Monthly Archives: March 2015

Tuesday, 31 Mar – Betrayal

31 Mar 

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Isaiah 49:1-6

Islands, listen to me,
pay attention, remotest peoples.
The Lord called me before I was born,
from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.

He made my mouth a sharp sword,
and hid me in the shadow of his hand.
He made me into a sharpened arrow,
and concealed me in his quiver.

He said to me, ‘You are my servant (Israel)
in whom I shall be glorified’;
while I was thinking, ‘I have toiled in vain,
I have exhausted myself for nothing’;

and all the while my cause was with the Lord,
my reward with my God.
I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord,
my God was my strength.

And now the Lord has spoken,
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
to gather Israel to him:

‘It is not enough for you to be my servant,
to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel;
I will make you the light of the nations
so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’

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John 13:21-33,36-38 ©
While at supper with his disciples, Jesus was troubled in spirit and declared, ‘I tell you most solemnly, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, wondering which he meant. The disciple Jesus loved was reclining next to Jesus; Simon Peter signed to him and said, ‘Ask who it is he means’, so leaning back on Jesus’ breast he said, ‘Who is it, Lord?’ ‘It is the one’ replied Jesus ‘to whom I give the piece of bread that I shall dip in the dish.’ He dipped the piece of bread and gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. At that instant, after Judas had taken the bread, Satan entered him. Jesus then said, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly.’ None of the others at table understood the reason he said this. Since Judas had charge of the common fund, some of them thought Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’, or telling him to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the piece of bread he went out. Night had fallen.
When he had gone Jesus said:

‘Now has the Son of Man been glorified,
and in him God has been glorified.
If God has been glorified in him,
God will in turn glorify him in himself,
and will glorify him very soon.

‘My little children,
I shall not be with you much longer.
You will look for me,
And, as I told the Jews,
where I am going, you cannot come.’

Simon Peter said, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now; you will follow me later.’ Peter said to him, ‘Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ ‘Lay down your life for me?’ answered Jesus. ‘I tell you most solemnly, before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.’

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While at supper with his disciples, Jesus was troubled in spirit and declared, ‘I tell you most solemnly, one of you will betray me

What is betrayal?

Thesaurus defines it as “to disappoint the hopes or expectations of; be disloyal to”, amongst other definitions. Synonyms include falseness, deception, dishonesty, unfaithfulness.

We all know that Judas betrayed Jesus in the most extreme of ways: he delivered Jesus to the chief priests who later crucified him. Imagine how Jesus must have felt. Yes, Jesus did predict his betrayal by Judas, but knowing one thing and feeling it when it happens are quite distinct. Very often when we speak of betrayal we mean a betrayal of trust, and the disappointment that Jesus must have felt by a man who claimed to be his apostle must have been palpable.

Perhaps we may never have to suffer betrayal to such an extent as Jesus, but for some of us we might have experienced betrayal in loss of trust or expectation at some point in our lives, be it by friends, family, loved ones, colleagues. Let us reflect on how we felt at that time: first could have been disbelief, then anger and disappointment, followed by loss of respect for the person, and hurt. I would also venture an unwillingness to forgive, although over time we may learn to reconcile.

But enough about how we feel, what about how Jesus would feel if we were the ones who were the source of disappointment and hurt? Have we not done it to him before? Yes, we may not have been the ones to have planted the Judas kiss on Jesus, but when we were confirmed or baptized we made certain promises that we vowed to keep. We also promised to keep God’s commandments and to love one another. Have we taken God’s name in vain? Have we committed adultery, or borne false witness against someone, even by the seemingly “harmless” gossiping that we may partake in? We profess to follow God’s teachings, and at the sacrament of reconciliation we make the promise never to sin again because God is so good. What happens when then we do veer off the path and repeat that sin again? Do we then “press repeat” and go for reconciliation again? Do we take the sacrament of reconciliation seriously, or do we treat it lightly?

When we promise not to sin again, God gives us the grace for us to overcome our weaknesses and temptation to sin, but when we make that promise to God only to break it later, then that disappointment of God’s hope in us… would that not be akin to unfaithfulness on our part?

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

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Prayer: Dear God, for all the times that we have failed You, we pray for Your mercy and Your forgiveness. We pray for salvation, and for Your saving grace that we may be strong enough never to sin again.

Thanksgiving: Thank you God for Your unending mercy and love for us. Despite that we are sinners, You loved us first. As people who love You God, we pray to keep our end of our promise to You.

