Tag Archives: Stephanie Seet

26 December, Thursday – Training Ground

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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Do not worry… the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you

Many may see Boxing Day as a day of continued Christmas festivities — to indulge in post-Christmas sales, merrymaking and feasting and, depending on one’s age and alcohol tolerance, to recover from hangovers. Work in the office grinds to a standstill as many take this lull period to catch a breather before the New Year begins.

As Christians, we commemorate the Feast Day of St Stephen, the first Martyr of the Church. Today’s readings seem to be a sombre contrast to those in the week leading up to Christmas. The earlier readings invoke an eager anticipation of the coming of the Chosen One. Today, however, we are reminded that Christianity is, above all, a calling to stand up for our faith, even if it means suffering for what we believe in. As followers of Christ, we are called not just to celebrate the birth and life of Jesus but, like St Stephen, to imitate His life, even in death.

I left my job with a Catholic charity earlier this year after much discernment. After a period of ‘waiting on the Lord’ and expecting a radical life change, I found myself led into a middle-management position in a large secular organisation. An anti-climax to say the least – I had hoped to go into theological studies or missionary work and, despite knocking on many doors, nothing came to fruition. To me, leaving the corporate sector for a charity was a significant step in dying to my pride and self-centredness; returning to the corporate sector felt like a regression in my faith journey.

It occurred to me one morning that perhaps the marketplace is where God intends me to be. This meant putting to rest my self-indulgent and grandiose aspirations of running off to change the world ‘out there’ (and hopefully dying a martyr’s death). Instead, I am called to use my abilities to make a difference in the workplace I occupy, in the here and now. As I ease into my new role, I am cognisant that certain projects and personalities need to be navigated with care. Perhaps this is my training ground to live out my identity as a Christian in the marketplace, trusting that God will be speaking in me and acting through me to fulfil His greater plan.

As we celebrate the Feast of St Stephen today, let us stay rooted in our faith and fix our eyes on God, especially when we experience turbulence or opposition.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for fortitude and faith to respond to Your call, wherever it may lead us.  

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for Jesus and the saints who, through their lives and deaths, show us how to be true apostles. Grant that we may stay true to our faith and follow in their footsteps. 

28 October, Monday – Of Hope and Promise

Oct 28 – Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles

Simon was an apostle called the Cananean, or Zealot, because of his zeal for the Jewish law. He was not from Cana, nor a member of the Zealot party. Like all the Apostles, he was a convert, and was trained by St. Peter the Apostle. He evangelised in Egypt and Mesopotamia, though there are traditions of him being in several other locations. Several places claim to have been the site of his martyrdom – Abyssinians claim he was crucified in Samaria; Lipsius says he was sawn in half at Suanir, Persia; Moses of Chorene writes that he was martyred at Weriosphora in Iberia.

– Patron Saint Index

Jude Thaddeus was the son of Cleopas who died a martyr, and Mary who stood at the foot of the Cross and who anointed Christ’s body after death. He was the brother of St. James the Lesser, and nephew of Mary and Joseph. He was the blood relative of Jesus Christ, and reported to look a lot like him. He may have been a fisherman, and was an apostle.

He was the writer of a canonical letter. He preached in Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia with St. Simon. He was a healer and an exorcist, and could exorcise pagan idols, which caused the demons to flee and the statues to crumble. He was beaten to death with a club, then beheaded post-mortem in 1st century Persia.

His patronage of lost or impossible causes traditionally derives from confusion by many early Christians between Jude and Judas; not understanding the difference between the names, they never prayed for Jude’s help, and devotion to him became something of a lost cause.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 2:19-22

You are no longer aliens or foreign visitors: you are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household. You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.

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Luke 6:12-16

Jesus went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God. When day came he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them; he called them ‘apostles’: Simon whom he called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.

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You are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household

Today’s readings remind us that as Christians, we are part of God’s family. Fundamental to Christianity is living out our identity as children of God, and spreading the Good News to others who may not yet know Him.

