26 July, Wednesday – Navigation Aids

Jul 26 – Sts. Joachim and Anne, parents of the Virgin Mary

By tradition, Joachim and Anne are considered to be the names of the parents of Mary, the Mother of God. We have no historical evidence, however, of any elements of their lives, including their names. Any stories about Mary’s father and mother come to us through legend and tradition. It was the parents of Mary who nurtured Mary, taught her, brought her up to be a worthy Mother of God. It was their teaching that led her to respond to God’s request with faith, “Let it be done to me as you will.” It was their example of parenting that Mary must have followed as she brought up her own son, Jesus. It was their faith that laid the foundation of courage and strength that allowed her to stand by the cross as her son was crucified and still believe. Such parents can be examples and models for all parents.

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=22

_________________

Exodus 16:1-5, 9-15

From Elim they set out, and the whole community of the sons of Israel reached the wilderness of Sin – between Elim and Sinai – on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had left Egypt. And the whole community of the sons of Israel began to complain against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness and said to them, ‘Why did we not die at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we were able to sit down to pans of meat and could eat bread to our heart’s content! As it is, you have brought us to this wilderness to starve this whole company to death!’

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now I will rain down bread for you from the heavens. Each day the people are to go out and gather the day’s portion; I propose to test them in this way to see whether they will follow my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they have brought in, this will be twice as much as the daily gathering.’

Moses said to Aaron, ‘To the whole community of the sons of Israel say this, “Present yourselves before the Lord, for he has heard your complaints.”’ As Aaron was speaking to the whole community of the sons of Israel, they turned towards the wilderness, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the form of a cloud. Then the Lord spoke to Moses and said, ‘I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel. Say this to them, “Between the two evenings you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have bread to your heart’s content. Then you will learn that I, the Lord, am your God.”’ And so it came about: quails flew up in the evening, and they covered the camp; in the morning there was a coating of dew all round the camp. When the coating of dew lifted, there on the surface of the desert was a thing delicate, powdery, as fine as hoarfrost on the ground. When they saw this, the sons of Israel said to one another, ‘What is that?’ not knowing what it was. ‘That’ said Moses to them ‘is the bread the Lord gives you to eat.’

___________________

Matthew 13:1-9

Jesus left the house and sat by the lakeside, but such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat there. The people all stood on the beach, and he told them many things in parables.

He said, ‘Imagine a sower going out to sow. As he sowed, some seeds fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up straight away, because there was no depth of earth; but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away. Others fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Others fell on rich soil and produced their crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

____________________

“Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.”

I was privileged to have had a discussion with an atheist about the need for Jesus and religion in our lives.

Among the breadth of opinions shared, one statement gave me particular cause for reflection. He believed in the power of human rationality to craft a convincing, positive narrative for the events that have taken place in our lives. Since Christian life does not immunize us from suffering, he opined that with the right conditioning, anyone could make sense of life’s tumults and could invariably view those seeming coincidences through a generous lens.

If our survival instinct is hard-coded into our DNA, then surely we would overcome the bad, cherish the good, and plod through the rest of life’s banalities with the single-mindedness of a marathon runner heading towards the finish line. Probability and science would be the definite panaceas for dealing with uncertainty and the unknown.

I struggled with my feelings towards this point-of-view. I started off feeling jealous of people who are able to cope with life’s difficulties independently. They seemed strong and resolute; people made of sterner stuff than I was. I then was filled with anger as I thought about the path God had led me on thus far. Why did He allow me to make innumerable poor decisions? Why has there been so much pain?

However, upon deeper reflection on my way home, the malaise faded and gratitude filled my heart. In my times of weakness and failure, God cradled me and walked with me on my journey. By crying out to God and having him as my only crutch, our relationship grew. He has filled me with a deep-seated peace that can only be attained through communion with Him. God isn’t a fad that I will outgrow. He does not have an expiration date or faces obsolescence from a newer model.

I never did ask my friend if he was truly happy. Or if he would entertain the possibility of an infinite being that transcends our human understanding of joy, love, and providence. But it doesn’t really matter for now, because Jesus loves and cares for him too, even though my friend cannot see His footprints.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer — Dear Lord, grant us the humility to always look to you as our North Star.

Thanksgiving — We thank you Father for our moments of weakness. In those moments, you show us your unyielding strength.

