Tag Archives: stephanie villa

19 January, Thursday – What Would You Write In a Blank Cheque?

19 January


1 Samuel 24:3-21

Saul took three thousand men chosen from the whole of Israel and went in search of David and his men east of the Rocks of the Wild Goats. He came to the sheepfolds along the route where there was a cave, and went in to cover his feet. Now David and his men were sitting in the recesses of the cave; David’s men said to him, Today is the day of which the Lord said to you, “I will deliver your enemy into your power, do what you like with him.”’ David stood up and, unobserved, cut off the border of Saul’s cloak. Afterwards David reproached himself for having cut off the border of Saul’s cloak. He said to his men, ‘The Lord preserve me from doing such a thing to my lord and raising my hand against him, for he is the anointed of the Lord.’ David gave his men strict instructions, forbidding them to attack Saul.

Saul then left the cave and went on his way. After this, David too left the cave and called after Saul, ‘My lord king!’ Saul looked behind him and David bowed to the ground and did homage. Then David said to Saul, ‘Why do you listen to the men who say to you, “David means to harm you”? Why, your own eyes have seen today how the Lord put you in my power in the cave and how I refused to kill you, but spared you. “I will not raise my hand against my lord,” I said “for he is the anointed of the Lord.” O my father, see, look at the border of your cloak in my hand. Since I cut off the border of your cloak, yet did not kill you, you must acknowledge frankly that there is neither malice nor treason in my mind. I have not offended against you, yet you hunt me down to take my life. May the Lord be judge between me and you, and may the Lord avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be laid on you. (As the old proverb says: Wickedness goes out from the wicked, and my hand will not be laid on you.) On whose trail has the king of Israel set out? On whose trail are you in hot pursuit? On the trail of a dead dog! On the trail of a single flea! May the Lord be the judge and decide between me and you; may he take up my cause and defend it and give judgement for me, freeing me from your power.’

When David had finished saying these words to Saul, Saul said, ‘Is that your voice, my son David?’ And Saul wept aloud. ‘You are a more upright man than I,’ he said to David ‘for you have repaid me with good while I have repaid you with evil. Today you have crowned your goodness towards me since the Lord had put me in your power yet you did not kill me. When a man comes on his enemy, does he let him go unmolested? May the Lord reward you for the goodness you have shown me today. Now I know you will indeed reign and that the sovereignty in Israel will be secure in your hands.’


Mark 3:13-19

Jesus went up into the hills and summoned those he wanted. So they came to him and he appointed twelve; they were to be his companions and to be sent out to preach, with power to cast out devils. And so he appointed the Twelve: Simon to whom he gave the name Peter, James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom he gave the name Boanerges or ‘Sons of Thunder’; then Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, the man who was to betray him.


I will deliver your enemy into your power, do what you like with him.

Whenever the topic of discernment pops up, the most common question I would hear is ‘How would you know what God wants you to do?’ For me, this is the agonizing part of discernment – to find out exactly what God wanted me to do. It used to make me feel very uneasy and agitated, so I read many books on discernment and attended many talks on discernment.

What I learned is that discernment is needed when you are presented with a choice involving morally good options. If something is morally bad, it’s clear that we are not supposed to do it. If it’s a choice between a morally neutral or a morally good option, then we should ask God to give us the courage to choose the morally good option.

Well, what if it’s a choice between two morally neutral options, or two morally good options? What do we do? That’s why we need discernment. We need to pray for wisdom to choose the best. Remember Solomon? God basically gave him a blank cheque so he could write what he would like to wish for. Obviously, he should not have chosen bad options but you see, riches are not bad if they are used for the welfare of his kingdom. Good health for the king is not bad because he could rule longer and provide security for his country. Solomon made a wise choice and chose wisdom. The Bible made it look like an easy choice but I would like to think that he prayed over his choice for some time.

In today’s reading, I think David was given a similar situation. I would like to think that killing Saul would not have been an act of murder but an act of self-defense. And to defend ourselves is not wrong. So in a way, it sounded to me like God had given David a blank cheque.

I know that God will give us many blank cheques in our lives. I understand how this could sometimes drive faithful Catholics crazy — we would rather have a to-do list than a blank cheque. Whenever God puts a blank cheque in front of me, I would have, after praying for wisdom and courage and as part of my discernment, tell him a disclaimer — I would do what my heart feels is right, trusting that he will tell me if there is a better option. And if God wanted me to make a u-turn, I would gladly do it because it is better to make a u-turn so I could do the better option than to stay in the second-best road. And with that, I proceed to write my choice in the blank cheque.

Did God just give you a blank cheque? I hope you don’t agonize over it. Just pray over it faithfully and trust God with your choice. He will definitely tell you when you have to make a u-turn.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, why do you make choices so ‘complicated’? It would have been easier if you just told me how to do things, step-by-step. I trust that in your wisdom and love, you know that it’s not the best for me, so I’ll trust you more and take a step. I know you’ll lead me — either forward or back.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to live my life to the fullest by giving me options. And I thank you greatly for the wisdom and guidance you give me, and for my Guardian Angel who always guides me as well.

