Tag Archives: trust

25 December, Wednesday (Mass in the Day) – In Search of…

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

The Word Made Flesh

For us the Word of God is no longer the message spoken by prophets, but the messenger of God in person, the Eternal Word begotten of the Father before time began. 

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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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And all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God

I have just returned from a 12-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land and was blessed to have walked in the land where Jesus lived, preached, died and then rose and ascended into heaven. Celebrating daily mass at the many holy sites was truly all I wanted and, particularly so at the Holy Sepulchre (on Golgotha) and in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, I felt His presence strongly.

We also had an hour of adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament one evening in the chapel within the convent where we were staying in Jerusalem and as I struggled to understand His supreme sacrifice (we had visited the home of Caiaphas and prayed Psalm 88 in the very dungeon Jesus spent the night before his crucifixion), I asked in my heart how is it that God would have put his only son through all that pain, torture and misery. I could only trust in faith that God’s divine plan would reveal His love and mercy to me along the way.

And so he did. In the various encounters I had with the shopowners in the Old City on our free half day, in the daily interactions with the pilgrims (some of whom I had met the previous year on a similar trip through France to Portugal), and in my dreams as I slumbered for at least 10 hours each night.

Because despite the conflict that I felt within the land, there was an unmistakeable aura – one that spoke of perserverance, of never giving up. One that radiate an ethereal peace, love and joy. Jesus was ever-present as we traced His footsteps, guided by our knowledgeable and grandfatherly guide, led by our slightly regimental but ever-loving tour leader. They brought to life each and every site as we took pictures, prayed and reflected. From the Church of the Visitation to the very spot where He gave up His sacred life, I could feel the sense of foreboding and inevitability of the fate our Saviour was meant to live out.

Yet amidst all this ‘heaviness’, I could also reflect back on the hope of His birth. We just had a small party at home and the choir came and sang familiar favourites. Those lyrics mean so much more to me now and as I look back on our pilgrimage, I praise God for calling me to His land – where conflict and tolerance are part and parcel of everyday life. Where walls are erected to demarcate governance and control. However, I know in my heart that these are mere symbols erected by man. We, brothers and sisters, are called to destroy all walls that we erect within our hearts; to embrace the poor, the afflicted, the downtrodden. Because the greatest gift we have been given was not under a tree. It was born in a manger, under a shining star so that we would embrace it and be shining stars wherever we walk.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer:  Father, we thank you for the gift of Jesus, our Emmanuel, your Holy Son.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for being our shining star in our lives.

6 December, Friday – Believe that He can do it

6 December 2019

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Isaiah 29:17-24 

The Lord says this:

In a short time, a very short time,
shall not Lebanon become fertile land
and fertile land turn into forest?
The deaf, that day,
will hear the words of a book
and, after shadow and darkness,
the eyes of the blind will see.

But the lowly will rejoice in the Lord even more
and the poorest exult in the Holy One of Israel;
for tyrants shall be no more, and scoffers vanish,
and all be destroyed who are disposed to do evil:
those who gossip to incriminate others,
those who try at the gate to trip the arbitrator
and get the upright man’s case dismissed for groundless reasons.

Therefore the Lord speaks,
the God of the House of Jacob,
Abraham’s redeemer:
No longer shall Jacob be ashamed,
no more shall his face grow pale,
for he shall see what my hands have done in his midst,
he shall hold my name holy.
They will hallow the Holy One of Jacob,
stand in awe of the God of Israel.
Erring spirits will learn wisdom
and murmurers accept instruction.

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Matthew 9:27-31

As Jesus went on his way two blind men followed him shouting, ‘Take pity on us, Son of David.’ And when Jesus reached the house the blind men came up with him and he said to them, ‘Do you believe I can do this?’ They said, ‘Sir, we do.’ Then he touched their eyes saying, ‘Your faith deserves it, so let this be done for you.’ And their sight returned. Then Jesus sternly warned them, ‘Take care that no one learns about this.’ But when they had gone, they talked about him all over the countryside.