Monday, 30 Mar – Help At Hand

30 Mar – Monday of Holy Week

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Isaiah 42:1-7

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom my soul delights.
I have endowed him with my spirit
that he may bring true justice to the nations.

He does not cry out or shout aloud,
or make his voice heard in the streets.
He does not break the crushed reed,
nor quench the wavering flame.

Faithfully he brings true justice;
he will neither waver, nor be crushed
until true justice is established on earth,
for the islands are awaiting his law.

Thus says God, the Lord,
he who created the heavens and spread them out,
who gave shape to the earth and what comes from it,
who gave breath to its people
and life to the creatures that move in it:

‘I, the Lord, have called you to serve the cause of right;
I have taken you by the hand and formed you;
I have appointed you as covenant of the people and light of the nations,
‘to open the eyes of the blind,
to free captives from prison,
and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.’

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John 12:1-11

Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom he had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there; Martha waited on them and Lazarus was among those at table. Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair; the house was full of the scent of the ointment. Then Judas Iscariot – one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him – said, ‘Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor?’ He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contributions. So Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone; she had to keep this scent for the day of my burial. You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.’

Meanwhile a large number of Jews heard that he was there and came not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. Then the chief priests decided to kill Lazarus as well, since it was on his account that many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus.

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Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom my soul delights. I have endowed him with my spirit that he may bring true justice to the nations

Every day we are faced with challenges that test our limits. Many a time we have felt at the end of our tether. Sometimes we ask where God is in the midst of all this. Is He listening? I know that I have cried out several times to God asking “Why???” We want to give up, give in, and surrender. In our own different ways, we cry for help. Sometimes, no one answers.

But God responds to us by saying, “Here is my servant whom I uphold!” Here is help at hand in the form of Christ Jesus, who has heard our cries and has seen us laden with our burdens. He comes to bind our wounds and give us rest. He has promised us a lighter yoke in return for giving our heavier one to him.

He comes like the gentleness of the breeze. He is aware of our fragile state. He comes with healing to strengthen and encourage us. The first reading goes on to say, “He does not break the crushed reed, nor quench the wavering flame”. He knows that we are at our low points: “Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.” (John 14:1). When no one listens, and no one stops, and no one sees… when our souls are scraping the bottom of our spiritual barrel, the one person who has not deserted us and who will never desert us is Jesus. “Believe also in Me…” We are crying out, but then again so is Jesus.

God sent us His only Son to be our help. We may have forsaken Him at the cross, but God promised to never leave us or forsake us. If we remain in Him, He will remain in us. If we believe in God’s help, let us not yield to our own stubbornness; instead lift up our problems to Him that He may help us, for it is in our weakness that God’s power is made strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

“Believe also in Me.”

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

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Prayer: Lord, so many worries and problems besiege our daily lives. We do not know where our help will come from, but You have told us that Your grace will be sufficient for us. Help us to remain constant in the knowledge that You will be there for us when it feels as though all hope is lost.

Thanksgiving: God, I give You thanks for the Holy Spirit whom You have sent to be our help. Thank you for listening and being our stronghold and support.

Sunday, 29 Mar – Public Service

29 Mar – Passion Sunday

On this day the Church celebrates Christ’s entry into Jerusalem to accomplish his paschal mystery. 

– Sunday Missal

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Mark 11:1-10

When they were approaching Jerusalem, in sight of Bethphage and Bethany, close by the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go off to the village facing you, and as soon as you enter it you will find a tethered colt that no one has yet ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone says to you, “What are you doing?” say, “The Master needs it and will send it back here directly”.’ They went off and found a colt tethered near a door in the open street. As they untied it, some men standing there said, ‘What are you doing, untying that colt?’ They gave the answer Jesus had told them, and the men let them go. Then they took the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on its back, and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, others greenery which they had cut in the fields. And those who went in front and those who followed were all shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heavens!’

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Isaiah 50:4-7

The Lord has given me
a disciple’s tongue.
So that I may know how to reply to the wearied
he provides me with speech.
Each morning he wakes me to hear,
to listen like a disciple.
The Lord has opened my ear.

For my part, I made no resistance,
neither did I turn away.
I offered my back to those who struck me,
my cheeks to those who tore at my beard;
I did not cover my face
against insult and spittle.

The Lord comes to my help,
so that I am untouched by the insults.
So, too, I set my face like flint;
I know I shall not be shamed.