18 January, Thursday – Are You In The Crowd?

18 January


1 Samuel 18:6-9, 19:1-7

On their way back, as David was returning after killing the Philistine, the women came out to meet King Saul from all the towns of Israel, singing and dancing to the sound of tambourine and lyre and cries of joy; and as they danced the women sang:

‘Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.’

Saul was very angry; the incident was not to his liking. ‘They have given David the tens of thousands,’ he said ‘but me only the thousands; he has all but the kingship now.’ And Saul turned a jealous eye on David from that day forward.

Saul told Jonathan his son and all his servants of his intention to kill David. Now Jonathan, Saul’s son, held David in great affection; and so Jonathan warned David; ‘My father Saul is looking for a way to kill you,’ he said ‘so be on your guard tomorrow morning; hide away in some secret place. Then I will go out and keep my father company in the fields where you are hiding, and will talk to my father about you; I will find out what the situation is and let you know.’

So Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father; he said, ‘Let not the king sin against his servant David, for he has not sinned against you, and what he has done has been greatly to your advantage. He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great victory for all Israel. You saw it yourself and rejoiced; why then sin against innocent blood in killing David without cause?’ Saul was impressed by Jonathan’s words and took an oath, ‘As the Lord lives, I will not kill him.’ Jonathan called David and told him all these things. Then Jonathan brought him to Saul, and David attended on him as before.


Mark 3:7-12

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lakeside, and great crowds from Galilee followed him. From Judaea, Jerusalem, Idumaea, Transjordania and the region of Tyre and Sidon, great numbers who had heard of all he was doing came to him. And he asked his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, to keep him from being crushed. For he had cured so many that all who were afflicted in any way were crowding forward to touch him. And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw him, would fall down before him and shout, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he warned them strongly not to make him known.


Great crowds from Galilee followed him.

One of the things I lookout for when ‘people watching’ during lunch is when they make the Sign of the Cross. I get so excited whenever I see someone signing himself in prayer before and after the meal. It’s an affirmation for me that I’m not the sole Catholic in the lunchtime crowd.

While I was finishing my lunch one time, a gentleman asked if the space opposite me was free. Before he began his meal, made the Sign of the Cross. That quickly became a conversation starter and we asked each other which Church we attended and a few other things about our Catholic Faith. For me, it wasn’t just finding another Catholic in the crowd; it was about finding someone who is in the crowd of Jesus’ followers. It was finding someone who was comfortable doing Catholic things that would let the world know that he was a Catholic.

The world can be a cruel place when it comes to Christians. We hear of Christians being persecuted in other parts of the world for their faith but what are usually highlighted are persecutions that lead to martyrdom, or to the refugee centers. We also occasionally hear of people being sued for not selling a cake to celebrate same-sex unions. These situations sometimes make us forget that there are little persecutions that happen, too, and they are in our lives. One of those things that used to make me feel persecuted were the stares of people whenever I made the Sign of the Cross. I’m sure they didn’t mean any harm, but it made me feel like I was doing something different, and different is not always seen as good, even if it is tolerated. So sometimes, these persecutions prevent us from doing things that will show we aren’t in the usual crowd, but that we are in the crowd that follows Jesus.

To find another person in Jesus’ crowd in the middle of the crowd gives me strength and encouragement. It is a clear message to me that I am not alone. My daily activities can be so stressful sometimes that finding another Catholic in the crowd reminds me of God’s presence. It’s reassuring.

Let us not think that our practicing of small gestures of faith is inconsequential to others. Our reverent bows when we enter the Church, our genuflecting that is not rushed, our obvious Sign of the Cross, or the short time we take to pray before we start our work are all being noticed. These loving actions, while small, can be strong tesminonies and witnessing to God which He can use to inspire others and move their hearts.

Some of us feel that we do not know how to witness to God. We forget that God is hugely present in the small things that we do, and these things tell people which crowd we belong to. Let us be mindful how our small actions can be great testimonies.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us show our faithfulness and love for you in our little ways. Help us fill the little things we do with great love and reverence so that others may know that they are not alone.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, that you made it easy for me to become a witness to you. Thank you for the people who I see gladly do these little things as they remind me of your presence.

17 January, Wednesday – The Lord In Control

Dear Readers,

Today, we welcome back Stephanie Villa, who took a sabbatical from Oxygen for a year. 

17 Jan – Memorial for St. Anthony, abbot

Following the death of his parents when he was about 20, St. Anthony (251-356) ensured that his sister completed her education; then sold his house, furniture, and the land he owned, gave the proceeds to the poor, joined the anchorites who lived nearby, and moved into an empty sepulchre. At 35, he moved alone to the desert, living 20 years in an abandoned fort.