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‘Do you believe I can do this?’ They said, ‘Sir, we do.’

A couple of weeks ago, I did a retreat at the Tarrawarra Abbey in Melbourne. It was the first retreat I had done in years, and I must say that it took me considerable effort to really feel connected with God. It got to a point where I had to consciously let go of my own direction and let God lead the way. It was only then that certain revelations came to me. My main takeaway from the retreat was that I needed to learn to rely on God in my life.

The blind men approached Jesus in faith. Their desire to have their sight restored was very strong, and they were certain that Jesus would grant them that healing. As with other instances in the gospels, such as when the centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant, Jesus complimented them for the strength of their faith.

There are several areas in my life that I do not lift up to God even though they are causing me a significant amount of anxiety. I think that I still lack that kind of faith where I am certain that God is capable of anything and everything. Although spending more time in prayer always helps me feel at peace, I am somehow not able to commit to it. As I continue with this struggle of faith, I pray that I will one day have be able to say with the utmost conviction that “Yes, God, you can do everything”.

 

(Today’s Oxygen by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the confidence to trust in and rely on God.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for His grace and mercy.

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. 

31 August, Saturday – Am I Afraid?

31 Aug 2019

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1 Thessalonians 4:9-11

As for loving our brothers, there is no need for anyone to write to you about that, since you have learnt from God yourselves to love one another, and in fact this is what you are doing with all the brothers throughout the whole of Macedonia. However, we do urge you, brothers, to go on making even greater progress and to make a point of living quietly, attending to your own business and earning your living, just as we told you to.

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Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.

‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”

‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”’

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So I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground

I used to pay very little attention to the servant who hid the talent in the ground. In my mind, I saw him as a disappointment. I would even say that I had little or no sympathy towards him. Until recent events in my life allowed me to look at the third servant with more compassion.

He said that he was afraid, that’s why he didn’t do anything. Sometimes, people choose not to do something because they are afraid that if they fail, they would end up disappointing the other person. The pain of doing something, not measuring up, and being rejected could be so much. It might even be unbearable that one finds it better not to do anything and be rejected, rather than put an effort and end up being rejected as well. There may be people around us who we were quick to judge as simply being lazy when in fact, they had deeper issues than laziness.

The next point of reflection is that if the servant was afraid of the master, could it be because he did not know the master enough? Sometimes, I feel that I have to put my best foot forward for God. In fact, I only realized that subconsciously, I was trying to be the perfect daughter for God. There is nothing wrong in wanting to be perfect for God, since we have been told to ‘be perfect just as (our) heavenly Father’ is. What was wrong was that in my quest for perfection, I forgot that God has also chosen to love my failures and shortcomings because they are part of me. Perhaps, I do not really know God enough yet to not be afraid.

My last point of reflection was, if the third servant ever asked the first two servants for tips on how to grow his talents. Maybe he did, but I feel that most likely he didn’t. If his first reaction was to bury his talent, I would also think that he would be so afraid to have asked for help. In our journey towards God, we certainly need the help of other people so we can become better.

God has put people around us so we can learn from them as to how we can give greater glory to God, how we can serve him better. Sometimes, we just don’t bother asking for help or guidance. Is it our pride? Or is it because we just can’t be bothered to try? Or is it because we are afraid?

Let us cease to be afraid. Let us seek to get to know God more, to get to know our selves more, let us be brave enough to ask for help.

Let us have faith in God and his love for us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, please help me acknowledge the third servant in me and help me grow to do what will bring you happiness. And let that happiness be my happiness, too.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for including the third servant in the story for me to learn more about myself. 

