, of sharing in resources, skills, and talents amongst the different families of Judah and Benjamin, the priests and Levites. Everyone of them were roused by the Holy Spirit to come together, bringing the light of their strongest skill sets and valuables, to help rebuild the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem – ‘all their neighbours gave them every assistance with silver, gold, goods, cattle, quantities of costly gifts and with voluntary offerings of every kind.’

This light of God could be manifest in our worship, our churches, our work, our families, our time and resources, etc. The important thing for us to remember is that we are only stewards of these manifold gifts from God, and how we use them for the good of others, is what pleases God more than how well we enrich and entrench ourselves in the system of power, benefits, rewards.

God alone knows, and sees into the hearts of all He created. May He find in us clean and pure hearts desiring to serve and share His gifts of which we are guardians and stewards.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, help me to see beyond my immediate comfort and benefit to consider serving your people humbly and generously.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people who have made it their life’s call to serve others and bring God’s light to the world.