Anthony barricaded the place for solitude, but admirers broke in. He miraculously healed people and agreed to be the spiritual counsellor of others. His recommendation was to base life on the gospel. Word spread, and so many disciples arrived that Anthony founded two monasteries on the Bile — one at Pispir, one at Arsinoe. Many of those who lived near him supported themselves by making baskets and brushes, and from that came his patronage of those trades.

Anthony briefly left his seclusion in 311, going to Alexandria to fight Arianism, and to comfort the victims of Maximinus’ persecution. At some point in his life, he met with his sister again. She, too, had withdrawn from the world, and directed a community of nuns. Anthony retired to the desert, living in a cave on Mount Colzim.

Descriptions paint him as uniformly modest and courteous. His example led many to take up the monastic life, and to follow his way. He was a friend late in life to St. Paul the Hermit, and buried the aged anchorite, leading to his patronage of gravediggers. His biography was written by his friend, St. Athanasius.

His relationship with pigs and patronage of swineheards is a little complicated. Skin diseases were sometimes treated with applications of pork fat, which reduced inflammation and itching. As Anthony’s intervention aided in the same conditions, he was shown in art accompanied by a pig. People who saw the artwork, but did not have it explained, thought there was a direct connection between Anthony and pigs – and people who worked with swine took him as their patron.

Patron Saint Index


1 Samuel 17:32-33, 37, 40-51

David said to Saul, ‘Let no-one lose heart on his account; your servant will go and fight the Philistine.’ But Saul answered David, ‘You cannot go and fight the Philistine; you are only a boy and he has been a warrior from his youth.’

‘The Lord who rescued me from the claws of lion and bear’ David said ‘will rescue me from the power of this Philistine.’ Then Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the Lord be with you!’

He took his staff in his hand, picked five smooth stones from the river bed, put them in his shepherd’s bag, in his pouch, and with his sling in his hand he went to meet the Philistine. The Philistine, his shield-bearer in front of him, came nearer and nearer to David; and the Philistine looked at David, and what he saw filled him with scorn, because David was only a youth, a boy of fresh complexion and pleasant bearing. The Philistine said to him, ‘Am I a dog for you to come against me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, ‘Come over here and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.’ But David answered the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel that you have dared to insult. Today the Lord will deliver you into my hand and I shall kill you; I will cut off your head, and this very day I will give your dead body and the bodies of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that it is not by sword or by spear that the Lord gives the victory, for the Lord is lord of the battle and he will deliver you into our power.’

No sooner had the Philistine started forward to confront David than David left the line of battle and ran to meet the Philistine. Putting his hand in his bag, he took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead; the stone penetrated his forehead and he fell on his face to the ground. Thus David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone and struck the Philistine down and killed him. David had no sword in his hand. Then David ran and, standing over the Philistine, seized his sword and drew it from the scabbard, and with this he killed him, cutting off his head. The Philistines saw that their champion was dead, and took to flight.


Mark 3:1-6

Jesus went again into a synagogue, and there was a man there who had a withered hand. And they were watching him to see if he would cure him on the sabbath day, hoping for something to use against him. He said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Stand up out in the middle!’ Then he said to them, ‘Is it against the law on the sabbath day to do good, or to do evil; to save life, or to kill?’ But they said nothing. Then, grieved to find them so obstinate, he looked angrily round at them, and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out and his hand was better. The Pharisees went out and at once began to plot with the Herodians against him, discussing how to destroy him.


The Lord who rescued me from the claws of lion and bear will rescue me from the power of this Philistine.

There are moments in our lives where God puts us in a position to face our Goliaths. Our natural tendency is to focus on the Goliath God has placed before us, on how big he is, on how scary he is, on how small we are compared to him and we tremble in fear. Sometimes, we forget to remember all the times our Lord has delivered us from ‘lion and bear’.

I have been freelancing for two years and I know how scary the experience is. Unlike working full-time, I could never expect a regular paycheck. I never knew when I will get a new project and if I could earn enough for a month to have a positive cashflow. One of the greatest fears I had was if I would have to dip into my savings to support myself. It was not exactly the most comfortable time but it was the time I learned how to really trust God and His providence. You see, my Goliath was being able to trust God and to rely on His providence. I wanted many layers of protection.

God has been really faithful and I can say that he really took care of me. I would say He knew my limits so he made sure that at the end of the year, my cashflow was 0. Yes, it was 0. I didn’t add to my savings but I didn’t have to dip into my savings. It may sound ironic to some but I think that’s my current tolerance level, and God knew it. He didn’t give me a Goliath I couldn’t conquer.

So what sustained me during my freelancing years? Well, I remembered the ‘lion and bear’ in my life. One of them was getting a job even though I submitted a resumé with a typo error. For me, it was so obvious that God took control of that situation because it could have ended worse. Also, I thought God has arranged for me to receive a separation package just when I was thinking of a career change.