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Philippians 2:6-11

His state was divine,
yet Christ Jesus did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

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Mark 15:1-39

First thing in the morning, the chief priests together with the elders and scribes, in short the whole Sanhedrin, had their plan ready. They had Jesus bound and took him away and handed him over to Pilate.

Pilate questioned him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘It is you who say it’ he answered. And the chief priests brought many accusations against him. Pilate questioned him again, ‘Have you no reply at all? See how many accusations they are bringing against you!’ But, to Pilate’s amazement, Jesus made no further reply.

At festival time Pilate used to release a prisoner for them, anyone they asked for. Now a man called Barabbas was then in prison with the rioters who had committed murder during the uprising. When the crowd went up and began to ask Pilate the customary favour, Pilate answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?’ For he realised it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over. The chief priests, however, had incited the crowd to demand that he should release Barabbas for them instead. Then Pilate spoke again. ‘But in that case,’ he said to them ‘what am I to do with the man you call king of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ ‘Why?’ Pilate asked them ‘What harm has he done?’ But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’ So Pilate, anxious to placate the crowd, released Barabbas for them and, having ordered Jesus to be scourged, handed him over to be crucified.

The soldiers led him away to the inner part of the palace, that is, the Praetorium, and called the whole cohort together. They dressed him up in purple, twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on him. And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ They struck his head with a reed and spat on him; and they went down on their knees to do him homage. And when they had finished making fun of him, they took off the purple and dressed him in his own clothes.

They led him out to crucify him. They enlisted a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means the place of the skull.

They offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he refused it. Then they crucified him, and shared out his clothing, casting lots to decide what each should get. It was the third hour when they crucified him. The inscription giving the charge against him read: ‘The King of the Jews.’ And they crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left.

The passers-by jeered at him; they shook their heads and said, ‘Aha! So you would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days! Then save yourself: come down from the cross!’ The chief priests and the scribes mocked him among themselves in the same way. ‘He saved others,’ they said ‘he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross now, for us to see it and believe.’ Even those who were crucified with him taunted him.

When the sixth hour came there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’ When some of those who stood by heard this, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling on Elijah.’ Someone ran and soaked a sponge in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave it him to drink saying; ‘Wait and see if Elijah will come to take him down.’ But Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The centurion, who was standing in front of him, had seen how he had died, and he said, ‘In truth this man was a son of God.’

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He was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross

As I write this, Singapore is mourning the passing of a great man. World leaders have called him their friend, others have called him a visionary. Singapore calls him “Father of the Nation”. Love him, fear him or even hate him, one thing is certain: the things that Lee Kuan Yew did during his lifetime for Singapore will be etched in the pages of Singapore’s history forever.

He is not a saint, nor is he unblemished, but it takes a certain man to assume the responsibility of building an entire nation out of nothing and lead its people through adversity to prosperity. A modern David-and-Goliath story, Lee Kuan Yew defied the odds and turned Singapore from a third-world backwater to a first-world nation. I am certain that he knew what he would face: enmity, adversity, opposition, criticism, thanklessness, and the real fear that all of this was not going to work out. But one thing he had: resolution, resolution to move forward, because it was the only way to go. It was “do-or-die”, but in his case, it was all about doing. He was after all, an ordinary man who entered into public service.

As we observe Palm Sunday today, we remember Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem: lauded by the people and greeted by the roadside. Days later, Jesus would be crucified, alone and on the cross.

He is the Son of God, yet Jesus came to us as Man and humbled himself to do God’s will. He came to us, not to be served but to serve us, and save us. He exhorted his disciples to adopt such an attitude of service over self: that would lead to the path of greatness (Matthew 20:26-28).

Jesus came to minister to us, encourage us and soothe our weary souls. But he knew what his purpose on Earth here would entail: he would be hated, spat at, despised, beaten, betrayed, and killed. It would be a lonely road. But courage, faith and most importantly, love sustained him. Jesus loved us so much that he ransomed our lives for us by his blood. His heart was moved when he saw how lost we were, like sheep yearning for a shepherd. He took pity on us when he saw our tears and heard our cries. He sat with us and celebrated with us. Our joys were his joys, our tears were his tears. He took on our pain at the hands of the scourge-masters so that we would not have to endure that pain for our sins.

As we remember the life of Lee Kuan Yew this weekend, let us remember as well the life of Jesus, and reflect on all that he has done for us, for there is no greater love than that of Jesus laying down his life for us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

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Prayer: Lord, our reward in heaven depends on our lives here on earth. Instill in us the attitude to serve others instead of being served. Help us to take on the attitude of Jesus.