31 March, Sunday – As and When What Is Needed

31 March 2019

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Joshua 5:9-12

The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have taken the shame of Egypt away from you.’
The Israelites pitched their camp at Gilgal and kept the Passover there on the fourteenth day of the month, at evening in the plain of Jericho. On the morrow of the Passover they tasted the produce of that country, unleavened bread and roasted ears of corn, that same day. From that time, from their first eating of the produce of that country, the manna stopped falling. And having manna no longer, the Israelites fed from that year onwards on what the land of Canaan yielded.

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2 Corinthians 5:17-21

For anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here. It is all God’s work. It was God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the work of handing on this reconciliation. In other words, God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, not holding men’s faults against them, and he has entrusted to us the news that they are reconciled. So we are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God. For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God.

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Luke 15:1-3,11-32

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.

‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.

‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”

‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”’

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From their first eating of the produce of that country, the manna stopped falling

When I was young, I remember learning to ride a bicycle and starting off riding it with training wheels. These are the two smaller wheels placed on each side of the back wheel to allow the rider to continue riding even if they couldn’t balance. Soon, I remember that one of those training wheels was removed, and I had to learn to balance on one. Eventually, the other training wheel was removed as well, and I could then bike on my own.

In our lives, God promised us the graces we need, and God also allows us to have the thorns in our sides as we need – all for our journey towards him. When we no longer need those, God then replaces those with what we will need for the next phase of our lives.

In my life, I have experienced being friends with someone who I needed right at that point of my life. One night, I was so convinced I needed to quit my job, I chanced upon a friend waiting for the same bus I was supposed to take. She wisely advised me to look at my troubles from a different viewpoint, and lift them up in prayer. I am still in the job that I was supposed to quit. But we never got closer. I think it’s because God needed her mainly to counsel me.

There was also a time when I was deeply troubled by my broken family. I know that God is now taking me through a journey of learning to trust Him, learning to make peace with my past. I used to be very impatient with God not instantly changing me for the better until I understood that time is needed for me to grow. I know, one day, maybe not soon, but when I am prepared, I will be able to embrace even my troubled past.

The graces and the thorns God gives us are to prepare us for the next stage in our lives. And when we reach where we are supposed to be at that moment, when we have grown as how we should have, God allows these graces and thorns to be replaced by what we will need at that moment. Some of us, however, cling on to what was familiar.

We should learn to let go and move forward with God, even though we go through the pain of losing our manna. After all, when Jesus sent his disciples, he commanded them to bring nothing — they were to depend on God’s providence.

I am reminded of a quote which was an answer to the riddle on what one can say that will make a sad man happy, and a happy man sad. The response was, ‘This, too, will pass.’

This, too, will pass. And God will give us what we need for that particular time.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear God, help me to let go and to let you. Help me allow you to lead me, and always give me the grace to trust you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving me just what I need for this particular point of my life. 

15 December, Saturday – Entering into Relationship

15 December

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Ecclesiasticus 48:1-4, 9-12

The prophet Elijah arose like a fire,
  his word flaring like a torch.
It was he who brought famine on the people,
  and who decimated them in his zeal.
By the word of the Lord, he shut up the heavens,
  he also, three times, brought down fire.

How glorious you were in your miracles, Elijah!
  Has anyone reason to boast as you have?
Taken up in the whirlwind of fire,
  in a chariot with fiery horses;
designated in the prophecies of doom
  to allay God’s wrath before the fury breaks,
to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children,
  and to restore the tribes of Jacob,
Happy shall they be who see you,
  and those who have fallen asleep in love.

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Matthew 17:10-13

As they came down from the mountain the disciples put this question to Jesus, ‘Why do the scribes say then that Elijah has to come first?’ ‘True;’ he replied ‘Elijah is to come to see that everything is once more as it should be; however, I tell you that Elijah has come already and they did not recognise him but treated him as they pleased; and the Son of Man will suffer similarly at their hands.’ The disciples understood then that he had been speaking of John the Baptist.

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They did not recognise him but treated him as they pleased; and the Son of Man will suffer similarly at their hands.