I think God allows us to face a ‘lion and bear’ before we face our Goliaths so we can confidently say, as David said, ‘The Lord who rescued me from the claws of lion and bear will rescue me from the power of this Philistine.’ We only need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help us find the ‘lion and bear’ in our lives.

Because once we’ve conquered our Goliath, they become the ‘lion and bear’ for our future Goliaths.

If you are being asked to face a Goliath now, I ask that you find a quiet place, perhaps in the Adoration Room, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in remembering the ‘lion and bear’ in your life. I’m confident you will find one, and that will give you the courage to go to the battle zone.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord, facing my Goliath can be a really scary thing. And you’re sending me there with just a slingshot! Lord, help me trust that you will protect and deliver me from this. Help me find the ‘lion and the bear’ you have protected me from, and help me find assurance in it.

Thanksgiving: Lord, it’s amazing how my previous Goliaths have turned into a ‘lion and bear’ now. I thank you for making me face another of my Goliaths, and I thank you that you chose the best time – now – to have me face him. Even if I am just heading into the battle field, I thank you now for protecting me.

17 December, Saturday – Family Heritage

17 December 2016


Genesis 49:2,8-10

Jacob called his sons and said:

‘Gather round, sons of Jacob, and listen;
listen to Israel your father.
Judah, your brothers shall praise you:
you grip your enemies by the neck,
your father’s sons shall do you homage,
Judah is a lion cub,
you climb back, my son, from your kill;
like a lion he crouches and lies down,
or a lioness: who dare rouse him?
The sceptre shall not pass from Judah,
nor the mace from between his feet,
until he come to whom it belongs,
to whom the peoples shall render obedience.’


Matthew 1:1-17

A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, Tamar being their mother,
Perez was the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram was the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon was the father of Boaz, Rahab being his mother,
Boaz was the father of Obed, Ruth being his mother,
Obed was the father of Jesse;
and Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Azariah,
Azariah was the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah;
and Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers.
Then the deportation to Babylon took place.
After the deportation to Babylon:
Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor was the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud was the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob;
and Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary;
of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.

The sum of generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.


The sum of genearations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.

During my recent visit to my grandmother, I cheekily asked her about her love story with my grandfather who, sad to say, I never met. I was hoping to hear a romantic courtship story, because the dating that we know now was not the norm then. Before, the courtshp included serenades from outside the maiden’s house and longing to be alone together since unmarried couples had to have a chaperone when they went out. She shared a story that I had not imagined but was much better. She shared that it was her brothers who arranged for them to get married but she was blessed with a good husband who was a doting father. He was also very patient as he was able to put up with a strong-willed and strong-minded woman like my grandmother. Though they did not go through a long courtship stage, my grandmother was showered with affection.

I know today’s Gospel must be one of those we tend to skip to the last line but having that conversation with my grandmother made me look through all these names. I know we learned a lot from Jesus, but I’m pretty sure there is something to learn from all those names in Jesus’s genealogy. Even though some of them have done horrible actions, they still mattered in Jesus’s family tree. They still had a part to play. I may not have met my grandfather but he was instrumental to forming my mother’s, uncle’s and aunt’s characters. Also, I had a clear and personal example how love may not be present at first sight, but it can flourish. So even though I have not met him, he has already given me a lesson.

All of us have family members we can’t stand, but they still matter. Perhaps God is calling us for a deeper appreciation of our family members today, be they alive or not. Maybe we can ask our parents about our grandparents, we can learn a thing or two. Or maybe we are just asked to stay still for a moment and be aware of how connected we are to many people. We are not alone. Our family heritage speaks of our community. We belong to God’s community.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, sometimes I may forget and under-appreciate the gift of family. Help me become an instrument of your love to my family.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for my family heritage, for every single one before me. Without any of them, I’m not sure what I would be.

16 December, Friday – The Testimony of our Habits

16 December 2016


Isaiah 56:1-3,6-8

Thus says the Lord: Have a care for justice, act with integrity, for soon my salvation will come and my integrity be manifest.
Blessed is the man who does this and the son of man who clings to it: observing the sabbath, not profaning it, and keeping his hand from every evil deed.

Let no foreigner who has attached himself to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.’ Let no eunuch say, ‘And I, I am a dried-up tree.’

Foreigners who have attached themselves to the Lord to serve him and to love his name and be his servants – all who observe the sabbath, not profaning it, and cling to my covenant – these I will bring to my holy mountain. I will make them joyful in my house of prayer. Their holocausts and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.

It is the Lord who speaks, who gathers the outcasts of Israel: there are others will gather besides those already gathered.


John 5:33-36

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘You sent messengers to John,
and he gave his testimony to the truth:
not that I depend on human testimony;
no, it is for your salvation that I speak of this.
John was a lamp alight and shining
and for a time you were content to enjoy the light that he gave.
But my testimony is greater than John’s:
the works my Father has given me to carry out,
these same works of mine testify
that the Father has sent me.’