Thanksgiving: We give you thanks for those elected into public service who have gone all out to ensure the well-being and welfare of the people, and we give you thanks for the service of a man who built this nation. May he rest in peace

Saturday, 28 Mar – Faithful Disciples

28 Mar 

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Ezekiel 37:21-28

The Lord says this: ‘I am going to take the sons of Israel from the nations where they have gone. I shall gather them together from everywhere and bring them home to their own soil. I shall make them into one nation in my own land and on the mountains of Israel, and one king is to be king of them all; they will no longer form two nations, nor be two separate kingdoms. They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and their filthy practices and all their sins. I shall rescue them from all the betrayals they have been guilty of; I shall cleanse them; they shall be my people and I will be their God. My servant David will reign over them, one shepherd for all; they will follow my observances, respect my laws and practise them. They will live in the land that I gave my servant Jacob, the land in which your ancestors lived. They will live in it, they, their children, their children’s children, for ever. David my servant is to be their prince for ever. I shall make a covenant of peace with them, an eternal covenant with them. I shall resettle them and increase them; I shall settle my sanctuary among them for ever. I shall make my home above them; I will be their God, they shall be my people. And the nations will learn that I am the Lord, the sanctifier of Israel, when my sanctuary is with them for ever.’

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John 11:45-56

Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what Jesus did believed in him, but some of them went to tell the Pharisees what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and Pharisees called a meeting. ‘Here is this man working all these signs’ they said ‘and what action are we taking? If we let him go on in this way everybody will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy the Holy Place and our nation.’ One of them, Caiaphas, the high priest that year, said, ‘You do not seem to have grasped the situation at all; you fail to see that it is better for one man to die for the people, than for the whole nation to be destroyed.’ He did not speak in his own person, it was as high priest that he made this prophecy that Jesus was to die for the nation – and not for the nation only, but to gather together in unity the scattered children of God. From that day they were determined to kill him. So Jesus no longer went about openly among the Jews, but left the district for a town called Ephraim, in the country bordering on the desert, and stayed there with his disciples.

The Jewish Passover drew near, and many of the country people who had gone up to Jerusalem to purify themselves looked out for Jesus, saying to one another as they stood about in the Temple, ‘What do you think? Will he come to the festival or not?’

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I shall make my home above them; I will be their God, they shall be my people

We have read in this week’s readings that God will always be there to protect and shelter us from all harm and danger. Perhaps this is a fitting way to tend the Fifth Week of Lent as we are reminded that God loves us because we are His children.

His love for us is so deep that He was willing to send His Son to us to restore the damage caused by Adam and Eve. In doing so, eternal life and happiness with God is now within our reach. The season of Lent may have gone by in a flash for some of us and we may be left wondering as to how we will go about celebrating Holy Week. Perhaps another perspective we can consider is to not view time as days, weeks and months but in terms of the different encounters we have made with the people around us and how these have brought us closer to Christ.

Bringing others to Christ and allowing them to see the Father’s love in our words and deeds is certainly a good way to enable the law of love to be made manifest. Holy Week is a good time for us to take the effort to do so for each one of the people whom we meet and let them experience the joy of the Paschal Triduum.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: Lord, we pray that we become effective witnesses,

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who love us.

Friday, 27 Mar – Jesus Is Here With Us

27 Mar

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Jeremiah 20:10-13

Jeremiah said:

I hear so many disparaging me,
‘“Terror from every side!”
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’
All those who used to be my friends
watched for my downfall,
‘Perhaps he will be seduced into error.
Then we will master him
and take our revenge!’
But the Lord is at my side, a mighty hero;
my opponents will stumble, mastered,
confounded by their failure;
everlasting, unforgettable disgrace will be theirs.
But you, O Lord of Hosts, you who probe with justice,
who scrutinise the loins and heart,
let me see the vengeance you will take on them,
for I have committed my cause to you.
Sing to the Lord,
praise the Lord,
for he has delivered the soul of the needy
from the hands of evil men.