Despite being a Catholic all my life, I usually shy away from talking about my faith. Whether a function of my introvertedness, out of fear of being labelled ‘holy-moly’, or a lack of familiarity with the Gospel, I have been leading my life as an undercover Christian, reasoning that actions speak louder than words.  What use is active service in multiple ministries if it leads to angst and resentment? If I could point people to Christ by doing good and living a moral life, wouldn’t this, in itself, be pleasing to God?

Not much is written about St Simon and St Jude, the saints whose feast we are celebrating today. What we know is that they were called to be apostles of Jesus, preached the faith in Mesopotamia and Persia, and were eventually martyred. As ordinary men, I imagine they would have been daunted by the enormity of their mission. Yet, because they trusted Jesus, they were open to the graces of the Holy Spirit to guide them in their mission of preaching the Good News.

Even in our imperfect selves, we are called to evangelise and bear witness to the faith in today’s increasingly secular world. As for me, I am taking baby steps to grow my prayer life and improve my knowledge of the bible (slowly). I need to remind myself to behave in a fashion that is consistent with the teachings of Christ. Brothers and sisters, we will stumble and face opposition but as long as we trust and stay the course, He will use our lives for His mission.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that, through the intercession of Sts Simon and Jude, we may be faithful witnesses to Your word, trusting that You will send the graces we need to fulfil our mission.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you for the saints and prophets who form the foundations of the Church.  Keep us close to You and so that we may, one day, join the saints in your heavenly household. 

14 September, Saturday – Of Hope and Promise

Sep 14 – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

The feast was celebrated in Rome before the end of the 7th century. Its purpose is to commemorate the recovering of that portion of the Holy Cross which was preserved at Jerusalem, and which had fallen into the hands of the Persians. Emperor Heraclius recovered this precious relic and brought it back to Jerusalem on 3 May 629.

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Numbers 21:4-9

On the way through the wilderness the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’

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

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John 3:13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus:
‘No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who came down from heaven,
the Son of Man who is in heaven;
and the Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Yes, 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.’

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God sent His Son into the world… so that through Him the world might be saved

Have you heard people complaining about the unfavourable lot that life has dealt them or the difficult circumstances they are going through? I cannot help feeling bemused when they end their lamentations with the statement “but this is a cross I have to carry”.

We encounter many struggles at different stages in our lives, especially as we try to live out our faith. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to carry our crosses and proclaim the Good News to the world. Yet many of us forget the significance of the Cross. Some even begrudge the challenges it brings, so much so that it gets relegated as a sweeping statement to connote a sense of helplessness.

Much like the Israelites from the first reading, we complain when things do not go our way, sometimes to the extent of doubting God’s plans for us. However, God shows His mercy and compassion even after we let Him down time and time again. This is best illustrated when He sent His Son to die an excruciating death on the cross for our redemption.

The Cross represents the sacrifices Jesus made for us to save us from our sins. For us, Jesus on the cross expresses God’s unconditional and faithful love, and how He gave His life so that we might live life to the fullest. There is no sin too great for God to forgive, as long as we believe that we have been forgiven. Once an instrument of torture, the Cross now stands as a symbol of hope and promise.

In embracing the Cross, each of us is challenged to follow Jesus as He leads us to the way of the Cross. We are called to model his obedience and to die to our pride, self-sufficiency, arrogance and prejudices.  On today’s feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, let us reflect on what the Cross signifies in our lives and how best to live out our identities as Christians.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that we may obediently abide in you amidst the trials and tribulations in our lives.  We pray for strength to journey on the path of the Cross, trusting that You are ever present with us.  

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the triumph of the Cross over sin and the promise of eternal life with You. 