These same works of mine testify that the Father has sent me. 

Let me share with you one of my favorite quotes. It is from Evangelii Nuntiandi (Evangelization in the Modern World)

“Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”

I always keep this phrase in mind when I prepare and deliver my Catechism classes since I know that my witnessing will carry more weight. Jesus did not limit his testimony to words, it was accompanied with prayer and with works. It is through our actions that we give truth to our words. I know that when we are intentional about our actions, we can easily witness to the truth. When we are in Church, we tend to act more patient and with more decorum. When we are in front of children, we regulate the words we use. When we are mindful of where we are, we can choose what we can witness for.

However, let’s think of those times when we are not mindful, when we act on instinct, or when we act on habit. These habits of ours also carry testimonies, sometimes, these little habits carry a greater testimony than others that we do. Think for example, of a time when you heard someone swear. Now I know it’s common nowadays, some treat it just as an expression. I’m not sure about others but whenever I hear someone swear, I feel a tinge of uneasiness. If I can describe it, it’s like a pea that was put under many layers of mattresses and it makes me feel that something is not that right (Check out the story ‘The Princess and the Pea’ if you want to know what I’m refering to). It’s a small action, but it is witnessing to something.

For today, I’m not going to ask that we reflect on our ‘big’ actions but for us to reflect on our habits. Is there a habit that doesn’t communicate or witness to the love of God? Maybe we leave our shoes haphazardly for others to clear, and we communicate a lack of consideration. Maybe we use too many disposables and this action communicates a lack of care for our environment, which God has created.

What do your habits witness to? It takes a long time to break out of a habit so let’s start now.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, I have been so used to doing many things in a certain way I may not even know what kind of message I give others when I act in that manner. So I pray that you reveal to me a habit you want me to change, so I can be a better witness to you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for all those people who were mindful of even how the small things they do could affect others.

15 December, Thursday – Do we hang our Christmas Socks?

15 December 2016


Isaiah 54:1-10

Shout for joy, you barren women who bore no children!
Break into cries of joy and gladness, you who were never in labour!
For the sons of the forsaken one are more in number
than the sons of the wedded wife, says the Lord.

Widen the space of your tent,
stretch out your hangings freely,
lengthen your ropes, make your pegs firm;
for you will burst out to right and to left.
Your race will take possession of the nations,
and people the abandoned cities.

Do not be afraid, you will not be put to shame,
do not be dismayed, you will not be disgraced;
for you will forget the shame of your youth
and no longer remember the curse of your widowhood.
For now your creator will be your husband,
his name, the Lord of Hosts;
your redeemer will be the Holy One of Israel,
he is called the God of the whole earth.

Yes, like a forsaken wife, distressed in spirit,
the Lord calls you back.
Does a man cast off the wife of his youth?
says your God.

I did forsake you for a brief moment,
but with great love will I take you back.
In excess of anger, for a moment
I hid my face from you.
But with everlasting love I have taken pity on you,
says the Lord, your redeemer.

I am now as I was in the days of Noah
when I swore that Noah’s waters
should never flood the world again.
So now I swear concerning my anger with you
and the threats I made against you;

for the mountains may depart,
the hills be shaken,
but my love for you will never leave you
and my covenant of peace with you will never be shaken,
says the Lord who takes pity on you.


Luke 7:24-30

When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to talk to the people about John, ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the breeze? No? Then what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? Oh no, those who go in for fine clothes and live luxuriously are to be found at court! Then what did you go out to see? A prophet?

Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet: he is the one of whom scripture says:

See, I am going to send my messenger before you;
he will prepare the way before you.

‘I tell you, of all the children born of women, there is no one greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he is. All the people who heard him, and the tax collectors too, acknowledged God’s plan by accepting baptism from John; but by refusing baptism from him the Pharisees and the lawyers had thwarted what God had in mind for them.’


Break into cries of joy and gladness, you who were never in labour!

When I was young, I would hang up socks on the eve of Christmas Day, hoping for Santa Claus to fill them up. The following morning, I would wake up to find local currency bills in my socks. I’m sure I was curious why a North Pole dweller had local currencies but I swept the thought aside as I thought of what to buy with my gift. The first two lines of the first reading struck me because the ladies were preparing themselves to receive blessings by breaking into ‘cries of joy and gladness’ even before the gift was received. They already prepared their praises! Their faith reminded me of how I would prepare to receive Santa’s gifts by hanging my socks even if I was not sure what gift I would receive, but I know that the gift will be good. If I did not hang my socks, where would Santa put my gifts?