In less than two weeks, it will be Christmas. The night of the Christmas Vigil Mass, we will then see the figure of baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the crib of the manger. This is the scene we would be none the wiser to recognise, if we were one of the wise men that fateful desert night. And that was part of God’s elaborate, intricate plan.

It is precisely this detail of our powerful God choosing to enter our world as a vulnerable and needing baby that reveals to us where His heart truly lies. He chose to appear in the flesh of the defenseless and uncelebrated. He deliberately chose vulnerability every time, as a baby and as the crucified Christ. Each time, the hearts of only a few were open to receiving Him, the eyes of only some could witness His surrendered glory.

The wise men had to strip off all presumptions of majesty in order to see the Christ-child. The young girl who first bowed her head with humble Fiat embraced vulnerability to be the holy vessel of the Immaculate Conception. She had to abandon worldly caution, social customs, and human logic. Joseph would defy his strict Jewish faith to obey the illogical command of this Mystery.

This ability to surrender and follow requires of us the willingness to enter into relationship with the Beloved. It is not possible to trust someone you do not know well – much less when the impossible is asked of your trust! To choose “Yes”, one needs to have faith that there is good ultimately in the end, no matter what evidences and reality is presented. Mary and Joseph, who brought to birth Christ to the world, were in deep communion with God, to the extent that their logical selves must have screamed, “You crazy!” in some of these moments, especially at the Annunciation. “Happy shall they be who see you, and those who have fallen asleep in love.” (Ecc. 48:12). In other translations, love is read as “friendship”.

Entering into earthly relationships is so tough. Whether they be romantic or friendships. We have to shed defences, and reveal vulnerabilities, in order to unlock the door towards new levels of intimacy, trust, and fellowship. It’s risky, terrifying, and it’s like giving someone the chance to disappoint you or break your heart. But at the same time, it is liberating to be able to choose trust. The freedom that came with spiritual surrender to God’s plan, enabled Mary and Joseph to keep saying “Yes” to how God used them, and where He led them.

I can imagine that it was only in the first “Yes”, that their intimacy and reliance on God deepened, and their relationship with Him continued to be strengthened and purified. It may have appeared ridiculous from the outside, but the interior room of their hearts was unlocked for Christ’s entrance. God was still actively moulding their journey of faith. They were actively remaining pliable and open to the Potter’s hands.

Recalling the prophet Elijah, who was considered a raving lunatic and an outcast amongst the people of Israel who had turned to worship Baal, Jesus uses the Old Testament prophecies to bring the disciples’ attention to the way John the Baptist’s ascetic life was being mocked in his time. For this same reason, the Memorial of St John of the Cross was chosen for this day’s readings. None of them could have continued on their paths and mission if not for their deep relationship with God and their abiding trust in His love and purpose. With that, they were able to choose present foolishness and ridicule, lay open their vulnerabilities, and push to birth God’s plan – an elaborate plan that could only be appreciated in retrospect.

His veiled power emanates from these hidden moments. A babe in swaddling cloths would overpower human sense. A cloth-less man in his prime hung on condemned cross would be the Saviour of the world. This divine plan of God had been set in motion since the beginning of time (John 1:1-5). It’s time we entered into this scene with Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Debbie Loo)

Prayer:  I thank you God for the models of faith in Mary and Joseph, who inspire us to enter into a deep relationship with You.

Thanksgiving:  I pray for the courage to be vulnerable, to remain open to Your love and purposes, starting with baby steps.

19 November, Sunday – You Entrusted Me

19 November 2017

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Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31

A perfect wife – who can find her? She is far beyond the price of pearls.

Her husband’s heart has confidence in her, from her he will derive no little profit.

Advantage and not hurt she brings him all the days of her life.

She is always busy with wool and with flax, she does her work with eager hands.

She sets her hands to the distaff, her fingers grasp the spindle.