20 June, Thursday – Shared Humanity

20 June 2019

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2 Corinthians 11:1-11

I only wish you were able to tolerate a little foolishness from me. But of course: you are tolerant towards me. You see, the jealousy that I feel for you is God’s own jealousy: I arranged for you to marry Christ so that I might give you away as a chaste virgin to this one husband. But the serpent, with his cunning, seduced Eve, and I am afraid that in the same way your ideas may get corrupted and turned away from simple devotion to Christ. Because any new-comer has only to proclaim a new Jesus, different from the one that we preached, or you have only to receive a new spirit, different from the one you have already received, or a new gospel, different from the one you have already accepted – and you welcome it with open arms. As far as I can tell, these arch-apostles have nothing more than I have. I may not be a polished speechmaker, but as for knowledge, that is a different matter; surely we have made this plain, speaking on every subject in front of all of you.

Or was I wrong, lowering myself so as to lift you high, by preaching the gospel of God to you and taking no fee for it? I was robbing other churches, living on them so that I could serve you. When I was with you and ran out of money, I was no burden to anyone; the brothers who came from Macedonia provided me with everything I wanted. I was very careful, and I always shall be, not to be a burden to you in any way, and by Christ’s truth in me, this cause of boasting will never be taken from me in the regions of Achaia. Would I do that if I did not love you? God knows I do.

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Matthew 6:7-15

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So you should pray like this:

‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be held holy, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us. And do not put us to the test, but save us from the evil one. ‘Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.’

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Give us today our daily bread

In today’s reading, Jesus teaches his apostles how to pray. Most of us are familiar with the Lord’s prayer, having recited it more times than we can remember. However, have we really taken the time to reflect on the words in the prayer or their nuances? Specifically, Jesus refers to God as “Our Father” rather than “My Father” as a reminder that God is the Father of all humanity.

‘Encounter’, the theme of CHARIS’ Humanitarian Forum and Fair, is based on Pope Francis’ message that every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ. I was deeply moved by the speakers’ honest sharing of their personal journeys.

The founder of Tana River Life Foundation gave up a promising career as a tax accountant more than twenty years ago, to do good in Kenya. However, reality was vastly different from what he had imagined.  He recounted how he initially struggled to find his place in the Kenyan community. He shared, to laughter from the audience, that rather than adding value, he was in fact a burden to his host family. They had to boil water for his personal use as his urban-dwelling immune system was, at that point, unable to stomach unboiled water! In less than a year, his world of good intentions, philanthropy and personal sacrifice revealed itself as nothing. Yet, it was in the midst of this spiritual desolation that God came through. It was in casting aside all expectations and allowing himself to be humbled and broken, that God used him for a greater divine purpose.

Other speakers who work with refugees and migrants remind us how easily we could become displaced from our home countries. If we put ourselves in the shoes of refugees, who are left with no other choice than to flee from persecution and violence, would we perceive and treat them differently? As children of God, we belong to one human family where each person is our fellow brother and sister. Thus, to pray the ‘Our Father’ means opening our hearts to love our brothers and sisters, especially those who are in need of their daily bread. This need is not limited to physical hunger or a lack of basic living necessities.   There are many people in our midst who lead lonely lives and are hungry for their daily bread of love and friendship. Do we pass them by without a second look or encounter them in shared humanity and compassion?

As we pray the beautiful prayer to Our Father, let us remind ourselves not to babble mindlessly like the pagans did. As one Holy Catholic Church, let us pray from our hearts and live out the prayer in our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.    

Thanksgiving: Father God, we thank You for the gift of Your Son Jesus Christ. By receiving Your precious Body and Blood, may we remember that we are one human family and encounter one another in love and compassion.  

30 May, Thursday – Waiting

30 May 2019

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Acts 1:1-11

In my earlier work, Theophilus, I dealt with everything Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until the day he gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. He had shown himself alive to them after his Passion by many demonstrations: for forty days he had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God. When he had been at table with them, he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised. ‘It is’ he had said ‘what you have heard me speak about: John baptised with water but you, not many days from now, will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’

Now having met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth.’

As he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were still staring into the sky when suddenly two men in white were standing near them and they said, ‘Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there.’