25 July, Tuesday – Counter Cultural

Jul 25 – Feast of St. James, Apostle

St. James (died 44) was the first Apostle to be martyred. He preached in Samaria, Judea, and Spain. His work in Spain, and the housing of his relics there, led to his patronage of the country and all things Spanish.

Like all men of renown, many stories grew up around St. James. In one, he brought back to life a boy who had been unjustly hanged, and had been dead for five weeks. The boy’s father was notified of the miracle while he sat at supper. The father pronounced the story nonsense, and said his son was no more alive than the roasted fowl on the table; the cooked bird promptly sat up, sprouted feathers, and flew away.

– Patron Saint Index

_________________

2 Corinthians 4:7-15

We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us. We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair; we have been persecuted, but never deserted; knocked down, but never killed; always, wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body. Indeed, while we are still alive, we are consigned to our death every day, for the sake of Jesus, so that in our mortal flesh the life of Jesus, too, may be openly shown. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

But as we have the same spirit of faith that is mentioned in scripture – I believed, and therefore I spoke – we too believe and therefore we too speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus to life will raise us with Jesus in our turn, and put us by his side and you with us. You see, all this is for your benefit, so that the more grace is multiplied among people, the more thanksgiving there will be, to the glory of God.

___________________

Matthew 20:20-28

The mother of Zebedee’s sons came with her sons to make a request of him, and bowed low; and he said to her, ‘What is it you want?’ She said to him, ‘Promise that these two sons of mine may sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your kingdom.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus answered. ‘Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ ‘Very well,’ he said ‘you shall drink my cup, but as for seats at my right hand and my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted by my Father.’

When the other ten heard this they were indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that among the pagans the rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

____________________

“Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;”

Christ is our head and we are the body. Where the head goes, the body follows, naturally. “My chalice you shall indeed drink”(Mt 20:23).

What if we were soldiers under Napoleon Bonaparte or any of those supposedly great military leaders? Sure, their methods are still being studied now, but their legacy or empire didn’t last very long after they lost power. In fact, all these powerful rulers, including the likes of Nero, Caesar & Hitler all lost power.

Christ never ‘lost’. He said to Pilate, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11). Christ laid down His life out of His own will as he said in John 10:18, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” So here we are, in 2017 still being sustained and protected by the head, who, laid down his life of his own accord. In every other strategy, this makes no sense. In Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of Christ’, Satan is depicted as being shocked that he didn’t win.

As followers of Christ, I often liken our journey to that of the salmon, going against the current to lay her eggs, going upstream, struggling, and those that don’t make it, don’t have offspring, they aren’t fruitful. We are called to be exactly as Christ was — counter cultural — to give of ourselves instead of preserving ourselves; to be a servant instead of desiring to be served. We stand as the last institution to not waiver on the dignity of life, on our stance against abortion; absolutely, counter cultural.

A friend recently told me she lost some good friends due to her church commitments and beliefs. I thought to myself, so have I. Of the chalice of the Lord I too desire to drink. But rejoice, I shall, for my reward will be great in heaven. It fills me with great comfort knowing that there are many of us out there who stand against the culture of death and hold firm to the teachings of Holy Mother Church.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer — Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. (Romans 12:12) Jesus, I trust in you and I know you will give me strength and courage to persevere in your name. May I always stand for truth; for love of neighbour & for justice.

Thanksgiving — Thank you Lord, for promising that the gates of the underworld will never prevail. I hold on to that promise and will sing of your great love forever.

24 July, Monday – The Sign

24 Jul – Memorial for St. Charbel Makhluf, Priest

St. Charbel was a Lebanese monk, born in a small mountain village and ordained in 1858. Devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, he spent the last twenty three years of his life as a hermit. Despite temptations to wealth and comfort, St. Charbel taught the value of poverty, self-sacrifice and prayer by the way he lived his life.

http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/innews/082002.shtml

_________________

Exodus 14:5-18

When Pharaoh, king of Egypt, was told that the Israelites had made their escape, he and his courtiers changed their minds about the people. ‘What have we done,’ they said ‘allowing Israel to leave our service?’ So Pharaoh had his chariot harnessed and gathered his troops about him, taking six hundred of the best chariots and all the other chariots in Egypt, each manned by a picked team. The Lord made Pharaoh, king of Egypt, stubborn, and he gave chase to the sons of Israel as they made their triumphant escape. So the Egyptians gave chase and came up with them where they lay encamped beside the sea – all the horses, the chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen, his army – near Pi-hahiroth, facing Baal-zephon. And as Pharaoh approached, the sons of Israel looked round – and there were the Egyptians in pursuit of them!