I have always heard about the need to prepare because God will come like ‘a thief in the night.’ However, the reading reminded me that I should not just prepare myself for judgement; I should also prepare myself to receive God’s blessings. This thought really made me happy. I’m not looking at it from a prosperity gospel point of view but sometimes but we forget that God desires to give us gifts of joy and peace. So it’s not a thief sneaking in but Santa Claus. Sadly, sometimes we are not ready to receive them, because we have not hung our socks. How does this look in our life? Perhaps, we have not really forgiven a friend who has hurt us, and God can’t give us peace. Or maybe we were so scared to try something new, to learn a new skill, and God could not really send us to the vocation he had in mind for us. Sometimes, God’s dreams are different from our own that we overlook the preparations God is sending along our way.

We may not know why certain things are happening now, or why we have to do certain things to unbearable repetitions, but if we could look at it as a preparation time for something, then we should do it with our best effort. Let’s think of it as putting our socks out, ready to be filled with God’s blessings.

If you knew when the thief was coming, you would have stayed up. If you knew when Santa was coming, I bet you would also stay up. So let’s be prepared.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me have that child-like faith to hang my socks everyday so I can receive your love.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord, for the witnesses of hope of children who are always confident that they will be showered with blessings, even in what I think are simple thingshope

8 October, Saturday – Prepared by the Law

8 October


Galatians 3:22-29

Scripture makes no exceptions when it says that sin is master everywhere. In this way the promise can only be given through faith in Jesus Christ and can only be given to those who have this faith.

Before faith came, we were allowed no freedom by the Law; we were being looked after till faith was revealed. The Law was to be our guardian until the Christ came and we could be justified by faith. Now that that time has come we are no longer under that guardian, and you are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.


Luke 11:27-28

As Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, ‘Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!’ But he replied, ‘Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!’


The Law was to be our guardian until the Christ came.

Whenever an athlete prepares for a competition, the athlete has to follow an exercise regimen faithfully. He has to eat according to his needs, train according to his training plan, and rest according to schedule. This training period restricts an athlete’s activities in preparation for the big day. These restrictions are necessary for an athlete’s preparation.

The Law that was given by God was to prepare us to accept what Christ had planned to teach us. When we were young, our parents stopped us from harming ourselves by saying ‘no.’ ‘No, you can’t eat mud.’ ‘No, you can’t put your fingers in the electric socket.’ ‘No, you can’t jump from that height.’ These are just pure laws, without explanations. When we were younger, even if our parents explained the rationale behind these laws, we probably would not have understood.

Jesus came to explain that Law, which was intended for our good. The Law trained us to do charitable acts, and Jesus Christ taught us that beyond doing charitable acts, we have to be charitable. Being charitable does not only mean doing charitable acts, it’s doing these acts with charity – with love. It might have been difficult for us to understand Christ’s teachings on what charity really is if we ourselves have not been performing acts of charity.

The Law was our guardian, because it helped us do what was right even when we didn’t want to, even when we didn’t feel like it. Be kind to those who hurt you. This is something I am struggling with right now; and I must admit that I am merely following the law when I don’t go out there and be nasty to the people who have hurt me. Right now, I am only doing it because it is the right thing to do. But I’m hoping that once I am able to let Christ into this part of my heart, I will be kind not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it is the loving thing to do.

I still can’t live without the Law in many parts of my life. And until I can welcome Christ in my heart, I will keep on training, like an athlete, in this ‘rigorous’ law. Because without the Law, I will never be prepared to have Christ enter in that aspect of my life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)


Prayer: Help me, Lord, to live my life in Christ, to learn to appreciate the laws, and to submit myself in humility to the laws You have made while I grow in my understanding of my faith.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for giving us a guide in our lives. And even if we sometimes resent it, we know that it is for our good.

7 October, Friday – Only Two Options

7 October – Memorial for Our Lady of the Rosary

This day was originally observed as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory. Its date was chosen to commemorate the European victory at the third naval Battle of Lepanto in 1571. This battle marked the high point of Turkish (Muslim) advance on European soil with the Balkans and the regions west and north of the Black Sea returning to Western (Christian) hands in the succeeding centuries. This victory, after two earlier defeats at the same location, was attributed to Our Lady of the Rosary as special processions were made on that same day in Rome for the sake of this crucial victory.

Pope Pius V ordered that a commemoration of the rosary should be made upon that day, and at the request of the Dominican Pope Gregory XIII in 1573 allowed this feast to be kept in all churches which possessed an altar dedicated to the rosary. In 1671, the observance of this festival was extended by Pope Clement X to the whole of Spain, and somewhat later Pope Clement XI, after the important victory over the Turks gained by Prince Eugene on 6 August 1716 at Peterwardein in Hungary, commanded the feast of the rosary to be celebrated by the universal Church.

– Wikipedia


Galatians 3:7-14

Don’t you see that it is those who rely on faith who are the sons of Abraham? Scripture foresaw that God was going to use faith to justify the pagans, and proclaimed the Good News long ago when Abraham was told: In you all the pagans will be blessed. Those therefore who rely on faith receive the same blessing as Abraham, the man of faith.