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John 10:31-42

The Jews fetched stones to stone him, so Jesus said to them, ‘I have done many good works for you to see, works from my Father; for which of these are you stoning me?’ The Jews answered him, ‘We are not stoning you for doing a good work but for blasphemy: you are only a man and you claim to be God.’ Jesus answered:

‘Is it not written in your Law:
I said, you are gods?
So the Law uses the word gods
of those to whom the word of God was addressed,
and scripture cannot be rejected.
Yet you say to someone the Father has consecrated and sent into the world,
“You are blaspheming,”
because he says, “I am the son of God.”
If I am not doing my Father’s work,
there is no need to believe me;
but if I am doing it,
then even if you refuse to believe in me,
at least believe in the work I do;
then you will know for sure
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’

They wanted to arrest him then, but he eluded them.
He went back again to the far side of the Jordan to stay in the district where John had once been baptising. Many people who came to him there said, ‘John gave no signs, but all he said about this man was true’; and many of them believed in him.

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In my anguish I called to the Lord and he heard my voice

The readings of today remind us that God will always be with us through times of difficulty. Though this is something that is hard for us to appreciate and perhaps even understand, we need to be mindful of the fact that He is here with us and will never abandon us.

Jeremiah was afraid of the people around him who were giving him grief regarding his message. They wanted to do him in but God assured Jeremiah that life would be ok as God has the upper hand. In our own lives too, we need to discover for ourselves what it means when we undergo grief. There could be challenges at work or perhaps there is a situation at home which needs our attention. I believe that in all we do, we must acknowledge Jesus to be present with us. God is not a concept but a Person. Jesus is the Word made Flesh and He knows what we are going through.

It is definitely good to pray to God for guidance but perhaps we could also speak to the people around us to obtain direction as to help us clarify the noise in our lives. Let us take time to understand that what matters is God’s love. Trust and believe.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: Lord, we pray for all who love you.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all Spiritual Directors.

Thursday, 26 Mar – What A Friend We Have In Jesus

26 Mar 

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Genesis 17:3-9

Abram bowed to the ground and God said this to him, ‘Here now is my covenant with you: you shall become the father of a multitude of nations. You shall no longer be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I make you father of a multitude of nations. I will make you most fruitful. I will make you into nations, and your issue shall be kings. I will establish my Covenant between myself and you, and your descendants after you, generation after generation, a Covenant in perpetuity, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land you are living in, the whole land of Canaan, to own in perpetuity, and I will be your God.’

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John 8:51-59

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
whoever keeps my word
will never see death.’

The Jews said, ‘Now we know for certain that you are possessed. Abraham is dead, and the prophets are dead, and yet you say, “Whoever keeps my word will never know the taste of death.” Are you greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? The prophets are dead too. Who are you claiming to be?’ Jesus answered:

‘If I were to seek my own glory
that would be no glory at all;
my glory is conferred by the Father,
by the one of whom you say, “He is our God”
although you do not know him.
But I know him,
and if I were to say: I do not know him,
I should be a liar, as you are liars yourselves.
But I do know him, and I faithfully keep his word.
Your father Abraham rejoiced
to think that he would see my Day;
he saw it and was glad.’

The Jews then said, ‘You are not fifty yet, and you have seen Abraham!’ Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
before Abraham ever was,
I Am.’

At this they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself and left the Temple.

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Who are you claiming to be?

The readings of today remind us of the importance of asking ourselves who Jesus is in our lives? I guess such a question may seem obvious to some but I believe if we were to examine this further, we might actually find out that Jesus is not the centre of our lives. Instead he is on the peripheral and that we have compartmentalised him to a certain section of our lives.

The Jews picked up stones to throw at Jesus because He had publicly professed that He was God. As Christians, we need to discover that any of our actions contrary to what God has asked us to do is perhaps similar to the throwing of stones to God. Our actions deny God and hurt Him. Perhaps we think that God is too faraway or that we have enough time in our lives to repent but I encourage everyone to take time to pause and ponder on who Jesus is for our lives.

Jesus is a friend of ours and He is our Lord. He will definitely be with us through our struggles if we let Him work through us. As Lent draws to a close, let us discover what it means to be with Him and look forward to the reward which Abraham, our father in faith, was promised for his obedience and faith in God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: Lord, we pray for all who seek you with a sincere heart.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who teach the Word of God

Wednesday, 25 Mar – Yes, Lord

25 Mar – Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

The annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary by Gabriel the Archangel that she was to be the Mother of God (Luke 1), the Word being made flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit. The feast probably originated about the time of the Council of Ephesus, c.431, and is first mentioned in the Sacramentary of Pope Gelasius (died 496).

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 7:10-14,8:10

The Lord spoke to Ahaz and said, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign for yourself coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above.’ ‘No,’ Ahaz answered ‘I will not put the Lord to the test.’