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Hebrews 9:24-28,10:19-23

It is not as though Christ had entered a man-made sanctuary which was only modelled on the real one; but it was heaven itself, so that he could appear in the actual presence of God on our behalf. And he does not have to offer himself again and again, like the high priest going into the sanctuary year after year with the blood that is not his own, or else he would have had to suffer over and over again since the world began. Instead of that, he has made his appearance once and for all, now at the end of the last age, to do away with sin by sacrificing himself. Since men only die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, too, offers himself only once to take the faults of many on himself, and when he appears a second time, it will not be to deal with sin but to reward with salvation those who are waiting for him.

In other words, brothers, through the blood of Jesus we have the right to enter the sanctuary, by a new way which he has opened for us, a living opening through the curtain, that is to say, his body. And we have the supreme high priest over all the house of God. So as we go in, let us be sincere in heart and filled with faith, our minds sprinkled and free from any trace of bad conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us keep firm in the hope we profess, because the one who made the promise is faithful.

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Luke 24:46-53

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘You see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.

‘And now I am sending down to you what the Father has promised. Stay in the city then, until you are clothed with the power from on high.’

Then he took them out as far as the outskirts of Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. Now as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven. They worshipped him and then went back to Jerusalem full of joy; and they were continually in the Temple praising God.
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It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority

We have all been there – waiting to hear back after a job interview, an examination or even a date. Some people are better at weathering the uncertainty, going about their daily lives while occasionally dwelling on what might happen. Some people are crippled by the suspense, ruminating over every possible outcome and expecting the worst. Yet some others try to take control of the situation and their emotions to make the wait more bearable, perhaps by sending polite follow-up emails or text messages or distracting themselves with unrelated tasks or thoughts. Regardless of the coping response, one thing is clear – there is nothing we can do to affect the outcome.

We can imagine the emotional rollercoaster the apostles went through after Jesus’ crucifixion – first, sorrow and despair when their Messiah had fallen, followed by initial disbelief and elation over Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus had appeared to them several times after that, telling them about the kingdom of God. The apostles must have felt like they were on the cusp of something phenomenal and eagerly sought answers as to what lay ahead. Instead, Jesus commanded them to stay in Jerusalem and wait. In light of the recent events, Jesus’ instruction must have been anti-climactic and unsatisfying. True enough, the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles ten days later. Receiving gifts and powers beyond their human abilities, the apostles went on to baptise and make disciples of all nations.

If we associate God’s presence with dramatic acts of conversion or transformation, we may feel discouraged when our prayers go seemingly unanswered. This lull may be in fact be an invitation to stillness, to prepare ourselves to receive the Holy Spirit. Let us take heart that just as Jesus walked with his disciples, he continues to journey with, and mould us in our journey of life. In closing, may we remember that “God has perfect timing; never early, never late. It takes a little patience and a whole lot of faith…But it’s worth the wait.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for patience and perseverance to live out our calling as children of God. As we entrust ourselves to You, may we surrender our need for control, trusting that You will provide the graces we need for the journey ahead.   

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, that we may bear witness to Your word.

12 March, Tuesday – Beautiful Beginnings

12 March 2019

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Isaiah 55:10-11

Thus says the Lord: ‘As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.’

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Matthew 6:7-15

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So you should pray like this:

‘Our Father in heaven,
may your name be held holy,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us.
And do not put us to the test,
but save us from the evil one.

‘Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.’

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Your Father knows what you need before you ask him

Earlier this year, I made the difficult decision to leave a job I enjoy and a team I love. It was a decision I came to after considerable discernment – I knew that I was called to leave my workplace, but it was not clear to me where I was called to next. Submitting my resignation brought immediate relief to the inner dissonance I had experienced for a while; yet I was overcome with a tidal wave of emotions. I had taken pride in building up a good-quality service for our clients and a cohesive team of mission-driven and capable professionals, people whom I had come to see as family. Did I make the right decision to leave all this behind after two years?

I did my best to ‘finish well’ to distract myself from my impending departure. Even though I took pains to prepare a comprehensive handover, I fretted about not finishing all my work before my last day. The thought of extending my notice period crossed my mind even though it would only prolong the inevitable.

