Thank you for journeying with us all this while. The liturgical year is coming to an end, and the OXYGEN team would like to invite interested writers to contribute a reflection or two for the Christmas mass readings at the end of this year. If you feel called to put the sharing of your faith into writing, please do drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!
The OXYGEN team
King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for his noblemen; a thousand of them attended, and he drank wine in company with this thousand. As he sipped his wine, Belshazzar gave orders for the gold and silver vessels to be brought which his father Nebuchadnezzar had looted from the sanctuary in Jerusalem, so that the king, his noblemen, his wives and his singing women could drink out of them. The gold and silver vessels looted from the sanctuary of the Temple of God in Jerusalem were brought in, and the king, his noblemen, his wives and his singing women drank out of them. They drank their wine and praised their gods of gold and silver, of bronze and iron, of wood and stone. Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared, and began to write on the plaster of the palace wall, directly behind the lamp-stand; and the king could see the hand as it wrote. The king turned pale with alarm: his thigh-joints went slack and his knees began to knock.
Daniel was brought into the king’s presence; the king said to Daniel, ‘Are you the Daniel who was one of the Judaean exiles brought by my father the king from Judah? I am told that the spirit of God Most Holy lives in you, and that you are known for your perception, intelligence and marvellous wisdom. As I am told that you are able to give interpretations and to unravel difficult problems, if you can read the writing and tell me what it means, you shall be dressed in purple, and have a chain of gold put round your neck, and be third in rank in the kingdom.’
Then Daniel spoke up in the presence of the king. ‘Keep your gifts for yourself,’ he said ‘and give your rewards to others. I will read the writing to the king without them, and tell him what it means. You have defied the Lord of heaven, you have had the vessels from his Temple brought to you, and you, your noblemen, your wives and your singing women have drunk your wine out of them. You have praised gods of gold and silver, of bronze and iron, of wood and stone, which cannot either see, hear or understand; but you have given no glory to the God who holds your breath and all your fortunes in his hands. That is why he has sent the hand which, by itself, has written these words. The writing reads: Mene, Mene, Tekel and Parsin. The meaning of the words is this: Mene: God has measured your sovereignty and put an end to it; Tekel: you have been weighed in the balance and found wanting; Parsin: your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.’
Jesus said: Men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives.’
You are not to prepare your defence
The words in today’s Gospel struck me. As a lawyer, it is my job to ensure that I am well-prepared before I enter any courtroom to argue my case and cover all grounds as best as I can. Even if it is just a straightforward and simple matter, I spend the time I have while waiting to enter the Judge’s Chambers running through my case again and pre-empting whatever questions (or curveballs) the Judge may possibly have. It helps to know that I’ve got it covered even before the battle begins and I’m able to defend myself from any sudden attacks.
It’s the same with life I realised. I bring my “professionalism” back home. And it’s the arguments at home that I tend to want to win even more. Especially when the person I’m talking to happens to be my Mum. There are times when I feel that certain things she says are unwarranted. I know that it’s just her way of venting her concern or anxieties. Objectively, I would have advised anyone in my position to hold back, control and not engage, rather than stoking the fire. But something within me always feels that I must say something in my defence. It is my pride that sometimes propels me.
In today’s Gospel we see how Jesus instructing his disciples that if they were handed over to a synagogue and imprisoned, and brought before kings and governers, they are not to prepare their defence. To any one listening, that would have been considered as very foolish advice. However, Jesus goes on to explain why. He says that “I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict”. That eloquence and wisdom comes from the Spirit of God. We see this, in the first reading, in the person of Daniel whom the King recognizes as the man whom “the spirit of God Most Holy lives in”. And because the spirit of God lives in him, he has “perception, intelligence and marvelous wisdom” and is able to “interpret and unravel difficult problems”.
The good news today is this – thanks to Jesus and his redeeming sacrifice on the cross, we who are adopted as children of God now have his Spirit dwelling within us. This means that we have full access to the “perception, intelligence and marvelous wisdom” of God, and we have the Holy Spirit as our Advocate and Paraclete. An advocate is someone who defends us in Court and speaks on our behalf. God is asking us today not to base our defences on our own limited wisdom or ego, but to rely instead on his. How do we access this Wisdom? Through the power of prayer and awareness of God’s Spirit; by first acknowledging the limitations of our own wisdom and desiring instead for his; and being able to make the first call to God for help.
I pray for wisdom when it comes to dealing with my work and especially in handling my family members. May I learn to handle both with God’s love.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Cassandra Cheong)
Prayer: Dear Father, we pray for your perception, intelligence and marvellous wisdom to interpret and unravel the difficult problems we encounter in life.
Thanksgiving: We thank you Father for blessing us with your Holy Spirit as our personal counsellor and advocate.