On the other hand, those who rely on the keeping of the Law are under a curse, since scripture says: Cursed be everyone who does not persevere in observing everything prescribed in the book of the Law. The Law will not justify anyone in the sight of God, because we are told: the righteous man finds life through faith. The Law is not even based on faith, since we are told: The man who practises these precepts finds life through practising them. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by being cursed for our sake, since scripture says: Cursed be everyone who is hanged on a tree. This was done so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might include the pagans, and so that through faith we might receive the promised Spirit.


Luke 11:15-26

When Jesus had cast out a devil, some of the people said, ‘It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.’ Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven; but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses. So too with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? – Since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils. Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out? Let them be your judges then. But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you. So long as a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he is attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.

‘He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.

‘When an unclean spirit goes out of a man it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and not finding one it says, “I will go back to the home I came from.” But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied, it then goes off and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and set up house there, so that the man ends up by being worse than he was before.’


He who is not with me is against me.

A myriad of options is what we are so used to seeing every day. And in this capitalistic world, businesses are encouraged to identify their niche areas, to cater to the need of the select few, so that they can enjoy options.

With God, we really only have two options. We are either for him, or against him. We cannot abstain from this decision, because if we do, we end up being against him. Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Whenever we are passive, we unintentionally become a counterwitness to our faith. If someone bullies another person in front of you, and you do nothing, you are helping the wrong act succeed. Worse, our silence gives our concurrence to what has been happening. In this case, ‘Silence means yes.’

It is very difficult for me to write this reflection because I didn’t want to turn people off. But the Gospel reading itself is also very strong. He who is not with me is against me. If we don’t do evil, but we don’t do good, we are already committing the sin of omission. Sometimes, I myself feel that it is unfair. How can I be held liable for something I didn’t do anything about?

Well, God’s command was for us to love, to be charitable, to do loving acts. It was not a command to be passive. So I guess I really just have to be mindful to do things for God, and not be passive.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)


Prayer: Dear Lord, whenever I pray with everyone during the penitential rite in Mass, help me to internalize that I am equally liable for the wrong things I have done as well as for the right things that I have failed to do. Help me have the wisdom to know when I am failing to do something you want me to do, so that I can put an effort to it.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for the people you have placed in my life who keep on reminding me to do something good.

6 October, Thursday – Ask

6 October – Memorial for St. Bruno, Priest

Bruno (1030–1101) was educated in Paris and Rheims, France. He was ordained in 1055. He taught theology, and one of his students later became Blessed Pope Urban II. He presided over the cathedral school at Rheims from 1057 to 1075. He criticised the worldliness he saw in his fellow clergy. He opposed Manasses, Archbishop of Rheims, because of his laxity and mismanagement. He was chancellor of the Archdiocese of Rheims.

Following a vision he received of a secluded hermitage where he could spend his life becoming closer to God, he retired to a mountain near Chartreuse in Dauphiny in 1084 and with the help of St. Hugh of Grenoble, he founded what became the first house of the Carthusian Order. He and his brothers supported themselves as manuscript copyists.

He became assistant to Pope Urban in 1090, and supported his efforts at reform. Retiring from public life, he and his companions built a hermitage at Torre where the monastery of Saint Stephen was built in 1095. Bruno combined in the religious life living as a hermit and living in a community; his learning is apparent from his scriptural commentaries.

– Patron Saint Index


Galatians 3:1-5

Are you people in Galatia mad? Has someone put a spell on you, in spite of the plain explanation you have had of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? Let me ask you one question: was it because you practised the Law that you received the Spirit, or because you believed what was preached to you? Are you foolish enough to end in outward observances what you began in the Spirit? Have all the favours you received been wasted? And if this were so, they would most certainly have been wasted. Does God give you the Spirit so freely and work miracles among you because you practise Law, or because you believed what was preached to you?


Luke 11:5-13

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night to say, “My friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend of mine on his travels has just arrived at my house and I have nothing to offer him”; and the man answers from inside the house, “Do not bother me. The door is bolted now, and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up to give it you.” I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it him for friendship’s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants.

‘So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or hand him a snake instead of a fish? Or hand him a scorpion if he asked for an egg? If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’


For the one who asks always receives.

‘Just ask.’ This two-word sentence from one of my managers previously had a great impact in my life. In the corporate setting, he encouraged us to ask for favors, to ask for what we need, to ask for what we do not know and to ask for anything. There was no guarantee that we would receive what we asked for, but he guaranteed that by simply asking, we were creating an opportunity to get what we wanted.

Not everyone finds it easy to ask. Before I got comfortable asking, I was always afraid of rejection. What if the person I asked says, ‘No’? This fear of being refused has closed many doors in my life. Sometimes, I also wouldn’t bother asking if I thought I knew what the answer to my request would be. If my boss had said ‘yes’ to a similar proposal three months back, what would make me think he would say ‘yes’ now? I went on to assume what his response would be.