In a bid to hasten my discernment process, I also spoke to several people about my journey, and these conversations opened up many new possibilities. Some of these presented as exciting opportunities, and I was eager to get started on this new chapter of my life. The only problem was that whenever I prayed, I was met with deafening silence from God – He who supposedly called me out to the wilderness. Upon reflecting on the readings, God’s non-response was, in reality, an invitation to embark on an inner journey to encounter Him more intimately, particularly in this season of Lent.

I had been too preoccupied with ‘doing’ when I needed the sustenance of the Holy Spirit to lay bare my inadequacies. While I would like the incoming manager to do well in taking over the team, I had not made space for myself to grieve the loss of my team. By God’s grace, I managed to finish whatever I could, trusting that others would handle any outstanding matters. It also struck me that my relationship with my team members had evolved from a working relationship to one of friendship. I am thankful for what I have gained in terms of perspective — instead of rushing headlong into the next thing on my agenda, God is holding space for me to lie fallow and wait. In this journey of faith, I trust that He will provide a beautiful beginning.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, You meet us where we are at and know exactly what we need. Teach us to come to you with a patient and trusting heart, knowing that You will give us what is best for us in Your own time and way.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for knowing us more than we know ourselves. Guide us in this Lenten journey, and send us your Graces such that we may continue to walk in faith, especially through uncertainty and uncharted waters.

22 February, Friday – Unqualified yet Called

22 February 2019

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the Apostle

The feast of the Chair of St. Peter at Rome, Italy has been celebrated from the early days of the Christian era on Jan 18, in commemoration of the day when St. Peter held his first service in Rome. The feast of the Chair of St. Peter at Antioch commemorating his foundation of the See of Antioch, has also been long celebrated at Rome, on Feb 22. At each place, a chair (cathedra) which the Apostle had used while presiding at Mass was venerated.

  • Patron Saint Index

This feast has been kept in Rome since the fourth century, as a symbol of the unity of the Church.

  • The Weekday Missal

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1 Peter 5: 1-4

Now I have something to tell you elders: I am an elder myself, and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, and with you I have a share in the glory that is to be revealed. Be the shepherds of the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, because God wants it; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it. Never be a dictator over any group that is put in your charge, but be an example that the whole flock can follow. When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the crown of unfading glory.

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Matthew 16:13-19

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’

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Be the shepherds of the flock of God that is entrusted to you… not simply as a duty but gladly

As we celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St Peter today, we remember how St Peter was chosen to be the shepherd of Jesus’ flock. Hailing from humble beginnings, Simon Peter was a simple fisherman when he was called to follow Jesus in His ministry. Peter certainly had his strengths – he loved Jesus and was loyal, enthusiastic and outspoken. At the same time, the gospels also relate many episodes of Peter’s failings and faithlessness.

While most apostles remained largely silent in the gospels, Peter was always ready to jump in to make a statement, regardless of whether the occasion called for it. Peter was the first to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. He also tried to stop Jesus from talking about his upcoming death, earning a rebuke from Jesus. Peter asked Jesus to command him to walk on water, but Peter’s fear and lack of faith led him to sink and cry for help. Peter proclaimed that he would not desert Jesus even if the others did, only to deny Jesus publicly three times out of fear for his own life. By these accounts, Peter’s behaviour was far from rock-like, not at all dependable as a Christian leader should be. Yet, St Peter is regarded as the model of Christian behaviour. What gives?

I find the contradictions in St Peter’s life highly relatable as I reflect on my faith journey – the many times I resolved to follow Christ more closely after a God encounter, only to relapse shortly after. Leaning on our own abilities, we are limited by our human weaknesses. The process of spiritual conversion is not complete after our baptism but rather, an ongoing journey of growth. In spite of the missteps in St Peter’s journey, he stayed true to his calling and eventually grew into a steadfast servant leader, the first Pope of the Catholic Church. As we celebrate the feast of the Chair of St Peter, let us also remember our calling.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Dear Father, you have called us in spite of our flaws, fears and fallen moments. Grant us the grace to be open to Your calling, and put our gifts to serve You.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you for calling us into a personal relationship with You. May we grow closer to You, trusting that You will shape us to be more like You.