She holds out her hand to the poor, she opens her arms to the needy.

Charm is deceitful, and beauty empty; the woman who is wise is the one to praise.

Give her a share in what her hands have worked for, and let her works tell her praises at the city gates.

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1 Thessalonians 5:1-6

You will not be expecting us to write anything to you, brothers, about ‘times and seasons’, since you know very well that the Day of the Lord is going to come like a thief in the night. It is when people are saying, ‘How quiet and peaceful it is’ that the worst suddenly happens, as suddenly as labour pains come on a pregnant woman; and there will be no way for anybody to evade it.

But it is not as if you live in the dark, my brothers, for that Day to overtake you like a thief. No, you are all sons of light and sons of the day: we do not belong to the night or to darkness, so we should not go on sleeping, as everyone else does, but stay wide awake and sober.

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Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.

‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”

‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”’

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“Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Although I was baptised only in my late teens, I am well acquainted with the Parable of the Talents, having being educated in Catholic institutions for almost all my life.

For many years, I have equated the ‘talents’ with the gifts of ability that God has given us, and it was only much later that I realised that the ‘talents’ was also a measure of currency. As such, I have always believed that we should make full use of the abilities that God has gifted us; that we should not bury these abilities.

However, reading the same passage also helped me realised something from among the 3 servants, through the words that they use. The first two, as faithful stewards, focused on the master and went about their tasks, working hard to make the best of what is given to them. We can see that in the words that they use, both talking about the talents that “you (the master) entrusted…”. However, when we listen to what the 3rd servant had to say, his focus was on himself, about how he was afraid of what could happen to him because his master was a “hard master”.

Similarly, when we look at the gifts that our God has given us, we should always look at Him and use our abilities to please Him. We should never be motivated by fear, by what would happen to us if we fail to use these abilities.

The parable does not say what would happen if any of the servants had worked hard to invest the talents, but lost part or all of these in the process. What would happen if we failed when we try to use our own talents?

I believe our God is an eternally faithful and just God. I believe He looks into our hearts and understands what drives us; whether it’s self preservation or love. I believe our Master loves us, and regardless of the outcome, would call us “good and faithful servants” if we do everything with love and with our eyes cast on Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, help us to always cast our eyes upon You and to be motivated. Let us never be driven by fear.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for being our ‘faithful Master’. Thank You for trusting us and entrusting the many talents for us to manage.

5 July, Wednesday – Priest, Prophet and King

5 July – Memorial for St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria, Priest

St. Anthony (1502-1539) studied medicine at Padua, receiving his doctorate at age 22. Working among the poor in Cremona, he felt called to the religious life. He was ordained at age 26; legend says that angels were seen around the altar at his first Mass. St. Anthony established two congregations that helped reform the morals of the faithful, encouraged laymen to work together with the apostolate, and frequent reception of Communion.

– Patron Saint Index

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Genesis 21:5, 8-20

Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham gave a great banquet on the day Isaac was weaned. Now Sarah watched the son that Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. ‘Drive away that slave-girl and her son,’ she said to Abraham; ‘this slave-girl’s son is not to share the inheritance with my son Isaac.’ This greatly distressed Abraham because of his son, but God said to him, ‘Do not distress yourself on account of the boy and your slave-girl. Grant Sarah all she asks of you, for it is through Isaac that your name will be carried on. But the slave-girl’s son I will also make into a nation, for he is your child too.’ Rising early next morning Abraham took some bread and a skin of water and, giving them to Hagar, he put the child on her shoulder and sent her away.

She wandered off into the wilderness of Beersheba. When the skin of water was finished she abandoned the child under a bush. Then she went and sat down at a distance, about a bowshot away, saying to herself, ‘I cannot see the child die.’ So she sat at a distance; and the child wailed and wept.