The sons of Israel were terrified and cried out to the Lord. To Moses they said, ‘Were there no graves in Egypt that you must lead us out to die in the wilderness? What good have you done us, bringing us out of Egypt? We spoke of this in Egypt, did we not? Leave us alone, we said, we would rather work for the Egyptians! Better to work for the Egyptians than die in the wilderness!’

Moses answered the people, ‘Have no fear! Stand firm, and you will see what the Lord will do to save you today: the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The Lord will do the fighting for you: you have only to keep still.’

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me so? Tell the sons of Israel to march on. For yourself, raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and part it for the sons of Israel to walk through the sea on dry ground. I for my part will make the heart of the Egyptians so stubborn that they will follow them. So shall I win myself glory at the expense of Pharaoh, of all his army, his chariots, his horsemen. And when I have won glory for myself, at the expense of Pharaoh and his chariots and his army, the Egyptians will learn that I am the Lord.’

___________________

Matthew 12:38-42

Some of the scribes and Pharisees spoke up. ‘Master,’ they said ‘we should like to see a sign from you.’ He replied, ‘It is an evil and unfaithful generation that asks for a sign! The only sign it will be given is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the sea-monster for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.’

____________________

We would like to see a sign

We use signs and symbols everyday. In traffic, we stop when it is red. We move on when it is green. We follow the signs or else there will be traffic accidents. We also sometimes rely our luck based on various signs. I remember back when I was in grade school, I enjoyed reading about my future, about my lucky number, and lucky colour for the day. And I saw to it that I had with me any accessory that had that particular ‘lucky’ colour.

It says in our Gospel today that Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees that those who ask for a sign are evil and unfaithful. He said that the only sign will be from the prophet Jonah. Wherein, Jonah was inside the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, the same with the Son of Man, in the heart of the earth, for three days and three nights.

There are times as we pray, we like to ask God for signs to find out if our prayers have been answered. It seems as if we want some security to know if God really hears us. God is God. Yet, we act like we are mightier than Him. We demand too much; but we are only His children, His followers. We want to have tangible things to hold on to believe in God.

We sometimes get mad at God when we perceive that He does not answer. There must be an answer, but we just do not have the heart to discern it. Or maybe our prayers have been only a one-way communication. It should not be the case. Prayer is our communication with God. It should be two-way. Yes, we want a lot from God. However, we should also have time to pray and listen to what God is telling us. We are so pre-occupied and in a hurry to lift up all our material wants that we neglect to pray and discern God’s plan for us.

A sign is indeed important. But our faith should not be based on what we can sense. It is the state of our heart where we believe that God is with us and answers our prayers, even when we cannot perceive that He does.

Let us keep our faith strong. God does answer our prayers. I believe that God gives us signs and symbols. Sometimes, these are different from what we expect; or there are times when the signs are already evident, it is just we still do not have the grace to realise it.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer – Father God, grant that we may always have unwavering faith in You. May we always believe even in times when we feel like giving up.

Thanksgiving – We thank you Lord, for the gift of faith. We thank you for your mercy and continued blessings despite of our unworthiness.

23 July, Sunday – Weeds of Life

23 July 2017

______________

Wisdom 12:13, 16-19

There is no god, other than you, who cares for every thing, to whom you might have to prove that you never judged unjustly;

Your justice has its source in strength, your sovereignty over all makes you lenient to all. You show your strength when your sovereign power is questioned and you expose the insolence of those who know it; but, disposing of such strength, you are mild in judgement, you govern us with great lenience, for you have only to will, and your power is there.

By acting thus you have taught a lesson to your people how the virtuous man must be kindly to his fellow men, and you have given your sons the good hope that after sin you will grant repentance.

_______________________

Romans 8:26-27

The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what he means, and that the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit are according to the mind of God.

________________________

Matthew 13:24-43

Jesus put another parable before the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everybody was asleep his enemy came, sowed darnel all among the wheat, and made off. When the new wheat sprouted and ripened, the darnel appeared as well. The owner’s servants went to him and said, “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?” “Some enemy has done this” he answered. And the servants said, “Do you want us to go and weed it out?” But he said, “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.”’

He put another parable before them, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.’