Then he said:

Listen now, House of David:
are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men
without trying the patience of my God, too?
The Lord himself, therefore,
will give you a sign.
It is this: the maiden is with child
and will soon give birth to a son
whom she will call Immanuel,
a name which means ‘God is with us.’

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Hebrews 10:4-10

Bulls’ blood and goats’ blood are useless for taking away sins, and this is what Christ said, on coming into the world:

You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation,
prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin;
then I said,
just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book,
‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’

Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.

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Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

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Here I am! I am coming to obey your will

Today’s solemnity celebrates an important point in salvation history as we are given an example of what it means to be a true disciple. Mary has shown us that submission to God’s will is perhaps the most simple thing to do but it certainly is not the easiest.

We are always called to listen to God’s word but Christianity is a religion of action. We are called to say yes to what God has asked us to do and then put into practice what His plans are for us. It is the weakness within us that often seek to struggle and resist the plans which he has set out for us. God is patient but even He has his limit as we see in the first reading where King Ahaz put the Lord to the test.

It is easy to cruise through our lives without realising that God is actually waiting for us to work with Him. Let us take this moment to reflect and ponder upon how we can say yes to Jesus in our lives at home, at work and with the people whom we meet and how we can allow these opportunities to let us say yes to God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for a sincere heart.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who answered God’s call.

Tuesday, 24 Mar – Journey of Our Lives

24 Mar 

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Numbers 21:4-9

The Israelites left Mount Hor by the road to the Sea of Suph, to skirt the land of Edom. On the way the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’

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

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John 8:21-30

Again Jesus said to the Pharisees:

‘I am going away;
you will look for me
and you will die in your sin.
Where I am going, you cannot come.’

The Jews said to one another, ‘Will he kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, “Where I am going, you cannot come”?’ Jesus went on:

‘You are from below; I am from above.
You are of this world; I am not of this world.
I have told you already:
You will die in your sins.

Yes, if you do not believe that I am He,
you will die in your sins.’
So they said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus answered:

‘What I have told you from the outset.
About you I have much to say
and much to condemn;
but the one who sent me is truthful,
and what I have learnt from him
I declare to the world.’

They failed to understand that he was talking to them about the Father. So Jesus said:

‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man,
then you will know that I am He
and that I do nothing of myself:
what the Father has taught me is what I preach;
he who sent me is with me,
and has not left me to myself,
for I always do what pleases him.’

As he was saying this, many came to believe in him.

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Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness?

There have been occasions where I have embarked on an endeavour only to question the reasons why I began it when I face difficulties and obstacles which prevent me from achieving my aim. This is something that I believe the Jews must have been facing in the desert but I believe their behaviour is probably reflective of our own lives on this earth as we continue to wrestle with the difficulties of our lives as we journey towards God.

Moses had brought them out of the place of slavery and now they were complaining to him that they were unsatisfied with the conditions. God has brought us out of the slavery of sin through Baptism and we are called to continue to journey with Him despite the many challenges we face in our lives. It is definitely not an easy task but we can look towards Jesus who died for our sins. Moses raised the bronze standard so that all who were bitten by the snake and looked at the standard would live. We can look towards the Cross and be grateful that God has paid the price of our sins and saved us from the consequences.

We must never become disheartened or upset in our Christian journey but accept the fact that Jesus loves us and wants the best for us in our lives. This means that we need to surrender our lives to Him and allow Him to sanctify our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: Lord, we pray for the humility to admit our faults.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who live a holy life.

Monday, 23 Mar – Judge Not Others

23 Mar – Memorial of Saint Turibius of Mogroveio, Bishop

Born to the nobility. Lawyer. Professor of law at Salamanca, Spain. Ordained in 1578 at age 40. Judge of the Court of the Inquisition at Granada, Spain. Archbishop of Lima, Peru on 15 May 1579. Founded the first seminary in the Western hemisphere. Fought for the rights of the natives against the Spanish masters. Organized councils and synods in the New World.