But God heard the boy wailing, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven. ‘What is wrong, Hagar?’ he asked. ‘Do not be afraid, for God has heard the boy’s cry where he lies. Come, pick up the boy and hold him safe, for I will make him into a great nation.’ Then God opened Hagar’s eyes and she saw a well, so she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

God was with the boy. He grew up and made his home in the wilderness, and he became a bowman.

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Matthew 8:28-34

When Jesus reached the country of the Gadarenes on the other side, two demoniacs came towards him out of the tombs – creatures so fierce that no one could pass that way. They stood there shouting, ‘What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before the time?’ Now some distance away there was a large herd of pigs feeding, and the devils pleaded with Jesus, ‘If you cast us out, send us into the herd of pigs.’ And he said to them, ‘Go then’, and they came out and made for the pigs; and at that the whole herd charged down the cliff into the lake and perished in the water. The swineherds ran off and made for the town, where they told the whole story, including what had happened to the demoniacs. At this the whole town set out to meet Jesus; and as soon as they saw him they implored him to leave the neighbourhood.

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I will make of him a great nation

“I will make a great nation of him also, since he too is your offspring.” How wonderful and comforting it is to hear God’s promises to us. As I read today’s first reading, I thought to myself, how much ‘easier’ it was for Abraham. If God spoke to me square in the face so directly, I too would have the courage to move ahead with His calling. Don’t get me wrong, it was a tough situation for Abraham to be placed in, hard decisions had to be made. After all, Ishmael too was his son and now he is called upon to send away Hagar and his own flesh and blood. How torn and distressed he must have felt. However, to be able to hear God’s voice tell you “Do not be distressed” made it so much more comforting for Abraham.

I wish God would speak to me so directly and clearly too when I am called to make important life decisions. For most times, God is silent. And when I think I do hear Him, something else happens and I wonder if I heard correctly.

Recently, I was serving in an outreach retreat. While riding in our bus, I got to speaking to a fellow ministry member. We never really knew each other prior to this trip. We were in different ministries in our community and never really crossed paths. We were chatting along the way and he shared with me his story. Naturally, our conversation started with what he does for a living. Jeremy shared that he stopped work since 2012 at the height of his career. Everything had been going swimmingly well for him then and he was travelling quite a bit, setting up regional offices for his organisation. Then something went wrong and, feeling empty, he left that job. He had plenty of other opportunities, given his experience. However, after attending the Conversation Experience Retreat, he was prompted to give it all up and follow Jesus. Jeremy sold his home, the home that he and his family had lived in for many years and moved in with his father. He felt that he was called to live and look after his dad in his twilight years. His wife, too, left her job after her own retreat.

Not long after, Jeremy joined a ministry in our community. However, after a few years, he felt that he wanted to leave that ministry. However, he was prompted in prayer to stay on. So despite his own jaded feelings, he stayed on. Fast forward to today, Jeremy is helping out in our music ministry as we were in need of musicians. I asked him if he had left his own ministry and he replied ‘No, I am still part of it.’ The Lord has used him and his talents to help where he is needed. I needed to ask him that one very human question “So how are you and your family coping with no income?” His frank answer — “The Lord has provided.” They live a simpler lifestyle and continue to trust in where God leads them. Jeremy is truly a gift to our music ministry (though borrowed) and he continues to be an active member in his own ministry.

I half joked (and was also serious) when I told him, “Be careful when you surrender everything to the Lord.” He will use us and take us places where we don’t necessarily want to go. But trust that He will make great nations of us.

I left a corporate job 3 years ago. It started off as a sabbatical of no more than 2 years. Where the Lord has led me is beyond my wildest imagination. Not necessarily a plan I would have made for myself if left to my own devices. With time on my hands, I created and started Tabby’s Tail some 2 years ago. It started off as nothing more than helping a few priest friends make liturgical apparel. This is my passion and it fuels the creative side of me. I didn’t think it would get very far. But through word of mouth, it has since grown and we are now embarking on bigger and more creative projects. I do wrestle with God now and again. But I know He has got other plans for Tabby’s Tail. I may not fully understand it right now, but He has shown me throughout this year that if I place my plans with Him and trust in God, He will lead me on a journey. A vocation is never static. It is a journey. He will use the gifts and talents He has given us for greater good. And yes, He will take care of the rest.