He told them another parable, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’

In all this Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables; indeed, he would never speak to them except in parables. This was to fulfil the prophecy: 

I will speak to you in parables and expound things hidden since the foundation of the world.

Then, leaving the crowds, he went to the house; and his disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain the parable about the darnel in the field to us.’ He said in reply, ‘The sower of the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed is the subjects of the kingdom; the darnel, the subjects of the evil one; the enemy who sowed them, the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels. Well then, just as the darnel is gathered up and burnt in the fire, so it will be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that provoke offences and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. Then the virtuous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

_____________________

Let them both grow till the harvest

One afternoon, I was enjoying my light meal in a corner while looking at the garden. As I was spacing out, I saw a plant and there was this weed that was starting to grow. It wrapped around the body of the plant and clinged itself to any leaves and stems it passed through.

Our Gospel for today talks about the parable of the darnel and the wheat. To cut the story short, it is about a man who planted good wheat in his fields. However, during night time, some enemy mixed darnel in it. Darnel is a kind of poisonous weed. So when the darnel started to show, the master told the servant to not uproot the darnel yet until they were mature because good wheat might be uprooted too. One reason is that darnel and wheat looks the same when they are young. Another thing is that darnel grows by clinging around the wheat. So when the darnels are uprooted, so would the wheat; it is therefore better to wait until the wheat is ready to be harvested before uprooting the darnel.

The field can symbolize our life, our family, our workplace, and our Catholic Community. There are both good and bad people. At times, there are people whom we thought are good, but only in the later part do we realize that we are wrong. There are those whom we trusted so much but then, it is too late when we figure out their real persona. There is this saying, “It is better late, than never.” But when I reflected about it more, isn’t it better if we pray for guidance on whatever we do before it is too late?

How do we live our life? Honestly, I do not know which one am I? I may seem to think that I am the wheat, the better one. And yet I could be living the other way; I could sometimes be the one bringing others down and leading them to temptation.

Good and evil come hand in hand. At first, we may not be able to recognize that we are choosing the wrong path. We ask for the grace that we may be able to identify the temptations and realize the ‘real’ good. As for the good wheat in the parable, we pray that we cultivate our faith.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer — Father God, we are very sorry for our shortcomings. Please grant us the grace of wisdom that we may be able to be decisive in whatever we do. May we be able to resist temptations and be faithful to you, Lord.

Thanksgiving — Heavenly Father, we thank you for bringing us here to life. Thank you for our family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Thank you for the challenges that may inspire us choose the better path towards Your Kingdom.

22 July, Saturday – Seeking God Passionately

Jul 22 – Memorial for St. Mary Magdalene

There is actually very little solid information about her, and both scholars and traditions differ on the interpretation of what we do know.

She was a friend and follower of Jesus. Filled with sorrow over her sin, she anointed Christ and washed his feet with her hair. He exorcised seven demons from her. She was the first to have been visited by the Risen Christ. While there are several arguments about her life after the Crucifixion, the Greek Church maintains that she retired to Ephesus with the Blessed Virgin Mary and lived there the rest of her life.

Some things we do know for certain – Mary wasn’t Jesus’ wife nor mistress, she wasn’t the mother of His child, and she didn’t found a royal dynasty or separate branch of Christianity.

http://www.carr.org/~meripper/saints/saints-m.htm

– Patron Saint Index

_________________

Song of Songs 3:1-4

All night long on my bed
I looked for the one my heart loves;
I looked for him but did not find him.

 I will get up now and go about the city,
through its streets and squares;
I will search for the one my heart loves.
So I looked for him but did not find him.

The watchmen found me
as they made their rounds in the city.
“Have you seen the one my heart loves?”

Scarcely had I passed them
when I found the one my heart loves.
I held him and would not let him go
till I had brought him to my mother’s house,
to the room of the one who conceived me.

___________________

John 20:1-2, 11-18

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

Meanwhile Mary stayed outside near the tomb, weeping. Then, still weeping, she stooped to look inside, and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet. They said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away’ she replied ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ As she said this she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not recognise him. Jesus said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’ Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master. Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ So Mary of Magdala went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had said these things to her.

____________________

“Who are you looking for?”

The first reading of today from the Song of Songs speaks of the longing of a bride for her beloved; she seeks him and looks for him all over the city. She asks the watchmen if they have seen him on their rounds, to no avail.