– Patron Saint Index

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Daniel 13:1-9,15-17,19-30,33-62

In Babylon there lived a man named Joakim. He had married Susanna daughter of Hilkiah, a woman of great beauty; and she was God-fearing, because her parents were worthy people and had instructed their daughter in the Law of Moses. Joakim was a very rich man, and had a garden attached to his house; the Jews would often visit him since he was held in greater respect than any other man. Two elderly men had been selected from the people that year to act as judges. Of such the Lord said, ‘Wickedness has come to Babylon through the elders and judges posing as guides to the people.’ These men were often at Joakim’s house, and all who were engaged in litigation used to come to them. At midday, when everyone had gone, Susanna used to take a walk in her husband’s garden. The two elders, who used to watch her every day as she came in to take her walk, gradually began to desire her. They threw reason aside, making no effort to turn their eyes to heaven, and forgetting its demands of virtue. So they waited for a favourable moment; and one day Susanna came as usual, accompanied only by two young maidservants. The day was hot and she wanted to bathe in the garden. There was no one about except the two elders, spying on her from their hiding place. She said to the servants, ‘Bring me some oil and balsam and shut the garden door while I bathe.’

Hardly were the servants gone than the two elders were there after her. ‘Look,’ they said ‘the garden door is shut, no one can see us. We want to have you, so give in and let us! Refuse, and we will both give evidence that a young man was with you and that was why you sent your maids away.’ Susanna sighed. ‘I am trapped,’ she said ‘whatever I do. If I agree, that means my death; if I resist, I cannot get away from you. But I prefer to fall innocent into your power than to sin in the eyes of the Lord.’ Then she cried out as loud as she could. The two elders began shouting too, putting the blame on her, and one of them ran to open the garden door. The household, hearing the shouting in the garden, rushed out by the side entrance to see what was happening; once the elders had told their story the servants were thoroughly taken aback, since nothing of this sort had ever been said of Susanna.

Next day a meeting was held at the house of her husband Joakim. The two elders arrived, in their vindictiveness determined to have her put to death. They addressed the company: ‘Summon Susanna daughter of Hilkiah and wife of Joakim.’ She was sent for, and came accompanied by her parents, her children and all her relations. All her own people were weeping, and so were all the others who saw her. The two elders stood up, with all the people round them, and laid their hands on the woman’s head. Tearfully she turned her eyes to heaven, her heart confident in God. The elders then spoke. ‘While we were walking by ourselves in the garden, this woman arrived with two servants. She shut the garden door and then dismissed the servants. A young man who had been hiding went over to her and they lay down together. From the end of the garden where we were, we saw this crime taking place and hurried towards them. Though we saw them together we were unable to catch the man: he was too strong for us; he opened the door and took to his heels. We did, however, catch this woman and ask her who the young man was. She refused to tell us. That is our evidence.’

Since they were elders of the people, and judges, the assembly took their word: Susanna was condemned to death. She cried out as loud as she could, ‘Eternal God, you know all secrets and everything before it happens; you know that they have given false evidence against me. And now have I to die, innocent as I am of everything their malice has invented against me?’

The Lord heard her cry and, as she was being led away to die, he roused the holy spirit residing in a young boy named Daniel who began to shout, ‘I am innocent of this woman’s death!’ At which all the people turned to him and asked, ‘What do you mean by these words?’ Standing in the middle of the crowd he replied, ‘Are you so stupid, sons of Israel, as to condemn a daughter of Israel unheard, and without troubling to find out the truth? Go back to the scene of the trial: these men have given false evidence against her.’

All the people hurried back, and the elders said to Daniel, ‘Come and sit with us and tell us what you mean, since God has given you the gifts that elders have.’ Daniel said, ‘Keep the men well apart from each other for I want to question them.’ When the men had been separated, Daniel had one of them brought to him. ‘You have grown old in wickedness,’ he said ‘and now the sins of your earlier days have overtaken you, you with your unjust judgements, your condemnation of the innocent, your acquittal of guilty men, when the Lord has said, “You must not put the innocent and the just to death.” Now then, since you saw her so clearly, tell me what tree you saw them lying under?’ He replied, ‘Under a mastic tree.’ Daniel said, ‘True enough! Your lie recoils on your own head: the angel of God has already received your sentence from him and will slash you in half.’ He dismissed the man, ordered the other to be brought and said to him, ‘Spawn of Canaan, not of Judah, beauty has seduced you, lust has led your heart astray! This is how you have been behaving with the daughters of Israel and they were too frightened to resist; but here is a daughter of Judah who could not stomach your wickedness! Now then, tell me what tree you surprised them under?’ He replied, ‘Under a holm oak.’ Daniel said, ‘True enough! Your lie recoils on your own head: the angel of God is waiting, with a sword to drive home and split you, and destroy the pair of you.’

Then the whole assembly shouted, blessing God, the saviour of those who trust in him. And they turned on the two elders whom Daniel had convicted of false evidence out of their own mouths. As prescribed in the Law of Moses, they sentenced them to the same punishment as they had intended to inflict on their neighbour. They put them to death; the life of an innocent woman was spared that day.