So my brothers and sisters, trust that the Lord is indeed speaking to us. We just need to peel our ears a little more and quieten that noisy head and heart of ours. And He will indeed make great nations of each and every one of us!

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

 Prayer: Lord, we pray for docility to follow where you lead. For courage to take the very first steps and for fortitude to continue on this journey when things appear hard. For ultimately, the blueprint of our lives has already been drafted by you. And you know best how to use us to glorify Our Father.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for making each one of us special and in your likeness. Despite our weakness and sinfulness, you have deemed us worthy of being called Priests, Prophets and Kings.

4 July, Tuesday – Who is that man?

4 July – Memorial for St. Elizabeth of Portugal

Elizabeth (1271-1336) was a princess with a pious upbringing who became Queen of Portugal before she was a teenager. Elizabeth suffered through years of her husband’s abuse and adultery, praying all the while for his conversion, and working with the poor and sick. She rode onto the battlefield to reconcile her family members twice; once between her husband and son when they clashed in civil war, and between her son and his son-in-law years later, preventing bloodshed. This led to her patronage as a peacemaker, and as one invoked in time of war and conflict.

– Patron Saint Index

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Genesis 19:15-29

The angels urged Lot, ‘Come, take your wife and these two daughters of yours, or you will be overwhelmed in the punishment of the town.’ And as he hesitated, the men took him by the hand, and his wife and his two daughters, because of the pity the Lord felt for him. They led him out and left him outside the town.

As they were leading him out he said, ‘Run for your life. Neither look behind you nor stop anywhere on the plain. Make for the hills if you would not be overwhelmed.’ ‘No, I beg you, my lord,’ Lot said to them ‘your servant has won your favour and you have shown great kindness to me in saving my life. But I could not reach the hills before this calamity overtook me, and death with it. The town over there is near enough to flee to, and is a little one. Let me make for that – is it not little? – and my life will be saved.’ He answered, ‘I grant you this favour too, and will not destroy the town you speak of. Hurry, escape to it, for I can do nothing until you reach it.’ That is why the town is named Zoar.

As the sun rose over the land and Lot entered Zoar, the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord. He overthrew these towns and the whole plain, with all the inhabitants of the towns, and everything that grew there. But the wife of Lot looked back, and was turned into a pillar of salt.

Rising early in the morning Abraham went to the place where he had stood before the Lord, and looking towards Sodom and Gomorrah, and across all the plain, he saw the smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.

Thus it was that when God destroyed the towns of the plain, he kept Abraham in mind and rescued Lot out of disaster when he overwhelmed the towns where Lot lived.

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Matthew 8:23-27

Jesus got into the boat followed by his disciples. Without warning a storm broke over the lake, so violent that the waves were breaking right over the boat. But he was asleep. So they went to him and woke him saying, ‘Save us, Lord, we are going down!’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened, you men of little faith?’ And with that he stood up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and all was calm again. The men were astounded and said, ‘Whatever kind of man is this? Even the winds and the sea obey him.’

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… but he was asleep

Don Moen songs say that ‘He never sleeps’, which is quite contrary to today’s gospel. But he was asleep when the boat was swamped by the waves. Today are we disappointed with God? Do we think that He can do much more for us?

One of the great things about love and friendship is to trust that the other person will come through for you. In several occasions I have trusted my friends, like how we used to hang out late into the night, I know that they would do anything to protect me if danger stricks. Even with my colleagues, I know that I can come to work without my wallet and not go hungry, because I know that they would not want to see me hungry and they to trust that I would pay them back the next day. Relationships are based on trust.