A few years ago, my wife went on a work assignment to New York for a few months. Because of the time difference, we could only speak twice a day — once in the morning and once at night. In spite of the daily conversations, I found myself longing for her return. Having been married for about 16 years then, I found myself missing her dearly. While we do not spend our time together talking all the time, I find comfort and strength being with her.

Similarly, Jesus’ disciples (the women too) felt a loss after His death. While Jesus had just died on the cross, the disciples and the women were distraught when they could not find His body. One could sense their desperation in the Gospel passage of today, and their joy when Mary of Magdala recognised Jesus.

For many years since I had been baptised as a teen, I felt that God was somewhat detached. I had prayed on a more-or-less regular basis, as was taught to me, but I was not sure that my prayers and conversations with God were even heard.

Since then, I have had numerous experiences of God, but it was during the Conversion Experience Retreat that came to the biggest realisation of how God loved me. Over the week at the retreat, I felt the love of God for the first time, and, just like my relationship with my wife, I experienced a longing for His presence in my life.

As we travel along our faith journey, it is important that we develop a strong desire for Jesus, like the bride for her groom and like the disciples for their Teacher. Without this, our faith can only be lukewarm. Let us pray for, and desire for, red-hot faith!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father, let us desire to know You more and more each day. Help us always to seek You in our lives.

Thanksgiving Jesus Lord, thank You for teaching us what is truly important; to love You more each day. Thank You for being there no matter what the circumstances in our lives.

21 July, Friday – Going Beyond the Superficial

Jul 21 – Memorial for St. Lawrence of Brindisi, priest, religious, doctor

St. Lawrence (1559-1619) joined the Capuchin Friars in 1575. He studied theology, the Bible, French, German, Greek, Spanish, Syriac, and Hebrew. He was an effective and forceful preacher in any of his several languages, founded convents and wrote catechisms.

As the chaplain of the army of the Holy Roman Empire in 1601, he led the army into battle against the Turks carrying only a crucifix and defeated them. Later, he carried out important and successful diplomatic peace missions. He was the spiritual director of the Bavarian army. St Lawrence was proclaimed Apostolic Doctor of the Church by Pope John XXIII in 1959.

– Patron Saint Index

_________________

Exodus 11:10-12:14

Moses and Aaron worked many wonders in the presence of Pharaoh. But the Lord made Pharaoh’s heart stubborn, and he did not let the sons of Israel leave his country.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:

‘This month is to be the first of all the others for you, the first month of your year. Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, “On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock, one for each family: one animal for each household. If the household is too small to eat the animal, a man must join with his neighbour, the nearest to his house, as the number of persons requires. You must take into account what each can eat in deciding the number for the animal. It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may take it from either sheep or goats. You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel shall slaughter it between the two evenings. Some of the blood must then be taken and put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten. That night, the flesh is to be eaten, roasted over the fire; it must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled, but roasted over the fire, head, feet and entrails. You must not leave any over till the morning: whatever is left till morning you are to burn. You shall eat it like this: with a girdle round your waist, sandals on your feet, a staff in your hand. You shall eat it hastily: it is a passover in honour of the Lord. That night, I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, man and beast alike, and I shall deal out punishment to all the gods of Egypt, I am the Lord! The blood shall serve to mark the houses that you live in. When I see the blood I will pass over you and you shall escape the destroying plague when I strike the land of Egypt. This day is to be a day of remembrance for you, and you must celebrate it as a feast in the Lord’s honour. For all generations you are to declare it a day of festival, for ever.”

___________________

Matthew 12:1-8

Jesus took a walk one sabbath day through the cornfields. His disciples were hungry and began to pick ears of corn and eat them. The Pharisees noticed it and said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing something that is forbidden on the sabbath.’ But he said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his followers were hungry – how he went into the house of God and how they ate the loaves of offering which neither he nor his followers were allowed to eat, but which were for the priests alone? Or again, have you not read in the Law that on the sabbath day the Temple priests break the sabbath without being blamed for it? Now here, I tell you, is something greater than the Temple. And if you had understood the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless. For the Son of Man is master of the sabbath.’

____________________

“What I want is mercy, not sacrifice.”

‘Substance over form’ was a mantra I first learned about in my basic law course in the polytechnic. Interestingly, this saying came up repeatedly over the 30 odd years of my working life, beginning in audit, investment research and finally, in banking.