I think in our lives, we sometimes take the same approach to asking God. We do not ask God because we are afraid to be rejected. We don’t ask God because we assume what His answer would be. Let us keep in mind that God never rejects us. He rejects our wishes that could be harmful to us. Sometimes, we also do not know the will of God. That’s why we need to ask. We need to ask whether it’s a ‘yes’, a ‘no’ or a ‘wait awhile.’

And yes, whenever we ask God something, we always receive something. And that’s guaranteed.

We always receive His love. We receive His love when He answers ‘yes’ to our request because it is good for us. We receive His love when He says ‘no’ to our request because that is good for us. We receive His love when He says ‘wait awhile’ to our request because that is good for us.

There is no reason to be afraid or to hesitate to ask God. We can’t assume what God’s answer will be, but we can be certain that we’ll never be rejected. For whatever we ask for, we will always receive God’s love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)



Prayer: Dear Lord, let me not be afraid to come and ask you for all the things in my life – for the big things happening in my life, and even for the ‘trivial’ things happening in my life.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord, for always giving the best answer to all my questions. And for always loving me, and welcoming me, and never getting tired of hearing what I ask.

30 July, Saturday – Your Glory or God’s Glory

30 July – Memorial for St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop & Doctor

An adult convert, St. Peter (406-450) fought paganism and heresy, enforced reforms, and built several churches and ornate altars in his see. A preacher with outstanding language skills, he was given the name ‘Chrysologus’, referring to his ‘golden word’. 176 of his sermons have survived; it is the strength of these beautiful explanations of the Incarnation, the Creed, the place of Mary and John the Baptist in the great plan of salvation, etc., that led to his being proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1729.

– Patron Saint Index


Jeremiah 26:11-16, 24

The priests and prophets addressed the officials and all the people, ‘This man deserves to die, since he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.’ Jeremiah, however, replied to the people as follows:

‘The Lord himself sent me to say all the things you have heard against this Temple and this city. So now amend your behaviour and actions, listen to the voice of the Lord your God: if you do, he will relent and not bring down on you the disaster he has pronounced against you. For myself, I am as you see in your hands. Do whatever you please or think right with me. But be sure of this, that if you put me to death, you will be bringing innocent blood on yourselves, on this city and on its citizens, since the Lord has truly sent me to you to say all these words in your hearing.’

The officials and all the people then said to the priests and prophets, ‘This man does not deserve to die: he has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.’

Jeremiah had a protector in Ahikam son of Shaphan, so he was not handed over to the people to be put to death.


Matthew 14:1-12

Herod the tetrarch heard about the reputation of Jesus, and said to his court, ‘This is John the Baptist himself; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.’

Now it was Herod who had arrested John, chained him up and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. For John had told him, ‘It is against the Law for you to have her.’ He had wanted to kill him but was afraid of the people, who regarded John as a prophet. Then, during the celebrations for Herod’s birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and so delighted Herod that he promised on oath to give her anything she asked. Prompted by her mother she said, ‘Give me John the Baptist’s head, here, on a dish.’ The king was distressed but, thinking of the oaths he had sworn and of his guests, he ordered it to be given her, and sent and had John beheaded in the prison. The head was brought in on a dish and given to the girl who took it to her mother. John’s disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went off to tell Jesus.


The king was distressed but, thinking of the oaths he had sworn and of his guests, he ordered it to be given her, and sent and had John beheaded in the prison.

How far would you go in order to keep your word? If you are running a business, being able to keep your word is a an expensive, intangible asset. Break your word, and you will lose people’s trust and your reputation. As Warren Buffett said, ‘If you lose money for the firm I will be understanding. If you lose reputation I will be ruthless.’ That’s how much one’s word means.

We see the same thing with the king in today’s Gospel reading. He had given a blank cheque and even when the price proved too great, he chose to honor the his commitment in order not to be labeled as untrustworthy; he had John the Baptist beheaded. He went so far to do something he does not believe must be done in order to preserve his reputation. The moral of the story? Don’t give a blank cheque.

I would like to propose that there is another moral of the story. That is when choosing between saving our faces and obeying God, let us choose the latter. It’s a tough call. That’s why to remind us that it is possible to accept humiliation in order to glorify God, we have the Crucifix. The Crucifixion is the most humiliating punishment during Jesus’ time, yet he allowed himself to be humiliated, so God could be glorified.

According to stories, soon-to-be-saint Blessed Mother Theresa was spat on by a baker when she was begging for bread for a child. She accepted it and persevered asking for bread. My personal struggle would pale in comparison to hers, I merely struggled to pray before meals in public, give an appropriate bow as I pass by the Blessed Sacrament, or even to stick to my fasting. At those times, I didn’t want to ruin my reputation of being modern. Most of us will not have to choose between life and death; but our little actions or struggles to glorify God, by doing what is embarrassing by the world’s standards, will make God smile.

Let us make God smile today.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Lord, help me live my life to praise you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for allowing us to receive human honor, because you have provided us with something we can offer you for your glory.