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John 8:1-11

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he appeared in the Temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them.

The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in full view of everybody, they said to Jesus, ‘Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?’ They asked him this as a test, looking for something to use against him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. As they persisted with their question, he looked up and said, ‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Then he bent down and wrote on the ground again. When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there. He looked up and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir’ she replied. ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus ‘go away, and do not sin any more.’

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Has no one condemned you?

It is a typical human response to always want to accuse others of faults which sometimes we ourselves commit. Indeed it is very easy to judge others mistakes and talk about how they can overcome these matters if only they had put in the time and effort towards doing the right thing. Yet the readings of today remind us that it is not our position to judge others but instead we are called to love everyone, regardless of their state of life.

Jesus refused to judge the lady caught in the very act of adultery but instead asked that she leave Him and sin no more. God always forgives us for the many sins we have committed and this is something we must not take for granted. What we can do is to bring others close to God and allow them to discover the same joy and love which we have experienced in our lives. Let our behaviour not be like the scribes and Pharisees who were looking out for the sins of others without considering their own actions and how they might have be a cause of scandal for others.

The season of Lent is coming to an end but there is always time for us to acknowledge our failures and submit to God the various weaknesses we face. Let us take time to offer to God the struggles we face in our lives and let Him work through our weaknesses for the greater glory of the Kingdom.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)
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Prayer: Lord, we pray for all who continue to show your love to those who have sinned.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who share the Christian Faith.

Sunday, 22 Mar – What Do You See?

22 Mar – Fifth Sunday of Lent

Christ Who Makes Us Free To Serve

Without Christ our lives would be pure drudgery. We would be like slaves, or like workmen with nothing to look forward to but our wages. But the healing power of Christ has transformed our lives: now we are free to make ourselves like him, the slave of everyone, offering men the good news without asking for anything in return.

– The Sunday Missal

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Jeremiah 31:31-34

See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel (and the House of Judah), but not a covenant like the one I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant of mine, so I had to show them who was master. It is the Lord who speaks. No, this is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel when those days arrive – it is the Lord who speaks. Deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I will be their God and they shall be my people. There will be no further need for neighbour to try to teach neighbour, or brother to say to brother, ‘Learn to know the Lord!’ No, they will all know me, the least no less than the greatest – it is the Lord who speaks – since I will forgive their iniquity and never call their sin to mind.

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Hebrews 5:7-9

During his life on earth, Christ offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard. Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation.

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John 12:20-33

Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. These approached Philip, who came from Bethsaida in Galilee, and put this request to him, ‘Sir, we should like to see Jesus.’ Philip went to tell Andrew, and Andrew and Philip together went to tell Jesus. Jesus replied to them:

‘Now the hour has come
for the Son of Man to be glorified.
I tell you, most solemnly,
unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies,
it remains only a single grain;
but if it dies,
it yields a rich harvest.
Anyone who loves his life loses it;
anyone who hates his life in this world
will keep it for the eternal life.
If a man serves me, he must follow me,
wherever I am, my servant will be there too.
If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.
Now my soul is troubled.
What shall I say:
Father, save me from this hour?
But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour.
Father, glorify your name!’

A voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ People standing by, who heard this, said it was a clap of thunder; others said, ‘It was an angel speaking to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not for my sake that this voice came, but for yours.

‘Now sentence is being passed on this world;
now the prince of this world is to be overthrown.
And when I am lifted up from the earth,
I shall draw all men to myself.’

By these words he indicated the kind of death he would die.

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Sir, we should like to see Jesus

This season of Lent has got me pondering on what is the role of the Christian in this day and age. There has been much criticism and attack against the beliefs of a Christian but perhaps this is truly an age of grace for us to show to the people around us what Jesus means to us.

The Greeks wanted to see Jesus and I believe this is something that all of us would like to experience to. The encounter with Jesus is a special one which we have as Catholics because we can see Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. By taking time to pray and reflect with Christ on what our purpose in life is, we draw strength to continue with our Christian journey of witness. Like the grain of wheat that must die, we must die to our old selves and let Christ take root in our lives.

By letting Christ live through us, we can eventually answer the questions that the Greeks have asked with our lives. Our lives and the way we live it are the very example of how others can see Jesus in this day. Let us pray for the strength to accept the challenge.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the courage to be witnesses to your people.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who have dedicated their life to witness to God’s love