In my first job as an auditor, I focused on both financial and internal audits. Many times, I would find transactions in companies structured one way or another to meet the requirements of some law or to avoid some legal constraints. In essence, however, these transactions still achieved the same goals although appearing to be different on the surface.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus said: “What I want is mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless.” Too often we look at following the ‘rules’, without thinking about the implications or equity if we were to follow this rules.

As Christians, we must always prioritise people above the rules; to be merciful as asked by our Lord. Rather than purely administering the regulations, we need to look at the issues through lenses of love.

I recently read about how a retail store worker in the United States was fired because he had worked with the police to prevent a kidnapping. The reason? All because in doing so, he had gone against company policy. It may sound incredible, but true!

We need to always look at people and situations through lenses of love and mercy, for it is only through this that we can be true Christians and followers of God’s Word.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father, thank You for showing us what it means to be a true Christian. Help us to go beyond what is on the surface and go into the ‘substance’ and give us the courage to do so.

Thanksgiving Lord Jesus, thank You for giving us a compass in our lives. We thank You also for providing a faith community to support us to do so.

20 July, Thursday – Daily Unburdening to God

Jul 20 – Memorial for St. Apollinaris, Bishop & Martyr

According to tradition, Apollinaris was a native of Antioch in the Roman Province of Syria. He was made the first Bishop of Ravenna by St. Peter, during the persecutions of Emperor Vespasian (or Nero, depending on the source).

On his way out of the city, he was identified and arrested as being the leader, tortured and martyred by being run through with a sword. Centuries after his death, he appeared in a vision to St. Romuald. He was a noted miracle worker, and is considered especially effective against gout and epilepsy.

– Wikipedia

_________________

Exodus 3:13-20

Moses, hearing the voice of God coming from the middle of the bush, said to him, ‘I am to go, then, to the sons of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you.” But if they ask me what his name is, what am I to tell them?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I Am who I Am. This’ he added ‘is what you must say to the sons of Israel: “I Am has sent me to you.”’ And God also said to Moses, ‘You are to say to the sons of Israel: “The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.” This is my name for all time; by this name I shall be invoked for all generations to come.

‘Go and gather the elders of Israel together and tell them, “The Lord, the God of your fathers, has appeared to me, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; and he has said to me: I have visited you and seen all that the Egyptians are doing to you. And so I have resolved to bring you up out of Egypt where you are oppressed, into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land where milk and honey flow.” They will listen to your words, and with the elders of Israel you are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, “The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has come to meet us. Give us leave, then, to make a three days’ journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifice to the Lord our God.” For myself, knowing that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless he is forced by a mighty hand, I shall show my power and strike Egypt with all the wonders I am going to work there. After this he will let you go.’

___________________

Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus exclaimed, ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

____________________

“My yoke is easy and my burden light”

This year, my wife and I celebrate 20 years of marriage and 23 years of togetherness. She is the person who best understands and loves me. 23 years IS a long time!

We were speaking recently and I was distracted, thinking about the work tasks that I had to do. She took one look at me and commented that I had a tendency to “go inside”. I knew exactly what she meant… I do indeed have a tendency to run things over and over in my head. Unknowingly, I tend to carry these thoughts in my head. If I catch myself doing that (and I seldom do), I would lift my concerns up to the Lord.

Similarly, our Lord exhorts us to cast our burdens on Him. Very often though, I find it most challenging, especially if I have not been closely connected to God. We see this in the first reading of today, where Moses has a close relationship with God. He listens to God, who guides Moses through the exact things that he has to do and say. Yes, the prerequisite for casting our cares onto our Lord is that we have an ongoing relationship with Him. Otherwise, such ‘surrender’ would be rendered meaningless.

This is where the daily practices come into play — a daily quiet time, prayer, meditation, the daily examen and so forth. All these create a conversation between us and our Lord, and helps us to deepen our relationship with Him. I find these daily practices tough, but have also found that when I am able to perservere, it becomes easier for me to ‘place my burdens’ on Him.

Let us all continue on this journey together and endeavour to be in constant touch with God!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Lord Jesus, give us strength to walk with You every day. Help us to be closer with You as we travel on our journey of life.

Thanksgiving We thank You Jesus, for sharing our lives and our burdens with us. We are grateful for Your love!

19 July, Wednesday – Learning to be God’s children

19 July

_________________

Exodus 3:1-6, 9-12

Moses was looking after the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, priest of Midian. He led his flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in the shape of a flame of fire, coming from the middle of a bush. Moses looked; there was the bush blazing but it was not being burnt up. ‘I must go and look at this strange sight,’ Moses said, ‘and see why the bush is not burnt.’