25 December, Mass in the Day – The Reason for the Season

25 December – Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord (Mass in the Day)

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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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The Word was made flesh, and lived among us

Advent is the season of waiting and preparation in anticipation of the Lord’s coming.  Yet many of us find ourselves caught up with worldly activities – family vacations, company parties, Christmas shopping, feasting and general festivities. Not that we should be cutting these out from our calendars, but it is timely to consider whether these may have overtaken the significance of Jesus’ coming in our lives.

Christmas is not a historical event that took place in a distant land centuries ago, nor a time for merry-making. For us Christians, it is a time to not only relive the gift of Jesus’ birth but also a time to receive Jesus the gift, given anew once more.

Even as we go about our festivities, let us bear in mind that the nativity of our Lord is God becoming man to dwell among us, so that all of us may have everlasting life in God’s love.A love that is freely given through His grace, one not earned by our merits.

This Christmas, let us celebrate the fulfilment of God’s promise of love by giving us the greatest gift of all – His Son, Jesus Christ, to show us the way.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, may we always remember the birth of Your Son as the fulfilment of Your promise and perfect love.  Just as Jesus has come to do Your will, may we learn to always seek and do Your will.

Thanksgiving: Thank you God for revealing the gift of Your Son to us.  Help us to always seek You the giver, the Reason for this Season.

25 December, Mass at Dawn – Wonderfully Made

25 December – Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord (Mass at Dawn)

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Isaiah 62:11-12

This the Lord proclaims
to the ends of the earth:

Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Look,
your saviour comes,
the prize of his victory with him,
his trophies before him.’
They shall be called ‘The Holy People’,
‘the Lord’s Redeemed.’
And you shall be called ‘The-sought-after’,
‘City-not-forsaken.’

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Titus 3:4-7

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

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Luke 2:15-20

When the angels had gone from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was exactly as they had been told.

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It was no reason except His own compassion that He saved us

As the year drew to a close, I did a 7-day silent retreat at Da Lat, Vietnam.  It was my way of seeking closure for the year gone by, and making peace with the developments and decisions in my life.

2018 has been challenging on many fronts in terms of work, personal, health and family life. It felt like each time I surmounted an obstacle, three others would surface. As I grappled with the weight of my expectations and those of others, I often felt like I was not doing enough, even though I was doing all I could. It was with this sense of ‘running on empty’ that I entered the retreat.

The song “Wonderfully Made” was played during adoration one evening.  While I struggled to see God’s presence in my life in the past year, I felt Him speaking directly to me through the lyrics.

Wonderfully Made (Mark Lopez, SJ)

I’ve seen ev’ry tear that you’ve cried

The fears and the failures you struggle to hide

The worthiness doubted beneath all that pride

The visions and dreams left behind.

I know your remorse and regret

The secrets and stories you ache to forget

So many people you’d die to be yet

[Chorus]

I choose you, I choose you

Do you know why I choose you?

I choose you.

If only you could see yourself the way that I do

And know yourself the way I know you

Then you’d love yourself

As somebody who is wonderfully made

Wonderfully made are you.

How faultless you are in my eyes

So gentle and guiltless, so perfect and prized

There’s so much to love that you don’t realise

My child, My beloved, My pride.

A future with so much in store

A gift those around you are so grateful for

Nothing can alter that anymore.

[Chorus]

Wonderfully made

Wonderfully made

Wonderfully made are you.

In measuring ourselves by the world’s definition of success, our efforts will never be enough. We will never do enough to earn salvation on our own merit. Rather, we are saved by God’s infinite mercy and grace. He sent His Son out of love for us.

As we await the coming of Jesus, let us remember who is truly important — God’s love and our identity as children of God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Dear Father, we pray that we may always cherish the gift of Your Son. Just as You have loved us, help us to love the people around us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for the gift of Your love. We thank you for always walking with us and guiding us in every step of our journey.