Our experience in life may have made it difficult for us to trust others. I once knew 2 loving sisters who would do anything for their friends but they found it hard to trust others and not choosing to trust brought a lot of stress to their relationships.

If today, we have a problem with trust in general, it is quite likely that we are disconnected and not in touch with the essence of what it means to be human.

Jesus is not asleep but really, I wonder what He is doing right now? Is He thinking about me and smilling at me? Is He waiting for me at the Eucharist? Is He holding the hands of the people I have failed? I am only human, I could never guess. But as a Catholic, I know that He loves me and His is my lover and my loving Lord; He adores me and Has great plans for me. Do I need to know more? I trust Him enough to know that He will feed me more than my colleagues can, trust me more than my friends do, accepts me even when I am disappointed with myself and when that is not enough for my restless heart, I will run hastily towards His bosom and even when I cannot go to Him, He will never let me go.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Father, we pray for the people of America as they celebrate their independence day. May they (and we too) continue to trust in You.

Thanksgiving: Lord I run to you, all my hope and trust is in you. Jesu Ufam Tobie.

5 December, Monday – Faith

5 December 2016

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Isaiah 35:1-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Luke 5:17-26

Jesus was teaching one day, and among the audience there were Pharisees and doctors of the Law who had come from every village in Galilee, from Judaea and from Jerusalem. And the Power of the Lord was behind his works of healing. Then some men appeared, carrying on a bed a paralysed man whom they were trying to bring in and lay down in front of him. But as the crowd made it impossible to find a way of getting him in, they went up on to the flat roof and lowered him and his stretcher down through the tiles into the middle of the gathering, in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith he said, ‘My friend, your sins are forgiven you.’ The scribes and the Pharisees began to think this over. ‘Who is this man talking blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ But Jesus, aware of their thoughts, made them this reply, ‘What are these thoughts you have in your hearts? Which of these is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven you” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ – he said to the paralysed man – ‘I order you: get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.’ And immediately before their very eyes he got up, picked up what he had been lying on and went home praising God.

They were all astounded and praised God, and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today.’

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“Your sins are forgiven you.”

In today’s Gospel, we see the great faith towards the power of Christ, where it almost seems like no obstacle is too hard for the men to overcome, as long as they are able to bring the paralysed man to Christ. Did those men actually consider, what if the paralysed man couldn’t be healed? What if Jesus decided not to heal? What if, after everything, nothing could actually be done?

I’m sure these questions could have possibly been in the minds of those men, and many times in ours too. What if life after death isn’t as what we expect? What if we don’t make it to heaven? What if we’ve invested all our time and money in this faith but there are no returns? Are all these worth it?

Christ being aware, asks us, “Which of these is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven you” or to say “Get up and walk”? What are we actually living for? What actually matters?

The men had faith not because of what Jesus was going to do, but because of what He has done. We should not live our lives today, in order that God will love us more or for us to go to heaven, but that all our Father has, is already ours. Are we overly focused on the pleasures of the world that we want our share of the property because we feel we know we can do better with our lives, or are we able to trust in our Father’s plan?

As in the first reading and the psalms, “he is coming to save you”, “Look, our God is coming to save us”. God has already made a gift of Himself to us through Jesus Christ but still empowers us with the Holy Spirit and assures us of His second coming, where we will all be one and united in Him. The only thing separating us from God is not our disabilities, weaknesses, lack of financial, intellectual, emotional or pastoral capacity but it is sin. Sin is hence the opposite of faith, where we doubt and question.

Let us prepare ourselves for His coming by removing sin from our lives, in order that we may fully encounter God in a deeper way. To not focus solely on the gifts/miracles but on the giver, our saviour. Amen

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that our faith will continue to grow stronger day by day, in that we will be able to overcome the challenges and struggles that life throws at us. To focus on what is truly important — love, peace, joy and hope — not just for ourselves, but to share with all.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your mercy, kindness and compassion.