Now the Lord saw him go forward to look, and God called to him from the middle of the bush. ‘Moses, Moses!’ he said. ‘Here I am,’ Moses answered. ‘Come no nearer,’ he said. ‘Take off your shoes, for the place on which you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your fathers,’ he said, ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ At this Moses covered his face, afraid to look at God.

And the Lord said, ‘The cry of the sons of Israel has come to me, and I have witnessed the way in which the Egyptians oppress them, so come, I send you to Pharaoh to bring the sons of Israel, my people, out of Egypt.’

Moses said to God, ‘Who am I to go to Pharaoh and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?’ ‘I shall be with you,’ was the answer ‘and this is the sign by which you shall know that it is I who have sent you… After you have led the people out of Egypt, you are to offer worship to God on this mountain.’

___________________

Matthew 11:25-27

Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

____________________

“You shall know that it is I who have sent you…”

I have been blessed to have been able to teach and mentor children at home catechism for the last seven years. I am also blessed with two beautiful children; one a teen, and the other a pre-teen.

One of the reasons I enjoy teaching cathecism is to see the confidence of the children increase over time as they grow into the knowledge of their competence. While they may initially possess feelings of inadequacy, they are open to listening to advice and guidance.

In the first reading today, God led Moses to liberate the Israelites from the control of the Egyptians. This was despite Moses’ background, having been brought up in the Egyptian royal family, then subsequently disgraced and exiled from the land of Egypt. Under such circumstances, we certainly understand why he would feel as such.

Moses was about forty years old when exiled, and spent forty years in the desert being a shepherd, which means that he was about eighty years of age when God first spoke to him. At eighty, far removed from his childhood years, Moses allowed himself to be led by God.

In my own experience, growing up in an environment without my parents, I have not had the benefit of a mentor-mentee relationship in my growing years. Instead, I have had to depend on myself, being an only child. Much of what I had done as a child, I have had to figure out on my own. However, as I grew into adulthood, I began to value my own opinions more than the opinions of those around me. This approach led me to many a wrong decision.

Like Moses, and others like Abraham, we need to learn to set aside our ‘adult-ness’ and be like children again. It is only when we surrender our will that our God can guide us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father, teach us to be able to surrender ourselves to Your will. Help us, Father God, to walk in Your path.

Thanksgiving Thank You for Your presence in our lives, and thank You for sending us signposts to guide us.

18 July, Tuesday – Focussing our eyes on God

18 July

_________________

Exodus 2:1-15

There was a man of the tribe of Levi who had taken a woman of Levi as his wife. She conceived and gave birth to a son and, seeing what a fine child he was, she kept him hidden for three months. When she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him; coating it with bitumen and pitch, she put the child inside and laid it among the reeds at the river’s edge. His sister stood some distance away to see what would happen to him.

Now Pharaoh’s daughter went down to bathe in the river, and the girls attending her were walking along by the riverside. Among the reeds she noticed the basket, and she sent her maid to fetch it. She opened it and looked, and saw a baby boy, crying; and she was sorry for him. ‘This is a child of one of the Hebrews’ she said. Then the child’s sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and find you a nurse among the Hebrew women to suckle the child for you?’ ‘Yes, go’ Pharaoh’s daughter said to her; and the girl went off to find the baby’s own mother. To her the daughter of Pharaoh said, ‘Take this child away and suckle it for me. I will see you are paid.’ So the woman took the child and suckled it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter who treated him like a son; she named him Moses because, she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.’

Moses, a man by now, set out at this time to visit his countrymen, and he saw what a hard life they were having; and he saw an Egyptian strike a Hebrew, one of his countrymen. Looking round he could see no one in sight, so he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. On the following day he came back, and there were two Hebrews, fighting. He said to the man who was in the wrong, ‘What do you mean by hitting your fellow countryman?’ ‘And who appointed you’ the man retorted, ‘to be prince over us, and judge? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Moses was frightened. ‘Clearly that business has come to light’ he thought. When Pharaoh heard of the matter he would have killed Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and made for the land of Midian.

___________________

Matthew 11:20-24

Jesus began to reproach the towns in which most of his miracles had been worked, because they refused to repent.

‘Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard on Judgement day with Tyre and Sidon as with you. And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted as high as heaven? You shall be thrown down to hell. For if the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have been standing yet. And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard with the land of Sodom on Judgement day as with you.’

____________________

“For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago.”

I love watching movies and one of the most common themes is the love between a man and a woman. One of my favourite movies is ‘50 First Dates’, which starred Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.

(Warning : Spoilers Ahead)

Because the female protagonist is an amnesiac, the male protagonist finds that he has got to start over every day, getting the girl to reacquaint herself with him. More importantly, he has got to demonstrate his love for her on a daily basis, and to get her to fall in love with him all over again. Amazingly, he never gets tired of doing this. If anything, his love for her seems to grow stronger over time.

In the Old Testament, we read about how God repeatedly shows His protection for the Israelites. In fact, immediately after leaving Egypt in Exodus 14 (through the parted Red Sea), God cared for and provided for His people. He fed them with manna and quail. All these signs were clear and evident to the Jews.

Despite this constant demonstration by God of His love for them, the Israelites, by Exodus 32, had smelted their gold and built a gold calf for worship!

The reason for this was because the Israelites only cared for themselves. In Egypt, they complained about their cruel Egyptian overloads. When crossing the desert, they complained about being hungry and expressed regrets about leaving Egypt in the first place. Such ingratitude!

In the Gospel of today, the Lord reminds us to always be grateful. In order to recognise the wonders that God does for us, we need to look without instead of within. Such a strong reminder to keep our eyes on God!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father God, let us never be blind to the miracles that You perform in our lives on a daily basis. Help us never to be so blasé that we dwell in the blessings of Your love.

Thanksgiving We are grateful for the Holy Trinity. Thank You for Your presence in our lives and for the Your involvement in our lives.

17 July, Monday – God as Number One

17 July

_________________

Exodus 1:8-14, 22

There came to power in Egypt a new king who knew nothing of Joseph. ‘Look,’ he said to his subjects ‘these people, the sons of Israel, have become so numerous and strong that they are a threat to us. We must be prudent and take steps against their increasing any further, or if war should break out, they might add to the number of our enemies. They might take arms against us and so escape out of the country.’ Accordingly they put slave-drivers over the Israelites to wear them down under heavy loads. In this way they built the store-cities of Pithom and Rameses for Pharaoh. But the more they were crushed, the more they increased and spread, and men came to dread the sons of Israel. The Egyptians forced the sons of Israel into slavery, and made their lives unbearable with hard labour, work with clay and with brick, all kinds of work in the fields; they forced on them every kind of labour.

Pharaoh then gave his subjects this command: ‘Throw all the boys born to the Hebrews into the river, but let all the girls live.’

___________________

Matthew 10:34-11:1

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be those of his own household.

‘Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.

‘Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.

‘Anyone who welcomes a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes a holy man will have a holy man’s reward.

‘If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.’

When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples he moved on from there to teach and preach in their towns.

____________________

“Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.”

One of the stories I heard growing up was of three old men sitting outside a house. When invited into the house by the owner, the men introduced themselves as ‘Success, Wealth and Love’, and said that only one of them could enter the house. In short, the owner had to choose.

The gospel passage today had troubled me when I first read it. Was I really to put everyone else as a lower priority to God? Wasn’t my responsibility to my family, my grandaunty and those whom I loved dearly?

As I matured as a Christian, however, I began to understand from the stories in the Bible. I read about how Daniel chose to worship God rather than bow down before the king. I read about how God was faithful to Abraham, and stopped him from sacrificing his son Isaac, providing instead, a white ram for the sacrifice.

Since then, I have seen many examples of God’s love and faithfulness to me, and to those around me. I have found that in times when I have chosen the (much more difficult) path that God desires us to follow, things have often turned out much better than if I had taken the alternative routes. Very often, these final outcomes were unexpected!

Still, despite our faith in our God, it remains extremely difficult to put Him as Number One in our lives. It is this that Jesus reminds us to do constantly. May we continue to turn to Him to bless us with wisdom to continue to do so.

Oh, returning to the original story, the owner chose ‘Love’, and with that choice, all three men entered the house. ANY other choice would have resulted in only one man entering the house.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Lord Jesus, may we learn from you how to place Father God above all else in our lives; above other people, possessions, desires and thoughts.

Thanksgiving We thank You, Father God, for Your faithfulness and for always providing all that we need. We are grateful for Your love.